By Jeff McKay
Special Features Correspondent
WASHINGTON, DC — In the era of industry-wide consolidation and moves to cut costs with syndication over local talk hosts, longtime radio and media veteran Kirby Wilbur could be the poster child for reinventing a career while helping others to start their own. Washington, DC-born and Seattle-raised, Wilbur made a name for himself in the Pacific Northwest not from his job as a real estate appraiser, but as a frequent caller to talk shows, a non-paid “hobby” that ultimately led him to his own talk show on KVI in 1993. For the next 16 years, he was a staple on Seattle airwaves, along with numerous appearances on TALKERS magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list of the most important radio talk show hosts in America, and also as a fill-in host for the Sean Hannity Show, until he was cut loose from KVI in October, 2009.
Fortunately for Wilbur, his Republican ideology, political activism and ability to articulate points allowed him to move directly into politics, becoming the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. During his tenure, Republicans picked up majorities in the Washington State House and State Senate. However, an offer came his way that has not only changed him, but is also developing a new generation of members of the media.
Other Defendants Named in Mark Masters’ TRN Lawsuit Against Dial Global Claiming Monopoly Practices. As reported yesterday (8/28) by TALKERS, these companies, referred to generally in the industry as Talk Radio Network (TRN), include The Original Talk Radio Network, Inc., Talk Radio Network Enterprises, LLC and Talk Radio Network-FM, Inc. They have initiated the filing of a Federal action against Dial Global, Inc. and multiple other parties, asserting antitrust, anti-monopoly and other claims. The complaint, which demands a jury trial, is titled “Complaint for Violations of the Sherman Act and the Cartwright Act, and for Fraudulent Inducement, Interference with Contract and Interference with Prospective advantage.” In addition to Dial Global, it specifically names: Excelsior Radio Networks, Triton Radio Networks, Triton Media Group, Oaktree Capital Management, Verge Media Companies, Courstide, LLC, Compass Media Networks, Compass Media Marketing, and WYD Media Management. Individuals named include Spencer Brown, David Landau, and Ken Williams of Dial Global, Ron Hartenbaum of WYD, Peter Kosann of Compass, and Norm Pattiz of Courtside. To see the entire complaint click here.
Big Staffing Changes at Federated Media in Fort Wayne. Last week TALKERS reported the departure of WOWO, Fort Wayne program director Gregg Henson and his replacement by Woody Zimmerman. Now, after almost 18 years with Federated Media, chief operating officer Mark DePrez announces his departure from the company. Brad Williams, who had been overseeing the Indiana markets of South Bend, Elkhart and Warsaw, will also be in charge of the company’s Fort Wayne and Auburn, Indiana markets as he becomes COO. But that’s not all, as Indiana Radio Watch reports national sales manager Mary DePrez, production director Steve Starbrelz (this November would mark his 35th year there), classic hits WMEE, Fort Wayne middayer Zack Skyler, country WQHK, Fort Wayne GSM Suzee Leavell and several sales staffers have also left the building. IRW also reports Clint Marsh becomes GM of the South Bend properties. On his tenure with Federated Media, DePrez states, “After almost 18 years I’m leaving Federated Media. We accomplished great things in Fort Wayne but all good things must come to an end. I am grateful to the Dille family for the four promotions over those 18 years including my recent tenure as COO. For a decade it has been my distinct honor to be the custodian of such iconic brands as WOWO, WQHK (K-105) WMEE and more recently WBYR (98.9 The Bear). I am immensely proud of the talented team we assembled and know they will continue to do great things.” DePrez is available for his next challenge. He says, “For employers looking for an executive obsessed with top line performance and profit optimization they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 260-385-2574.”
ESPN and Major League Baseball Agree to $5.6 Billion Deal. The new contract between ESPN and MLB goes through 2021 and runs an average of $700 million per year for TV, digital, radio and other rights. ESPN is currently paying about $305 million per year for TV and about $50 million for radio rights. The new contract would almost double that but gives ESPN more flexibility, some playoff game rights as well as international rights. For radio it means increased ESPN Radio rights, including the additional right to co-exist during two Saturday windows per team, per year.
Patt Morrison’s Southern California Public Radio Show Cancelled. The popular Southern California public radio figure will remain with the organization but Patt Morrison’s six-year-old afternoon program will end on September 10. The move is part of a series of programming changes at KPCC, Pasadena that include the expansion of the Brand & Martinez program and the addition of the “BBC News Hour” and “The World.” KPCC VP for content Russ Stanton is quoted telling the Los Angeles Daily News, “While the show may be leaving, Patt isn’t. What we’re trying to do is take a lot of the segments that she’s produced – which are very popular with a large part of our listening audience – and spread those a little more throughout the programming day when there are a lot more listeners than there are in the 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm slot.” SCPR notes Morrison will still cover the Democratic National Convention for the organization.
NBC Sports Radio and Dial Global Announce More Sports Talk Hires. As NBC Sports Radio continues to prepare for the September 4 launch of the new network, more hosts and sports anchors are being hired. Former NFL star Amani Toomer will team with Eytan Shander (most recently with SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio) for a 10:00 am to 1:00 pm ET sports talk show. Dan Schwartzman — who’s worked for WPEN, Philadelphia and ESPN in New York – will host an overnight show from 1:00 am to 5:00 am ET Tuesdays through Saturdays and Kay Adams joins the network as sports anchor working the 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm shift Monday through Friday. Dial Global is NBC’s partner in ad and affiliation sales and distribution.
Forbes Releases New Highest Paid Celebrities List. Four radio stars landed on the Forbes list of the most recent Highest Paid Celebrities. Of the 21 celebs noted this time around, Howard Stern is the highest at #7 (although he makes a ton of cash from his SiriusXM gig, the NBC TV job helps!); Glenn Beck comes in at #11; Rush Limbaugh lands at #15 and Ryan Seacrest follows at #19.
Larry King to Host Coverage of the RNC on YouTube’s Elections Hub Channel; Premiere Networks’ Andy Dean Joins King on Panel. Longtime CNN star and broadcasting icon Larry King is now working with Ora TV – the digital on-demand TV network funded by Mexican media magnate Carlos Slim Helu – and Ora TV is partnering with YouTube to produce the Elections Hub channel. Tonight, King will host coverage of the Republican National Convention live from Los Angeles featuring a roundtable of well-known celebrities and guests on the special series “Ora 2012 with Larry King” from 11:00 pm to 12:00 midnight ET. Premiere Networks nationally syndicated talk host Andy Dean will take part on the panel.
Entercom and University of Florida Enter into Sales Agreement. The college and Entercom Communications have struck a deal which will have Entercom provide sales for the school’s two radio stations – country WRUF-FM and sports talk WRUF-AM. It’s a seven-year deal that begins in September. The university notes that the deal “will provide the College with a guaranteed monthly revenue. Additionally, the stations will participate in a revenue share agreement with Entercom that allows for additional revenue to flow to the stations based on monthly sales performances. In addition to the joint sales agreement, Entercom is launching an academic enhancement initiative to create internships and student opportunities for the College’s students at the company’s stations in Gainesville and around the country. These student involvement opportunities, subject to faculty approval, will include sales, digital marketing programming, news, sports, public relations, strategic communications and promotions.” The stations’ operations director, Jerry Butler, will stay on and co-ordinate the relationship between the stations and Entercom.
Hundreds of Talk Show Hosts from Across Country Broadcasting from RNC. The invention of the “radio row” – largely developed in the modern talk radio era by Washington, DC-based Talk Radio News Service – has really come into its own at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Numerous networks and syndicators have set up shop in elaborate clusters of tables, microphones, remote equipment, banners and, of course, big talking personalities on both sides of the mic. One of the biggest of these assemblages is again hosted by Talk Radio News Service for its affiliates which include the likes of Rusty Humphries, Phil Valentine, Roger Hedgecock and many more. TRNS bureau chief Ellen Ratner tells TALKERS, “We have more stations than ever – about 40 stations and programs. The RNC gave us a prime spot, right next to their booking office. We are not in the arena but in the building next to it that houses all the press. Other than press conferences, some longer television interviews and hall confrontations between the news media, radio row is the only place to have an in-depth conversation. Radio might have lost some of its audience to the internet, but you would never know it from radio row. Big time politicians want to be there and obviously feel they will get a chance to say what they want. It is still the spot to be and the place to be heard.”
WMAL Morning Hosts on the Scene in Tampa. The final day of the Republican National Convention is today and talk radio and the national press have been busy bringing the political talk home to their constituents. Pictured here are WMAL-AM/FM, Washington morning drive team Brian Wilson (c) and Bryan Nehman (r) interviewing former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton (l).
Republican National Convention, Tropical Storm Isaac, and Iran-Syria Connection Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (8/28). The progress of tropical storm Isaac and the activity from the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay were two of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio. The growing connection between Iran’s military and the violence in Syria was also a major topic.
Sean Hannity Named to Keynote New Media Seminar in New York on June 7. The Premiere Networks/Fox News Channel superstar has been named to headline an agenda of talk media industry luminaries that includes leaders from the ranks of talent, programming, management and sales. Sean Hannity tells TALKERS his address will cover such pressing industry issues as confusion over non-rated platforms, attempts to silence opposition speech, proliferation of multi-media talk venues and the imminent explosion of a wide variety of content. He says, “My speeches in the past have focused on the theme, ‘the best is yet to come,’ which I still fully believe – but we face a number of present-day obstacles that have popped up along the way that we as an industry must address and overcome.” Hannity joins the ranks of more than 60 speakers who will be addressing a capacity gathering of 500 attendees at the East Coast installment of this year’s New Media Seminar (the West Coast installment is set for Los Angeles on October 11). Organizers expect the industry-only New York segment to be sold out by early next week. For last-minute registration and sponsorship information call 413-565-5413. To see the latest complete agenda, click here.
Clear Channel Agrees to Buy Alternative WFNX-FM, Boston for Rumored $11 Million. Stephen Mindich is the publisher of the Boston Phoenix alt-weekly who’s owned WFNX-FM since 1983. He says the station has been difficult to keep afloat since the recession began in late 2008 so he’s selling it to Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. Now, the format rumor mill begins grinding and there’s certainly reason for CC to give low-ranking news/talk outlet WXKS – at 1200 on the AM dial – an FM boost. The station carries Premiere Networks’ Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and despite the talent of morning drive talk pro Jeff Katz and PM drive market vet Jay Severin the station continues to underperform. As is customary, CC is not tipping its hand about a format change but local media reports indicate 17 of the 21 staffers at the station have been notified of their termination. Releases from both parties do not indicate if Clear Channel will begin operating the station under an LMA or wait for FCC approval of the sale.
Report: Streaming Media East Confab Provides Insights for Talk Radio. Talk radio consultant Holland Cooke delivers nuggets like this: “It’s not how many Friends you have, it’s how many are talking about you,” as he distills some of the advice on building media brands via Facebook (and more) that he gathered at this week’s Streaming Media East conference in New York City. Read Holland’s entire report here
Forbes Releases World’s Most Powerful Celebrities List for 2012; Limbaugh, Beck, and Stern Make the Grade. The annual World’s Most Powerful Celebrities List has been released by Forbes and Premiere Networks nationally syndicated talk host Rush Limbaugh is the highest-ranked radio talk host at #19. Fellow Premiere host Glenn Beck is close behind at #23 and SiriusXM talk star Howard Stern landed at #30. Forbes ranks celebs based on how they score in five factors: money, TV/radio, press, web and social.
Utah Jazz Owner to Buy KZNS-AM/FM, Salt Lake City. The Larry H. Miller Group – owner of the NBA’s Utah Jazz – is finalizing a deal to buy sports talk KZNS-AM/FM, Salt Lake City which would become the radio base for the team. Currently, LHM Group is LMAing crosstown KFNZ but that deal ends this month and owner Cumulus Media is not interested in continuing to LMA the station, according to a report in the Salt Lake Tribune. LHM Group and Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby tells the paper the group will put together the best sports talk hosts from both KZNS and KFNZ, “This is going to be a super sports powerhouse radio station.” It is currently negotiating with talent and did not disclose which of the two stations’ current hosts will end up working at KZNS. The station is owned by the SLC Divestiture Trust operated by Larry Patrick.
Courtside Entertainment Group’s “Loveline” Partners with Ustream for Web Video Distribution. Fans of Courtside Entertainment Group’s “Loveline” radio show hosted by Dr. Drew Pinsky, Simone Bienne and Mike Catherwood will be able to see streaming video of the program via Ustream. In addition to the program being seen live on ustream.tv, affiliate stations will have access to the embedded Ustream player for fans to view and interact with on their websites. Courtside vice president Katie Walsh states, “By partnering with Ustream to offer a video component of ‘Loveline,’ we are able to provide fans with more access and interaction than ever before. We look forward to extending our reach and providing fans with more ways to connect with ‘Loveline’ through Ustream.” Courtside reports that after working with Ustream for a month, it saw a 107% increase in “Loveline” viewers on its Ustream channel – more than doubling “Loveline” viewership in a one-month period.
Daily “Sports Biz Today” Program Debuts in Syndication May 21. The AudioTracks Broadcasting Services-produced “Sports Biz Today” program hosted by Fred Wallin and Howard Bloom goes live and into national syndication on Monday, May 21. Both Wallin and Bloom have long sports media resumes: Wallin has worked at Fox Sports Radio and The Sports Radio Network as well as at ESPN and Fox Sports Net and Bloom publishes SportsBusinessNews.com and has worked with Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio to name a few. The program is available for terrestrial stations via Cable Radio Network and is also being broadcast on the web via Passionate Talk Radio and Mile Hi Radio. It airs live from 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm ET.
Odds ‘n’ Sods. CBS Radio names Danny Bortnick vice president and director of sales for its Washington, DC cluster that includes sports talk WJFK-FM and all-news WNEW-FM…..SiriusXM adds “Dan Dunn’s Happy Hour” to its lineup on the SiriusXM Stars Too channel. The weekly show hosted by the former Playboy writer and mixology expert will air live on Thursday evenings at 7:00…..The nationally syndicated Dawson McAillster-hosted “The Hopeline” names Jessica McVay-Kershner on-air co-host/internet radio coordinator for the show. Jessica is the daughter of long time consultant and current Cumulus Media VP/programming Mike McVay…..James Ingstad-owned KJOX, Kennewick, Washington – 1340 ESPN Tri-Cities – begins airing programming from Bonneville’s KIRO, Seattle from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. The station is also the market’s affiliate for Seattle Mariners baseball….. The regionally syndicated, Rochelle, Illinois-based Michael Koolidge program expands to WTAD, Quincy, Illinois and WKAN, Kankakee, Illinois…..KMOX, St. Louis business reporter Rick Desloge died on Monday at age 63 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Montreal Broadcaster Ted Bird Joins CKGM, Montreal Morning Show. Popular Montreal radio personality Ted Bird becomes part of the morning show at TSN Radio 990 (CKGM, Montreal) alongside Elliott Price and Shaun Starr. Bird will focus on the Montreal sports scene. He tells Broadcaster Magazine Canada, “I am extremely excited to join Elliott and Shaun on TSN Radio 990 and indulge in my passion for talking sports. I feel privileged to work for the flagship radio station of the Montreal Canadiens and hitch my wagon with the TSN brand. It will be an interesting off-season for the Canadiens, so we’ll have lots to talk about. I can’t wait to get started.” Bird recently left CHRK-FM, Montreal in a well-publicized split that ended with him working at a Canadian aboriginal station.
2012 Presidential Race, Greece Teeters on Brink, Upcoming NATO Summit, Trayvon Martin Case and Budget Debate Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (5/16). Some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday included the 2012 presidential race; the precarious state of Greece’s fiscal situation and its effect on the euro; the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, new information in the Trayvon Martin case; and the U.S. budget debate in Washington, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.