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Archive for March, 2020
iHeartMedia Institutes Furloughs; Pittman and Execs Take Pay Cuts. In a company-wide memo issued late Monday (3/30), iHeartMedia chairman & CEO Bob Pittman and COO & president Rich Bressler announced temporary changes in the company’s compensation policies in order to ameliorate the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s the email:
“Team, Our number one concern in this unprecedented time is the safety and well-being of our employees. In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, our company continues to be a primarily work-from-home operation and we have also added some coronavirus-related resources and healthcare benefits if you should need to take advantage of them.
Last week we wrote to you about the economic downturn our country is facing as the result of the pandemic and the need to respond to it to preserve the health of our company. During this unsettled time, we also know the biggest economic concern among our employees is understandably about preserving jobs – and we want you to know that it’s our main concern as well.
Although we have had to make hard decisions to address the economic impact of the downturn, our management team has found ways to reduce our company’s expenses without resorting to permanent layoffs.
As the CEO of the company, Bob will voluntarily take no salary for the remainder of the year and has given up his annual incentive bonus, and Rich and our senior management team will take reductions ranging from 30% to over 70% of their total compensation for the remainder of the year.
In addition, we have implemented: Reduction of all expenses that can be postponed without impacting our service and commitment to our communities; Temporary suspension of the 401(k) match; No overtime without pre-approval; Temporary suspension of new raises; and Strict limitations on – or complete elimination of – Travel and Entertainment (T&E) expenses.
We believe all of these reductions give us more room to protect jobs.
Given our pullback from live events and our shift to a work-from-home model, there are a few jobs that are not essential until our business operations revert back to usual. This week we are taking the difficult step of implementing a 90-day furlough, or temporary unpaid leave of absence, for jobs affected by these changes. To be clear, while this will involve a small total number of employees, they are valued colleagues and we did not take this step lightly. We look forward to welcoming them back as soon as we can.
This is not a layoff or a reduction in force (RIF). With a furlough, while it is an unpaid leave of absence, the affected employees stay in our employ, allowing us to continue offering these employees full health benefits, and we want to make sure we take care of them as best we can during this time. And with state unemployment benefits, supplemented by the added special benefits that are part of the new federal stimulus legislation, hopefully these employees will not feel any significant financial impact during this limited period of time.
We’ve never lived through anything like this and, as managers, we’ve never had to make more difficult decisions. However, please know we are listening, studying and considering all options before we make the important decisions that affect you and the company. We may miss on some of these decisions – and we will pivot when we find better ones – but throughout it all, we truly appreciate your support for us, for your colleagues and for the company. Please be safe and take care of your health and your families. Bob and Rich”
Adams Radio Takes WGL-AM, Fort Wayne Dark. After shutting down the programming on sports talk WGL-AM, Fort Wayne “FOX Sports 1250 The Ticket,” Adams Radio Group files a Silent Special Temporary Authority license request with the FCC. The filing states: “As an AM radio station, WGL has been unable to generate sufficient financial resources to sustain operations, a situation that has been made even more difficult as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. WGL must suspend operations to allow management time to review options for a resumption of service.” Adams posted to the station’s website: “We regret to inform you that we will be discontinuing ‘FOX Sports’ on WGL AM 1250. With the current situation, we must devote all of our efforts to our larger signal stations. Thank you very much for listening.”
Sports Radio and the Coronavirus Pandemic – Now What? Consultant and radio programming pro Andy Bloom writes today in a piece for TALKERS magazine that in order for sports leagues and teams to “keep their brands pertinent” during the absence of live games, they should work with their local broadcast rights holders (that’s you, sports radio stations) to keep their brands relevant and create revenue opportunities. Bloom says that while eSports is still a niche appealing to a young demo, it could expand as eSports is a live competition that can be executed during mandatory social distancing. If you are creative, the revenue opportunities are many. Read his column here.
Podcasts by Federated Media Debuts. A new podcast division is launched by Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Federated Media called, Podcasts by Federated Media. Director of digital content Krystal Vivian states, “Federated Media has a long history of producing world-class audio on the radio, which provided a great foundation when we started podcasting in 2016. Since then, we’ve created several successful podcasts with hundreds of thousands of listens. Launching this division is our next step in continuing our mission of creating great audio that’s really fun to listen to.” The company currently offers 46 podcasts – more than 20 are original, seven are branded shows, and the rest are culled from radio show content. The division also provides program development and production assistance for businesses wishing to create branded podcasts.
Coronavirus Status in the U.S., Trump’s Handling of Pandemic, Projected U.S. Death Toll, Financial Markets Activity, the U.S. Economy, U.S.-China Relations, and Investigation of Senators Stock Sales Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/30). The numbers of confirmed U.S. cases and deaths from COVID-19; scrutiny of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic; the potential U.S. death toll from COVID-19 from White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx; the world’s financial markets respond to the pandemic; the state of the U.S. economy in the era of social distancing; U.S.-China relations as some American politicians seek to blame China for the pandemic; and the Justice Department investigates four U.S. Senators who executed massive stock sales prior to the market slide were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
TALKERS News Notes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Entercom Communications Corp. changes its 2020 Annual Meeting of Shareholders from a physical, in-person meeting on May 5 to a virtual one, live via webcast, at 8:30 am ET on the same day…..Starting April 6, WGN-AM, Chicago late morning personality John Williams assumes the role of host for the “Wintrust Business Lunch,” the hour-long business news program heard weekdays at 12:00 noon on the Nexstar Media station. Williams adds the noon hour onto his current 9:00 am to 12:00 noon program. He takes over for current Wintrust host Ji Suk Yi, who assumes hosting duties for the 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm program…..On-air pro Bill Morgan joins Alpha Media’s news/talk WHBC-AM, Canton, Ohio as host of the 10:00 am to 12:00 noon show. His show is being produced by Jon Bozelka, who will serve as co-host…..Cadence13 announces the debut of a new podcast hosted by entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang called, “Yang Speaks.” Cadence13 says, “The show will air weekly and feature thought-leaders on a variety of topics, including technology, entertainment, policy, sports, pop-culture and anything on Yang’s mind, with a general outlook towards the future of our economy and society.” Former Yang campaign manager and senior advisor to the podcast Zach Graumann says, “The ideas of our campaign have always deserved more airtime than a 60-second answer on a debate stage or a 3-to-5-minute TV hit. We’re excited to launch ‘Yang Speaks’ and have in-depth longform conversations with some of the smartest and most interesting people in the world, and to discuss the ideas that can make our future and society a more human place for all of us.”…..Lemonada Media is launching “In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt,” a weekly podcast series featuring healthcare expert and former Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Andy Slavitt. Cadence13 says Slavitt will broadcast from his own “bubble,” with production assistance from his teenage son, Zach, and will chat with important guests and friends, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for his premier episode. Additional early guests will include Chelsea Clinton, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Beto O’Rourke, writer Tina Fey, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy…..Nielsen Audio announces it is combining to diary markets in Connecticut. Effective with this year’s Spring 2020 survey Bridgeport and Stamford-Norwalk markets will be combined into the new Metro Fairfield County market, ranked at #72…..SAG-AFTRA develops a program to provide dues relief for SAG-AFTRA members during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Under the program, SAG-AFTRA members who are in a position to pay their dues in full are urged to do so upon receipt of their May semi-annual dues bill. Members experiencing financial hardship resulting from work stoppages related to COVID-19 will be granted a due date extension and an installment plan for those payments. As part of that relief, no late fees will be assessed and there will be no adverse impact on members’ work eligibility during this time. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said, “As working people, we know the great difficulties our members are facing. In order to relieve some of the financial stress so many people are dealing with at this time, the finance committee worked to provide much needed relief.”
Music Radio News and Career Moves. At the Seattle station group of Hubbard Radio – country KNUC, CHR KQMV, adult contemporary WRWM, and talk KKNW – Alex Brewster is the new chief engineer, effective April 15. He was most recently assistant chief engineer for Entercom Seattle and Portland. Hubbard Seattle interim market manager Scott Mahalick comments, “It’s wonderful to have a world-class engineering leader join Hubbard Seattle and help make our engineering department shine.”…..Joining Townsquare Media’s classic rock KLTD, Killeen-Temple, Texas as afternoon drive personality and production director is Aaron Zytle. He comes to Townsquare from his most recent position as morning host at iHeartMedia’s rock KBRQ, Waco…..Programming pro Steve Ardolina exits Townsquare Media where he was New Jersey regional operations manager and brand manager & director of programming for the Monmouth-Ocean stations.
By Andy Bloom
Andy Bloom Communications
MINNEAPOLIS — In the days leading up to MLB’s Opening Day, I advised sports radio clients regarding ideas to keep listeners interested in their stations and teams while live sports remains on hiatus due to the coronavirus.
The ideas require franchises and leagues to work with local broadcast rights holders. I didn’t have contact with any of the teams or leagues. I thought, however, it would be logical for these organizations and their local broadcast partners to help keep their brands pertinent during the pandemic. A Wall Street Journal article I read convinced me the teams and leagues will listen to the idea.
By Mike Kinosian
LOS ANGELES — A wide-ranging news/talk analysis concludes our four-part series of February 2020 overviews.
Included in this thorough synopsis are all commercial, English-language news/talk outlets (including online streams, if applicable) that appeared in any of Nielsen Audio’s 48 PPM-markets during the February 2020 ratings period (January 30 – February 26).
Unless otherwise noted, information for each station and stream was factored into all of our highlighted charts.
Monday Memo: Smart Advertisers Relate. While many radio sales reps are in pandemic panic mode, smart sellers are helping nimble advertisers do what radio does best: tell a lot of people something useful quickly. In this week’s column, consultant Holland Cooke lists commercial copy points he’s hearing. See them here.
Growing Coronavirus U.S. Death Toll, Trump Extends Social Distancing Through April, Criticism of Trump Administration, Financial Markets Activity, Celebs with COVID-19, Lawmakers’ Stock Trades Controversy, and Presidential Race Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The rising U.S. death toll from COVID-19; President Trump extends the nation’s social distancing policy through April 30; criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic; the pandemic’s effect on the world’s financial markets; celebrities who’ve tested positive for COVID-19; the investigation into U.S. lawmakers who sold stocks ahead of the global sell-off; and the November presidential election were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Pending Business: The Vice President’s Lead List. Sales and marketing consultant Steve Lapa, president of Lapcom Communications, writes in today’s Pending Business column that smart salespeople should take a cue from Vice President Mike Pence’s Presidential Task Force press conference last week in which he named the three biggest companies hiring – today. Read Lapa’s tips for smart marketing in a new normal environment here.
Forever Media Cuts Staff at News/Talk WDEL, Wilmington and Elsewhere. The Wilmington News Journal reports that Forever Media has taken the drastic step of laying off “more than 10 people” from its radio properties as the result of a revenue hit from the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the layoffs are WDEL talk personalities Allan Loudell and Robin Bryson. Forever Media closed on its $18.5 million purchase of Delmarva Broadcasting’s 10-station radio portfolio last May. Bryson is quoted telling the News Journal that the mandated closure of non-essential businesses hit business hard. “That’s a good portion of who our advertisers are. So, you know they’re not open, they can’t afford to advertise so they cancel their contracts and then we don’t have any commercials to run and we’re not getting any revenue.”
WGAN-AM, Portland Drops Morning Drive Co-Host Ken Altshuler. In Portland, Maine, Saga Communications drops morning drive co-host Ken Altshuler – the left-leaning half of the show – as part of a restructuring move. Altshuler has been co-host of the morning show since 2002. The change leaves conservative Matthew Gagnon hosting solo. Altshuler tells the Portland Press Herald that over the past few months, the station has been moving to a single-host format in other dayparts. Altshuler says he plans to continue in the media, either with another radio station or with a blog and podcast. Sixty-seven-year-old Altshuler is a family law attorney who practices in Portland.
Ramsey’s ‘Message of Hope’ Becomes Regular Podcast. The Ramsey Solutions organization announces that a new podcast from the Ramsey Network called, “A Message of Hope” is launching. The Ramsey Network says, “There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in our country right now. Let’s change that. Ramsey Network hosts Dave Ramsey, Ken Coleman, and Rachel Cruze share practical money and career advice through the ‘Message of Hope’ series. This brand-new podcast also features episodes from Chris Hogan, Christy Wright, Anthony O’Neal, and Dr. John Deloney to encourage you in every area of life.”
‘Ark Midnight with John B. Wells’ Partners with Talk Media Network. The weekly, three-hour radio show “Ark Midnight with John B. Wells” is partnering with Talk Media Network for marketing and affiliate relations. Talk Media Network CEO Josh Leng says, “John B. Wells is an expert in weaving stories, news, and interviews together with an artful thread and his instantly recognizable voice. ‘Ark Midnight’ is a destination nighttime show.” Wells comments, “It’s great to be working with Talk Media Network. They understand the program and have added new affiliate stations before we could even make this announcement.” The show recently was added to the program schedule at WNTW-AM Richmond and KLKS-FM in Brainerd, Minnesota and soon joins KYAH-AM in Delta, Utah and WIOS-AM, Tawas City, Michigan.
Tony Bruno to Reunite with Harry Mayes on SiriusXM. Sports talk pro Tony Bruno – via SiriusXM and JAKIB Media Partners – is returning to a daily sports talk radio show after five years away from the format. He’s being joined on the new “Tony Bruno Show” by former WPEN-FM, Philadelphia “The Fanatic” partner Harry Mayes. The show launches on SiriusXM’s Dan Patrick Radio channel on April 6. Bruno says, “I want to thank all of my fans who have followed and supported me through the years. I am grateful to everyone who has encouraged me to return and who still wants to hear my daily fun approach to sports and current affairs, which has been my forte’ for over four decades in broadcasting. I can’t think of a better platform than SiriusXM and reuniting with my former ESPN colleague on the Dan Patrick Radio channel, and I am thrilled to be able to return to the airwaves with my good friend and co-host Harry Mayes. There is no doubt that we will provide an exciting, fun, sports talk radio program that joins a sea of great content on SiriusXM.”
PPM Analysis: News/Talk. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents a look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s February 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on news/talk-formatted stations. Fifty-three percent of the news/talk stations on our panel were up (weekly, 6+ AQH share) over the January 2020 survey with just 27% seeing a ratings decline. Leaders in the improved column include Cox Media Group’s WSB-AM/WSBB-FM, Atlanta (+1.4) and iHeartMedia’s WISN, Milwaukee (+1.0). Comparing February 2019 to February 2020, WSB-AM/WSBB-FM is again the leader, posting an increase of 4.4 shares. iHeartMedia’s WTVN, Columbus adds 2.7 shares year-over-year, and Entercom’s KFTK-FM St. Louis is up 2.1 shares. Just two news/talk stations ranked #1 in their markets in February – CMG’s WSB, Atlanta (11.4 share) and iHeartMedia’s KFBK, Sacramento (8.4 share). However, five news/talk outlets ranked #2 in their respective markets. Find out which ones, here.
TALKERS News Notes. The KSTE, Sacramento-based “Armstrong & Getty Show” starring Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty adds new affiliate WGOW-FM, Chattanooga, starting today (3/30). Earlier this year, the program was added to other Cumulus Media talk stations including KABC-AM, Los Angeles and KSFO, San Francisco…..The nationally syndicated “Free Talk Live” program – led by show founders Ian Freeman and Mark Edge – adds new affiliate stations: KGGF-AM, Coffeyville, Kansas; WTSN-AM/FM, Dover, New Hampshire; WNTW-AM/FM, Richmond; WAIM-AM, Anderson, South Carolina; and WCSI-AM/FM, Columbus, Indiana to put its total affiliate roster at 209 stations…..ESPN’s “Paul Finebaum Show” makes its return to the cable TV SEC Network with an audio-only format at 3:00 pm ET. Although Finebaum has been doing the show for ESPN Radio for the past two weeks, it has not aired on the SEC Network. Finebaum comments, “Despite all of us adjusting to this new normal and distancing ourselves from each other, we’re probably more connected right now than we’ve been in a long time. I’m really proud of the conversations and discussions we’ve had on the show, especially over these past few weeks, and look forward to returning to television and continuing to support and uplift one another during such an uncertain time.”
Music Radio News and Career Moves. Last night’s “FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America” event aired on FOX Television as artists including host Elton John and guests Alicia Keys, Backstreet Boys, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, Dave Grohl, H.E.R., Mariah Carey, Sam Smith,Tim McGraw and more performed from their own homes. The program was also aired live on iHeartMedia radio stations and the iHeartRadio app. Pictured below is Tim McGraw (upper left) singing “Something Like That” while three of his band members accompany him from their homes. The event encouraged viewers and listeners to support charities Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation.
By Steve Lapa
Lapcom Communications Corp
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. –Last week’s column in TALKERS listed recruitment as the #2 mid-term sales priority for radio in this environment. Hope you’ve started, because during last Thursday’s Presidential Task Force presser, Vice President Pence listed the three biggest companies looking to hire — today. And when the vice president speaks, the world tunes in.
Recruitment sale and marketing is especially well suited for news/talk radio. The news/talk audience can be full of job candidates looking for work, job change, recent relocation, even the listener’s children or grandkids looking for part-time work while not in school. This is about smart marketing in a new normal environment.