By Holland Cooke
LAS VEGAS — No matter how well-planned the agenda, I’ve always found that the most valuable part of a convention is…convening, catching-up with old friends and making new ones. And being the first NAB Show in three years, this year’s event was OH-so-quotable.
“I know what transformational moments feel like, and now we’re in one…on the cusp of the best era for radio and for audio.”
Salem Media Group’s Ed Atsinger Transitions to Executive Chairman; David Santrella Rises to CEO. Current Salem Media Group CEO Edward G. Atsinger III will transition to the newly created role of executive chairman of the board of directors, effective January 1, 2022 and David Santrella – currently president of broadcast media – will become chief executive officer. At the same time, David Evans – president of digital media and publishing – is promoted to chief operating officer. Salem Media Group’s current chairman, Stuart W. Epperson, will resign from Salem’s board of directors, transitioning to the position of chairman emeritus and Stuart W. Epperson, Jr. will join the board of directors, filling the vacancy created by Mr. Epperson Senior’s resignation. In the executive chairman role, Atsinger will be chairman of the board, assuming leadership of the board of directors while providing oversight and guidance to both the CEO and COO. Atsinger will continue to be engaged full-time and focus more of his attention on macro strategy and planning, M&A, external relationships, government affairs and leadership development. He comments, “I am pleased to serve as executive chairman and to oversee the succession to the next generation of leadership of our company. I am looking forward to working with the executive team to continue Salem’s vitally important mission of serving the media needs of the audiences interested in Christian content and public policy programming with a traditional conservative focus. With Salem well-positioned for continued growth into the future, now is the right time to take the next step in implementing our long-term leadership transition. We have a tremendously talented, deep and dedicated leadership team at Salem. David Santrella and David Evans each have played a critical role in developing and executing the strategy in place today, and I am confident they have the vision, skills, experience and capabilities necessary to provide continued leadership of Salem well into the future.” Speaking about his new role, David Santrella states, “I am deeply honored to have been appointed as Salem’s next CEO. I look forward to working in close partnership with David Evans to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that exist in today’s media landscape, to further the mission of our company and to grow our business. I am blessed that I will have Ed alongside me in my new role.”
WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM, Chicago Names Cisco Cotto Morning Drive Anchor. Chicago all-news WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM appoints Cisco Cotto the morning drive news anchor, taking over for Pat Cassidy, who recently announced his retirement. Audacy Chicago regional president and market manager Rachel Williamson comments, “We are excited to welcome Cisco into morning drive. He has proven to be a true professional and teammate for the last seven years both reporting and anchoring on WBBM. Not only does he bring a bright energy but is a great communicator and strong journalist – the perfect combination as Chicagoans wake up each morning.” About his new role, Cotto says, “Pat and Felicia [Middlebrooks] spent many years as voices Chicagoans trusted to wake them up with all of the most important stories to start their day. I’ll work hard to maintain what they built. Thanks to Ron Gleason, Greg Solk, and Rachel Williamson for trusting me with such an important show on this great station. I look forward to continuing to be a small part of the award-winning news team on WBBM for many years to come.” Assuming the midday and noon business hour anchoring position is Rob Hart, who has been with WBBM since 2016.
WGAC, Augusta and Talk Host Austin Rhodes Sued for Defamation. A suit has been filed in Gwinnett Superior Court in Georgia by James Faller II who says in the complaint that WGAC, Augusta talk host Austin Rhodes defamed him through “false, malicious and defamatory” statements. Faller appears to be representing himself as the complaint is not signed by an attorney representing him. Faller alleges that Rhodes called him a “fraud,” “weirdo,” and “felon” and says Rhodes spoke with local politicians and warned them about associating with Faller. A story in the Augusta Press indicates that Faller admits to having served two years in federal prison on a felony conviction but says that he’s actually a whistleblower and he went to prison due to a government conspiracy against him. Faller also alleges that Rhodes’ refusal to allow him to appear on his radio show violates his First Amendment rights. Beasey Media Group is also named in the suit and it’s expected the company will seek to have the suit dismissed.
KHTK-AM, Sacramento Announces On-Air Changes for the New Year. A series of talent moves at Bonneville’s Sacramento sports talk KHTK-AM will take place beginning January 4, 2022. Current afternoon drive host Jason Ross will move to mornings to join Carmichael Dave. At the same time, Justin Marshall will move away from the on-air portion of his role to solely focus on his duties as assistant program director and morning show producer. The afternoon drive show will be hosted by program director Nick Cattles who will be joined by a rotating cast of co-hosts each day from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
BIA Advisory Predicts Radio Ad Spend Will Rise 5.5% to $13.54 Billion in 2022. Looking ahead to 2022, BIA Advisory Services reveals it has increased its U.S. Local Advertising Forecast for the year to $173.3 billion from its earlier estimate of $161.5 billion issued in the late summer. The 2022 forecast indicates an 11.4% increase over 2021 due to faster than anticipated growth in digital advertising and a strong political year. Traditional media ad revenue still maintains a slight advantage over digital at 50.8% of the ad spend ($88 billion), while digital media will get 49.2% of the ad spend at $85 billion. Looking at the radio industry, BIA predicts that radio ad spend will be $13.54 billion, a 5.5% increase over 2021’s $12.79 billion. For 2021, radio’s ad spend on over-the-air will be $10.91 billion with $1.88 billion coming from digital (website, streaming and mobile apps). Next year, radio ad spend is forecast to be $11.37 billion for over-the-air and $2.17 billion for digital. BIA SVP and chief economist Mark Fratrik says, “2021 has been a year of fluctuations. The first two quarters of the year saw strong growth, with some stalling in Q3 once the Delta variant appeared late summer. We’ve taken pandemic concerns plus inflation and supply chain issues into account to prepare our local media estimates and, overall, we are bullish on ad revenue for 2022.”
WTOP-FM, Washington Was Top Radio Biller for 2020. As a sidebar to the previous story about BIA Advisory Services’ Local Advertising Forecast, the company has revealed the top radio billers for last year. The top-billing station for 2020 was Bonneville’s all-news WTOP-FM, Washington with $62 million. Rounding out the top 10 were: iHeartMedia’s KIIS-FM, Los Angeles and WLTW-FM, New York with $38.9 and $30.8, respectively; Cox Media Group’s news/talk WSB-AM/WSBB-FM, Atlanta was #4 with $30 million; Audacy’s all-news WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM, Chicago was #5 with $29.7 million; Beasley Media Group’s sports talk WBZ-FM, Boston was #6 with $29.6 million; iHeartMedia’s KBIG, Los Angeles and WHTZ, New York were #7 and #8 with $29.35 million and $29.3 million, respectively; Audacy’s all-news WINS-AM was #9 with $28.1 million and Audacy’s sports talk WFAN, New York was #10 with $28 million.
COVID-19, Build Back Better, 2022 Midterm Elections, Trump Sues NY AG, January Investigation, Russia’s Ukraine Aggression, and Potter/Maxwell Trials Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/20). The Omicron coronavirus variant sweeps across the U.S., the push for booster shots, and the pushback against mandates; Senator Joe Manchin’s blow to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan; Republicans savoring early predictions of taking back Congress in the 2022 midterm elections; former President Donald Trump sues New York attorney general Letitia James to prevent investigation of his businesses; the investigation into the January attack on the Capitol; Russia’s ongoing military aggression at the Ukraine border; and the trials of former police officer Kim Potter in the shooting of Daunte Wright and Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Monday Memo: Happy NEWS Year? “Not likely,” consultant Holland Cooke predicts; adding “that spells opportunity…for now. THEN what?” In this week’s column, HC suggests how recent Chris Wallace and Brian Williams sign offs point to what might be “talk radio’s next format.” Read it here.
Pending Business: What You See Is What You Get. Radio sales pro Steve Lapa says that despite the significantly increased traffic on our roads as more people return to working away from home – which means more people listening to radio in their cars – radio sales pros may still have plenty of inventory to sell. He says it’s time to review four basic concepts that help any talk radio seller fill those avails. Read it here.
Audacy Renews Employment Agreements with CEO David Field and COO Susan Larkin. The company has entered into new employment agreements with president and CEO David J. Field and EVP and chief operating officer Susan Larkin. In a filing with the Securities Exchange Commission, Audacy reports that Field will continue to serve as the company’s president and CEO and becomes effective January 1, 2022. The Field agreement has an initial term of three years with automatic one year extensions following the initial term unless either party provides prior notice of non-extension. Field’s annual base salary will be $1,350,000 and a target annual performance bonus of up to 200% of Field’s base salary. Field is eligible to receive a one time “EBITDA Bonus” of $3,000,000 only if, prior to December 31, 2024, the company’s EBITDA for the immediately preceding consecutive 12-month period exceeds $400,000,000. Field is also entitled to an equity grant of 1,000,000 restricted stock units (“RSUs”), subject to the company’s shareholders’ approval of a new Company equity incentive plan at the 2022 annual shareholders meeting. Seventy five percent (75%) of these RSUs have performance-based vesting conditions while the remaining twenty five percent (25%) have time-based vesting conditions. Fields’ performance-based RSUs come after achieving company stock price increases. He receives 250,000 RSUs for hitting the stock price of $6.00; 250,000 for hitting $9.00 per share and 250,000 for reaching the $12.00 per share threshold. Audacy also retroactively amended EVP and COO Susan R. Larkin that increases her annual salary to $750,000 and applies retroactively from June 1, 2021 through May 4, 2023. Her agreement further amends the provision related to future equity grants so that Larkin will be entitled to an increased amount of future grants of restricted stock and/or stock options with an aggregate annual target amount of $500,000.
KBOI-AM, Boise to Add FM Signal. Effective January 3, 2022, Cumulus Media’s Boise news/talk KBOI-AM will have an FM simulcast as current sports talk KTIK-FM becomes KBOI-FM. The sports talker keeps its FM signal (a simulcast of KTIK-AM) on FM translator K237HA at 95.3 FM. In a statement, KBOI program director Nate Shelman says, “Being a part of any positive station launch or new venture is exciting. Our audience has asked for this over the years and it’s exciting to see KBOI return to the FM dial after KBOI-FM switched call signs to KQFC in 1985. The growth in the Treasure Valley and changes in technology have warranted the need for an FM outlet. Interference from powerlines being the most prevalent.”
KABQ-AM, Albuquerque to Flip to Sports Talk. Albuquerque talk station KABQ-AM is flipping to sports talk as “FOX Sports 1350 AM”, effective Monday, January 3. The iHeartMedia station will broadcast FOX Sports Radio programming around the clock on weekdays and weekends. “FOX Sports 1350 AM” will feature “Two Pros and a Cup of Joe with LaVar Arrington, Brady Quinn & Jonas Knox,” “The Dan Patrick Show,” “The Doug Gottlieb Show” “Straight Outta Vegas with R.J. Bell,” “The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard & Rob Parker,” “The Jason Smith Show with Mike Harmon” and “The Ben Maller Show.” iHeartMedia market president Hope Romero says, “We’re thrilled to be able to bring the sports talk leader back to Albuquerque. FOX Sports Radio leads the industry with the biggest names and best shows.”
Audacy Names Sarah Foss Chief Technology Officer. The company promotes Sarah Foss to chief technology officer, a role in which she’ll spearhead Audacy’s efforts to innovate and differentiate its products and services via new technological capabilities. The company says that Foss will manage Audacy’s key technology initiatives including: software development, ad tech, business intelligence and analytics, data solutions, and Audacy’s recently acquired live and on-demand audio streaming business, AmperWave. Foss had been serving as Audacy’s chief information officer since joining the company in 2020. Audacy CFO and EVP of strategic initiatives Rich Schmaeling comments, “Audacy continues to invest in technology to create innovative offerings for its listeners, advertisers and clients. We are excited to have Sarah leading these critical areas to drive our transformation faster and further.” Foss states, “Audacy is in the enviable position that we have unique content, great platforms, and an appetite for transformative growth. I am excited that technology is seen as an accelerant and differentiator for us at Audacy.”
Biden’s Build Back Better Plan/Economy, COVID-19, January 6 Investigation, Civil War Fears, Russian Ukraine Aggression, Kim Potter Trial, Ghislaine Maxwell Trial, and Spider Man Film Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. Negotiations over Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan between the White House and Senator Joe Manchin break down and the cooling predictions for the U.S. economy; the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, vaccines and mandates; the House investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol; retired U.S. generals warn of possible U.S. civil war; Russia’s military aggression toward the Ukraine; the trial of former police officer Kim Potter; the defense rests in the trail of Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell; and the new Spider Man movie’s blockbuster opening were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Townsquare Media 2021 Second Quarter Net Revenue Up 45%. The company releases financial data for the second quarter of 2021 and reports net revenue was $107.3 million, an increase of 45% over the same period in 2020. Townsquare Media says it achieved 99.4% of Q2 2019’s net revenue when excluding Live Events net revenue. Total digital revenue growth was up 36% year over year and contributed approximately 47% of the company’s total net revenue in the first six months of 2021. Townsquare CEO Bill Wilson says, “Over the next three years, we expect double-digit digital net revenue growth to continue, fueling the growth of our digital platform from $180 million of revenue (on a trailing twelve-month basis as of June 30, 2021) to $250 million. Most impressively, I am extremely proud to report that Townsquare’s second quarter Adjusted EBITDA of $30.3 million not only exceeded our expectations, our previously stated guidance, and 2019 levels (+1% vs. Q2 2019), but it was also the highest Adjusted EBITDA generated in any single quarter in Townsquare’s history. To accomplish this strong result only one year after the start of the pandemic is a testament to the strength of the Townsquare team, our digital platform and solutions for local businesses, and our careful expense management efforts.” Wilson adds, “As a Digital First Company, our digital revenue and profit growth has accelerated, driving the diversification of our business, total company growth and separation from our local competition. I am incredibly optimistic about Townsquare’s future, and very proud that we are on the path to achieving 2019’s Adjusted EBITDA in 2021, on the verge of a full revenue recovery in 2021, and plan on delivering strong revenue and profit growth in 2022.” Townsquare reports in three segments: Townsquare Interactive – its digital marketing solutions subscription business; Advertising – including broadcast and digital advertising products and solutions; and Live Events – including concerts, expositions and other experiential events. Advertising net revenue for Q2 of this year was $85.9 million, an increase of 50.4% over the same period in 2020. The company also reports net income of $10.1 million compared to the net loss of $28.9 million it posted during the same period a year ago. As of June 30, 2021, Townsquare had a total of $25.1 million of cash and cash equivalents and $550 million of outstanding indebtedness.
Jeff Rickard Named Brand Manager for WEEI, Boston; Ken Laird Promoted to Assistant Brand Manager. Boston sports talk outlet WEEI announces that Jeff Rickard is joining the station as brand manager, effective August 11. Audacy says that in this role, Rickard will oversee content operations for WEEI-FM and the WEEI radio network that spans the New England region. Rickard was most recently PD and morning host at Emmis Communications’ WFNI-AM, Indianapolis. During his career, Rickard spent almost 10 years in Bristol, Connecticut hosting ESPN Radio’s “Gamenight” program and served with Comcast as managing editor and anchor of the Boston-based “Out of Bounds Latenight” show. Rickard has also hosted shows regularly for numerous SiriusXM channels including: NFL Radio, ESPNU, MLB Network Radio, and Mad Dog Sports Radio. He has served as the host of NFL Radio’s “The Sunday Kickoff” during the NFL season for the past five years and is the host of “College Football Overtime” on ESPNU. He says, “Having worked in sports radio for virtually my entire career, I am thrilled to join the team at WEEI. Its rich history is well documented as is the unmatched passion of the Boston sports fan. I’m looking forward to pairing this talented team with fresh, new ideas to both reflect and match that passion.” At the same time, WEEI executive producer Ken Laird is being promoted to assistant brand manager. He’ll continue his role as update anchor and executive producer of the morning drive “Greg Hill Show.”
Ramsey Network Unveils New Podcast, ‘The Fine Print.’ The newest podcast from Ramsey Network is a show that shines a spotlight on the deceptive methods companies, marketers and scammers use to influence money decisions. ‘The Fine Print’ is hosted by Ramsey personality George Kamel and is “a bi-weekly show featuring interviews with experts and industry insiders about the money traps and trends keeping people broke.” Ramsey Solutions CEO and “The Ramsey Show” host Dave Ramsey says, “For 30 years, I’ve heard the pain in people’s voices when they call into the radio show because of a money trap that’s left them in a world of hurt. What if we could prevent that pain by empowering people to avoid the trap in the first place? That’s what ‘The Fine Print’ does. George educates listeners to recognize and steer clear of money minefields so they can be the heroes of their own stories.” Episodes of the podcast include: How TurboTax Is Screwing You; Could Bitcoin Be Your Ticket To Wealth?; The True Cost of Credit Card Rewards; The Dirty Truth Behind Your Credit Score; and How the Robinhood App Steals from the Rich AND the Poor. Find out more here.
LiveXLive and PodcastOne Announces Podcast Competition. This competition is called “Self Made Podcast Edition” and is “an audio competition to find the next big podcast star for PodcastOne.” The company says the competition will be driven by fans and PodcastOne’s panel of judges, as they listen to see who will take the top prize, a podcasting contract with PodcastOne and a total package worth over $100,000 including promotion across the network which features a roster of celebrity podcasters, including Adam Carolla, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Barbara Schroeder, Michael Irvin, and Jordan Harbinger.” The contest kicks off today (8/3) and is open to amateur podcasters only. The winner of “Self Made Podcast Edition” will be crowned on September 30, 2021 – International Podcast Day. PodcastOne president Kit Gray says, “There are so many wonderfully creative and innovative podcasters out there. We’re excited to be able to offer someone the opportunity to make their dreams of becoming a self-made podcast host come true.” Learn more here.
SiriusXM to Unveil Lucille Ball’s ‘Lost’ Radio Show on New Channel. The legendary comedienne is the star of the new SiriusXM channel called, “Let’s Talk to Lucy,” named after her 1960s CBS Radio program. SiriusXM says, “In between starring in four television series and more than 70 films, Lucy would frequently jump from set to set, tape recorder in hand, and talk about all aspects of life with some of the biggest names in Hollywood history, including Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, and dozens more. These recordings eventually made it onto air when CBS Radio broadcast them as ‘Let’s Talk to Lucy’ from 1964-1965. However, for the last 50-plus years they’ve never been heard publicly again – until now.” Ball’s daughter Lucy Arnaz says, “Although I have been care-taking these ancient tapes for over 30 years, I had never really listened to them all and had no idea how many remarkable people Mom had talked to on these radio shows. It’s a treasure trove of personal information from some of the greatest talents of American entertainment and my family and I can’t wait to share them with the rest of the planet.”
TALKERS News Notes. Tomorrow evening (8/4), a debate among a number of the candidates running to replace California Governor Gavin Newsom in the September 14 recall election will will take place and Salem Radio Network is distributing the event nationally. It’s taking place from 9:00 pm to 10:30 pm ET at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. SRN host Hugh Hewitt – who serves as president of the Richard Nixon Foundation – will moderate the debate along with panelists Christine Devine and Elex Michaelson of KTTV-TV, Los Angeles “FOX 11 News” and former U.S. National Security Adviser Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien. Special radio coverage will be anchored by KRLA, Los Angeles morning host Jennifer Horn and KRLA news anchor Larry Marino. SRN host and candidate Larry Elder is declining to take part saying his goal is “defeating Gavin Newsom not appearing in a circular firing squad with other Republicans.”…..Westwood One is expanding the role of sports media pro Rich Eisen within the network to include pregame and halftime hosting duties for “Monday Night Football on Westwood One.” The Monday night schedule kicks off on September 13, when the Baltimore Ravens visit the Las Vegas Raiders and concludes on January 3, 2022, when the Cleveland Browns battle the Pittsburgh Steelers. Eisen says, “‘Monday Night Football on Westwood One’ is one of the greatest hosting gigs in broadcasting and I’m honored to have the seat. The fact that I can expand my partnership with Westwood One beyond my daily show and podcast platform by talking even more football thrills me to no end.”…..The application window for programming candidates interested in applying to the “Elevating Women in Audio: MIW & BDSradio Mentorship” is being extended through Tuesday, August 10. The “Elevating Women in Audio: MIW & BDSradio Mentorship” program is a year-long experience for women in music programming, provided by Mentoring and Inspiring Women in Radio and MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music). Personalized conversations with the best programming minds in the business are geared to help advance a career within the radio/audio industry. Additionally, the mentee receives a scholarship to attend Radio Show 2021 this October in Las Vegas. The mentorship is available to one female brand manager, content/program director, assistant program director, and/or music director from any U.S. based music format. To apply, click here…..The popular finance and investing podcast “Pennies: Going in Raw,” hosted by Hugh Henne and Dan, the Deity of Dips, is now a part of the iHeartPodcast Network. iHeartMedia says, “With more than 2.3 million downloads, the podcast takes an exciting and informative spin on stock market topics like day trading strategies, volume, price targets, penny stocks, accumulation, reverse splits and much more. The show also features a range of guests from young, successful traders to the leaders of multi-billion-dollar companies, such as Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph, and CEO and founder of Hims, Andrew Dudman…..Today through Thursday, WHO, Des Moines afternoon drive talk host Simon Conway (left) is pulling double duty as he fills in for Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo (right) on his Compass Media Networks nationally syndicated program. Conway’s WHO show is also heard on iHeartMedia’s WMT, Cedar Rapids and WOC, Davenport, Iowa…..iHeartMedia Pittsburgh’s Steelers Radio Network announces changes to its broadcast team. As part of the changes, Craig Wolfley, a former Steelers offensive lineman who has served as a sideline analyst on the Steelers game day broadcast since 2002, will join play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove in the broadcast booth as color analyst. Wolfley takes over for Tunch Ilkin, who retired after 23 seasons in the booth. Former Steelers offensive lineman Max Starks is joining Missi Matthews for sideline reports. He recently served as a sideline reporter for Westwood One. Starks will also join Wolfley as co-host of “In The Locker Room, Presented By Neighborhood Ford Store,” a daily, in-season radio program airing on Steelers Nation Radio.
COVID-19 Delta Variant and Masks, Eviction Ban Expires, January 6 Investigation, Voting Rights, Southern Border Policy, Infrastructure Bill, and Olympics Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (8/2). The rising rate of COVID-19 Delta variant cases in the U.S. and abroad and the issue of mask mandates; the White House puts the onus on states as the federal ban on evictions expires; the investigation into the January 6 Capitol attack and the suicide of Capitol police officer Kyle DeFreytag; today’s planned DC rally supporting the For the People voting rights bill; the Biden administration continues the Trump administration policy of deporting illegal migrants; the $1 trillion bi-partisan infrastructure bill; and Simone Biles returns to the Olympics to win bronze in the balance beam were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.