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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

| April 28, 2021

Meadowlark Media and DraftKings Ink Big Deal for Content Distribution. The Miami Herald has the story about the new $40 million deal that Meadowlark Media – the company formed by former ESPN chief John Skipper and former ESPN personality Dan Le Batard – and DraftKings have entered into. According to the Herald, DraftKings is getting into the content distribution business and by June or early July will be responsible for getting Meadowlark’s flagship program “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” onto radio, television, podcast platforms, and social media. It will also serve as title sponsor. The paper reports that Meadowlark negotiated with several other companies including SiriusXM, NBC’s Peacock and iHeartMedia.  Le Batard told the Herald that didn’t want fans to have to climb a paywall for his show. “We didn’t want to do that to our listeners. The thing that I chose was freedom. Every time I’ve negotiated anywhere was for freedom, not money. This allows Meadowlark to be profitable from the start and have total freedom to do what we want. We can go forward and appear everywhere. We can make partnerships anywhere we want. We don’t have any corporate overlord. Our partner is our sponsor and what they are sponsoring is our freedom. The media landscape is changing very rapidly, and this shows how much power and value individuals can exert in breaking free from the corporate machine.” By summertime, Le Batard’s show – currently only available in podcast form – will be found in video formant on YouTube, Twitch, and DraftKings’ own nascent channel. The Herald adds that “the partnership will include DraftKings commissioning content projects and original programming that Meadowlark will develop and produce, including sports documentaries, as DraftKings broadens its sports entertainment footprint.”

Alpha Media Files Opposition to Larry Wilson’s Petition to Deny with FCC. As Alpha Media works to emerge from bankruptcy – approval for which it has received from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern Division of Virginia – it also needs approval from the Federal Communications Commission. But minority interest holders Larry Wilson and Paul Stone filed Petitions to Deny with the FCC, claiming that Alpha has failed to comply with FCC regulations regarding licensing of some of its stations and that the matter requires further review of foreign ownership interests, respectively. Alpha recently filed its opposition to the Petitions to Deny. In that filing’s summary, it says, “In short, when one peels away the bombast of Wilson’s Petition, it is clear that Wilson is inappropriately using the agency as a platform for rehashing his differences with certain members of the Company’s Board of Directors and management, and vainly attempting to shoehorn assessment of his personal grievances into the Commission’s processes under the guise of spurious claims that Alpha is unfit to hold its broadcast licenses. Moreover, his assertions are false. For Stone’s part, he simply criticizes the FCC’s well-established policy of promoting companies’ ability to promptly emerge from bankruptcy where further regulatory review of foreign ownership interests is required, a policy that is grounded in public interest considerations and comity with the bankruptcy laws. Neither Wilson nor Stone has standing as a party-in-interest. Any claims they had as holders of minority interests in Alpha pertaining to the Plan or to Alpha’s governance could and should have been presented to the Bankruptcy Court or the Delaware courts. While they inexplicably chose not to avail themselves of these alternative forums, they cannot now seek redress before the Commission. It has been black-letter law that the FCC does not adjudicate private contractual matters for far longer than the ‘more than 40 years’ that Wilson’s counsel has been ‘practic[ing] before the Commission,’ and the FCC has no reason to do so here.”

Westwood One Announces Executive Promotions. Three Westwood One staffers are promoted to new positions within the syndicator and sales firm’s programming and operations divisions. Twenty-eight-year Westwood One employee Susan Stephens is promoted to SVP and general manager, Westwood One programming. In this expanded role, Stephens will work to optimize programming and content opportunities and collaborations between news, talk, music, and entertainment. Tim Seymour rises to SVP, head of operations in which the 20-year WWO staffer assumes responsibility for the operations, partner relations, affiliate & sales operations, traffic & continuity, and research operations teams. Becky Bennett is elevated to VP, partner relations. Stephens and Seymour both report to Cumulus Media executive vice president of marketing and president of Westwood One Suzanne Grimes. Bennett will report to Seymour. Grimes says, “We have an enviable depth of talent within Westwood One with the unique experience to lead us forward. It is a privilege and a pleasure to announce these well-deserved promotions that will position us to succeed in 2021 and beyond.”

Edison’s Annual ‘Moms and Media’ Study Unveiled May 6. The results of the annual “Moms and Media” study from Edison Research will be revealed at a webinar being presented next Thursday (5/6) at 2:00 pm ET. Edison says, “This year’s ‘Moms and Media’ study provides insight on media usage, social media habits, and current outlook on tech by U.S. moms. Findings incorporate data from The Infinite Dial study from Edison Research and Triton Digital, as well as data from Edison Research’s new ongoing syndicated measurement of social media, The Social Habit. The 2021 report features data trends on devices, media engagement, and technology usage of U.S. moms. Highlights from this year’s study include: smart speaker ownership, podcast adoption, online audio listening, and social media engagement. In addition, the report will showcase brand new research centered on social media usage by U.S. moms and their children. You can register for the webinar here.

Former KMOX, St. Louis Personality Harry Hamm Sentenced in Child Porn Case. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that former longtime KMOX, St. Louis air personality Harry Hamm was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges. The 79-year-old former entertainment editor for the radio station admitted that FBI investigators found child porn on two of his cell phones and his laptop. Hamm is also facing charges of second-degree statutory sodomy, incest and possession of child pornography in St. Louis County. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges. The Post-Dispatch story says the St. Louis County charges stem from allegations of sexual contact with a 16-year-old. Hamm began his career with the station in 1975.

TALKERS News Notes. WHO, Des Moines afternoon drive personality Simon Conway is bringing two of the Navy SEALS who were on the mission that killed al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to Des Moines for a fundraiser for the Puppy Jake Foundation that provides service dogs for combat-wounded veterans. Rob O’Neill – the SEAL who fired the shots that killed Bin Laden – and SEAL dog handler Will Chesney will take part in the June 18 event…..ABC News Radio is providing coverage of President Joe Biden’s address this evening and will begin with a one-hour special, “The Biden Presidency: The First 100 Days,” looking back at the start of the Biden administration. The program will air live on the radio network from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm ET anchored by correspondent Aaron Katersky. ABC News Radio will also provide live anchored coverage of President Biden’s speech, with reporting and analysis from ABC News’ team of correspondents and experts…..Public radio outlet WPLN, Nashville announces it has hired Caroline Eggers as the newsroom’s first environmental reporter. She starts her new position in June and will cover environmental issues with a focus on equity for WPLN News as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms across the U.S. to report on under-covered topics and communities. She comments, “WPLN News delivers essential stories with incredible intellect and empathy. I can’t wait to reflect these values while investigating Nashville’s climate action plan, air quality and infrastructure challenges.”

COVID-19, Biden’s 100 Days Address to Congress/$1.8 Trillion American Families Plan, Andrew Brown, Jr Protests/Police Violence, 2020 Census-House Seats, Critical Race Theory Controversy, John Kerry Iran Allegation, and Southern Border Crisis Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (4/27). The CDC’s new directives on mask wearing, the rollout of vaccines, and the high rate of cases in places like India and Brazil; this evening’s 100-day address to Congress by President Joe Biden and his $1.8 trillion “American Families Plan”; the protests of the police shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. and other cases of police violence; the results of the 2020 census and its impact on U.S. Rep seats; the controversy over “critical race theory” and its use in public schools curricula; the allegation that then-Secretary of State John Kerry discussed Israeli air strikes with Iran’s foreign minister; and the overwhelming number of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Biden administration’s immigration policy were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

Friday, May 8, 2020

| May 8, 2020

LiveXLive Acquiring PodcastOne in All Stock Deal. The digital media firm LiveXLive Media, Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Courtside Group, Inc., the owner and operator of PodcastOne in an all stock deal. The press release states that the transaction is valued at $18.1 million based on LiveXLive’s closing price on May 7, 2020. LiveXLive will acquire 100% of the equity interests of Courtside Group, Inc. and issue to stockholders of PodcastOne approximately 5.45 million restricted shares of LiveXLive’s common stock, which would be subject to a 12-month lock-up period and certain trading restrictions thereafter. The proposed acquisition is expected to close by June 2020, subject to certain closing conditions. PodcastOne recorded gross revenue of $27.5 million in calendar year 2019. LiveXLive chairman and CEO Robert Ellin says, “We’re excited to expand our business into the fast-growing podcast category, complementing our music platform of streaming audio, on-demand video, and live event performances. The acquisition will add to and diversify our revenue with a strong advertising component. Once acquired and integrated, we will have a significant opportunity to cross-sell and cross-promote to our respective subscribers, advertisers, and sponsors as well as provide our collective artists and on-air talent with an expanded platform to increase their social media and online presence.” PodcastOne founder and executive chairman, Norman Pattiz is joining LiveXLive as a significant shareholder and remains as executive chairman of PodcastOne. Pattiz comments, “All of us at PodcastOne are excited about joining the LiveXLive team and taking advantage of obvious future synergies between our businesses. I look forward to working with Rob Ellin to close the acquisition and achieve the growth we both envision. PodcastOne is a premium producer, distributor, and revenue-generator for audio-on-demand programming. PodcastOne’s well-established podcasting business is an excellent complement to LiveXLive’s  ‘live social music network,’ delivering premium livestreams, digital audio, and on-demand music.”

NOW POSTED:  New Installment of “The Michael Harrison Wrap: An Overview of the National Conversation.”   The vibrant, one-hour weekend special, “The Michael Harrison Wrap,” that looks back each week at the hottest topics discussed in American talk media per the research of TALKERS magazine, is now posted.  The new episode titled “Demographic Genocide?” looks back at this past week of May 4-8, 2020 and features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERSRic Edelman, financial advisor / talk show host; Martha Zoller, talk show host, WDUN, Gainesville, GA; Kate Delaney, talk show host, GCN; Barry Farber, talk show host, CRN; Dick Morris, pundit / author; and Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio Company. This acclaimed news/talk radio show airs each week on its flagship, WONK-FM, Washington, DC, Friday evenings at 6:00 pm ET. It also airs throughout the weekend on WRKO, Boston; KSCO, Santa Cruz, CA; KDFD (“Freedom 93.7”), Denver; KFNX, Phoenix; WVLY, Wheeling, WV; WVOX, Westchester, NY; KBDT, Dallas; KQSP, Minneapolis; KBKW, Aberdeen, WA; WGDJ, Albany, NY;  WJFN-FM, Richmond, VA; WZFG, Fargo; KTGO, Tioga, ND; WPHM, Port Huron, MI; KSYL, Alexandria, LA; the Virginia Talk Radio Network, Pioneer Valley Radio in Springfield, MA, Podcast Radio, UK and many more.  To listen to this week’s episode (and the program’s complete archives), please click here.  To view the latest TALKERS magazine topic research, please click here.  “The Michael Harrison Wrap” is now available in syndication via Talk Media Network to stations across America on a market exclusive basis. For affiliation information, please click here or call 616-884-8616.

iHeartMedia’s Q1 Revenue Down 1.9%. After a strong financial performance in January and February, the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll in March and iHeartMedia finished the first quarter of 2020 with revenue of $780 million, down 1.9% over the same period in 2019 (and down 4.8% excluding political). The company reports an operating loss of $1.7 billion, “driven primarily by non-cash impairment charges” that “reduce intangible asset and goodwill book values established in May 2019 upon required application of fresh start accounting where the macroenvironment was significantly different than today.” Adjusted EBITDA was $140.3 million, down 10.6% year-over-year. Free cash flow from continuing operations was $69.9 million, a decrease of $43.8 million or 38.6%. iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman says, “As America’s #1 audio company, with unparalleled reach both nationally and locally, we play a critically important role in providing companionship, connection and key information to all the communities we serve, and we are incredibly proud of our employees’ commitment to that mission in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although businesses and brands across the country have been impacted, we are working closely with them on their marketing needs and are focused on helping them generate the consumer demand to reopen or ramp up. Our multiplatform offering, our unparalleled reach and our unique data and analytics position us well to benefit as a company from this returning advertising demand.”  Company president, COO and CFO Rich Bressler adds, “Given the current economic environment, iHeart has taken actions that we believe expand the company’s financial flexibility and provide sufficient liquidity to operate effectively even in an extended period of economic weakness. We believe that iHeart’s fundamentally strong free cash-generation model, substantial current cash balances, incremental benefits from our cost savings initiatives, and flexible capital structure will enable us to build effectively on our audio market leadership and position us favorably to capitalize on the eventual recovery in advertising demand. With our experienced management team and our unparalleled assets, we are confident in our business and continue our focus on driving shareholder value.”

Edison Research: U.S. Moms Relying More on Tech. This latest installment of Edison Research’s “Moms and Media 2020” study includes data from The Infinite Dial series from Edison Research and Triton Digital, and a recent online survey conducted during COVID-19 restrictions. The report highlights how moms with kids under the age of 18 in the household continue to hold tight to their tech tools while sheltering at home, and they are relying on their technology and media to get through the day. Edison VP Melissa DeCesare says, “This virus has turned life upside down and parents have the added pressure of guiding children through this unsettling time.  Moms are masters at balancing tasks in normal circumstances, but they have found even more capacity to multi-task in this pandemic. Additional responsibilities like distance learning and managing the family dynamic while in isolation are increasing the need for media and technology in the home. This year’s study shows us that moms are meeting these challenges by relying on media, devices and technology to help them get through this new normal.” Some of the findings are: Moms are using their devices more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working remotely, helping children with distance learning, and keeping in touch with friends and family are driving heavier use of all digital devices; Moms are facilitating distance learning with 54% of moms saying they are spending a lot of time helping their children with distance learning; Moms are using social media with 39% agreeing that social media is the main source for staying up to date on the COVID-19 pandemic in their community and 56% of moms say that they are grateful for social media during the pandemic; and while it is unknown how long this new normal will last, nearly 4 in 10 moms think their current media habits will stay with them even after it is over. See more here.

Three Entercom Podcasts Nominated for Peabody Awards. The nominations for Peabody Awards have been announced and three podcasts from Entercom’s Podcast Network are included among the nominees. “Headlong: Running from COPS” and “The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow” from Pineapple Street Studios, and “Gangster Capitalism, Season One: The College Admissions Scandal” from Cadence13’s C13Originals studio were nominated. Winners will be announced at a later date. Pineapple Street Studios co-founders Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky say, “For our small shop to get two Peabody nominations is just an incredible testament to the care, thought, and creativity the entire Pineapple Street Studios team puts into the work. Working with world-class talents like Dan Taberski and Ronan Farrow is an honor and we’re thrilled by the recognition for our incredible staff and these two critically important shows, which we were so proud to put out into the world.” The Peabody Awards honor the most powerful, enlightening and invigorating stories in television, radio and digital media. See all the nominations here.

COVID-19 Statistics and Projections Top News/Talk Story for Week of May 4-8. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. and the projections for future cases was the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the state of the U.S. healthcare system.  Coming in at #3 was a tie between the economy, the debate over re-opening, and criticism of the airlines, followed by the presidential race, politics, and the Michelle Obama film at #4. See the entire chart here. The Talkers TenTM is a weekly chart of the top stories and people discussed on news/talk radio during the week and is the result of ongoing research from TALKERS magazine. It is published every Friday at Talkers.com.

TALKERS News Notes. A special, virtual town hall meeting produced by SiriusXM is taking place today on the Business Radio channel featuring host Dan Loney of Wharton Business Daily that addresses the questions on Americans’ minds about how and when to safely reopen the economy. Guests on the program include: Hyundai Motor Company’s Jose Munoz, Ford Motor Company COO Jim Farley, Kahn Academy CEO Sal Kahn, Cleveland Federal president Loretta J. Mester, Board of Scientific Counselors chair Dr. Thomas Inglesby, Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff, chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, DHL CEO Greg Hewitt, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao…..The Talk Shows USA syndicated program “The Money Pit Home Improvement Show” adds new affiliate stations to its roster. They are: WRTA-AM/FM, Altoona, PA; WGNC-AM, Gastonia, NC; WPAY-FM, Garrison, KY; KBST-AM, Big Spring, TX…..Jenn White is named as the new host of the WAMU-FM, Washington-based, NPR program “1A.” White has been serving at Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ-FM, Chicago hosting the midday “Reset with Jenn White” program.

Music Radio News and Career Moves. A Memorial Day weekend show from Cumulus Media’s Westwood One Nashville celebrates the start of summertime. “Summer Kickoff with Dustin Lynch” is a salute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and some military veterans will join Lynch in the tribute. Fellow artists will share their favorite holiday memories and summer activities throughout the special, including: Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, and Carrie Underwood. The four-hour-long special will be available for stations to air over the holiday weekend beginning Saturday, May 23 through Monday, May 25, any time between 6:00 a.m. and 12 midnight.