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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

| April 29, 2020

iHeartMedia Orders Employees to Take Two Unpaid Weeks of Vacation. Audio giant iHeartMedia is taking another step to help reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on on its business by requiring certain staffers to take two week’s unpaid vacation this year.  Here’s an excerpt from the memo sent to all company employees by CEO Bob Pittman and CFO/COO Rich Bressler: “We’re sure you have seen news stories about states’ extended stay-at-home orders and questions about the continuing impact of COVID-19 on businesses across the country, and that includes our business as well. We’ve had to make some difficult decisions which you’re aware of to address the economic impact on our company, and we have done our best to find ways to reduce that impact while avoiding layoffs. Unfortunately, the longer than anticipated shutdown of businesses means that we must do more, with the goal of keeping our business healthy while still avoiding permanent layoffs. Therefore, after reviewing all of our options, we are taking a difficult step but one that we hope will be our last action impacting employee compensation: Requiring that employees who make over $50,000 a year in base compensation – excluding bonuses, overtime or commissions — and who have not already volunteered to take a salary reduction of 5% or more, to take two weeks of unpaid vacation in calendar year 2020, with the first vacation week taking place between now and June 30 and the second vacation week taking place between July 1 and September 30. These two unpaid vacation weeks in total are the equivalent of an approximately 4% salary reduction for the year and must be scheduled with your manager to ensure appropriate staffing at all times.”

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 March 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on the news/talk format. As its cousins all-news and public radio news/talk have done, commercial news/talk stations have for the most part earned more listening credit due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fifty-four percent of news/talk stations on our panel saw their weekly, 6+ AQH shares go up and 20% were unchanged compared to the February 2020 survey. Big gainers included: iHeartMedia’s KFBK, Sacramento up 1.9 shares for a 10.3 share and the #1 rank in the market; Alpha Media’s KXL-FM, Portland up 1.8 shares for a 6.7 share and the #3 rank; and iHeartMedia’s WLW, Cincinnati up 1.8 shares for a 10.1 share and the #1 rank. Looking at year-over-year changes, 64% of news/talk stations were up from March 2019 with a number of outlets making huge gains.  They include: Cox Media Group’s WSB-AM/WSBB-FM, Atlanta adding 5.8 shares to finish March 2020 with a 12.9 share; KFBK, Sacramento rising 4.1 shares for a 10.3 share; iHeartMedia’s WTVN, Columbus climbing 3.9 shares for a 9.4 share in March 2020; and Entercom’s KFTK-FM, St. Louis going up 3.3 shares to a 5.5 share. There were five news/talk stations that ranked #1 in their PPM markets in March, see which ones in Mike Kinosian’s report here.

NRG Media’s Omaha Stations Presenting Live COVID-19 Town Hall. News/talk KOIL-AM and sister sports talk stations KOZN “1620 The Zone” and KZOT “1180 Zone 2” are presenting a COVID-19 town hall broadcast titled, “Omaha – The New Normal,” this evening (4/29) from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  The program will feature key figures in politics, education, athletics, the medical field, and the non-profit industry.  NRG Media says company personalities Mike’l Severe and Matt Tompkins “will take a deep dive into the new normal with Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon; Governor of Nebraska Pete Ricketts; Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert; Omaha Public Schools superintendent Cheryl Logan; University of Nebraska Medicine chief of internal medicine Dr. Mark Rupp, director of athletics at Creighton University, Bruce Rasmussen; and more.” NRG Media Omaha general manager Mark Shecterle says, “As broadcasters, it’s our job to keep our listeners and the community informed. Our town hall guests did not hesitate when to participate and we are so appreciative. Providing the answers to the questions we are all asking is very much needed in Omaha. I’m just thankful we were able to put this together.”

‘Radio Cares: Feeding America Emergency Radiothon Takes Place Tomorrow.  Radio stations wishing to take part in tomorrow’s radiothon can do so by visiting RadioCares.org here. It’s being organized by Cumulus Media and Westwood One.  The “Radio Cares: Feeding America Emergency Radiothon” will benefit Feeding America and its 200-member network of food banks.  It will air across Cumulus’ 424 stations as well as on Westwood One’s programming.  Cumulus EVP, content & audience Brian Philips and Adams Radio Group president Ron Stone spearheaded the organization of the event.

U.S. Coronavirus Statistics & Projections, States Begin ‘Re-Opening,’ Health Care System/Testing Capabilities, Pence at Mayo Clinic, China’s Role in Pandemic, Presidential Race/Biden Accusation, and Trump Orders Meat Plants to Stay Open Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (4/28). The tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the death toll, and projections for future cases; several states begin “re-opening” their economies; the preparedness of the health care system to deal with the pandemic and the country’s testing capabilities; Vice President Mike Pence is criticized for not wearing a mask during a visit to the Mayo Clinic; questions about China’s role in the coronavirus becoming a pandemic; the November presidential election and the accusation of sexual assault by Joe Biden’s former senate staffer; and President Trump’s ordering meat processing plants to remain open were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

Cox Media Group Unveils New Employee-Designed Logo. The new corporate logo for Cox Media Group that you see here is the result of the company’s Design Our Logo Challenge. Hundreds of entries were submitted by employees, before the field was narrowed to three. The finalists were thoroughly vetted through a rigorous series of internal and external research studies, before the winning logo designed by CMG-TV Jacksonville art director Kim Colombero.  CMG president and CEO Kim Guthrie says, “The Design Our Logo Challenge was a great success and we were amazed at the level of participation from our people.  While we had hoped to launch our new logo in a bigger, public celebration – we simply could not wait any longer to unveil it and share the news with our winning designer.”  Colombero adds, “I was both thrilled and humbled to learn that my submission had made it to the final three, let alone that it had been chosen as the winning logo.  I am so proud to work for a company that is so inclusive and actively celebrates employees and their work.”

TALKERS News Notes. Research firm Jacobs Media announces it is doing a second national tracking study the week of May 11 on how the ongoing COVID-19 crisis is impacting Americans’ lives, “from the way they shop, to how they are working (or not), to how they consume media.”  The first such study took place in mid-March. Jacobs Media president Fred Jacobs comments, “The impact of COVID-19 has disrupted broadcast radio, but timely data is key to the industry understanding the new landscape and adapting to it. This second tracking study will provide broadcasters with the quantitative ‘radar’ they need to shape their tactics and strategies.”…..The Society of Professional Journalists is sponsoring a “Day of Giving Back” tomorrow (4/30) in which it is soliciting donations to its fund to support journalists affected by the coronavirus pandemic.  The SPJ says, “In these days of COVID-19 exacerbating an already volatile time for the news industry, many journalists are finding themselves furloughed, laid off and left to wonder how they will make ends meet and what will be left of their careers. This is at a time when the news they provide not only informs our lives but saves lives as well.”  The Journalists Emergency Fund will provide assistance of up to $500 to help with bills and other living expenses and as this fund is supported through generous donations, these grants do not have to be paid back. You can donate here.…..The Connecticut stations owned by iHeartMedia have launched a website with dedicated resources to help residents navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. WeAreConnecticutStrong.com provides community resources, a listing for local businesses and their hours, hiring and job postings, exclusive interviews with Connecticut leaders, as well as a listing of local nonprofits and charitable causes.  The portal is available across all 11 radio station websites.  iHeartMedia president for the Hartford region Steve Honeycomb says, “We want to be as accessible as possible to help convey local business messaging through our local radio stations.  Small businesses across Connecticut are the cornerstone of the state’s economy and we want to be able to help spotlight them on WeAreConnecticutStrong.com as well as on our airwaves.”…..Entercom’s all-news WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM, Chicago was honored with four 2019 Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association Contest awards.  The station won the following: Outstanding News Operation; First Place for Best Spot News for “Chicago Public School Teachers Strike”; First Place for Best Sports Report for “69 Cubs”; and First Place for Best Newscast…..iHeartMedia announces it is holding its Annual Meeting of Stockholders on Monday, June 15, 2020, at 2:30 pm ET virtually via live webcast.

Music Radio News and Career Moves. Buffalo oldies outlet WECK-AM adds another FM frequency to its multicast.  Radio One Buffalo says translator W261EB at 100.1 FM joins the feeder signal 1230 AM and fellow translators W263DC, Tonawanda at 100.5 FM and W275BB, Cheektowaga at 102.9 FM.  WECK president and CEO Buddy Shula says, “WECK has always been a stand-alone AM radio station, and as we all know, AM radios have had issues with static and interference over the past decade with more electronic devices vying for frequency space. Our third FM signal in metro Buffalo is truly unique.  I am not aware of any AM station in the U.S. that has three FM translator frequencies in the metro, along with the main AM station. It is our chance to provide Buffalo’s #1 oldies station on FM just about everywhere in the Buffalo DMA.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

| March 31, 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.

Friday, March 27, 2020

| March 27, 2020

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 on the website of its flagship station, WONK-FM, Washington, DC.  The new episode titled, “Lives versus Livelihood?” looks back at this past week of March 23-27, 2020 and features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERSMike Gallagher, talk show host, Salem Radio NetworkCurtis Sliwa, talk show host, 77WABC, New York; Dr. Daliah Wachs, physician/talk show host, Genesis Communications NetworkSteve Weisman, professor of law, Bentley University, Boston/webmaster, scamicide.com; Trevor Smith, radio content producer, Aloha Productions, Australia; Bobbie Winston (La Femme Bobbie), American ex-pat/artist, Brazil; Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio CompanyDavid Clayton-Thomas, musician, songwriter/former lead vocalist, Blood, Sweat & Tears.  This acclaimed news/talk radio show airs each week on 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; the Virginia Talk Radio Network and Pioneer Valley Radio in Springfield, MA.  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.

Adams Radio Reducing Salaries to Avoid Layoffs. In his announcement that Adams Radio Group staffers have agreed to take a temporary 10% pay cut in order to avoid layoffs, CEO Ron Stone says, “I could not be prouder of our employees.  Every employee of Adams Radio stepped up to do their part to ensure that no Adams employee would lose their position.  We are a family. Our goal is singular.  To ensure everyone in our company gets through this crisis with the least amount of harm.  This test of our country’s ability to weather a storm is unlike anything any of us have seen, but we will get through this together, and be stronger for it.  What seems like a huge sacrifice today, is miniscule compared to what our fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers sacrificed.  At least we are not weathering winter without coats or boots like Washington’s army at Bunker Hill.  We are not killing our brothers in a civil war.  And we are not living for weeks in foxholes in horrible winter conditions during the Battle of the Bulge. Things could be much worse.  I sincerely hope that any company, media or otherwise, will consider overall reductions in compensation on a temporary basis rather than terminate employees.  Our most important asset is our people, and we should do all we can to keep them whole.  I am so thankful for a staff that not only wants to participate in helping our company weather this storm, they are working tirelessly in our communities to keep our local businesses front and center in the minds of listeners.”

Backbone Offers Broadcast from Home Capability Free for 45 Days. In order to help the radio industry serve the public, digital remote broadcast provider Backbone is offering its Backbone CoHost with LUCI Global apps to radio stations for free for 45 days.  The company says, “We need to stay safe, and we need to stay on the air.  Working from home is no longer just a futuristic perk, it’s our current duty.  This should be easy and affordable, and it can be.  There is no need to outlay capital to survive, thanks to our unique, integrated Virtualization in the Cloud.  Backbone CoHost PL is a fast and easy way for stations to create an always-available ‘Party Line’ conference room for one or more hosts, guests, and correspondents to contribute live audio for your broadcasts.  These two-way conversations are enabled by using the groundbreaking LUCI Global service from Technica del Arte and their free, downloadable apps for iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows platforms.  LUCI enables these phones, pads, and computers to communicate with and using the same standard formats used by commercial hardware, including COMREX and TIELINE.  CoHost PL is a simplified, unswitched version of Backbone CoHost, allowing users to instantly join the broadcast with the touch of a finger.  There are no IT settings to configure, no port selections to worry about, and no equipment to purchase or forget in the car.  It all works with whatever device you’re carrying, and over any decent Internet access you can find.”  Backbone is offering a fully functional, unlimited demo of CoHost PL and LUCI Global to our existing phone and radio customers, as well as U.S.-based call-letter radio and TV stations, for 45 days, starting March 30.  Find out more here. To start a free 45-day trial, email your contact information and a brief note about your organization to: info@backbone.com

Dom Giordano Launches “Home Learning Tips” One-Minute Feature on WPHT, Philadelphia.  Recognized throughout the state of Pennsylvania as a master teacher prior to beginning his stellar, decades-long radio career on some of Philadelphia’s leading news/talk outlets, WPHT mid-morning host Dom Giordano has launched a series of one-minute tips on home schooling for parents to utilize in productively keeping their kids busy while they are home during the coronavirus crisis.  The feature runs once per hour between 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm every weekday.  Giordano tells TALKERS, “After hearing from listeners about the challenges of working with their kids at home due to schools being closed, I offered my station a one-minute daily combination pep talk and ideas to help their kids at home for parents.  The theme is you are your child’s first and best teacher.  I’m tapping into my credibility with listeners and my years as an education/parenting analyst and columnist.”

Cumulus’ Dallas Talk Stations Hosting Special Mark Cuban Broadcast Today. Dallas news/talk stations WBAP and KLIF-AM are presenting an on-air town hall with businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, titled, “Assisting DFW Businesses During the Coronavirus.”  The Cumulus Media stations will simulcast the program from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST.  The WBAP/KLIF Town Hall will be hosted by Brian Estridge and Rick Roberts and topics addressed will include: How can businesses survive during these times?; How would the government’s Coronavirus Spending Package assist?; and How can consumers help their local community businesses?

Weighing the Economy Versus Lives Is Top News/Talk Story for Week of March 23-27.  The ethical dilemma of whether to save the country’s economy by reopening businesses or keep them shut to limit the deaths and the toll on the health care system was the most-talked-about story on news/talk this week and sitting atop the Talkers TenTM.  At #2 this week was the stimulus deal being crafted in Congress and the activity on the world’s financial markets.  Coming in at #3 is the status of the U.S. health care system, followed by the presidential race and politics at #4.  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.  See this week’s entire chart here.

iHeartMedia and Salem Media Group Withdraw Guidance on First Quarter of This Year. Not surprisingly, two of the radio industry’s corporations – iHeartMedia, Inc. and Salem Media Group Inc. – are announcing they are withdrawing their financial guidance originally provided on their 2019 fourth quarter earnings calls.  iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman states, “Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the duration and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the U.S. economy, we believe it is appropriate to withdraw our full-year 2020 guidance.  While we cannot determine the full extent of COVID-19’s impact on our business at this time, we are monitoring this rapidly evolving situation closely and look forward to discussing our business in greater detail as part of our first quarter 2020 earnings results investor call.”  iHeartMedia COO and CFO Rich Bressler adds, “iHeartMedia had a strong January and February before the effects of COVID-19 began to unfold into a global pandemic in early March.  The challenges that COVID-19 has created for advertisers and consumers has impacted iHeart’s revenue in recent weeks, creating a less clear business outlook in the near term.  To maintain maximum financial flexibility during this period, we have drawn $350 million on our $450 million senior secured asset-based revolving credit facility (“ABL Facility”).  We believe that the additional funds from drawing on our ABL Facility, in combination with our cash balance, provides us with a prudent level of liquidity at this time. We fully appreciate the unprecedented challenges posed by this crisis, however, we remain confident in our business, our employees and our strategy. With our experienced management team and our leadership position in the audio sector, we are committed to navigating this period while serving our audiences and other constituents.”  Salem Media Group, Inc. says in a statement, “Based on current indications, Salem expects total first quarter 2020 revenue will be less than previously projected as a result of decreased revenues from advertising, programming, events and book sales.  Due to continuing uncertainties regarding the ultimate scope and trajectory of COVID-19’s spread and evolution, the effects of the pandemic on Salem’s audiences, programmers and advertisers, and current and potential future governmental restrictions that may be adopted in the markets in which Salem operates, it is impossible to predict the total impact that the pandemic may have on Salem’s business.”

TALKERS News Notes. Nationally syndicated talk radio star Michael Savage is appointed by President Trump to the board of directors of the Presidio Trust for a term expiring May 4, 2023.  Along with the National Park Service, the Presidio Trust manages the Presidio of San Francisco, the former military fort that is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  The host of the Westwood One-syndicated “The Savage Nation” holds a doctorate in ethnobotanical research from the University of California and both a Master of Science in botany and a Master of Arts in anthropology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa…..Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that former WGN-AM station manager Todd Manley is producing a new podcast via his EarSight Studios that pairs Windy City communications consultants Lissa Druss and Thom Serafin for “The Crisis Cast.”  The episodes will be hosted by former WBBM-AM/WFCS-FM anchor Mariam Sobh.  EarSight expects to produce three to five podcasts per week…..Today (3/27), Cox Media Group’s Atlanta stations – led by news/talk WSB-AM/WSBB-FM – is hosting a virtual food drive to benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank as part of the Stronger Together ATL campaign.  Atlanta Community Food Bank continues to provide meals for children, families and seniors as access to nutritious food throughout the COVID-19 crisis, by working with more than 600 nonprofit partners and the new Text for Help program…..The Cumulus Media news/talk teams at WBAP and KLIF-AM in Dallas were well represented at this year’s Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Contest.   Reporter Clayton Neville won First Place for Spot News by a Reporter for his coverage of the August 2019 El Paso Shooting.  The WBAP news team was awarded Second Place for Spot Coverage by a Station for coverage of the North Dallas Tornadoes in October.  For the 6th year KLIF morning drive anchors Dave Williams and Amy Chodroff won First Place for News Anchor Team and WBAP’s Brian Estridge won First Place for Sports Play-by-Play.

PPM Analysis: Classic Rock. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s February 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on classic rock.  It was a mixed bag in February for classic rock stations in the PPM markets, with 44% of stations losing weekly, 6+ AQH share and 46% gaining.  Year-over-year, 50% of classic rockers lost share while 43% saw an increase.  Three classic rock outlets – all owned by iHeartMedia – ranked #1 in February: KRFX, Denver “The Fox” (5.7), WRFX, Charlotte “The Fox” (7.9), and WAQX, New York (in the Middlesex-Somerset-Union market) (7.4).  See Mike Kinosian’s entire report here.

More Music Radio News and Career Moves. On-air pro AJ Dukette joins Saga Communications’ classic hits WYNZ, Portland “Rewind 100.9” to host mornings, taking over for the recently retired Chuck Igo.  Saga vice president of programming Bob Lawrence says, “When learning that Chuck was retiring, we began an extensive search for the right person to fill his shoes and then – Voila! – AJ appeared late last week.  We could not be more thrilled to welcome such a talented, Portland icon.”…..Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the annual Mountain Jam Festival scheduled for May 29-31 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York has been cancelled.  Acts scheduled to perform included Gov’t Mule, Trey Anastasio Band, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Head and the Heart, Grace Potter, and many more…..Empire State Realty Trust and iHeartMedia announce their partnership to “reach those sheltering at home” with WHTZ, New York Z100’s radio waves and Empire State Building’s world-famous tower lights.  Tonight at 9:00 pm, the tower of the Empire State Building will illuminate the New York City skyline and beam iHeartMedia’s Z100 with a light show synced to the modern era anthem of New York City, Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind.”  The light show will replay on Saturday, March 28, and then again from Monday, March 30 through Thursday, April 2.  On Sunday, March 29, the Empire State Building will “shine in a dynamic heartbeat” from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm in support of the “FOX Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

| March 11, 2020

WABC PD David LaBrozzi Added to Bold “Super Panel” Designed to Address Existential Industry Question at TALKERS Convention. The TALKERS editorial board is pleased to announce the addition of WABC, New York/Red Apple Media, Inc. director of programming, content & branding David LaBrozzi to what is being described as a “bold super panel” to tackle the existential industry question, “Can Radio Be Saved and, If So, How?” at the forthcoming TALKERS Convention in New York on Friday June 5. TALKERS VP/executive editor Kevin Casey says, “This 90-minute session will feature an extraordinary lineup of seven individuals reflecting a wide perspective on the past, present and potential future of radio’s role in society.” In addition to LaBrozzi, the panel consists of (in alphabetical order): MediaVision CEO, Lee Abrams; RAB president and CEO, Erica Farber; Radio Hall of Fame chairman and Soundmind LLC partner, Kraig Kitchin; SiriusXM Satellite Radio host, Joe Madison; and former CBS Radio/Entercom executive VP of programming, Chris Oliviero. One more panelist will be named shortly along with an introducer. Michael Harrison will serve as moderator. For more information about the forthcoming TALKERS Convention see story below.

Sean Hannity to Head All Star Lineup of Speakers at 23rd Annual TALKERS Convention Set for NYC on Friday June 5. In what has become an annual tradition, Premiere Networks and FOX News Channel superstar Sean Hannity will reprise his role as one of the key speakers at the forthcoming TALKERS Convention. He will also again host the morning networking event, “Breakfast with Hannity.” Hannity will engage in the popular presentation, “A Fireside Chat with Sean Hannity” hosted by Michael Harrison.” VP/executive editor Kevin Casey states, “This year’s 23rd annual convention is a celebration of TALKERS magazine’s 30th anniversary and we are pleased to report that we’ve lined up an extraordinary roster of about 60 speakers and a powerful agenda to make it a truly meaningful life changing and career enhancing event for each and every one of our attendees. Details about the agenda and sponsorship opportunities will continue to be posted here on Talkers.com daily. This year the event is titled, Talkers 2020: The Rise of the Media Station, and takes place at the ultra-modern Helen Mills Event Space and Theater located in the colorful Chelsea district of Manhattan. Speakers are being recruited from all aspects of the spoken-word media industry — including talent, programmers, managers and owners and the agenda focuses on talk radio and its role in the rapidly accelerating digital age including fundamental changes in the platforms upon which it is carried and distributed. Full registration, including all functions, meals, and refreshments, costs $329 per person. Attendance is only open to members of the media industry and communications students and an advance sellout is expected. Non-refundable registrations can only be obtained via telephone with credit card. To register or obtain sponsorship information, call Barbara Kurland at 413-565-5413. To make reservations at the “official” hotel of the event, the Hilton New York Fashion District (located across the street from the venue) and receive a discount (while rooms last) please click here.

Unique Trophy: Red Apple Launch Party for WABC at NYC Opening of ‘Cats.’  The 77WABC launch party to celebrate the much-anticipated closing on the former Cumulus Media-owned station by John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Media took place Monday evening (3/9) at the legendary outlet’s studio in New York City.  During the packed event that included 77WABC air personalities and executives as well as representatives from the ad buying community, Catsimatidis was welcomed into radio industry ownership with the presentation of the “Beacon” – a recently replaced 77WABC tower obstruction light.  During a brief speech, Catsimatidis reassuringly told the gathering, “We only buy companies, we do not sell them.  We are here to stay!”  Pictured above are (from l-r): John Catsimatidis Jr., John Catsimatidis, the “Beacon,” Red Apple Media/77WABC president Chad Lopez, and Margo Catsimatidis. Photo: Jillian Nelson

iHeartMedia Issues Coronavirus Memo to Staff. Company CEO Bob Pittman and COO Rich Bressler sent a memo to the entire iHeartMedia staff regarding the coronavirus epidemic.  Here’s what it said: Team, at iHeart, our two most important priorities are serving the communities across America in which we live and work and protecting the health and safety of our employees. iHeart reaches nine out of 10 Americans – more than any other media company — and our reach comes with the responsibility to be a voice for information, context and trusted companionship.  Like you and like our listeners nationwide, we see increasing daily media coverage about the coronavirus (COVID-19), and as a company we want to make sure we do the right thing.  In addition to the work we do around the specific health risk, as media industry leaders we are also concerned that anxiety and excessive worry over the virus can have its own negative impact.  We also know that some of you and your family members are feeling this anxiety personally.  The latest information suggests that coronavirus can be very serious if you’re older or sick, just as the flu can.  But, like the flu, its effects seem to be relatively mild for the majority of people who catch it, with the exception of older people, those with respiratory ailments or those with compromised immune systems.  To put the coronavirus into some perspective, the country did not experience the same anxiety-fueled reaction around diseases like measles, Zika, SARS, West Nile, Ebola or Bird Flu, to name a few examples, and health professionals say those were all likely more dangerous than the coronavirus although maybe not as widespread.  For your own personal health and the health of those around you, if you’re sick, please stay home and don’t expose yourself to others; that’s the same request we have if you have the flu or a bad cold or any other contagious disease – plus wash your hands often and follow CDC recommendations about disease prevention and guidelines about when to stay at home after travel to any “hot spot” countries or contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus.  Right now, the potential for panic is an additional concern we need to address.  We know that for people to remain calm they need information on a continuing basis about what’s going on.  We also need to make sure we disseminate accurate and timely information to help the health professionals manage this outbreak, and to that end we will also be airing daily coronavirus updates on our stations to help supply that necessary information to our communities.  At iHeart, we will continue to operate with our usual business practices, and we will adjust them as needed.  Because we want to make our workplaces as safe as possible, we ask that you quickly contact HR4U@iheartmedia.com or (855) 722-4748 if you or anyone in your offices has contracted, or come into direct contact with, coronavirus and we will deal with each situation individually and appropriately.  As a company we adapt and react quickly, and in this situation, that’s never been more critical.  Our focus is on serving our communities, our listeners and our employees, and we are dedicated to using our assets for the public good in every single community we serve.  As leaders in our communities and in media we have a responsibility to help put the coronavirus in perspective by disseminating information and context for our listeners, and we feel this will have the additional benefit of calming anxiety and the ill effects on society that could result from that.  We’re monitoring the situation closely, and as we learn more, we’ll keep you informed.  Thanks for your strong commitment to serving our communities, our listeners and our partners at a time when they need us more than ever.

Tom Gresham’s ‘Gun Talk’ Celebrates 25 Years in Syndication. The nationally syndicated weekly program “Gun Talk,” hosted by Tom Gresham, is celebrating its 25th year on the air.  Gresham says of his guns and shooting sports program, “‘Gun Talk’ radio is perhaps more important today than when it started 25 years ago.  Whether it’s helping the first-time gun buyer sort out what she needs to buy or exposing politicians who claim to be supporters of the Second Amendment while putting restrictions on this right, there’s plenty to talk about.  Responsible gun ownership is strong, and I’m glad to be part of the movement.”  “Gun Talk” airs live each Sunday from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm ET.  In addition to his radio show, Gresham has created and hosted “Personal Defense TV” and “Gun Talk TV” and has written magazine articles and books about firearms safety and training.

PPM Analysis: Ratings ‘Extra.’ TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents this “extra” look at radio station performances based on data from Nielsen Audio’s January 2020 PPM survey.  Which stations gained the most weekly, 6+ AQH share compared to the Holiday 2019 survey and which stations lost the most shares?  See it all here.

The Coronavirus Epidemic, the Democratic Primary, Financial Markets React to the Coronavirus, Putin Power Grab Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/10). The status of the COVID-19 epidemic and the debate over the best policies to contain it; Tuesday’s primary elections and Joe Biden’s lead in the Democratic primary race; the world’s financial markets’ reactions to the coronavirus epidemic; and Vladimir Putin’s move to secure his role as leader of Russia through 2036 were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

TALKERS News Notes. The “Jalen & Jacoby” podcast from ESPN Audio, starring Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, is planning another live recording of the program at the historic Gramercy Theatre in New York City on Tuesday, April 21.  ESPN says the “Jalen & Jacoby” podcast first began as a passion project for the guys under ESPN’s Grantland banner.  As the podcast developed into a hit in the summer of 2011, it grew to include a YouTube show, then to a national ESPN radio show.  From the radio show, “Jalen & Jacoby” grew – yet again – into a late-night TV show before landing in the afternoon on ESPN2 and, where it airs currently at 4:00 pm ET on ESPN.…..The University of Washington athletics department and exclusive multimedia rightsholder Huskies Sports Properties, announces today a new, five-year broadcast agreement with iHeartMedia sports talk KJR-AM, Seattle to run through the 2024-2025 athletic season.  The deal means KJR will provide comprehensive coverage for all Huskies sports including men’s basketball, women’s basketball and football game broadcasts.  Promotional support will happen on KJR-AM and sister stations classic hits KJR-FM, adult hits KJAQ-FM “96.5 JACK-FM,” and sports talk KFNQ-AM…..The “Joy on Paper” radio show hosted by Patzi Gil and dedicated to the world of books, celebrates its 5th anniversary on March 17.  Last year, on the program’s fourth anniversary, Gil’s guests were the writing couple Andrew Grant and Tasha Alexander, both popular authors.  This year they’ll return with breaking news that Andrew Grant is now two writers in one – the talented author of the Paul McGarth series will join his brother Lee Grant (a.k.a. Lee Child) to carry on the Jack Reacher series.  Gil says, “I don’t know how I will introduce him now.  But, whether he is Andrew Grant or Andrew Child, he is a fabulous writer and I am proud that he and Tasha will be joining me.  Tasha is the New York Times best-selling author of the ‘Lady Emily’ mystery series.”

Emmis Communications Announces Non-Broadcasting Acquisition. The acquisition of Lencore Acoustics Corporation – a Long Island-based business in the sound masking industry – gives Emmis Communications Corporation a foothold in a non-broadcasting business.  According to the press release, “Sound masking technology introduces barely perceptible background sound into a space to make environments more comfortable, ensure speech privacy, and increase workplace productivity.”  It adds that Lenore does business in nearly every U.S. state, and Europe (London).  Lencore’s 33 employees become Emmis staffers immediately.  Emmis chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan says, “Today’s announcement is the product of a long process, looking for the right place to infuse the Emmis hallmarks of sales and marketing excellence.  Emmis’ experience in building best-in-class operations, coupled with its unique people-first culture is the perfect fit to complement the talented Lencore team, and will give them the resources and support necessary to grow the business.  We believe that the continued move toward open-concept offices makes effective sound masking solutions more and more important.  We’re excited about where this business can go.”

Music Radio News and Career Moves. Multimedia pro Joey Fortman is named morning drive personality and digital media specialist for Bonneville’s adult contemporary KOIT, San Francisco.  In addition to her past experience as a radio personality, Fortman is the founder of “Reality Moms,” a multimedia digital influencer agency.  Bonneville Bay Area director of programming operations Brian Figula says, “Joey Fortman is a very unique talent who excels at both on-air and digital content creation.  She is the perfect fit to connect our listeners to our advertisers and sell their products on-air and via our fast-growing digital channels.”…..The husband-and-wife duo of Robby Bridges and Rochelle Gagnon are joining MacDonald Garber Broadcasting’s CHR WKHQ, Traverse City, Michigan to host the morning show. Additionally, Bridges will serve as station program director and Gagnon will take on promotions director duties.  The duo recently served at iHeartMedia’s WDVD, Detroit.  Bridges says, “We’d like to thank Trish and Peter Garber, Diane Hansell and Gary Berkowitz for this awesome opportunity to join their team to create big, fun, live and local radio in one of America’s premiere vacation cities.”…..Central Florida Educational Foundation promotes Dean O’Neal to vice president of operations in which he’ll oversee the organization’s seven Christian radio stations.  O’Neal was most recently program director for non-commercial Christian contemporary WPOZ-FM, Orlando “Z88.3.”  As the same time, Therese Romano is named PD for WPOZ.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

| March 3, 2020

Todd Herman Returns to KTTH, Seattle for Mornings. In Seattle, Bonneville moves talk show host Todd Herman across the hall to conservative news/talker KTTH to host the morning show, replacing Saul Spady.  Herman had been the afternoon drive host at KTTH before becoming one-third of the “Candy, Mike and Todd” show that replaced “Ron and Don” in afternoons on sister KIRO-FM in January of 2019.  That show lasted just a year.  Station program director Mike Salk says, “There is no one with more passion for his beliefs than Todd.  He connects with his audience and creates a lasting bond.  We’re thrilled to return his energy to our Northwest listeners.”

Cumulus and Nielsen Extend; Add Continuous Diary Measurement in 14 Markets. This deal between Cumulus Media and Nielsen Audio runs through 2022 and extends Nielsen Audio Measurement services for the company while adding Continuous Diary Measurement for 120 stations in 14 markets and the Local Nielsen Media Impact service for its Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago markets.  Nielsen says Local NMI provides “unparalleled local media planning and cross-platform optimization including TV, radio and digital outlets in each of the 44 Local NMI markets.”  Cumulus EVP operations Bob Walker comments, “We are eager to work with Nielsen to evolve how we measure the changing consumer landscape with audio.  This extension helps us understand how Continuous Diary Measurement and Local Nielsen Media Impact may help drive advertising results while we work together to measure audio engagement for local station content and national network content moving forward.”

Seton Hall Disinvites WABC’s Sid Rosenberg from 2020 Election Panel. In story by Thomas Schwartz posted to Seton Hall’s The Setonian, WABC, New York talk host Sid Rosenberg is being disinvited to the Seton Hall campus for the WABC Town Hall event scheduled for March 10 after students protested.  The “Election Central Decision 2020” discussion was to have included Rosenberg along with WABC midday co-host Juliet Huddy and moderator Seton Hall professor Matthew Hale, Ph.D., but student Stefan Ferreira posted some of the controversial comments Rosenberg made on the air over the years – including the one referencing singer Kylie Minogue’s cancer diagnosis that got him fired from the “Imus in the Morning” program in 2005 – and the backlash caused the school to rescind Rosenberg’s invitation to the campus.  Neither the station nor Rosenberg have commented publicly.

John Catsimatidis’ Red Apple Media, Inc. Closes on WABC, New York. It’s now official. The deal to transfer ownership of news/talk icon WABC, New York from Cumulus Media to Red Apple Media has been completed. WABC announced Monday (3/2) that the iconic New York City news/talk radio station has been acquired by Red Apple Media Inc., a subsidiary of Red Apple Group, Inc. which owns and operates assets in the energy, real estate, finance, insurance, and supermarket industries. John Catsimatidis, founder, chairman, president and CEO, Red Apple Group, confirmed that the transaction to acquire the storied talk radio station was completed, effective today. “We look forward to working with this legendary New York staple radio station with all of its employees and talent,” says Catsimatidis. “It is exciting for our company to be stepping into the broadcasting industry with WABC as the anchor for our growing media assets.” Chad Lopez, VP/market manager, WABC, notes, “This is truly a great day for 77 WABC, its listeners and advertising partners. We’re thrilled that John Catsimatidis, a true New Yorker, has acquired WABC and are excited to move forward together into the bright future of talk radio in New York City. John’s passion for radio, along with his appreciation of the rich history of the station, makes this partnership ideal as we work together to give New York City what it deserves: the best news/talk station in the city.” Dave LaBrozzi, program director, WABC, adds, “John Catsimatidis shares the same vision and passion for building WABC, and having him join us is going to be such a great asset to this station. We know that this new step for WABC will help the station to achieve its highest potential.” WABC will reportedly continue its current programming lineup, which includes a mix of locally produced and nationally syndicated shows. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison issued the following comment on the acquisition: “This is quite possibly the most important radio ownership transaction of the past several years. A local business person with significant assets who has demonstrated a lifetime love for radio acquires a major market heritage station with the promise of strengthening its service. This could be just the model that sets the stage for radio’s next renaissance! The industry’s eyes and ears will be on this one.”

Nathan James Assumes Digital Content Manager Role at SummitMedia Omaha. Marketing and digital content pro Nathan James joins SummitMedia’s Omaha station group to serve as digital content manager.  James was most recently director of marketing partnerships and promotions for Adams Radio Group in Salisbury, Maryland.  The company says that James will “oversee the creation and implementation of a new ‘360’ digital content generation strategy plan, as well as other digital marketing and promotion efforts for each of the Omaha brands.”  He’ll work with new promotions director Rome Voltmer “to create organic digital and promotional content, develop unique tentpole events, and custom campaigns for current and future clients.”

Radio Companies Presenting at Investors Conferences. Both radio and digital giant iHeartMedia and smaller market operator Townsquare Media will be at Deutsche Bank’s 28th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference March 10 in Palm Beach.  iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman and COO/CFO Rich Bressler will participate in a question-and-answer session on that day.  A live webcast of the session will be available to the public through a link on the investors homepage of iHeartMedia’s website.  Townsquare Media executives will appear at both the Deutsche Bank conference and at the Guggenheim Broadcasting Symposium at Guggenheim Partners’ offices on March 5.  At the Guggenheim Broadcasting Symposium, CEO Bill Wilson and CFO Stuart Rosenstein will be available for one-on-one meetings with investors.  At the Deutsche Bank conference, Wilson will participate and be available for one-on-one meetings with investors.

TALKERS News Notes. Georgia talk show host Erick Erickson reports that his daily, statewide syndicated midday show (separate from his PM drive show on WSB-AM/WSBB-FM, Atlanta) responded to news that Georgia now has two cases of the coronavirus by leveraging his statewide radio presence to help government officials reach listeners across Georgia.  Erickson reports that both Senator David Perdue and Governor Brian Kemp joined him on his show to discuss the situation in Georgia.  This Friday, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to also join the program to talk about the spread of the virus inside the United States.  Erickson’s show is distributed by the Georgia News Network…..Genuine Austin Radio’s sports talker KTXX-FM/KTAE-AM/K270CO, Austin makes a talent shuffle. Midday personalities Brad Kellner and Rod Babers move to PM drive alongside Kevin DunnChad Hastings leaves PM drive to co-host middays with Trey Elling.  Jeff Howe and Craig Way are the new late-morning show.  Bucky Godbolt and Erin Hogan remain the morning drive hosts…..Cumulus Media gives up the licenses for two AM stations.  Gone from the company’s portfolio are WRWM-AM, Macon, Georgia and KSLZ-AM, Amarillo, Texas.  WRWM had been airing a sports talk format as “1500 The Fan.”  KSLZ had been dark for the better part of the last year…..Entercom’s news/talk WCCO-AM, Minneapolis and the MLB’s Minnesota Twins announce a multiyear broadcast extension through the 2023 season. WCCO continues to serve as the team’s flagship station and, for the first time, all spring training, regular season, and postseason games will also air on sister country outlet KMNB-FM “102.9 The Wolf.”…..Talk host Michael Patrick Shiels, whose morning show is syndicated across Michigan, is again producing his show on March 17 live from Benner’s Hotel in Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland in celebration St. Patrick’s Day.  Shiels says, “We will provide live coverage of the Dingle Parade as it passes down Main Street in front of Benner’s Hotel.  We will also interview many of Dingle’s colorful community leaders, characters, musicians, and more.  Benner’s general manager John Foley will discuss Ireland’s world-renowned hospitality and cuisine.  Shiels’ program has, in the past, featured the likes of “Riverdance’s” Michael Flatley, Irish President Mary Robinson, and Irish golf star Darren Clarke.

Beth Nifong Joins CMG Atlanta as GSM. Sales pro Beth Nifong joins Cox Media Group as general sales manager for the Atlanta cluster that includes news/talk juggernaut WSB-AM/WSBB-FM and three music brands.  She was most recently GSM for Beasley Media Group’s Charlotte station group.  CMG Atlanta director of sales Jaleigh Long says, “Beth Nifong is a strategic leader with a proven track record for driving client results and developing top talent.  I’m confident that Beth will propel the CMG integrated media sales organization into the future as we continue to drive a thriving ROI for our clients and partners.”

Coronavirus, Presidential Race/Buttigieg and Klobuchar Exit, Financial Markets Activity, Chris Matthews Retires, Israeli Election, Jack Welch Dies, and Kobe Bryant Crash Scene Scandal Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (3/2). The status of the coronavirus pandemic; Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar drop out of the race the day before Super Tuesday; the U.S. financial markets rebound after the previous week’s record losses; MSNBC talk host Chris Matthews retires unexpectedly in the aftermath of allegations of sexist behavior; the Israeli election and Benjamin Netanyahu’s future as Israel’s leader; former General Electric chief Jack Welch dies; and the LA deputies accused of taking and sharing photos of the Kobe Bryant crash scene were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

PPM Analysis: Rhythmic CHRTALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents a look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s January 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on the rhythmic CHR format.  While more than 50% of rhythmic CHR stations in PPM markets saw their weekly, 6+ AQH share go up compared to the Holiday 2019 survey, 67% of those stations saw those ratings decrease from January 2019 to January 2020.  See the entire report here.

More Music Radio News and Career Moves. Dallas country outlet KPLX “99.5 The Wolf” announces that “The All-New Wake Up With the Wolf Show” now features Brian Moote and Tara as co-hosts.  Moote joins the Cumulus Media station from his most recent gig as a cast member of “The Bert Show” and Tara was most recently host of the morning show on iHeartMedia’s crosstown hot AC KDMX “NOW 102.9.”…..Programming pro Brad Steiner is appointed program director for three of Cumulus Media’s New Orleans radio stations: alternative WZRH “ALT 92.3,” country WRKN “NASH Icon 106.1,” and classic hits KKND “106.7 The Krewe.”  He comes to New Orleans from Chattanooga where he was APD and afternoon drive host  at CHR WDOD-FM “Hits 96.”…..WBAB, Babylon, New York (Long Island) morning personality John “JP” Parise is being honored by the Town of Babylon for his 20 years on the air at the station with a road named after him.  Town supervisor Rich Schaffer, deputy supervisor Tony Martinez and the rest of the town board are renaming a portion of West 15th Street in Deer Park “John ‘JP’ Parise Way.”  Parise grew up on the block and lived there until his mid-20s.  He host the rock WBAB morning show with partner Roger Luce…..SummitMedia brings Tamo Sein aboard to host the midday show at hot AC WURV, Richmond “Play 103.7” and KQCH, Omaha “Channel 94.1.”  Sein – who was most recently on air hosting middays at iHeartMedia’s alternative KYSR, Los Angeles “ALT 98.7” until exiting last August – will voice track the show for KQCH.

Friday, February 28, 2020

| February 28, 2020

iHeartMedia Posts Flat 2019 Q4 Revenue Figure; Full Year Revenue Up 2%. The financial data for iHeartMedia is a bit complex as the result of the company exiting bankruptcy protection in May of 2019.  But revenue of $1.03 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, while flat compared to Q4 2018, was up 4.3% excluding political ad dollars.  For the full year of 2019, revenue was $3.7 billion, up 2.0% year-over-year and up 4.2%, excluding political revenue.  The company reports that digital revenue in the fourth quarter was $112.5 million – up 33.6% from the fourth quarter of 2018.  For the full year, digital revenue was $376 million, an increase of 32.2% over the full year of 2018.  iHeartMedia COO and CFO Rich Bressler states, “Our financial performance in 2019 was underpinned by the reach and resilience of our traditional business, profitable growth in our other platforms – including our digital businesses and proactive improvement of our capital structure.  Through our innovation and thought leadership in areas like podcasting and our SmartAudio suite of targeting, analysis and attribution services for advertisers, we are at the forefront of driving the audio revolution.  We will continue to work to build long-term shareholder value by maximizing our free cash flow and de-leveraging our balance sheet.”

PPM Analysis: All-News. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s January 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on all-news.  Coming off the Holiday 2019 survey 88% of all-news stations saw their weekly, 6+ AQH share go up.  Top performers here included Entercom’s KYW, Philadelphia (+1.4) and KCBS-AM, San Francisco (+0.7).  However, comparing January 2019 to January 2020, 70% of all-news stations were down, with Entercom’s WWJ, Detroit leading that group and absorbing a hit of -3.2 shares and dropping from the #1 rank in the market in January 2019 to #11 this year.  On the positive side, the company’s KCBS-AM, San Francisco was up 1.4 shares to post an 8.4 share and regain the #1 rank in the market.  iHeartMedia’s WBZ-AM, Boston was 0.7 shares better than the year before and rose to claim the #3 rank in January.  KCBS-AM, San Francisco was the only all-news station to rank #1 in January.  Hubbard Radio’s WTOP-FM, Washington ranked #2 in the January 2020 survey, despite falling three full shares from January 2019.  See Mike Kinosian’s entire report here.

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 on the website of its flagship station, WONK-FM, Washington, DC.  The new episode titled “Brother, Can You Spare a Face Mask?” looks back at this past week of February 24-28, 2020 and features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS; Tom Sullivan; talk show host, KFBK, Sacramento/Talk Media NetworkKen Matthews, talk show host, WHP, Harrisburg, PA; Lee Abrams, consultant, MediaVisionDeborah Norville, anchor, “Inside Edition;” Steve Weisman, professor of law, Bentley University, Boston/webmaster, Scamicide.com; and Victoria Jones, executive director, DC Radio Company. This acclaimed news/talk radio show airs each week on WONK-FM, Washington, DC Friday evenings at 6:00 pm ET.  It also airs throughout the weekend on WRKO, Boston; KSCO, Santa Cruz, CA;  KFNX, Phoenix; WVOX, Westchester, NY; KBDT, Dallas; KQSP, Minneapolis; KBKW, Aberdeen, WA; the Virginia Talk Radio Network and Pioneer Valley Radio in Springfield, MA.  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. See the full story below.

‘The Michael Harrison Wrap’ Now Available in Syndication via Talk Media Network.  TALKERS is pleased to announce it has entered a strategic partnership with independent broadcasting firm Talk Media Network for the syndication and distribution of its weekend program, “The Michael Harrison Wrap.”  The show, hosted by Michael Harrison, was launched in May 2019 on iHeartRadio’s WONK-FM in Washington, DC where it airs Fridays at 6:00 pm.  “The Michael Harrison Wrap” is a fast-paced roundup of the hottest news/talk media stories tracked by TALKERS and is described as “a weekly overview of the national conversation.”  Each installment features Harrison in conversation with several talk media hosts, pundits and experts from around the country representing a variety of popular ideologies. The show opens with a riveting countdown of the week’s most-discussed items with TALKERS executive editor Kevin Casey.  Since its launch, several proactive radio stations around the country inquired about the show’s availability to which TALKERS complied – as best it could – on a market exclusive basis. According to Harrison, “We’re delighted that, in addition to our flagship WONK, excellent facilities such as WRKO, KSCO, WVOX, KFNX, KBDT, KQSP, KBKW, WIQO, WGMN, and the Virginia Talk Radio Network among others showed enough interest in the program during its developmental phase to request it for their rosters before it was even officially available for national distribution.”  Harrison continues, “However, we are not a syndication company, nor have any intention of becoming one, and it just became too unwieldy to service more stations efficiently, so we began looking for an appropriate network partner. Talk Media Network is a perfect fit.  TMN is moderately sized, independent, and run by one of the brightest young executives in the network business, Josh Leng.”  Leng states, “We’re honored TALKERS has entrusted the syndication and growth of ‘The Michael Harrison Wrap’ with Talk Media Network.  It is a pleasure to be working with a professional of Michael’s stature who has dedicated so much of his career to the betterment of the radio industry.”  Leng continues, “What program directors will notice immediately when they listen to ‘The Michael Harrison Wrap,’ is the amount of preparation that goes into each and every episode.  It is amazing how much compelling content is packed into one hour!  Combine that with the ‘best in the business’ talk radio hosts who contribute to Michael’s timely and topical news discussions, and you have an on-air product that features a great group of broadcasters who bring their ‘A’ game for the audience to enjoy.”  Stations interested in affiliating with “The Michael Harrison Wrap” should visit talkmedianetwork.com for more information, and can call Talk Media Network at (616) 884-8616.

TALKERS News Notes. On Super Tuesday (3/4), FOX News Radio is offering affiliates live national network coverage beginning at 7:00 pm ET anchored by national correspondent Jared Halpern, with key insights from FNR political analyst Josh Kraushaar and FNR reporters around the country.  FNR is also offering hourly “Democracy 2020” updates on Amazon’s smart speaker.  FOX News Podcasts is presenting special editions of the daily morning podcast “FOX News Rundown,” as well as new episodes of Bret Baier’s “The Campaign” and “I’ll Tell You What” with Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt.  Additionally, FOXNews.com will carry multiple livestreams from candidate headquarters across the country…..iHeartMedia’s NBC News Radio brings talk and news radio pro Michael Castner aboard to serve as national news anchor.  Castner was most recently morning drive personality at Entercom’s news/talk KXNT, Las Vegas…..iHeartMedia announces it is presenting a new companion podcast for the three-part Hulu series “Your Attention Please” that celebrates the achievements and creativity of Black visionaries.  The “Your Attention Please” podcast is using this medium to continue the conversation past Black History Month, diving deeper into the stories that were highlighted in the show.  The first guests in the series are Jon Boogz and Lil Buck, founders of MAI (Movement Art Is).

The Coronavirus, the Stock Market, and the Economy Top News/Talk Stories for the Week of February 24-28. The status of the coronavirus epidemic, its effect on the world’s financial markets and the global economy came together to make up the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week and landing atop the Talkers TenTM.  At #2 this week was the presidential race and this week’s Democratic debate in Charleston, SC.  Coming in at #3 was healthcare reform, climate change, and race relations, followed by the deadly Milwaukee brewery shooting and gun control at #4.  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.  See this week’s entire chart here.

Happy Retirement to Pete Spriggs. Current and former Cox Media Group Atlanta staffers gathered last night (2/27) for a retirement bash for WSB-AM/WSBB-FM program director Pete Spriggs who is leaving the company after 27 years with Cox and 19 years at WSB.  Above right is a group shot that includes such guests as Cox Media Group CEO Kim Guthrie, WSB VP/market manager Rob Babin, WSB legend Neal Boortz, syndicated star Clark Howard, and Cox DC bureau reporter Jamie Dupree.  Above left is (from l-r) Spriggs, consultant and former WSB PD Greg Moceri, and incoming program director Drew Anderssen.

Music Radio News and Career Moves. A surprise move in national syndication as Ty Bentli leaves his eponymous, Westwood One morning country radio show for an unnamed gig outside of the radio biz.  For now, co-hosts Chuck Wicks and Tricia “TJ” Jenkins will handle hosting duties.  The Nashville-based show has undergone numerous changes over the past few years.  Blair Garner was the original host when it was called “America’s Morning Show.”  Then it was “Ty, Kelly, and Chuck” with Kelly Ford in the mix and, after her departure in late 2018 (she’s now hosting AMs on Entercom‘s WNSH, New York), was renamed the “Ty Bentli Show.”  TJ joined the program last spring…..A big shakeup at Entercom’s Los Angeles cluster as longtime alternative KROQ program director (and SVP of programming) Kevin Weatherly exits.  Taking over at KROQ is Mike Kaplan, who adds brand manager duties at the station in addition to his alternative format captain position and brand manager post at WNYL, New York “ALT 92.3.”  At the same time, Ralph Stewart is handed the brand manager keys for adult hits KCBS-FM “93.1 JACK FM.”  He’s been operations manager for the station in addition to his brand manager role at urban contemporary KTWV “94.7 The Wave.”  Finally, KRTH “K-Earth 101” brand manager Chris Ebbott and CHR KAMP-FM music director and afternoon host Yesi Ortiz will serve as interim programming leaders for “97.1 AMP Radio” while a national search is conducted.  Entercom regional president Jeff Federman says, “Mike’s name is synonymous with alternative music and I’m delighted to welcome him back to Los Angeles.  Along with Ralph, Chris, and Yesi, this dynamic team will usher in the future of our brands in this important music market.  I’d like to thank Kevin for his years of dedicated contributions to our premier collection of brands and our company.  He has certainly made his mark here and we wish him the absolute best in his new role.”…..Buddy Shula’s Radio One Buffalo has entered into a strategic alliance with Burlington, Ontario-based Byrnes Communications “to serve radio listeners in Buffalo and Southern Ontario.”  Shula says, “I am very excited to add ‘MORE 101.1FM’ (adult hits CFLZ, Fort Erie) and ‘105.1FM THE RIVER’ (hot AC CJED, Niagara Falls) to our radio station portfolio. ‘MORE 101.1FM’ has a very large 50,000-watt regional signal that barrels though Buffalo and Southern Ontario.  The music on the station are the ‘biggest hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s’ which target listeners in the 35-64-year-old age group.  ‘105.1FM THE RIVER’ plays ‘Todays Best Hits.’ aiming to please women 25-54 years old… With this cluster of radio stations, it increases our potential to reach listeners of every age group and attract more advertisers who can pick and choose which station is appropriate for their advertising needs.”…..Pictured below is the new “Nikki and Laura” morning show at NRG Media’s hot AC KQKQ, Omaha “Sweet 98.5” on its first live remote at Le Peep restaurant.  From left to right are: Nikki Oswald, station program director Jay Michaels, and Laura Blenkush.