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Cumulus Media Q1 Report: Net Revenue Rises 1.4%. Reporting on the first quarter of 2019, Cumulus Media’s net revenue was $267.5 million, an increase of 1.4% compared to the same period in 2018. Net income was $451,000 in the first quarter, compared to 2019 in which Cumulus posted a loss of $5 million. Cumulus reports in two segments – Cumulus Radio Station Group and Westwood One. In this first quarter of 2019, the Radio Station Group was down 1% on net revenue of $166.5 million, while Westwood One was up 5.9% on net revenue of $100.4 million. Chief financial officer John Abbot says on the radio station side that the company continues “to experience a tough, local spot market environment.” Cumulus Media president and CEO Mary Berner states, “Driven by a steady focus on our key strategic priorities including accelerating digital growth, our strong performance continued in Q1 2019 with year-over-year increases in both revenue and EBITDA. Additionally, we now have four pending M&A transactions that collectively are expected to generate more than $120 million of net proceeds and bolster our competitive positions in Indianapolis and Allentown. Combined with the $25 million voluntary prepayment made in February, these proceeds will reduce our net leverage to 4.8x on a pro forma basis. We look forward to continuing our disciplined execution against all our strategic priorities and financial goals in the quarters ahead.”
Podcasting and Digital Efforts Bearing Fruit for Cumulus. On yesterday’s Q1 earnings call with investors, Cumulus CEO Mary Berner lauded the company’s podcasting and digital segments. She said, “So far in 2019, we continue to see the same strong growth in podcasting that we have enjoyed since we started the business. As the exclusive partner for over 40 podcasts we’ve generated nearly 52 million downloads in March 2019, more than doubled the 23 million generated in March 2018. And that doesn’t include our growing local podcast businesses. By our estimation, this will put us in the top five largest podcast companies measured by PodTrack in March. What is particularly notable about this growth, is that, that we have been able to achieve it while maintaining profitability.” Berner is also pleased with the company’s efforts to grow digital revenue. She adds, “We are continuing to generate exceptional growth across all of our platforms, with total digital revenue for the quarter growing 79% from the first quarter of last year. Our streaming audience is growing steadily, driven by both organic listenership and increased distribution on the Tune In platform. And we’re monetizing this high-margin digital inventory better and more broadly, through all of our channels, local, national network, programmatic exchanges, and remnant networks as well.”
Saga Communications Down 0.7% in Q1. The 2019 first quarter financial report from Saga Communications, Inc. shows the company’s net revenue during the period was $27.8 million, a dip of 0.7% over the same period in 2018. Free cash flow increased $324 thousand to $2.6 million and station operating expense decreased 1% to $23.2 million. Same station operating income was down 22% to $1.86 million and net income dipped 11% to $1.4 million. The company notes that the results for the quarter were affected by its October 2018 acquisition of WOGK-FM, WNDT-FM, WNDD-FM, and WNDN-FM, in the Gainesville-Ocala market from Ocala Broadcasting Corporation, LLC for $9.3 million. Saga reports having $39.2 million in cash on hand (as of 3/31/19) and $40.7 million in cash on hand (as of 5/6/19).
Hannity to Afternoons on WPHT, Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Business Journal is reporting that Entercom will fill its afternoon drive daypart with Premiere Networks’ Sean Hannity program starting next week. Earlier this week, the station announced that current afternoon talk host Rich Zeoli becomes the new morning drive host on Monday (5/13), assuming the role left open when Chris Stigall exited WPHT earlier this year. It appears Entercom will air the Sean Hannity show during its live air time – 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm – on WPHT beginning on Monday as opposed to searching for a local host for the daypart. Hannity’s show has been airing on the station in a delay broadcast in the evening.
PodcastOne and Hubbard Radio Produce True Crime Program ‘22 Hours: An American Nightmare.’ The true-crime genre is a popular one among podcast consumers and now, PodcastOne and partner Hubbard Radio (remember that Hubbard owns 30% of PodcastOne) are producing a new podcast series titled, “22 Hours: An American Nightmare.” The 10-part series investigates the Washington, DC mansion murders using the talents of WTOP, Washington reporters Megan Cloherty and Jack Moore, and produced by WTOP and its digital news director, Julia Ziegler. Hubbard podcast strategy manager Wheeler Morris says, “We at Hubbard are excited to bring listeners around the country this story from a team of experienced investigative reporters at WTOP. Listeners in the Washington, DC region are familiar with WTOP’s high-quality journalism and, with the help of PodcastOne, we are excited to now share that with the nation.” PodcastOne executive chairman Norm Pattiz adds, “I’ve noticed recently that other major radio companies are promoting their new relationships with podcasters. The Hubbard Radio/PodcastOne relationship recognized the synergies present over four years ago, and it continues to expand today. We have a very definite game plan that seeks to take advantage of podcasting’s obvious on-demand advantages to stations, while mining the creativity that radio companies can bring to the table.”
iHeartMedia Promotes Rahul Sabnis to Lead New In-House Creative Group. This promotion comes with a realignment of the company’s in-house creative efforts. Rahul Sabnis rises from EVP and executive creative director for iHeartMedia to chief creative officer & EVP for the newly branded, in-house creative group “TheStudio at iHeartMedia” operating under the aegis of Darren Davis, president of iHeartRadio and iHeartMedia Networks Group. The company says that under Rahul’s leadership it will combine its Creative Studio and “CSG” in Atlanta into “TheStudio at iHeartMedia.” A press release says TheStudio in-house agency will “provide a range of high-level strategy and creative services, helping iHeart’s own brands and the brands of its advertising and marketing partners use the efficiency and efficacy of audio seamlessly across all its company assets at the scale that only iHeart can deliver.”
Marie Harf to Exit FOX News to Join Seth Moulton Campaign.The Daily Beast reports that FOX News Channel and FOX News Radio personality Marie Harf is leaving her positions as political commentator and radio host, respectively, to join the 2020 presidential campaign of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) as deputy campaign manager for policy and communications. Harf co-hosts the “Benson and Harf” radio show with Guy Benson. Harf served on Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and was a senior communications adviser to former Senator John Kerry (D-MA).
The Mueller Report and Trump’s Claim of Executive Privilege Top News/Talk Story for Week of May 6-10. Democrats’ request for the unredacted version of the Mueller Report and President Trump’s claim his executive privilege gives him control of the report was the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio during the week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the New York Times piece on Trump’s business losses. Coming in at #3 was the 2020 presidential races, followed by the China trade war, the effect on the stock market, and North Korea’s missile tests 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.
TALKERS CONVENTION SPOTLIGHT: Launching and Growing a Talent Career in 2019. Being a talent in 2019 is not as unique as it was years ago. Thanks to the Internet, so-called talent is everywhere. But the digital age has also brought new opportunities for talent that didn’t exist years ago and it’s incumbent upon talk media talent to seize them in order take control of one’s career. At Talkers 2019: Telling the Story, set for New York on Friday, June 7, ABC News Radio executive director of programming Andrew Kalb will moderate a panel of broadcasters to discuss “Launching and Growing a Talent Career in 2019.” Panelists include (in alphabetical order): Heather Cohen, EVP, The Weiss Agency; Dom Giordano, host, WPHT, Philadelphia; Danielle Lin, host, “The Art of Living & the Science of Life”; Greg Moceri, CEO, Moceri Media; Michael Riedel, host, WOR, New York; and Todd Starnes, host, FOX News Radio. The conference is rapidly moving toward being an early sellout. To see the entire up-to-the-minute agenda and for registration/hotel information, please click here.
Conspiracy Theorist David Icke Is This Week’s Guest on Harrison Podcast. With Facebook moving to officially ban Alex Jones and other controversial media figures from its platform and President Trump weighing in on the situation on the side of Jones and his InfoWars organization, there has been a lot of talk this week about conspiracy theorists, fake news, and freedom of speech. One of the world’s most famous and controversial conspiracy theorists, David Icke, is this week’s guest on the award-winning PodcastOne series, “The Michael Harrison Interview.” Icke, who hails from Great Britain, has a worldwide following on YouTube and other digital platforms in addition to being the author of more than 20 books whereby he talks and writes about a wide variety of political and metaphysical issues that run the gamut from a scientifically plausible analysis of the vibrational aspects of reality per quantum physics to completely outrageous ideas about the human race being under the hidden control of a lizard-like, reptilian species of interdimensional humanoids that borders on science fiction. He routinely sells out large meeting spaces on his lecture tours and is banned in a number of venues and countries for what many consider to be his dangerous ideas. He has been accused on a number of occasions of anti-Semitism for his views on international banking and the turbulent politics of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East – charges he vehemently denies. There’s a new documentary film about this former English soccer star turned conspiracy theorist titled, “Renegade: The Life Story of David Icke,” which takes a fly-on-the-wall view of his life as a family man, lecturer, and social/political disrupter. It was banned by a theater in Los Angeles last week just hours before its premiere there when the theater owners learned about the level of controversy surrounding Icke. Harrison caught up with Icke this past Thursday (5/2) when he was in New York City to attend the premiere of the film there that evening. They talk about the media, the First Amendment, and the state of the conspiracy theory business in 2019. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, please click here or click on the player box marked “The Michael Harrison Interview” located in the right-hand column of the TALKERS email newsletter and on every page of Talkers.com.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. Atlanta radio pro Jeff Dauler is out at WSTR, Atlanta “Star 94.1” where he was co-host of the “Jeff & Jenn” show with Jenn Hobby. She addressed Dauler’s departure on the program but didn’t offer any specifics on his departure. Hobby will continue to lead the morning show. At the same time as Dauler departed, afternoon personality Mike Marino also left the air and his info on the station’s website has been scrubbed. Aside from Hobby addressing it on the air, WSTR has not commented specifically on the changes…..Warner Music Nashville recording artist Cale Dodds (right) took time out of his busy tour schedule with Chase Rice to fill in as a special guest co-host with Jackson (left) on Beasley Media Group’s WKLB, Boston “Country 102.5” morning show. Dodds helped finn in for morning show co-host Ayla Brown. He took the opportunity to premier his new single, “I Like Where This Is Going.” On Monday and Tuesday (5/13-14), Sony Nashville recording artist Rachel Wammack will co-host with Jackson. WKLB program director David Corey says, “There’s no better way for the country audience to get to know an artist than to bring them into our world and put them on a morning show. It allows us to go way beyond the typical interview questions that might be asked. This is real life conversation…and fun! We are thankful to Cale and Rachel for getting that and jumping all in with us!”