Newsmax Media Founder and CEO Christopher Ruddy Is This Week’s Guest on Harrison Podcast. The CEO of Newsmax Media – the conservative news organization that owns and operates Newsmax.com and Newsmax TV in addition to a number of other platforms and services in digital and print publishing – is this week’s guest on the award-winning PodcastOne series, “The Michael Harrison Interview.” Veteran journalist, entrepreneur, and news executive Christopher Ruddy discusses the history and strategy that has led to Newsmax TV achieving enormous rating gains this year in its juggernaut campaign to provide FOX News Channel with formidable competition in the conservative news/talk cable TV ratings wars. In this revealing conversation, Ruddy tells Harrison his side of the recent story by media writer Ben Smith published inThe New York Times under the headline, “The King of Trump TV Thinks You’re Dumb Enough to Buy It.” He dispels the notion conveyed in that piece that Newsmax TV has strategically flanked FOX to its far right and is telling President Donald Trump’s most ardent loyalists whatever they want to hear regardless of the truth. Ruddy discusses the bigger picture of Newsmax content which also delivers stories and items that are unfavorable to Trump and collectively covers a broader segment of the spectrum best described as center-right, as opposed to far-right. Harrison and Ruddy take a deep-dive into talk media political “positioning” which lies at the very heart of modern competitive programming. They also speculate on the future of American politics and the talk media coverage thereof. True to his unpredictable and often contrarian approach to what many observers consider conventional wisdom, Ruddy states that it appears President-Elect Biden is not veering to the far left as many Republicans and Trump supporters fear he will as evidenced by many of his cabinet picks, and that the 46th president will be far more of a “centrist” than many in both parties are expecting. Ruddy also candidly discusses the balancing act required to maintain a long-standing “friendship” with Trump while not being afraid to criticize his policies on those occasions when he believes such criticism is warranted in addition to outlining his immediate plans to grow Newsmax as a full-service news organization in 2021. This podcast is a must-listen! 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 on every page of Talkers.com.
Floyd Reese Exiting ‘102.5 The Game’ in Nashville. According to a story in the Nashville Post, former Tennessee Titans general manager Floyd Reese is giving up his sports talk host gig at Cromwell Media’s WPRT-FM, Nashville “102.5 The Game.” Reese co-hosted the afternoon drive program “Jared & The GM” with Jared Stillman for the past five-plus years. Stillman will continue to host the afternoon show now billed as “Stillman & Company” as the station seeks out a new afternoon co-host. The Post cites a press release in which Reese states, “This is something I’ve been contemplating for a while and I feel it’s time for me to take a step back. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my tenure with ‘102.5 The Game’ and doing a show with Jared has been a terrific experience. He and I formed a unique partnership that allowed us to be teammates and friends. I’d also like to thank Cromwell Media owner Bud Walters and [program director] Ryan Porth for their non-stop support over the years. It’s been a good run.” Reese was general manager of the NFL’s old Houston Oilers from 1990-1999 and the Titans (after the Oilers moved from Houston to Nashville) from 1999-2006. He was a senior football advisor for the New England Patriots from 2009-2012. He joined “102.5 The Game” in 2015.
WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte Keeps The Bike Drive Alive. The annual holiday “Bikes for Kids” drive was launched by retired WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte talk host John Hancock 26 years ago. With Hancock’s retirement at the beginning of 2020, the fate of the charitable drive that had provided some 20,000 bikes (as well as gifts, food, clothing and more) to tens of thousands of needy Charlotte-area kids was up in the air. Ultimately, WBT staff, in partnership with the Carolina Panthers, WSOC-TV, Frito Lay, and some other local charitable organizations, worked to get 400 brand-new bikes collected during the “Bike Drive” that took place on Tuesday (12/15). Brett Winterble, who took over the afternoon drive show following Hancock’s retirement, says, “It was an amazing day for Hancock’s bikes for kids. This was my first opportunity since joining WBT in February to interface with this amazing audience in person. The generosity and good cheer of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday was truly awe inspiring. In gathering hundreds of bikes for well deserving children I forged new friendships with dedicated listeners to WBT. One man named Steve told me he was a 50-year listener of WBT and had attended every one of the bike drives Hancock led. It was an unbelievable show of generosity and good civic pride. I look forward to next year and can’t wait for this to continue to grow!”
Townsquare Media to Offer $550 Million in Senior Secured Notes. In a filing with the SEC, Townsquare Media reveals it has priced an offering of $550 million in aggregate principal amount of its 6.875% senior secured notes due 2026. These notes are being offered to institutional buyers and will be senior secured obligations of the company and will be guaranteed on a senior secured basis by certain of the company’s direct and indirect wholly owned subsidiaries. The closing of the offering is anticipated to take place on or about January 6, 2021. Townsquare says that it intends to use the net proceeds from the offering, together with cash on hand, to repay existing senior secured credit facilities, to redeem all of its outstanding 6.500% senior notes due 2023. It is also terminating its existing senior secured credit facilities, including its existing revolving credit facility.
Skyview Networks and MLB Radio Rightsholders Team Up for Annual Meeting. This year’s annual meeting of Major League Baseball radio rightsholders and Skyview Networks to discuss their broadcast operations and ad sales experiences from the previous season was done remotely. This year’s panels placed a heavy focus on fan engagement and advertising strategies with emphasis on maximizing digital assets under the restrictions of the pandemic. Skyview Networks president and COO Steve Jones says, “The MLB radio rightsholders play a significant role in their teams’ success through broadcast sponsorships. Radio and baseball have always put fans first and this season proved no different. Skyview played an important role in helping teams find creative solutions during the pandemic and we showcased those solutions to the whole league this week.” Skyview says many teams also leveraged the power of social media to engage with fans through promotions from their biggest sponsors, citing proactive communication as their key to success. Putting their followers’ interests at the forefront, these organizations hosted many virtual gatherings through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more to encourage listenership and interaction while the season was on a hiatus. Additional panel topics included software and strategies to streamline remote broadcasting, creating awareness for franchises’ ancillary digital content to increase broadcast listening and sponsorship extensions, and monetizing the evolving sports betting opportunities across a radio platform.
New Drive Time Shows on SiriusXM’s P.O.T.U.S. Channel in January. Starting on January 4, the new lineup on SiriusXM’s non-partisan P.O.T.U.S. channel will include “Julie Mason Mornings” (6:00 am to 9:00 am ET) and “The Laura Coates Show” (3:00 pm to 6:00 pm ET). Veteran journalist Mason takes over for Tim Farley’s “The Morning Briefing” after Farley’s retirement at year’s end. Coates – a CNN senior legal analyst – moves to the P.O.T.U.S. channel from SiriusXM’s Urban View channel. Julie Mason has more than 30 years of experience covering local, state and national politics, including four presidential campaigns. In more than 10 years at the White House, she traveled internationally and reported from more than 30 different countries. She is a former elected board member of the White House Correspondents Association. In addition to her media work, Coates has served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University School of Law.
United Stations Radio Networks Names Jim Roberts Director of Affiliate Sales and Marketing for Sports. Sports radio pro Jim Roberts is named director of affiliate sales and marketing/sports content for United Stations Radio Networks. He comes to USRN after a 20-plus years career with Disney/ESPN in which he oversaw the inception and growth of the affiliate network of 500-plus stations for ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes while also managing Disney owned-and-operated stations in New York City and Dallas. United Stations recently announced a partnership with SportsGarten Network to provide stations with short-form, long-form and daily daypart options in sports and sports wagering content. In his new role, Roberts will market all USRN sports-related programs and services, including the Total Sports Prep service. USRN’s Stefan Jones comments, “At United Stations we are growing our programming, services, and partnerships in the sports and sports-wagering lane. As more and more states are legalizing sports wagering, we want to ensure our company delivers quality options.”
TALKERS News Notes. Sports media personality Rich Eisen and Westwood One reach an agreement for the latter to feature “The Rich Eisen Show” podcast on the Westwood One Podcast Network, beginning on January 4. The deal also calls for the development of a new podcast by Eisen called “Just Getting Started” (scheduled for a February debut) in which Eisen interviews the biggest names from news, entertainment, sports, and pop culture, discussing their career origins and mining their stories on how they got started, in a format where audiences can be inspired by their endeavors…..In Chicago, Nexstar Media’s WGN-AM, Chicago is handing the agribusiness beat over to Steve Alexander with the retirement of Orion Samuelson at the end of this month. Samuelson is putting the wrap on a radio career that spans 60 years. Alexander says, “When I’ve filled in for Orion over the past 12 years, I’ve often joked that he gave me the key to the tractor, and I was able to keep it out of the ditch until he returned. Come next month, I’ll try to keep the tractor upright and continue Orion’s efforts to explain how important agriculture is to all of us.”…..GCN-syndicated talk radio host Dr. Daliah Wachs’ program adds two new affiliate stations as WEOL, Elyria, Ohio and KPRL, Paso Robles, California pick up the show.
COVID-19 Stats & Projections, Vaccines, the Economy & Closings, Stimulus Talks, Ongoing Election Denial, Georgia Runoff Elections, Biden Transition, and Northeast Snowstorm Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday. The fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and projections for post-holidays cases; the beginning of vaccine distribution in the U.S.; the state of the U.S. economy and forced business closings; the congressional negotiations over a new stimulus package; the ongoing denial of the election results in the Donald Trump camp; January’s runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats; the Joe Biden administration’s transition and nominations; and a big snowstorm hits the Northeast were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. There’s a series of holiday programs being made available on Entercom’s RADIO.COM that’s airing from December 18-20. The shows are: “POP Goes Christmas,” featuring Why Don’t We and Ava Max; “Acoustic Christmas,” featuring Kelly Clarkson, Meghan Trainor, Dan + Shay, Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, Rob Thomas, Train, Matt Nathanson, Ava Max, and a special performance from Keith Urban; “Country Christmas,” with Keith Urban, Dan + Shay, Lady A, Runaway June, and Russell Dickerson; and “Not So Silent Night” starring Machine Gun Kelly, 24kGoldn, All Time Low, SHAED, and Wallows. Those four shows will culminate in the “RADIO.COM LIVE! Holiday Music Festival,” a free video stream of the concert performances on December 21 at 6:00 pm ET, available nationwide on the RADIO.COM app and website at RADIO.COM/Live. Portions of the show will also be available on Twitch and via RADIO.COM’s social media channels. The performances will be accessible on demand for 72 hours after the show on RADIO.COM and station websites…..SiriusXM announces the rollout of several new pop up channels, holiday specials, live programs for New Year’s Eve, exclusive video, podcasts and best-of live performances. “New Year’s Nation” will launch beginning December 29 as a pop-up channel on SiriusXM dedicated to the ultimate New Year’s celebration songs in pop, rhythm, dance, and hip-hop from across the nation featuring the hottest hits from Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Drake, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, Taylor Swift and more. New holiday pop-up channels include Top 100 Interviews of 2020, highlighting the top celebrity interviews from the past year. Hosted by SiriusXM’s Jess Cagle and Julia Cunningham, the pop-up channel will feature interviews from shows including “Andy Cohen Live,” “The Hoda Show” and “The Jess Cagle Show” with some of the biggest names in Hollywood including Ben Affleck, Hugh Jackman, Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Laverne Cox, Lily Collins, Lizzo, Ramy Yousef, Sam Smith, Sean Penn, Spike Lee and dozens more.
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 “Show Us Your Matzo Balls!” looks back at this past week of April 6-10, 2020 and features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS; Holland Cooke, media consultant / talk show host, RT America; Rich Zeoli, talk show host, WPHT, Philadelphia; Vince Benedetto, CEO, Bold Gold Media Group; Matthew B. Harrison, professor of law, Western New England University / associate publisher, TALKERS; Victoria Jones, executive director, the DC Radio Company; and Chad Lopez, president, Red Apple Media. 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, Denver “Freedom 93.7”; 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 www.MHWrap.com. 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.
Smash Returns to Air in St. Louis on Suburban Talker. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Holleman reports that on-air pro Asher Benrubi, a.k.a. Smash, is returning to the airwaves in the St. Louis market on Metroplex Communications’ talk station WBGZ-AM, Alton, Illinois. The “Smash Daily” show will air from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm. Smash was an air staffer at legendary rock outlet KSHE for years but left in the late 2000s to care for his wife, Debbie, who eventually died from breast cancer in 2016. He tells the paper that the opportunity to host a two-hour, interactive show “just seemed like the right place to start.”
Townsquare Media Out of Compliance with NYSE. The company has until the end of September to figure this out and file its 2019 annual report after failing to file the report with the New York Stock Exchange on time. Townsquare Media says that differing opinions by its former and current accounting firms on assessing a non-cash charge for indefinite-lived intangible assets is the root of the problem. The company states, “We continue to work diligently to complete the preparation of our financial statements in order to be in a position to file the Form 10-K with the SEC as soon as possible.”
WIOD, Miami Holds “Share-a-Thon” Fundraiser. This weekend, iHeartMedia’s news/talk WIOD, Miami “Newsradio 610” is holding a 72-hour Share-A-Thon fundraiser to benefit the Miami Rescue Mission/ Broward County Outreach – an organization serving the homeless and the community in need in South Florida. Station program director Grace Blazer says, “In these difficult times when we are asked to stay home it’s fitting for us to help those who don’t have a home. We know money can be a concern for many right now, but we ask our community to make donations starting at one meal which is $2.10.”
Radio Stations Airing Easter Sunday Services. Some of the radio stations planning to air Easter Sunday services include Nexstar’s WGN-AM, Chicago. WGN will broadcast Holy Saturday Easter Vigil and Sunday Easter Mass for Catholics that will originate from Holy Name Cathedral. In Cleveland, iHeartMedia’s news/talk WTAM will broadcast a Catholic mass that will be held at the Cathedral of St. John The Evangelist in downtown Cleveland. JVC Media is partnering with Orlando Christian contemporary outlet WPOZ-FM “Z88.3” to broadcast the station’s Stay-at-Home Easter Sunrise Service on country WOTW, Windermere, Florida; country WXUS, Gainesville-Ocala; and news/talk WRCN, Long Island “LI News Radio 103.9FM.”
Entercom Pittsburgh to Hold Radiothon to Benefit Food Bank. On Tuesday (4/14), Entercom’s Pittsburgh radio stations – including news/talk KDKA-AM and sports talk KDKA-FM – are producing the “Feed the Need Radiothon” to benefit the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The radiothon aims to fund 100,000 meals to help displaced workers who are using the emergency drive-up distribution sites as well as food pantries in and around the Pittsburgh region. Entercom Pittsburgh SVP and market manager Michael Spacciapolli says, “Radio serves as a lifeline for local communities and brings them together in times of need. Pittsburghers always come together, and this is no exception. We are looking forward to leveraging our voice to help our friends and neighbors through the ‘Feed the Need Radiothon’ in partnership with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. We hope to do our part and help our community during this pandemic.”
Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach Offering Free Air Time for Local Charities. The West Palm Beach cluster of Hubbard Radio stations is starting the Fight Back Give Back program to help local charities raise awareness and funds during the Covid-19 crisis. To provide charities a voice, the company is committing to donate up to $1,000,000 worth of commercial airtime in April and May to get their messages out on stations including news/talk WFTL and sports talk WMEN “FOX Sports 640.” The company says, “We’re happy to lend our microphone to the organizations that do so much for our community. ‘We’re in this together’ is being widely used right now, but there are no truer words. We hope this opportunity will help the not-for-profit organizations we work with day in and day out, get through this time a little easier.”
Covid-19 Statistics and Projections Top News/Talk Story for Week of April 6-10. The statistics related to confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths and the models projecting future cases and deaths were the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio this week, landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the jobless claims and the state of the American economy. Coming in at #3 was the precarious state of the country’s health care system, followed by U.S.-China relations and the controversy over President Trump’s criticism of the World Health Organization 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 complete chart here.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. Earlier this week, iHeartMedia’s music radio morning shows – including New York-based “Elvis Duran and The Morning Show” and “The Breakfast Club,” Nashville-based “The Bobby Bones Show” and Los Angeles-based “On Air with Ryan Seacrest” and “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” – extended their on-air time by an hour or more “because of increased listener demand received through daily call-ins and social media feedback during the COVID-19 pandemic.” iHeartMedia chief programming officer Tom Poleman states, “Given the amount of positive feedback our stations were receiving from their listeners, our on-air talent began asking them if they should stay on air longer in the mornings – and the response was incredible. For example, Elvis Duran received more than 65,000 likes and more than 12,000 comments when he asked his social media followers about extending his morning show. This listener feedback, combined with the data we are seeing with our on-demand shows, is a testament to the connection that our radio personalities have with their listeners, and the fact that broadcast radio still holds such a unique place in American culture especially during a time of crisis.”…..Cumulus Media’s KATC-FM, Colorado Springs re-brands as “Cat Country 95.1” and unveils its new lineup that includes “The Cat Country Morning Show with Wendy & Bo” starring Wendy Labree and Bo Jaxon; Michelle Rodriguez in middays; and program director Mike Dylan remaining as PM drive host. Westwood One’s “Nights with Elaina” and “The Blair Garner Show” air in evenings and overnights, respectively. capping the weekday schedule…..New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy game a shout out to the WWPR, New York-based “The Breakfast Club” program for helping encourage an executive order to extend the grace period for insurance payments for those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy said at a press conference, “I got asked for this by some friends of mine at ‘The Breakfast Club’ on 105.1, Charlamagne and DJ Envy and Angela Yee, the other day. And this was in the works – we didn’t have a definitive answer – so I want to give them a shout out for helping give us even more impetus to get this done sooner than later.”…..Classic hits KCMO-FM, Kansas City morning host Kelly Urich is riding his bicycle 100 miles this morning (4/10) to raise money for Harvesters Community Food Network. He challenged his listeners to pledge 50 cents for every mile he rides. Kansas Citians quickly responded, raising more than $6,000 in just a few hours.