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Monday Memo: Who Will Replace Rush?

| January 4, 2021

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — It’s talk radio FAQ #1. GMs – excuse me, “market managers,” overseeing more-stations-than-they-have-time-to-hear – are anxious, now forced to pay attention to 15 hours a week they’ve had on autopilot for decades.

Short answer: Nobody can

Thousands of our talk radio brothers and sisters will always owe him for leading the format that extended AM radio’s useful life. On my TV show I reminded Michael Harrison of a prediction he made at the TALKERS New York conference 20 years ago, that talk will eventually save FM, where music formats are now largely robotic and under assault from streaming and satellite competitors that users love. Many pay to subscribe.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

| December 15, 2020

Ramsey Solutions Forgives $10 million in Debt for 8,000 Americans. Through his company Ramsey Solutions, Dave Ramsey has taken on the debt of 8,000 people across the United States and totally forgiven a total of $10 million in debt. Ramsey Solutions has purchased $10 million of unpaid medical and car debt from two private debt collection companies in order to forgive it. Starting on November 9, Ramsey and his 950 team members made phone calls to let the recipients know their debt had been forgiven. Recipients will also be notified by a letter in the mail within the next five weeks. Ramsey says, “This year has been one of the worst financially for so many Americans. Thirty years ago, my wife Sharon, and I were on the heels of a financial catastrophe ourselves. We know firsthand the pain of having creditors calling at all hours of the night and wondering how we were going to keep the lights on. But we said never again to living with debt. We worked our way out of bankruptcy, turned our finances around, and now we can have the most fun with money that we ever have – giving.” You can read more about Ramsey Solutions’ $10 million debt payoff here.

Charlie James Named Afternoon Drive Host at WYRD-FM, Greenville-Spartanburg. The new afternoon drive talk host at Entercom’s WYRD-FM, Greenville-Spartanburg “106.3 WORD” is Charlie James, who joins the station from his most recent post as morning host for Cumulus Media’s news/talk WTMA-AM, Charleston, South Carolina. James – who starts on December 23 – succeeds Bob McLain, who is retiring from the station. Entercom Greenville-Spartanburg SVP and market manager Steve Sinicropi says, “Charlie is a well-respected and seasoned talk show host and his track record of success in South Carolina with his award-winning program makes him a perfect fit for ‘106.3 WORD.’ Charlie’s experience informing and entertaining listeners through his style, knowledge, and influential opinions on topics that matter most will be a welcomed addition to our station’s programming and will build on the afternoon audience that has been well served by Bob McLain.”​

WHO-AM, Des Moines Names Max Schaeffer and Amy Sweet New Morning Drive Show. Current WHO-AM, Des Moines morning drive host Van Harden announced yesterday (12/14) to listeners that market radio pros Max Schaeffer and Amy Sweet will take over hosting the morning drive show after he retires from the station early next month. Schaeffer comments, “The weight of what we have ahead of us is not lost on me.” Schaeffer and Sweet previously worked as morning drive co-hosts at Saga Communications’ crosstown classic hits KIOA-FM until exiting in May of 2018. Harden announced his retirement from WHO back in January of this year, giving iHeartMedia a full year to plan for the new morning show.

Ken Kohl Announces Retirement. Radio programming and management pro Ken Kohl announces that he’s winding down his 50-plus year broadcasting career that’s seen him program news and talk stations in markets including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Sacramento. Kohl has been serving for the past 12 years with DirecTV managing broadcast and sales operations, project and talent management for the radio and TV simulcasts of “The Dan Patrick Show,” “The Rich Eisen Show,” and “The Artie Lange Show.” Kohl says, “It’s been an amazing 50-year career. From overnight jock on Long Island’s WBLI-FM to program director of legendary WLIR-FM, rockin’ the Rockies at KBPI-FM, great runs programming KOMO-AM and KFBK-AM, launching talk on KFI in Los Angeles and San Francisco’s ‘Free FM’ to the award-winning, wall-to-wall coverage of the OJ trial, and two sports Emmy nominations and a Marconi with ‘The Dan Patrick Show.’ I’ve been blessed with fantastic staffs, amazing talk talent and exceptional ownership but there are a handful of folks who championed my career to whom I am eternally grateful: Michael Harrison, Monty Grau, Jim Donahoe, Jimmy de Castro, Chris Long, and the best of the best, Gerryann Agovino.” Kohl says he remains available for a limited number of consulting clients in between bites of fresh salmon and can be reached at kenkohl@acquaintmedia.com

Townsquare Media Issues Preliminary Fourth Quarter Financial Results. While the fourth quarter of 2020 doesn’t wrap until December 31, Townsquare Media is issuing “preliminary estimated financial results” for the period. Chief executive officer Bill Wilson says, “We are pleased to pre-announce very strong fourth quarter estimated results that outperformed the expectations we had previously outlined on our third quarter earnings call. At that time, I stated that our goal for fourth quarter net revenue was a year-over-year decline of 7.5%, approximately half of our third quarter net revenue decline of 15%, which had been a material improvement from Q2’s decline of 35%. Today, I am proud to share that we expect fourth quarter net revenue will be between $107 million and $109 million, which equates to a decline of approximately 2.7% to 4.5%, materially outperforming our goal. In addition, we expect Q4 2020 Adjusted EBITDA will be between $27 million and $28 million, representing between 8.3% and 12.3% growth year-over-year. This far exceeds our previously stated goal (by at least $2 million) that Q4 2020 Adjusted EBITDA would approach Q4 2019 Adjusted EBITDA of $24.9 million.”

i4 Media Ventures Launches with Debut Podcast ‘We Interrupt This Broadcast.’ The new firm i4 Media Ventures announces its plans to “bring podcast listeners vividly memorable stories from the history of American broadcasting.” The 12-episode podcast series “We Interrupt This Broadcast” – the first season of six seasons planned for release over the next three years – debuts in February. The series will feature first-hand accounts, little-told anecdotes and insights recorded over the course of decades with such icons of broadcast journalism as David BrinkleyTom BrokawWalter CronkiteSam Donaldson, Don HewittDan Rather, and Tim Russert, among many contemporary correspondents, and with numerous news directors and producers, as well as with guests connected to broadcast journalism’s rich history such as Casey MurrowEdward R. Murrow’s son. Advertising sales and sponsorship for the series will be represented by New York and Los Angeles-based Crossover Media Group Sales. The series is based on the 1998 New York Times bestselling multimedia book We Interrupt This Broadcast by author Joe Garner, a co-founder of i4 Media Ventures. Legendary longtime CBS journalist and A&E and NPR host Bill Kurtis, the original narrator for the multimedia book, will reprise his role by introducing each episode. The narrator for the series will be announced in coming weeks. Garner says, “It’s our intention with this series to celebrate broadcast journalism’s crucial role in our society and in history. And while our inaugural podcast series will feature major news events throughout broadcast history, these stories – such as the Rodney King beating and the presidential-election dispute of 2000 – all have relevance and offer lessons today.”

Joe Piscopo to Host Sinatra Show on WABC, New York. Well-known TV personality and radio talk show host Joe Piscopo is joining Red Apple Media’s WABC, New York to host “Ramsey Mazda’s Sunday Nights with Sinatra” program that airs from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The show is being simulcast on WLIR-FM on Long Island. Piscopo played Sinatra in a recurring role during his time as a cast member of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in the early 1980s. He says, “It’s an honor to bring the music of the most legendary icon of our time, Frank Sinatra, back to the legendary WABC Radio. I am thrilled and excited, and it’s gonna’ be swingin’ baby!” Red Apple CEO John Catsimatidis comments, “Throughout history, there has been no more iconic name in music than Frank Sinatra, nor has there been a more iconic name in radio than WABC. Bringing these two together again on Sunday nights with celebrity host Joe Piscopo, a crooner himself, is a one-of-a-kind way to honor ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ and celebrate what would-be his 105th Birthday with this show’s debut.” Piscopo hosts the morning drive program on Salem Media Group‘s WNYM, New York “970 The Answer.”

ESPN’s ‘30 For 30 Podcasts’ Looks Back at Beginning of Pandemic. The next installment of ESPN’s “30 for 30 Podcasts” debuts on December 21, is titled, “March 11 2020,” and tells the story “of a day that started in one reality and ended with a new one — the day the NBA shut down and the pandemic became real — as told by those who lived it.” ESPN says the experiential podcast features a mix of audio clips from news stories of the day and interviews with key figures in the NBA as well as from Dr. Anthony Fauci. Senior editorial producer Julia Lowrie Henderson says, “This has been the strangest, longest, and most challenging of years. It’s hard to process all we’ve been through, but it’s actually quite simple to identify the turning point, the moment where it felt like everything changed: March 11. All of our lives were impacted by the events of that day. At the time we had no idea how deeply, or how long this might last, but we felt the seismic shift when the first professional athlete tested positive for coronavirus and the NBA suspended its season. If our mission at ‘30 For 30’ is to tell stories that explore how sports, competition, athleticism, and adventure affect our lives and our world, then it felt crucial to us to find a way to tell the story of that day.”

TALKERS News Notes. According to a story at GVWire.com, KMJ-AM/FM, Fresno program director Blake Taylor says Twitter blocked access to the station’s account because of comments made by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes on KMJ. During Nunes’ interview with KMJ talk host Ray Appleton, he said he “tested positive for the COVID antibodies” causing some confusion and concern that he had contracted the COVID-19 virus. GVWire.com reports that Taylor fielded requests from consumer media outlets seeking to clarify what Nunes had said so he did so on Twitter. Taylor says that immediately the station’s Twitter account was suspended. He reached out to Twitter but received no response. The blackout lasted 20 minutes…..Entercom’s WIP-FM, Philadelphia “SportsRadio 94WIP” announces special coverage of the Philadelphia 76ers for the 2020-21 season. WIP’s coverage of the team will include “Trust The Pregame,” hosted by Joe Giglio. The station will continue airing “Rights To Ricky Sanchez Radio,” a one-hour show named after the popular podcast. That show will be hosted by Joe Giglio and feature Spike Eskin, as well as Rights to Ricky Sanchez writers Adam Aaronson and Mike O’Connor. The station also announces a collection of additional contributors for the upcoming season, including  WIP’s Jon Johnson and Billy KingDerek Bodner of The AthleticKevin O’Connor of The Ringer, and Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice…..Digital products and services provider Vipology moves its ad sales representation exclusively to AdLarge Media. AdLarge co-founder and co CEO Cathy Csukas says, “Where most digital companies simply create and sell what’s needed at the time, Vipology gets ahead of the constantly evolving media landscape to develop solutions that allow radio to increase ratings and revenue. We’re very excited about representing their advertising inventory from more than 1,000 top radio stations across America to our advertisers.”…..Erick Siqueira joins Focus360 as business development & planning specialist. In this role, Siqueira will work with the Focus team to deliver new revenue and inventory opportunities for clients. He will also continue relationships with agencies and buyers with whom he’s worked for all Focus360 network products and the Focus360 Podcast Network

Electoral College Votes Biden Winner, COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive, COVID Stats & Projections, Barr to Resign, Georgia Runoff Elections, and Stimulus Negotiations Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (12/14). The Electoral College votes Joe Biden the 46th president; the first COVID-19 vaccines begin arriving at U.S. hospitals; the fast-rising number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., projections for post-holidays outbreaks, and Dr. Tony Fauci’s estimation the U.S. will achieve herd immunity by late spring or early summer; Attorney General William Barr announces he’ll resign next week; the January runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats; and negotiations on a new pandemic stimulus package 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. According to a report at NewscenterMaine, former Saga Communications air personality Randi Kirshbaum – who was a program director and jock at country WPOR and triple A WCLZ in Portland, Maine is filing an employment discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the company after she was dismissed for refusing to return to the stations’ offices due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kirshbaum says her mother passed away from pulmonary fibrosis and that she is genetically predisposed to getting it. She adds the disease can be triggered by a respiratory virus. When Kirshbaum was laid off in May, Saga Portland SVP Chris Forgy said Kirshbaum violated her signed agreement that she could be called back to the office by management and would lose her job if she refused…..Condolences to the family and friends of radio pro Steve Cooper, a.k.a. James Carr, who died on Sunday (12/13) at age 71 after several years of battling multiple illnesses. Cooper worked in the Indianapolis market for 32 years, working at such signals as WNDE, WIFE, WFBQ, and WTPI. You can see a tribute video made by good friend Art Vuolo here.

Monday Memo: Blue Christmas, Bleak January, Big Opportunity

| November 23, 2020

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Sad prediction: On Thursday, we will blow it. We, not The Grinch, will steal Christmas.

  • Dr. Fauci and the Biden transition team’s pandemic advisers and state governors are pleading with us to skip Thanksgiving this year. It doesn’t take a rally. Contact tracing pinpoints “small social gatherings” as significant spreader events. We’re begged to Zoom instead of hugging those we only get to hug once a year.
  • Predictably, we won’t. United Airlines alone added 1,400 flights. Then do the math. Figure 2-3 weeks, like after Easter/Passover, then after The Fourth, then after Justice Coney Barrett’s Rose Garden introduction. Hug grandparents on Thanksgiving and you might not be able to on Christmas.
  • Consensus forecasts: At present rates, another hundred thousand Americans will die before the Inauguration; and January will be worse than April was.

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Monday Memo: Smart Advertisers Relate

| March 30, 2020

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

 

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Sales managers: Come down off the ledge!  While nervous sales reps are REACTING to cancellations as the economy dives, smart sellers are PROACTIVELY turning-lemons-into-lemonade.  And canny clients are using radio to sound relevant, helpful, and like we’re-all-in-the-same-boat…

“We want to keep our people working.”

This is a commercial copy point we’re using at client stations, in spots for local service retailers.  Another empathy message pertains to restaurants, increasingly restricted to take-out and drive-thru business.  They’re really hurting; and I’ve heard several offering gift cards “that never expire.”

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Monday, May 6, 2019

| May 6, 2019

Cumulus Media Names Brian Philips EVP of Content and Audience; Mike McVay to Return to Consulting. Effective today, radio and television executive Brian Philips is being appointed executive vice president, content and audience for Cumulus Media, taking over for Michael McVay, who is returning to full-time consulting, with Cumulus as his first client.  Philips previously served as president of Viacom/MTV Network’s CMT channel.  The press release notes that there, Philips led “the music network’s successful forays into long-form script series, tentpole awards shows, concert specials, and feature films.  He also developed CMT’s successful national radio network.”  Prior to working in TV and film, Philips worked in radio programming with such stations as Cumulus’ WNNX-FM and WWWQ-FM in Atlanta, and KPLX-FM, Dallas.  Cumulus Media CEO Mary Berner says, “We are excited that Brian is joining our leadership team.  A highly accomplished executive, leader, and innovator with substantial experience across today’s media landscape, he comes to us with an impressive and successful track record of growing ratings and expanding audiences.  We look forward to benefiting from the skills and expertise he brings to his new role. I would also like to thank Mike for his significant contributions to Cumulus and for being such a great partner to me.”  McVay underscores that the decision to leave Cumulus and return to consulting was entirely his.  In praising McVay, Berner adds, “Mike’s accomplishments since his appointment as EVP, content and programming in 2015 are too numerous to count.  To name just a few, under Mike’s leadership of the office of programming, we reversed four years of ratings share declines, and saw years of ratings share growth.  We are currently posting the best ratings since 2011 on some of our biggest and most important stations.  Mike has helped to expand Westwood One’s programming, participating in the launch of several new shows, including the very successful ‘The Ben Shapiro Show.’  Mike has also led us in increasing our reach beyond over the air listening to include smart speakers and all online listening.”

Monday Memo: Show Me Your Show. On smart talk stations, weekends are appointment listening and might be the two most profitable days of the week, “NOT incompatible goals” according to consultant Holland Cooke.  “Yet,” he notes, “programming Saturdays and Sundays can be high-maintenance for stations, and getting airtime is challenging for talent.” In this week’s Monday Memo, HC recommends a win-win road map to weekend airtime.  Read it here.

Simonson Named Director of Sales at Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach. Radio sales pro Gregory Simonson is appointed director of sales for Hubbard Radio’s recently acquired West Palm Beach station group that includes news/talk WFTL, Fort Lauderdale and sports talk WMEN, Royal Palm Beach “640 The Hurricane,” and four music-formatted stations.  Simonson was most recently general sales manager with Beasley Media Group’s Fayetteville, North Carolina cluster.  Hubbard Radio SVP and market manager Elizabeth Hamma states, “I’m very happy to welcome Gregory to the Hubbard Radio West Palm Beach family.  His extensive track record of success in traditional and digital media as well as his passion for helping sales people succeed make Gregory a perfect choice to lead our sales team to new heights.”  Last fall, Hubbard agreed to acquire the cluster from Alpha Media for $88 million.

‘Our American Stories’ Passes 180-Affiliate Mark. The nationally syndicated “Our American Stories” program from American Private Radio announces the addition of eight new affiliate stations to the program’s roster, putting over the 180-station mark. APR president and show host Lee Habeeb says, “Stations told us they wanted a radio program that wasn’t always about politics, to give listeners a break from the news cycle.  More importantly, they love the topics we share every night, and we take great pride in putting stories together that touch our listeners’ hearts and minds.  People walk away feeling better when they listen to ‘Our American Stories.’”  New stations include Entercom’s news/talk WCCO-AM, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

TALKERS News Notes. A new podcast is being launched starring iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman, titled, “Math & Magic: Stories From the Frontiers of Marketing,” on the iHeartPodcast Network beginning on May 14.  The program will feature interviews with “visionary executives from the media and entertainment industries.”  In the first two episodes. Pittman talks with Maurice Levy, who, during his tenure as CEO of Publicis Groupe, increased the value of the company by 100 times and expanded a French agency into a true global advertising and communications leader; and Scooter Braun, renowned talent entrepreneur, investor and entertainment executive who boosted the careers of international superstars such as Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and many others…..Boston Herald-based nationally syndicated columnist and Boston Herald Radio show host Adriana Cohen recently hosted President Trump on her weekly program. Cohen tells TALKERS that the almost-20-minute interview went viral after being picked up by Politico, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Fox News, The Blaze, The Hill, and others…..Chicago media writer Robert Feder reports that staffers at Entercom’s all-news WBBM-AM/WCFS-FM are getting some backing from fellow union members as they negotiate with the company for raises for the newsroom’s eight assistant producers.  The Writers Guild of America will rally outside the WBBM studios in the Prudential Building today (5/6)…..Washington University in St. Louis is awarding seven people with honorary degrees at a ceremony during the school’s 2019 commencement on May 17 and one of those is SiriusXM Urban View talk host Joe Madison.  The commencement address will be delivered by Michael Bloomberg.  Madison graduated from Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in 1971…..WTMJ, Milwaukee cleaned up at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Awards Gala in Madison over the weekend.  The Good Karma Brands news/talk station won first place in 21 categories, including: News/Talk Large Market Station of the Year, Radio News Operation of the Year (Large Market); Social and Digital Operation of the Year (Large market); Best Newscast: Wisconsin’s Afternoon News; and more. Pictured below with the station’s awards are WTMJ staffers (from l-r): Nick Van Wagenen, Erik Bilstad, Jordan Gasiorowski, Steve Wexler, Steve Scaffidi, Jane Matenaer, Jay SorgiBrad Lane, Doug Russell, Melissa Barclay, and Mike Spaulding.

Mueller Report/Trump on Mueller Testimony, 2020 Presidential Politics, China Trade War Escalation, U.S.-Iran Tensions, North Korea Missile Test, Israel-Gaza Violence, ‘Game of Thrones,’ Avengers: Endgame, Kentucky Derby Disqualification, and NBA Playoffs Among Top News/Talk Stories Over the Weekend. The aftermath of the release of the Mueller Report and President Trump’s tweets saying Robert Mueller should not testify before congress; the Democrats vying to challenge President Trump in 2020; markets react as Trump threatens to ramp up U.S.-China trade war; U.S. carrier group heads to Iran in response to reports of Iranian threats to U.S. interests in the region; reaction to North Korea’s latest missile test; the rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza; Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones”; the Avengers: Endgame movie sets new record; the Kentucky Derby winner is disqualified; and the NBA playoffs were some of the most-talked-about stories over the weekend, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.

George Beasley Inducted into PA Radio Hall of Fame. Pictured above is Beasley Broadcast Group founder and chairman George Beasley at center with his wife Ann and surrounded by their family at the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters’ 2019 Gold Medal Awards Dinner yesterday (5/5) in Hershey where he was inducted into the PAB’s Hall of Fame.  Beasley was inducted with fellow honorees: comic and actor/director Bob Saget, Pittsburgh Steelers great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis, and C-SPAN correspondent Steve Scully.

Music Radio News and Career Moves. Los Angeles alternative rocker KROQ announces the debut of the afternoon drive “Stryker and Klein” program featuring Ted Stryker (left) and Kevin Klein (right).  Entercom Los Angeles SVP and market manager Jeff Federman says, “Pairing Stryker and Klein is something we could never have imagined just a few years ago.  Individually, they’ve both had tremendous success throughout their careers.  Adding great content to our afternoon programming is something that we’re very committed to and these guys do a fantastic job connecting the music to fun and interesting conversations.”  Stryker has been with the station since 1999.  Klein hosted mornings on the company’s KITS-FM, San Francisco “Live 105.” He was slated to be the morning host at sports talk KWFN, San Diego but the infamous Coronado Bridge social media post bit derailed his gig on that station…..The search is on for the new morning show at Entercom’s country WUSN, Chicago “US99” after Doug Stylz and Justin Roman exited the station on Friday (5/3).  The duo previously hosted the morning show at sister CHR WBBM-FM, “B96” before taking on the morning show role at “US99.”…..Premiere Networks-syndicated evening personality Delilah recently hosted the “Our Town, Our Heroes Celebration,” a local event recognizing listeners for their outstanding work in the Wilmington, Delaware area, produced by Beasley-owned affiliate WJBR, Wilmington “Mix 99.5.”  In addition to helping honor local citizen’s Delilah was surprised by WJBR as the station honored her for her philanthropic efforts with her non-profit foundation, Point Hope, that serves as a voice for forgotten children in the U.S. foster care system and in West Africa.