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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

| November 4, 2020

POST-ELECTION DAY UNCERTAINTY: News/Talk Media Braces for Even Further Polarization.  As indicated yesterday in TALKERS, news/talk media programmers and on-air hosts are contemplating what life will be like after the election (see story below), weighing the impact various potential scenarios will have upon their positioning and preparing themselves for inevitable changes in the political landscape. In this era of targeting audiences based on their political predisposition, or what TALKERS founder Michael Harrison yesterday (11/3) described as “the daily dance of affirmation,” the results of this election could have a profound impact on the ideological stances of talk show hosts going forward. Now, a day later, at the time of the posting of this item, the final result of the election is still undetermined as the nation awaits accurate counts in several battleground states. Harrison, notes, “We now know one extremely important thing that wasn’t certain yesterday – there will be no blow out.  There will be no so-called blue or red wave.  There will be no clear-cut confirmation of a basic direction agreed upon by an obvious majority of Americans. That means more, not less, polarization and the further intensification of fear, anger, and political tribalism. One of the greatest obstacles to creating viable objective journalism and social healing in such an environment is the prevailing attitude, ‘if you are not with us, you are against us.’”

Saga Communications Q3 Revenue Rises Dramatically from Q2; Still Down 26% from Q3 in 2019. Reporting on its revenue for the third quarter of 2020, Saga Communications says, “Third quarter revenue and related net income continue to be materially impacted by disruptions to businesses and service providers activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the net revenue low point in April the company’s revenue has significantly increased in each of the following months. The company continues to concentrate on new revenue strategies and enhanced engagement with its existing and new advertisers.” Saga’s net revenue for Q3 2020 was $24.1 million, a 43.1% increase over Q2 of 2020 but 26% lower than the $31.3 million reported in Q3 of 2019. Station operating income was $6.1 million for the quarter, a decrease of 42% from the same period in 2019. Station operating expense decreased $4 million to $19.6 million for the quarter compared to the same period last year. Operating income was $247,000 and Saga took a net loss of $950,000 for the quarter, compared to the gain of $3,3 million it reported in the third quarter of 2019. Among the publicly traded U.S. radio companies, Saga Communications is positioned well going forward as it has $49.8 million in cash on hand as of November 2, 2020. Its total bank debt is just $10 million as of the end of the quarter.

Country WCOL-FM, Columbus PM Jock Brandon Boxer Doubles Up to Host Mornings on News/Talk WTVN-AM. Columbus Business First reports that iHeartMedia has filled the morning show host role at news/talk WTVN-AM, Columbus with Brandon Boxer, currently the afternoon host and assistant program director at sister country station WCOL-FM. Boxer replaces Joel Riley, who along with producer Tom Schmid were laid off in this latest round of staff culling at the company. Boxer will continue in his roles with WCOL. He tweeted on Monday: “Today was a tough one for some of my colleagues & very sad. I feel very weird announcing this, but tomorrow I begin a new journey hosting mornings on [610 WTVN]. It’s extremely bittersweet & I’m scared to death, but here we go.”

Jason Lewis Comes Up Short in U.S. Senate Race. Former Minneapolis talk radio host Jason Lewis (also a former GOP congressman from Minnesota) was unsuccessful in his bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tina Smith. She won the special election to fill the seat vacated by Al Franken in 2017 and was running against Lewis for her first full, six-year term. Lewis began his talk radio career as a weekend host on KOA-AM, Denver. He worked in the Twin Cities market as a talk host at KSTP and KTLK. His talk show was eventually syndicated by Premiere Networks and Genesis Communications Network. He’d also served as a talk host at WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte.

PPM Analysis: Sports Talk. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents a look at the performances of radio stations based on data from Nielsen Audio’s October 2020 PPM survey, today focusing on sports talk. The transition from the September PPM survey to the October PPM survey was good for sports talk radio as 65% of sports talk stations were up (6+ weekly AQH share) compared to the 18% that were down and the 17% that were flat. Gainers were led by iHeartMedia’s KFXN-FM, Minneapolis “K-FAN” (+2.9); Cumulus Media’s WGFX-FM, Nashville “104.5 The Zone” (+2.4); and Cumulus’ KTCK-AM/FM, Dallas “The Ticket” (+2.1). However, a look at year-over-year numbers gives us a look at just how far many sports talk stations fell due to the COVID-related shutdown of live sports as 72% of sports talk stations in PPM markets were down compared to the October 2019 survey and just 22% improved. Those stations showing growth were led by KTCK-AM/FM, Dallas (+2.3); KFXN-FM, Minneapolis (+1.4); and Cumulus’ KNBR, San Francisco (+0.9). KFXN-FM was the only sports talk outlet to rank #1 in its market during the October 2020 PPM survey. See Mike Kinosian’s complete report here.

Election Day, COVID-19 Stats & Projections, the Economy & Financial Markets Activity, State Marijuana Votes/Oregon Decriminalizes Hard Drugs, IS-Inspired Terror Attacks, and China Halts Ant Group IPO Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (11/3). The presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, as well as the races for U.S. Senate and U.S. Rep seats; the U.S. economy and the election day activity in the world’s financial markets; several states vote to legalize marijuana and Oregon decriminalizes small amounts of hard drugs; the Islamic State-inspired terror attacks France, Vienna, and Kabul; and the Chinese government stops the IPO of Jack Ma’s Ant Group 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. Detroit radio personality Mark “Meltdown” Milligan is celebrating his 25thanniversary at Beasley Media Group’s rock WRIF-FM. “Meltdown” began his career with the station on November 1, 1995 as the overnight jock. He later moved to the evening show host role and in February of 2009, he replaced Detroit legend Arthur Penhallow as the afternoon drive personality. Beasley Media Group Detroit director of programming Scott Jameson says, “One of the reasons legendary brands become ‘legendary’ are personalities that over time, develop a true connection and deep bond with the audience. In the nearly 50-year history of WRIF there have been two afternoon drive jocks. ‘Meltdown’ continues the rich legacy of outstanding air talent on WRIF. Congratulations on your 25th!”…..Service Broadcasting Group is looking for a high-profile entertainer to join the cast of the KKDA, Dallas “K104”-based “DeDe in the Morning” show that is nationally syndicated via Compass Media Networks. Service Broadcasting Group head of content George “Geo” Cook and #TeamDeDe are launching a national talent search for an entertainer, influencer, and storyteller who can collaborate with host DeDe McGuire and lead co-host Lady Jade to add their own authentic personality and powerful point of view to “DeDe in the Morning.” Email your video expressing why you are our next big star, along with your resume package, including an audio demo (aircheck), social media links, and podcast audio clips to SBG HR manager Debbie Henry at debbie.henry@K104fm.com. EOE.