NOW POSTED: This Weekend’s Installment of “The Michael Harrison Wrap: An Overview of the National Conversation.” The latest installment of 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. This new episode titled, “Feeding an Environment of Fear,” looks back at this past week of February 22-26, 2021. The program features guests (in order of appearance): Kevin Casey, executive editor, TALKERS magazine; Gary Sutton, talk show host, WSBA, York, PA; Dr. Daliah Wachs, talk show host, Genesis Communications Network / medical physician; Dr. Renee Kohanski, podcaster, Clinical Correlation, Medscape‘s MDEdge Psychcast / forensic psychiatrist; Rush Limbaugh, late talk radio icon; and Richard Neer, talk show host, WFAN, New York. The 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 WTIC, Hartford; KSCO, Santa Cruz, CA; KDFD (“Freedom 93.7”), Denver; KFNX, Phoenix; WVLY, Wheeling, WV; WTRW-FM, Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA; WVOX, Westchester, NY; KBDT, Dallas; KQSP, Minneapolis; KBKW, Aberdeen, WA; WGDJ, Albany, NY; WJFN-FM, Richmond, VA; WZFG, Fargo; KTGO, Tioga, ND; KWAM, Memphis; K-NEWS, San Luis Obispo; WGMD, Rehoboth Beach, MD; WCHM, Clarkesville, GA; WPHM, Port Huron, MI; KSYL, Alexandria, LA; KTOE, Mankato, MN; WCED (“Connect FM”), DuBois, PA; K-NEWS 101.3, Owensboro, KY; WWTK, Sebring, FL; WIZM-AM/FM, La Crosse, WI; WMVA, Martinsville, VA; the Virginia Talk Radio Network; CRN Digital Talk Radio Network; the iHeart Podcast Network; Pioneer Valley Radio, Springfield, MA; Podcast Radio, UK and many more. To listen to this week’s episode, please click
iHeartMedia 2020 Q4 Revenue Down 8.8%; Full Year Revenue Declines 20%. Reporting its financial data for the fourth quarter and for the full year of 2020, iHeartMedia fares a little better than its two major competitors (based on the number of radio stations owned) Cumulus Media and Entercom Communications. Fourth quarter revenue was $935.5 million, a decline of 8.8% from the same period in 2019. For the full year, revenue was $2.9 billion, down 20% from the full year 2019. Although the company reports net income of $2.9 million in Q4 2020, that’s down 95% from the $62.1 million net income reported in Q4 of 2019. For the full year 2020, iHeartMedia reports a net loss of $1.9 billion. It reported net income of $11.2 billion in 2019. iHeartMedia says that strong sequential improvement is continuing since the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. It also reports that digital revenue increased 26% year-over-year, including a 91% increase in podcasting revenue. Company chairman and CEO Bob Pittman says, “We are pleased that the company continues its steady recovery from the COVID-19 downturn – and it’s particularly rewarding to see the impressive performance from our areas of strategic investment, like podcasting, SmartAudio, digital, and Ad Tech. In addition, with our new reportable segments, we will be able to provide additional insights into both our largest segment and our fastest-growing segment, and help highlight the key metrics and impressive performance of each.” iHeartMedia COO and CFO Rich Bressler adds, “Our swift response to the COVID pandemic and our diligent management of expenses throughout the year enabled us to successfully achieve approximately $250 million of savings in 2020. This cost management enhanced our operating leverage and helped us to achieve adjusted EBITDA of $265 million in the fourth quarter, which was an improvement of 64% over the third quarter. The continued sequential improvement of our revenue, adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow over the past three quarters has us well positioned for continued recovery into 2021, and our commitment to make the majority of the $200 million of COVID-19 related savings permanent will further enhance the company’s operating leverage as revenue recovers.”
iHeartMedia Unveils New Business Operating Structure. Saying that this new structure reflects the “increasing size and importance” of its digital businesses, iHeartMedia announces that its two divisions – the Digital Audio Group and the Multiplatform Group – will publicly report their financial data separately and will have dedicated management. The iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group includes the iHeartRadio digital service and its podcasting business while the iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group includes its broadcast radio assets. The company says that as of the fourth quarter of 2020, the Digital Audio Group encompassed almost 20% of the company’s consolidated revenue and 23% of its earnings, and during that quarter grew revenue by 53% year-over-year and Adjusted EBITDA by 74% year-over-year. The company expects the Digital Audio Group will continue to grow as an increasing proportion of its business in the future. It adds that separate reporting of these two operating segments will provide “improved visibility into the underlying performances, results and margin profiles of these distinct audio-driven businesses.” Here’s how it breaks down: The iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group includes the podcasting business; the iHeartRadio digital service; the company’s digital sites, newsletters, digital services and programs; and its digital advertising technology companies, including Jelli, RadioJar, Unified and Voxnest, and will also include the recently-announced Triton Digital upon completion of the acquisition. Leading the division will be Conal Byrne as CEO and Darren Davis as COO, with Carter Brokaw serving as the president of digital revenue and Jessica Jerrick as EVP of digital distribution and platform partnerships. Meanwhile, iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group – representing almost 75% of the company’s revenue – includes the 860-plus radio stations in 160 markets; the company’s live and virtual events business; and its national sales organization (which will use iHeartMedia’s full array of products, from broadcast radio and events to its SmartAudio suite of data targeting and attribution products, which allows informed digital-like planning against targeted audiences with the benefit of broadcast scale and impact, as well as using all of the products from the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group). Premiere Networks, which includes the Total Traffic and Weather Network; and BIN: Black Information Network, will also join this group. Leading the iHeartMedia Multiplatform Group will be Greg Ashlock as CEO and Tim Castelli as chief revenue officer. Julie Talbott joins this group as president of Premiere Networks; Hartley Adkins becomes president of the Markets Group; Jeff Howard remains president of national sales and Tony Coles as president of BIN: Black Information Network. Bob Pittman says, “These new reportable segments will enable us to strengthen the mission and tighten the focus of both the iHeart Digital Audio Group and the iHeart Multiplatform Group, while accelerating our ability to deliver industry-leading products and services to our listeners and advertising partners across all of our platforms. Creating these two business reportable segments will allow us to provide the investment community with increased visibility into the financial results of each segment – enabling them to better appreciate the strong growth and success of our digital businesses, including our industry-leading podcast business, as well as the continued strength of our broadcast radio and marquee events businesses.”
Entercom Announces New Programming Leadership Structure. This enhancement of Entercom’s programming leadership structure for its central programming team leaves Pat Paxton in his current position as chief programming officer. He says, “This enhanced leadership team will supplement our premium content offering throughout our portfolio and ensure we have the premier collection of personalities engaging deeply with our audiences nationwide. It will also allow us to best integrate the innovation of new products and content so we are continuously growing the impact and reach of our offering and super serving our 170 million listeners each month.” In this new structure EVP of programming Jeff Sottolano continues to manage Entercom’s sports, all-news, and news/talk brands. He is also being charged with growing Entercom’s content insights and analytics capabilities and overseeing its network and syndicated content development. Dave Richards joins the central programming leadership team as senior vice president of programming, rising from his SVP of programming of KISW, Seattle for the last 19 years and having developed programs like “The Men’s Room” and concepts like KISW’s annual “Live Day.” In his new role, Richards will be responsible for original content ideation, talent development, and coaching. He’ll spearhead Entercom’s efforts to support its expanding business portfolio, which includes RADIO.COM, Cadence13, and Pineapple Street Studios, through the generation of cross-platform content. Michael Martin continues to serve as SVP of programming and music initiatives and oversees Entercom’s relationships with artists, management, and record labels and lead its efforts to collaborate with the artist community on event, digital, and social opportunities. The company also announces the following members of its executive committee, who will collaborate to develop and oversee programming strategy across the company: Pat Paxton; Jeff Sottolano; Michael Martin; Dave Richards; Pam Russo, SVP and general manager, RADIO.COM; Bill Smee, VP of news; Matt Volk, VP of sports; Nikki Nite, VP of programming and brand manager, Entercom Austin; and Reggie Rouse, urban format captain, Entercom, and brand manager, Entercom Atlanta.
Round Three of January 2021 PPM Data Released. The third of four rounds of ratings information from Nielsen Audio’s PPM survey has been released for 12 markets including: Portland, Charlotte, San Antonio, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Orlando, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Columbus. The January 2021 survey covered January 7 – February 3. TALKERS magazine managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his Ratings Takeaways from this round of markets. Alpha Media’s news/talk KXL-FM, Portland jumps from the #6 rank to #3 on the strength of 1.4 share increase that helped it finish the January survey with a 6.2 share. Urban One’s news/talk WBT-AM/FM, Charlotte tacks on 1.6 shares for a 6.6 share finish and a jump from #5 to #3. iHeartMedia’s news/talk KFBK, Sacramento regains the #1 rank after adding 2.4 share to wrap the survey with a 10.2 share. In Salt Lake City, iHeartMedia’s news/talk KNRS-FM also claims the #1 rank after adding 1.9 shares to post a 7.9 share. See Mike Kinosian’s complete report for this round or markets (as well as his Takeaways from the first two rounds) here.
TALKERS News Notes. As reported by Chicago media writer Robert Feder, WGN-AM, Chicago is honoring the memory of former morning drive host Bob Collins, who would have been 79 on Sunday (2/28). Collins died in a small plane collision in 2000. On today’s Bob Sirott morning show, staffers WGN toasted Collins this morning (2/26) at 7:48 and, according to tradition, poured from the bottle of Jack Daniel’s found in Collins’s office. Also on the air with Sirott today were retired WGN morning host Spike O’Dell (who succeeded Collins) and retired agribusiness reporter Orion Samuelson.…..The nationally syndicated “Dan Bongino Show” hits the 100 affiliate station mark a year after its launch. Cumulus Media’s Westwood One says that – in addition to being heard on stations like KABC-AM, Los Angeles; KSFO-AM, San Francisco; and KSEV-AM, Houston – from the November election through February 22, the Dan Bongino Show podcast “boasted more than 51 million downloads on Apple, Spotify and other major platforms, rising 27% during that period.” Bongino says, “Growing up a fan of conservative talk radio makes this moment extra special for me. To be able to reach people across the country with a strong pro-liberty, pro-freedom message is the honor of a lifetime. Special thanks as well to the affiliates partnering with us in this venture.”…..A new sports radio imaging service called Game Plan is being offered to stations from SPLAT! and is syndicated by Sun Broadcast Group. SPLAT! says GAME PLAN is “a new kind of sports radio imaging service, designed specifically to sharpen the competitive edge of local stations, while simultaneously complementing the power of network sports brands. With GAME PLAN, a local station’s imaging sounds just as bold and powerful as their network imaging, maybe even better.”…..Entercom and Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates announce a multiyear radio broadcast contract extension for sports talk KDKA-FM “93.7 The Fan” to continue to serve as the Pirates’ flagship radio station. Under the terms of the new deal, all Pirates weekday afternoon games will air on “93.7 The Fan” and sister news/talk KDKA-AM/W261AX.
COVID-19 Stats, Vaccines and Variants Top News/Talk Story for Week of February 22-26, 2021. The falling number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., the rollout of vaccines and the concern about variants creating another wave of cases combined as the most-talked-about story on news/talk radio this week and landing atop the Talkers TenTM. At #2 this week was the state of the U.S. economy tied with the education crisis. Following at #3 was the confirmation hearings for Joe Biden’s nominees for attorney general, interior secretary, and White House budget office, tied with Donald Trump’s planned speech at CPAC on Sunday. 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.
Rush Limbaugh Dead at 70. Talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh passed away Wednesday (2/17) at his home in Florida at the age of 70 after a battle with lung cancer. First diagnosed in February of 2020, Limbaugh told his national radio audience in October that his cancer was terminal. Limbaugh’s impact on not only the issues-oriented talk radio business but on media in general was profound. At the height of its popularity, The Rush Limbaugh Show laid claim to 20 million weekly listeners according to longtime syndicator Premiere Networks. His influence on other forms of conservative media – especially cable news/talk television – can’t be underestimated. Greater than any other single talent, Limbaugh was widely credited for not only reinvigorating the politically geared talk show, but also for prolonging AM radio’s very existence. The aggregate amount of revenue he generated for operators of AM facilities carrying his daily talk show is nothing short of astonishing. After a decade of bouncing around from market to market as a top 40 DJ, Limbaugh took a PR position with the Kansas City Royals. He returned to radio and at KFBK, Sacramento he honed his conservative talk radio personality. In 1988, a partnership between Limbaugh and former ABC Radio executive, the late Ed McLaughlin, The Rush Limbaugh Show was offered in syndication in middays via EFM Media. In 1997, Premiere Networks and EFM Media were acquired by Jacor Media and Limbaugh’s program became a Premiere product. While his radio success made him the most successful news/talk host of the modern era, he endured issues in his personal life. In the fall of 2001, Limbaugh had a cochlear implant to deal with the loss of hearing he was suffering. In 2003, Limbaugh underwent treatment for pain pill addiction. In 2012, his calling Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for testifying for contraceptive services from the Catholic school, gave talk radio a black eye from the standpoint of ad agencies whose clients put the show on “do not buy” lists. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison says,“ Limbaugh’s radio talent and dedication to the medium are unparalleled in the modern talk industry. At a time when the very future of radio and its talent pool could very much be on the wane in terms of cultural relevance and prestige, he raised it to a level of importance on a par with the most influential media platforms and players of our time.” TALKERS will continue coverage of this story and Rush Limbaugh’s relevance to radio and the nation in the coming days and weeks.
iHeartMedia to Acquire Triton Digital for $230 Million. In a move that iHeartMedia says makes it “the only company to provide a complete set of advertising technologies and measurement solutions for all forms of audio media,” it will acquire Triton Digital from E.W. Scripps for $230 million. iHeartMedia says it will now be able to provide audio content to producers and advertisers with an industry-leading full ad service package for streaming and podcasting no matter their size, reach, or distribution method. iHeartMedia says, “The addition of Triton Digital’s vast array of infrastructure and measurement solutions will complement iHeartMedia’s current advertising technology services, data platforms, and programmatic platforms while providing additional solutions for those in the digital radio industry, allowing iHeartMedia to be the first and only company in the audio market to provide four distribution methods for audio, including on-demand, broadcast and digital streaming radio and podcasting, and to service all audio assets programmatically.” Triton Digital is a global advertising technology SaaS (software as a service) platform for audio streaming, podcasting and metrics that enables publishers to monetize their audiences by providing digital audio measurement and advanced audio-focused infrastructure to maximize the yield of audio inventory. The company’s two lines of business focus on advertising infrastructure and measurement, including a content delivery system that distributes digital audio streams and podcasts to listeners while dynamically inserting ads and measurement business that tracks audience and creates ratings reports. This deal comes on the heels of recent audio technology acquisitions by iHeartMedia that include the October 2020 purchase of Voxnest, as well as its acquisition of buying platform Jelli Inc, cloud-based audio playout platform Radiojar, and social advertising data intelligence platform and solutions provider Unified. iHeartMedia chairman and CEO Bob Pittman comments, “Adding Triton Digital and its industry leading services to the iHeartMedia audio ecosystem establishes iHeartMedia as the only company with a total audio advertising technology and data solution. iHeart, with our strong leadership position in podcasting, digital radio and broadcast, already provides cutting edge audio management, programmatic and data solutions for the broadcast radio, digital audio and podcasting industries, and this acquisition further strengthens our position as the #1 audio company in America and provides unique – and critical – solutions for the industry and for advertisers.”
UWG CEO Monique Nelson Named to Entercom Board of Directors. Joining the board of directors of Entercom Communications Corp is multicultural advertising and marketing agency UWG chair and CEO Monique Nelson. With this addition, Entercom’s board expands to 11 directors. In making the announcement, Entercom chairman, president, and CEO David Field says, “During this transformative time for our company, we’re excited to welcome Monique to Entercom’s board of directors. Her extensive career in advertising and marketing leadership make her an outstanding addition to our board.” Nelson has served as the chair and CEO of UWG since 2012. In this role, she has expanded the agency’s client list and has led her team in the development of several award-winning campaigns. Prior to joining UWG, she was the global lead for entertainment marketing at Motorola. She currently sits on the Advertising Week global board, AdWeek diversity & inclusion council, the Brandeis board of trustees, The Eagle Academy board, as well as the New York advisory board for The Posse Foundation. Nelson says, “Entercom is in an exciting and pivotal moment and I’m delighted to be joining the board. It’s clear Entercom is truly committed to moving the needle significantly in the audio space.”
Kim Komando Assists Arizona Pharmacies with COVID Vaccine Website. Being a fan of talk radio and the Kim Komando radio program – heard locally on Bonneville’s KTAR-FM, Phoenix – turned out to be good news for the director of pharmacy for the Bashas’ grocery chain. He recently learned that his 40 pharmacies will soon be getting COVID vaccines but he had no infrastructure in place to handle the flood of inquiries from customers. As a longtime listener to the Kim Komando Show, he emailed her explaining his situation and asking for advice, and specifically if she could design a website. Komando responded that she would make a few calls and reached out to various contacts and officials around Arizona and ended up discussing the situation with Congressman David Schweikert. He connected Bashas’ with the Arizona Department of Health Services and now the two are striking a deal to white label the state’s web application for vaccine scheduling to the grocery chain. This was all a direct result of the content airing on KTAR-FM and Kim Komando.
The Alliance for Women in Media Announce 2021 Board of Directors. The Alliance for Women in Media and its Foundation – AWM/F – are pleased to announce their 2021 national board of directors. New to the AWM board are: Kenetta Bailey, senior vice president, marketing, Clear Channel Outdoor; Marsha Cooke, senior vice president, global news and special projects, Vice Media, LLC.; and Melissa Wright, chief content officer, Twin Cities PBS. New to the AWM/F board are: Svetlana Gans, vice president & associate general counsel, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association; Mike McVay, president, McVay Media Consulting; Josie Thomas, former chief diversity & inclusion officer, CBS; and Christine Travaglini, president, Katz Radio Group. Officers of the board have been announced as Heather Cohen, executive vice president, The Weiss Agency, serving as chair; Annie Howell, chief communications officer, Crown Media Family Networks, serving as incoming chair; Keisha Sutton-James, vice president & CEO, Sutton Button Productions LLC, serving as immediate past chair; Joyce Fitch, legal consultant, serving as treasurer; and Brenda Hetrick, chief revenue officer, Matrix Solutions, serving as incoming treasurer. AWM/F president Becky Brooks says, “The role of the AWM and Foundation boards is to lead our organizations and industry as we recognize, connect and educate women in all facets of media. We have a true working board. As AWM celebrate its 70th anniversary this year, it has never been more important to have strong, insightful leadership. This year’s new directors have voiced their dedication to donating time and resources to guide these organizations to the next level. We are thrilled to have these talented, accomplished women joining our leadership for the next two years.” The following individuals will continue to serve as directors at large of AWM: Katina Arnold, vice president, corporate communications, ESPN; Abby Auerbach, executive vice president, chief communications officer, TVB; Abby Greensfelder, founder & CEO, Everywoman Studios; Brenda Hetrick, chief revenue officer, Matrix Solutions; Michelle Ray, executive director, The Walter Kaitz Foundation; Sandra Rice, senior vice president, outreach and strategic partnerships, Center for Talent Innovation; Esther-Mireya Tejeda, chief marketing & communications officer, SoundExchange; and, Katherine Wolfgang, head of public relations, CBC. Deborah Parenti, publisher, RadioInk and RBR and TVBR will continue to serve as a director at large of AWM/F. AWM/F is also pleased to announce that AWM/F board members Heather Cohen, Annie Howell and Mike McVay will continue to serve as chairs for the Gracie Awards.
TALKERS News Notes. The LadyGang Network on PodcastOne, announces it has acquired the exclusive sales and distribution rights to the “Black Girls Texting” podcast, hosted by Glynn Pogue, Sade Parham, and Chelsea “Pinky” Rojas. The first episode drops today (2/17) kicks off with Robin Thicke as the guest talking about life after loss, co-parenting with ex-wife Paula Patton and the benefits of therapy…..Cadence13, a podcast company that is part of Entercom’s Podcast Network, and Cosgrove/Meurer Productions, the creators and producers of the Emmy-nominated series, “Unsolved Mysteries,” announces the launch of the “Unsolved Mysteries” podcast, a weekly show based on the long-running hit television and popular Netflix streaming series. Narrated by award-winning voice actor Steve French, the “Unsolved Mysteries” podcast presents all new unsolved cases from the vast “Unsolved Mysteries” database — including unsolved crimes, missing persons, fugitives, mysterious creatures, and the paranormal — with each episode taking a deep dive into one specific mystery.….The GCN-syndicated Dr. Daliah Wachs Show adds two new affiliate stations as Radio Pacific’s KONP-AM, Port Angeles, Washington and Midwest Communications’ WNMT-AM, Nashwauk, Minnesota add the program to their on-air schedules.
TuneIn Announces New Leadership Team. Streaming and on-demand audio service TuneIn announces new executive appointments to its leadership team that include: Paul Brody to chief technology officer, Rob Deichert to chief revenue officer, and Joe King to chief product officer. Yasmin Coffey is elevated to chief legal officer, and Kevin Straley continues to serve as chief content officer. This news comes on the heels of the recent appointment of Richard Stern to CEO, and a new investment in TuneIn led by Innovation Endeavors. Additionally, six new members will join TuneIn’s board and bring their deep expertise in the areas of business, technology, media and entertainment, including: Eric Botto, Steve Cakebread, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Greg Coleman, Rick Scanlon, and Harpinder Singh. Stern says, “TuneIn’s mission to reinvent radio for our connected world has been greatly accelerated during this unprecedented time when live audio has quickly become a trusted companion for millions of new listeners adjusting to the new normal. I’m proud to welcome a distinguished group of senior leaders and board members to TuneIn who will help us build on the incredible momentum of 2020 to drive innovation and growth at a global scale.”
Biden in Milwaukee, COVID-19 Stats & Vaccines, Stimulus Negotiations, Trump Acquittal Aftermath/State of GOP, Capitol Riot Investigation, Freezing Winter Weather, and North Korea Pfizer Hack Allegations Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/16). Tuesday evening’s Joe Biden town hall in Milwaukee; the declining rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and the rollout of vaccines; the negotiations in Congress over Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill; the political climate in Washington following the acquittal of Donald Trump and Trump’s angry letter against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; the ongoing investigation into the January 6 Capitol riot; the freezing weather that’s left millions in Texas without power; and the allegation that North Korea attempted to hack Pfizer’s vaccine data were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.