Cumulus Sells Six – Including WPLJ, New York and WRQX, Washington – to EMF for $103.5 Million; Swaps Three stations with Entercom. Seller Cumulus Media Inc. calls these deals “strategic portfolio optimization transactions.” The sale of six stations to religious broadcaster Educational Media Foundation will bring Cumulus $103.5 million in cash for hot AC WPLJ, New York; news/talk WYAY, Atlanta; triple A KFFG, San Francisco; hot AC WRQX, Washington; hot AC WZAT, Savannah; and classic rock WXTL, Syracuse. When EMF takes control, the stations will all flip to its K-Love Christian music format. The second deal is with Entercom and involves the swap of Cumulus’ country WNSH, New York “NASH FM”; hot AC WMAS-FM, Springfield, Massachusetts and sports talk WHLL-AM, Springfield in exchange for Entercom’s Indianapolis cluster of adult contemporary WNTR “107.9 The Mix,” CHR WZPL, and sports talk WXNT-AM. This means Entercom exits the Indy market and those three stations join Cumulus’ existing three stations there: classic hits WJJK, country WFMS, and CHR WYRG “Energy 93.9.” Cumulus president and CEO Mary Berner says, “These transactions are consistent with our portfolio optimization strategy and both deals are accretive. The Entercom swap significantly bolsters our competitive position in Indianapolis and the EMF transaction generates substantial cash for debt repayment and investment in other business opportunities.” The company notes that EMF will acquire all transmission equipment and assume all tower leases associated with the stations which collectively contribute approximately $5 million to $7 million of EBITDA to Cumulus annually. Regarding the Entercom swap, both companies will begin operating the other’s stations under LMAs on March 1.
Format Flip Likely as the Result of Cumulus-Entercom Deal. The acquisition of Entercom’s CHR WZPL – the clear ratings leader in top 40 radio in the market – means a format change is imminent for Cumulus’ WYRG which has been bubbling under a 2 share (6+) while WZPL has been scoring more than a 5 share in recent PPM surveys from Nielsen Audio. In New York, there’s no reason to think Entercom will flip WNSH from country. While it’s been hovering around a 2.2 share (6+), it’s the only country signal in New York and it’s hard to imagine Entercom giving up on it. Stay tuned.
What Will Cumulus Do with WABC and New York Stations? Maybe nothing, but yesterday’s surprise sale of six of its signals to EMF and the swap with Entercom indicates Cumulus is willing to deal if it has strategic significance. Now that the company’s New York cluster is destined to consist of news/talk WABC-AM, urban AC WNBM – a class A FM licensed to Bronxville – and suburban sports talk WFAS-AM, Westchester, some industry watchers are wondering if the three-station cluster brings in enough revenue to continue operating in the Big Apple. WFAS-AM isn’t listed in the Nielsen New York PPMs and WNBM has been garnering 6+ ratings of less than a full share in recent PPM surveys. WABC-AM is a venerable signal with obvious history in the market but appears to be underperforming with 6+ numbers in the 1.0-1.5 share range. One wonders if Mary Berner and company are weighing finding buyers for the three signals.
Judge: Alex Jones Can Be Deposed in Sandy Hook Case. According to a report in the Hartford Courant, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that talk show host and Infowars chief Alex Jones must take part in a sworn deposition in the defamation case filed against him by the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. The judge ruled that after Jones’ counsel filed a Motion to Dismiss, the families are entitled to conduct discovery “likely to lead to admissible evidence for opposing the motions.” Three other Infowars staffers will have to sit for depositions that, combined with Jones’ deposition, will total 19 hours of testimony. Jones and Infowars are being sued separately by two different Newtown, Connecticut families in Texas. The families’ lawsuits allege that Jones engaged in a lengthy campaign “abusive and outrageous false statements” that the Sandy Hook shootings were staged by paid actors. The suit alleges Jones knew what he was perpetrating was false but he continued because it drew an audience and made money for his company. Jones argues his First Amendment rights are enough to toss the suits. He is also being ordered deposed in Texas, but those depositions have not taken place yet.
WPHT, Philadelphia to Produce Liberty USO Radiothon. Tomorrow’s daylong radiothon will take place at Chickie’s & Pete’s Play 2 in Philadelphia from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. It’s called the “Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Liberty USO Radiothon” and it will benefit Active, Guard and Reserve military and their families through programs and services at the United Service Organization of Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO). It will be anchored by WPHT personalities Chris Stigall, Dom Giordano and Rich Zeoli. Entercom Philadelphia SVP and market manager David Yadgaroff says, “I am proud of the role our station plays in supporting our military through the efforts of Liberty USO. Last year’s radiothon raised over $120,000 and is a testament to the power local radio plays in bringing our community together for a great cause. We are looking forward to partnering with Liberty USO once again.”
Actor Wendell Pierce Part of Group Seeking to Buy WBOK, New Orleans. According to a report by WGNO-TV, New Orleans, native son and actor Wendell Pierce is part of a group of investors bidding on the license for urban news/talk outlet WBOK, New Orleans. The station is owned by Los Angeles-based Bakewell Media which has the station on the market. Pierce, known for his work on “The Wire” and Amazon Prime’s “Jack Ryan” series, says in a statement, “Through all the substantial change New Orleans has faced in recent history, WBOK has served as a steadfast and indispensable platform for our community. The people trust them, they depend on them, and they believe in them. WBOK Radio is the glue that brings and holds our city together.” The story says the other investors are listed as: Cleveland Spears III, Troy Henry, and Jeff Thomas.
Salem Media Group Promotes Three. At Camarillo, California-based Salem Media Group, three executive promotions take place. First, 16-year Salem exec Chris Gould rises from his VP, national programming, to senior vice president, national programming. Second, Mark Durkin is promoted from general manager of the company’s Sacramento cluster to a regional vice president position that adds oversight of Seattle, San Francisco and Oxnard, California to his Sacramento duties. Finally, Franc Boza is named general manager for the Salem Miami cluster. He was most recently with Deadcenter Marketing as VP of sales and marketing.
Skyview Networks Announces Staff Promotions. Scottsdale, Arizona-based Skyview Networks announces a series of promotions among staffers. In the production department, Joe Felz is upped to vice president of production. Elsewhere, Denise Krause rises from client service director to senior director of client services and co-chair promotions, based in New York City. Ethan Aragon takes on the new title of senior director of client services. Jordan Thorlin is named creative director. In the same department, Alexandria Landry is appointed multimedia designer. In the sales department, Alex Warrick takes on the new role of director of agency services. Finally, radio industry pro Mary Stoddard moves into the client service director and co-chair promotions position.
TALKERS News Notes. Minnesota sports talk station KFXN-FM, Minneapolis gets some love from City Pages as the alt-weekly does a big feature on the station in honor of “KFAN” capturing “the highest market share percentage of any top-50 sports talk station in the country, according to Nielsen” last fall…..Boston Red Sox aficionados have been waiting to find out who will be in the broadcast booth this year for games broadcast on Entercom’s Red Sox flagship WEEI, Boston and now it’s confirmed that play-by-play legend Joe Castiglione has signed for his 37th season with the team. As for the color analysts? Those duties will be split among three principal broadcasters: Sean McDonough, Josh Lewin, and Mario Impemba, with several more also in the rotation. They include: ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, WEEI personalities Lou Merloni and Dale Arnold, NESN studio host Tom Caron, and NESN Red Sox television broadcaster Dave O’Brien…..KCAA, Loma Linda, California owner Fred Lundgren tells TALKERS magazine that after many years of producing and distributing radio programs and podcasts for hundreds of broadcasters, his family has decided to produce its own podcast series, hosted by his wife, Linda Carol Lundgren, titled, “Don’t Be Afraid To Ask.” Lundgren says the show will address many of life’s difficult subjects such as money, sex, drugs, bullying, long term relationships, the changing culture, and the problems facing the next generation of young adults as they leave home and enter the workplace. The first show visits the tragic origins of Valentine’s Day and how the importance of that day has evolved over the centuries. Check it out here…..WGCH, Greenwich, Connecticut afternoon talk show host Lisa Wexler was recently honored by cable channel News 12 Connecticut as one of its “Hometown Heroes.” Wexler serves as a local probate judge and donates each $50 wedding fee she receives to the local Westport Animal Shelter Advocates organization. Check it out here…..Motor Racing Network is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first coverage of the Daytona 500 this Sunday (2/17). In honor of that event, MRN will broadcast its 50th Daytona 500 and the 61st running of “The Great American Race” on over 400 radio stations nationwide. Sunday’s race also marks the culmination of more than 30 hours of programming produced by MRN during Daytona Speedweeks, NASCAR’s annual kickoff at Daytona International Speedway. The broadcast is the first event in a two-year celebration of the founding of the network by Bill France, Sr. and Ken Squier in 1970.
TalkersRadio Personality Meg McDonald Installed as President of the Studio City Beautification Association. Legendary Southern California PR executive Meg McDonald, who hosts the short-form feature MEG! on TalkersRadio, was recently installed as the new president of the Studio City Beautification Association. Studio City is a section of Los Angeles with a colorful show business history located between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Standing with Meg in front of the Mack Sennett Conference Room on the CBS Studio Center lot in Studio City where the monthly SCBA board meetings are held are (l-r): Studio City Beautification Association officers secretary Connie Elliot (wearing hat), McDonald, vice president Beth Dymond and treasurer Charles Blakeslee. Meg McDonald is the daughter of golden era Hollywood movie stars Elisabeth Fraser and Ray McDonald. To listen to MEG!, please click here.
Trump-Russia Investigation/Manafort Ruling, Border Wall Deal, Parkland Shooting Anniversary/Gun Control, Green New Deal, California Bullet Train Controversy, Iran-Israel Tensions, Brexit Complications, Venezuela Unrest, and NBA Action Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (2/13). The investigation into possible connections between Trump campaign operatives and Russian agents and the related ruling by a judge that Paul Manafort lied to investigators; the ongoing controversy over the tentative U.S.-Mexico border wall deal; the anniversary of the Parkland, Florida shootings and the status of gun control measures; the GOP’s criticism of the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez sponsored Green New Deal; President Trump’s demand for the return of $3.7 billion in federal money from California after Governor Gavin Newsome spiked the remainder of the bullet train project; the heightened rhetoric between Iran and Israel; the complications of Britain’s exit from the EU and possible economic consequences; the political unrest in Venezuela; and NBA action were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS magazine.
Michael Harrison Explores the Impact of Changing Communications Technology on the Human Nervous System. One of the common themes of the present era is the challenge people face in keeping pace and coping with the exponential changes in communications technology. On this week’s installment of the award-winning PodcastOne production, “The Michael Harrison Interview,” the TALKERS founder interviews theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge, and licensed psychotherapist Dr. Bryan Robinson about the rapid changes taking place in our noisy world. Join them for a deep dive into the realm of neuro-plasticity, the sounds of silence, and escaping from the maddening, non-stop workplace. 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 every page on Talkers.com.
Music Radio News and Career Moves. Milwaukee CHR WNRG “Energy 106.9” adds the nationally syndicated “Tino Cochino Radio Show” for the afternoon drive daypart. The program emanates from its home base at Riviera Broadcasting’s KKFR, Mayer, Arizona (Phoenix market)…..Meruelo Media promotes Aimee Bittourna to vice president of its experiential marketing company Actify. In this new position, Bittourna will oversee the development, strategies, and execution of all Actify campaigns. Meruelo Media president and COO Otto Padron says, “Aimee is a difference maker and a unique brand experience creator. Her energy and creativity are marketing multipliers for our partners seeking original ways to connect their brands to consumers. She’s a leader in a boundless space and our clients love her.”…..Pictured below is Premiere Networks nationally syndicated adult contemporary personality Delilah on the set of the “TODAY” show (third from left) with show co-hosts Kathie Lee (second from left), Hoda Kotb (left) and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb (right) discussing ways to overcome fears of being alone on Valentine’s Day.
Former New York Radio Host and Programmer Rob Astorino Under Fire in Gubernatorial Race for Townsquare Media Consulting Income. Before leaving the radio business full time to run for public office – he’s now the Westchester County Executive – Republican Rob Astorino worked at WFAS, Westchester hosting a sports talk show and also worked at ESPN Radio New York where he was part of the team that transitioned WEVD to sports as WEPN. Astorino is running for governor and incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign is making a deal about Astorino’s side job in which he collects $30,000 to consult Townsquare Media. According to a piece in the New York Daily News, the governor’s campaign is contending Astorino is violating the Westchester County charter by accepting outside income but Astorino’s camp states the money he earns is not in violation of county rules. Townsquare VP Alex Berkett tells the Daily News, “Mr. Astorino serves as one of a number of programming consultants that work with Townsquare Media. This role allows Townsquare to benefit from Mr. Astorino’s considerable professional expertise in radio programming.” Read the whole Daily News piece here.
Clear Channel Announces Corporate Additions and Promotions. From Clear Channel president national programming platforms Tom Poleman comes news that former Clear Channel programming executive Marc Chase has rejoined the company. Chase will serve in the national programming platforms division as VP/strategic services, marketing & innovation. Chase worked with Tribune during the Randy Michaels years and most recently was with Nuvoodoo. Other moves at CC include Darren Pfeffer being promoted to senior VP/music & entertainment marketing where he’ll continue to be in charge of CC’s promotions and events, including the iHeartradio Music Festival, the iHeartradio Jingle Ball Tour and the iHeartradio Country Festival. Also promoted are Marissa Morris and Adellyn Polomski who are VP/artist relations and director of artist relations & programs, respectively. At the same time as these announcements comes news that Zena Burns is exiting her position as the company’s first digital program director to pursue other interests.
Skip Essick Exits Cumulus Media’s KMJ-AM and KMJ-FM. For the past seven years, radio programming pro Skip Essick has been serving as PD at KMJ-AM and KMJ-FM in Fresno. Essick oversaw the splitting of the two stations into separate news/talk stations while they were owned by Peak Broadcasting. Last August, Townsquare Media agreed to purchase the stations from Peak and proceeded to sell them to Cumulus Media as part of a deal that saw Townsquare get Cumulus’ Dubuque and Poughkeepsie stations.
Schwartz Joins Yahoo! Sports as EVP Corporate Strategy. This is a newly created position at the Houston-based Yahoo! Sports Radio and the company’s CEO, David Gow, says the arrival of Jeffrey Schwartz “will provide unmatched opportunities for our affiliate and advertising partners to thrive.” Schwartz is charged with overseeing “business growth and partnerships, in addition to working with management to advance programming strategy, multi-platform marketing and promotional opportunities, and affiliate and talent relations.” Schwartz comments, “I look forward to working with the Yahoo! Sports Radio team and the quality sports product they have developed to enhance the brand, as well as opportunities for our partners. Yahoo! Sports, one of the top sports sites in the world, will be a great asset to our strategic plans.” Schwartz’s experience includes serving as manager of sales and promotion at classic rock WLUP-FM, Chicago “The Loop,” director of operations at sports talk WSCR, Chicago “The Score,” and director of operations at WMVP, Chicago “ESPN 1000.” Concurrent with Schwartz’s arrival, the company announces Amanda Deutchman joins in the new position of director, marketing and business development. She most recently was marketing and communications manager for Premiere Networks’ Fox Sports Radio Network.
Simons New PM Anchor at KXL, Portland. Joining co-anchor Val Stouffer at Alpha Media’s news/talk KXL-FM, Portland “FM NEWS 101” for the “Portland’s Afternoon News” program is Joe Simons. He joined KXL last year as a weekend morning news anchor. Simons previously served as the voice of the University of Idaho Women’s Basketball team for two seasons and hosted TV and radio shows in Idaho while also serving as a field reporter for KQQQ, Pullman, Washington. Simons says of his new gig, “I’m thrilled to be part of the incredible team at KXL. The amount of experience and talent our staff has is second to none. I hope to bring my unique perspective and enthusiasm to ‘Portland’s Afternoon News.’”
Kevin Jackson Joins WBOK, New Orleans. Conservative media personality Kevin Jackson – executive director of The Black Sphere LLC – joins the daily lineup at Bakewell Media-owned urban talk/gospel-formatted WBOK, New Orleans. Jackson has been producing a program that airs on weekends on Salem Communications-owned Florida outlets WGUL, Tampa and WLSS, Sarasota. Now his show will air nightly after the Al Sharpton program. Jackson says, “I’m happy to follow Al Sharpton, because there couldn’t be a bigger difference in thought. I believe black stations need to allow their listeners varying points of view, and I’m excited about the opportunity to have a predominantly black audience compare my viewpoint to Sharpton and Martin.”
Round Four of June PPM Data Released. The fourth and final round of June 2014 PPM data from Nielsen Audio has been released for 12 markets including: Austin, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Providence, Raleigh, Norfolk, Nashville, Greensboro, West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Memphis, and Hartford. The survey period was May 22 through June 18. TALKERS magazine’s sister publication RadioInfo has all of the numbers from subscribing stations here. In addition, managing editor Mike Kinosian presents his “Ten Takeaways” from this batch of ratings on the main page of RadioInfo.com here.
Horizon Broadcasting Re-Launches Local News and Information Site. What the company calls “the region’s most comprehensive website for local news and community information” – MyCentralOregon.com – has been re-launched by Horizon Broadcasting Group. The company owns five stations in the Central Oregon region and operates news/talk KBNW via an LMA with station owner SummitMedia. Horizon CEO Keith Shipman says, “We are excited to provide Central Oregon residents with a reliable option for real-time local news and community information. We found that over 90% of our past visitors to the site were primarily interested in viewing local and national news content, which is where we will place our emphasis. Local weather forecasts are a prime driver and we will rely on the expertise of AccuWeather to provide forecasts for communities throughout Central Oregon, complete with a 5 day outlooks and satellite radar images. Visitors to MyCentralOregon.com will find breaking local news from the KBNW news team featuring Glenn Vaagen and Kellen Pierce. Our national, international, political, entertainment, health and business news content will be robust thanks to our alliances with ABC News and The Wall Street Journal. Visitors will also be able to get the latest traffic information, including mountain pass conditions, road reports featuring cameras from the Oregon Department of Transportation, school closures and the latest gas prices throughout Central Oregon.”
Odds & Sods. When the 25th Annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament begins this week, NBC Sports Radio Network will broadcast live from Edgewood and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. The Westwood One/NBC Sports Group-run networks will broadcast its sports talk shows from the site on Thursday, Friday and throughout the weekend…..KSCO, Santa Cruz announces the addition of the “Wagner & Winick On the Law” program to the station’s weekend lineup. Monterey College of Law Dean Mitchel Winick and Law Professor Stephen Wagner began hosting the weekly, one-hour radio program last Saturday, July 12…..AL.com reports that South Alabama sports is moving from longtime home Dot Com Plus LLC-owned WNSP-FM, Mobile to Clear Channel’s Mobile station group where Jaguar football games will air on adult contemporary WMXC while Men’s Basketball and Baseball will air on news/talk WNTM.
Spartanburg-Greenville Personality Bill Drake Dies at 73. South Carolina radio personality Bill Drake died on July 11 from complications after successful surgery to treat esophageal cancer. Although Drake also worked in Green Bay and Milwaukee during his career, he spent 29 years as morning host at WSPA, Spartanburg and then did mornings at WOLT-FM for seven years. His “Awake with Drake” program was last heard on WOLI, Spartanburg.
Albany Broadcaster Bob Ausfeld Passes Away. After years of heart troubles that required longtime Albany broadcaster Bob Ausfeld to have a heart pump implanted, Ausfeld went into surgery last week after a donor heart became available. Ausfeld did not survive the recovery from the surgery and died over the weekend. Ausfeld began his broadcasting career in the market at WPTR. He worked for Townsquare Media through 2011 and joined Albany Broadcasting as general manager for the company.
De la Hoya Visits Marc Hochman Show. WQAM, Miami afternoon drive host Marc Hochman (center), and co-host Zach Krantz (right), pose for a pic with fight promoter and Hall of Fame boxer Oscar de la Hoya (left) in Las Vegas. Hochman brought his show to Las Vegas for a special broadcast last week in anticipation of the Canelo vs. Lara fight at the MGM Grand.