iHeart Copycat Firings Being Planned

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

Small market Tyler Media blew away most of its air staff on a number of stations in the Oklahoma City cluster.  Their talk station opting for out of market programming and air personalities on their music stations fired to save money.

You see why I have called Bob Pittman’s 1,000+ “dislocations” in a less than a week “the end of local radio.”

iHeart is providing cover for every underperforming owner who can’t pay the bills to make “dislocation” the new layoffs.

That’s bad, but it gets worse.

Only a few groups have insulation against iHeart’s virus-like action against local radio but the list of groups now planning massive cutbacks under the cover of iHeart’s first move is growing.

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iHeart’s New Plan to Replace Local Sellers

A new plan that is currently being tested under the radar is critical to iHeart’s eventual move to reduce the local sales headcount with an eye toward eliminating all their commissions, health benefits and expenses.

Bob Pittman appears to be a serious as an iHeart-attack in aggressively reducing the biggest expense in the company – salaries.

Revenue is down are likely to stay down in the future thus the need to cut costs and increase EBITDA, a measure of financial health for companies.

Pittman’s test effort to replace local sellers with a new strategy is being done under the radar and the impact could be disastrous for salespeople in iHeart and their competitors who are likely to be watching closely.

One look at their test site will speak volumes.

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Entercom to Launch Its Own “Dislocation”

There’s blood in the water now that Bob Pittman has actually gone there and reportedly fired over 1,000 programmers and air talent.

Pittman is doing it to get ready for Liberty’s (SiriusXM, Pandora, Live Nation) takeover of terrestrial radio.

David Field is doing it because there is no buyer for Entercom and revenue is slipping.

Under the cover of iHeart’s “excellence centers” and employee “dislocations”, Entercom is ready to move quickly to cut costs in what may be an even more dramatic way.

The coming Entercom cuts target two areas – one of which iHeart has missed, at least for now.

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iHeart Aims for More Stations Than Employees

iHeart is moving like lightning to “dislocate” even more employees than originally thought.

In fact, we have reporting that shows model markets where a startling few number of on-air and programming people run entire clusters.

Not as drastic in the big seven markets that bring in between 30-40% of all iHeart’s radio revenue, but there too.

Meanwhile Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio has written to Bob Pittman protesting the drastic cutbacks (Brown’s letter here).

That has no chance of stopping what we’re seeing unfold now in iHeart markets that is absolutely mindboggling.

In other words – here is their template for local radio.

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Note:  Yesterday our website was down most of the day.  For me it was like my transmitter being off the air for 30 seconds – an eternity.  My readers were really ribbing me.  One said, “don’t pay the ransom” alluding to the Entercom cyberattacks where David Field is rumored to have paid the hackers.  Another reader suggested that Bob Pittman “dislocated” me for the stories I wrote about their employee atrocities.

So here it is – the story you may have missed when Inside Music Media went missing:

iHeart Planning 2nd Programming RIF

iHeart Planning 2nd Programming RIF

Just 10 days after eliminating over 1,000 radio jobs – mostly programming positions – iHeart is at work on a second reduction of force.

There is the expected takeover of iHeart by Liberty Media but why would iHeart do Liberty’s dirty work?

With 12,500 employees – including part-timers – now down to just above 11,000, how is it even possible that such a massive platform of 150 clusters, 850+ stations and related businesses be reduced any further?

They have a plan for that.

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65 Unnoticed iHeart Firings That Foretell the Future

As insane as it is to call mass firings “dislocations” and their replacements emanating from  “excellence centers”, here’s a significant series of firings that portends even more trouble ahead at iHeartMedia.

The math shows over 1,000 firings in a few days a little over a week ago.

Most of the victims were in programming, operations or were talent.

But not all – iHeart used the programming RIFs as a cover to eliminate other big salaries such as that of Jerry Schemmel, the ten-year veteran of Colorado Rockies play-by-play.  Obviously, Schemmel cannot be replaced by an “excellence center” or digital technology.

But there’s more.

Right in the midst of this massive programming RIF, iHeart chipped away at another source of unnecessary salaries and nobody has noticed.

Until now.

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The SiriusXM Model Coming to iHeart

Liberty Media already owns a significant amount of iHeartMedia’s debt that will translate into equity.

Liberty will be the new controlling owner of iHeart unless the DOJ gets in the way and that isn’t expected.

The more than 1,000 iHeart “dislocations” were just the start of a massive downsizing that will be more in line with how Liberty runs SiriusXM and Pandora.

From 12,500 employees (including part-timers) before the “dislocations” to an estimated 6,000 or fewer setting it up for Liberty Media to run.

This affects their new philosophy on part-timers, talent (especially revenue producing morning shows), local programming and the people who oversee it, cluster and regional management and a new direction in sales.

Not to mention what will happen to all their studios – Liberty has a plan for that, too.

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iHeart To Use Technology for Next Round of Firings

When Bob Pittman and Rich Bressler emailed the iHeart staff about firing over 1,000 live employees, they referred to artificial intelligence (AI) and technology that enabled them to thin the ranks of employees and make surviving employees work better.

In the one week since, over 1,000 employees were eliminated and that’s just the beginning.

iHeart is reportedly preparing to reduce its workforce further by employing technology and AI.

This is a giant leap into an area that up until now has been foreign to radio.

What technology is iHeart sitting on that will be used to reduce its current 12,500 workforce by one-half?

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iHeart Set to Disrupt Market Managers

With over 1,000 programming “dislocations” complete, iHeart has a reportedly disconcerting plan for 150 markets where they operate 850+ stations.

The programming firings were not the last – there will be more.

iHeart has approximately 12,000 employees (including part-timers) and they are under pressure to drastically reduce that number ahead of a Liberty Media takeover.

Market managers are their most expensive employees except for a few talent contracts so they reportedly have a plan to not only thin the ranks but totally upend the position of market manager for the first time in decades.

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iHeart Firings Expanded

Bob Pittman must be tone deaf to even allow the use of the term “employment dislocation” to describe the mass firings iHeart initiated this week.

Yesterday, he put three additional new “division” PDs in place to join the existing group that will in effect program iHeart stations without local program directors and talent.

Now that the firings are mounting, it appears that the initial estimate of casualties was too low.

Based on what is unfolding, the number of RIFed programming personnel will be much higher.

We’ve done the math and plugged in their new management structure and it’s not pretty. 

Keep in mind this is only round one and it is still in progress this morning.

This week’s iHeart mass firings is turning out to be deeper than originally thought.

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iHeart Prepping for 1 Live Body Per Market

  • In the wake of iHeart’s first wave of firing over 1,000 employees, there is a plan afoot to further cutdown the number of people in their 850+ markets.
  • What’s significant is that iHeart’s apparent plan calls for the removal of even more local management and talent.
  • Where do market managers fit in – iHeart has a plan for that.
  • What about regional execs – iHeart has a history of juggling regionals around but we are learning of a change there, too.
  • There’s only one really secure job at iHeart right now and if you don’t have it, you’re likely gone eventually as the move is on to downsize the largest radio group.

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iHeart Day 2: Programming Takes a Big Hit

Bob Pittman must have no shame. 

On the day he gives the go-ahead to axe over 1,000 employees, his press release promotes the company and attempts to justify these people losing their jobs.

“Excellence centers” as replacements for arguably the most excellent large radio group on a local station basis.

Over 1,000 firings are underway with programming virtually eviscerated.  It’s not about excellence, it’s about the sudden need to drastically cut expenses.

What we know is how far iHeart is going to go, who will be spared for now and the reason for the sudden rush to end so many careers.

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Over 1,000 iHeart Firings Starting Today

This is the worst reduction in force at one time ever even going back to iHeart’s Clear Channel days.

And even though I have been warning of what iHeart will look like under Liberty Media’s ownership, if radio had a Richter Scale, what iHeart is about to set into motion is a 10.

What’s worse, once iHeart does something, the lemmings at Entercom, Cumulus and elsewhere are not likely to continue to have a mind of their own.

iHeart is going to eliminate, consolidate and centralize on a massive level at one time.

The markets that are most vulnerable (and that’s about 85% of them) are going to be devastated – there’s no other word for it.

All this as the Liberty takeover looms and we get a real look at what the radio industry will be like as part of a multi-media platform.

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Major Staff Cuts Set at Cox

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

One of the best run, humane family media companies is set to become Clear Channel Lite.

You’re thinking of a few beginning of the year adjustments in staff?

They’re thinking bigger.

As we informed subscribers a few months ago, once the deal went through to sell Cox’s media division to Apollo Global Management, the new private equity owners had their own plans.

The specifics are ugly for managers, PDs and a certain category of skilled Cox people who have made it such an excellent company.

So, the question is how badly are they going to wreck this excellent company and in particular, the radio division?

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Fishy Departure of Cumulus CFO

As predicted, Cumulus CEO Mary Berner allowed CFO John Abbot to fall on his sword yesterday and leave the company.

No immediate replacement is being named.

All of this plus Cumulus’ increasing tendency to adjust revenue figures and “paint lipstick on a pig” has led to speculation that either Abbot won’t put up with it any longer and he resigned or Abbot wouldn’t put up with it any longer and his contract was not renewed.

In either case, investors should be prying their eyes wide open on this one because it means something more than just a personnel change.

In spite of Berner’s happy talk about Abbot no longer having to make the long commute to Atlanta, the real story is scary different.

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Liberty’s Coming Dominance of Radio

  • How Liberty Media’s proposed takeover of iHeart will fundamentally change radio.
  • Why aren’t iHeart competitors more aggressively trying to stop it?
  • Will the DOJ stop John Malone’s ambitious purchase?
  • How Liberty’s SiriusXM plans to beat terrestrial radio by owning it.
  • The biggest loser in any iHeart/Liberty merger.

Read the full article now