How the Internet Impacts Radio Time Spent Listening

Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan’s outstanding annual collaboration “This Is What Happens In An Internet Minute” gives an accurate and sobering snapshot of how we – and our audiences – live in the digital world.

Interestingly, Nielsen either doesn’t have or will not release radio listening statistics to offer a comparison.

There are trends that are important – some of them startling:

  • The state of concerns about privacy based on actual metrics.
  • Is Facebook fading?
  • The first real read on Stories, the Instagram feature that owner Facebook bet heavily on in which users can easily produce their own content.
  • Paid subscriptions for video, audio and music – how does this vie for consumer attention.
  • The relationship between consumers and their smart devices.
  • Attitudes about bots and building stronger relationships with our friends.

Radio used to compete with TV and maybe one or two other mediums. 

Here’s what the competition for attention looks like every 60 seconds in the era of social media and mobile connectivity.

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SiriusXM’s Aggressive Expansion Plans

In the early 90’s – just ahead of consolidation – radio executives were suspicious of the two satellite radio monopolies authorized by the feds.

They thought pay radio with a no-commercial option could really hurt them.

It tuned out they were worried about the wrong thing.

Sirius merged with XM and somehow CEO Mel Karmazin talked the DOJ into believing that this wasn’t a monopoly and Liberty rescued Mel just before they showed him the door.

Satellite radio is a good cash flow business that no one under 45 will continue to pay for and they know it.

They have aggressive expansion plans that specifically target terrestrial radio.

  • What are their plans for iHeart?
  • What’s the present status of their move to control iHeart stations? Is it definite?
  • Who will run all the assets?
  • The untold disruption ahead as a satellite company also runs a terrestrial radio group for the first time – some examples.
  • What happens to iHeart’s 850+ stations under SiriusXM – a preview.
  • What other acquisitions is SiriusXM eying?

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The Next Cumulus Markets to be Sold

Not one of my current NYU students knows what WPLJ is.

It is true that they come from a generation that has never been without Napster, music piracy, iTunes, iPods and, of course, streaming.

So, they have no horse in the race that an iconic and technically superior radio signal is being sold off to Educational Media Foundation (EMF) to turn into a religious station.

I still can’t believe Mary Berner went there.

Selling WPLJ, all but eviscerating DC, trading stations with Entercom to cut costs.

Sure doesn’t sound like someone who wants to remain in the radio business.

And now, it appears the Cumulus auction is not finished and other markets may soon become available for purchase.

  • Which 2 markets are thought to be next?
  • Is EMF in the equation or are there other value buyers stepping forward?
  • What is the time frame for the next round of Cumulus station sales?
  • Why one of these markets will be a tough call because it is a cash cow that helps revenue but can get them a big payday – weighing the factors.
  • Are they done selling super signals like WPLJ – in other words, was PLJ a one-off?

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Westwood One Bombshell

Since Cumulus, owner of syndicator/network Westwood One went into bankruptcy rumors have surfaced that Westwood One is for sale.

It appears any attempt to sell Westwood One fell short of a decent offer so the company plunders on with an asset some believe they would rather monetize for their lenders by selling.

And yet it appears something major is up with Westwood One.

If not a sale – say to Entercom which would just about kill their stock price if they even tried – then what? 

  • The most likely solution that would leave affiliate stations in a quandary. 
  • A sale – not to the likely buyer Entercom, but to this company that is not on anyone’s radar.
  • Why keeping Westwood One is becoming untenable for Cumulus.
  • Where podcasting fits into the Cumulus Westwood One strategy. 
  • Why a frontal attack by this interested party could terminally drive what’s left of Westwood One’s value down. 

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Entercom’s Real Revenue Revealed

Now we know why David Field is letting analysts carry Entercom’s water on adjusted EBITDA and “assumed” synergies.

The real adjusted numbers belie reality which suggests that Entercom has already begun what could be a long spiral down.

Digging in to the reported numbers, actual performance of Entercom/CBS Radio is headed the wrong way and it suggests that lots of changes are coming or else this merger experiment is as good as over.

The market has been suspicious of the merger from almost day one as the reasons are becoming more apparent.

  • How the massive Entercom salary and expense cutbacks are factoring in to overall revenue using real numbers they reported.
  • Projection of real revenue for 2019 compared to the past few years.
  • How analysts fears about Entercom have come true.
  • The most pressing problem that Entercom must address quickly.
  • Will current levels of station operating expenses be retained or will there be reductions?

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