Radio’s Fake Digital

  • Radio groups like Entercom and Townsquare would have you think that they derive new found advertising from digital, podcasting and even Google keyword buys to enhance radio sales as part of integrated marketing.
  • But a perfectly legal and yet misleading tactic to inflate digital revenue while reporting money they don’t get to keep is feared to be seeping into radio.  It’s pure genius – evil genius.

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The Vanishing Music Listener

  • “Old Town Road” was number one on the Billboard chart for a record breaking 19 weeks in a row without radio airplay before it was knocked off by another song that was discovered without airplay.
  • Radio thinks it has the answer.

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The Toughest Non-Compete in Radio

  • Tough non-competes are nothing new to radio – iHeart, Cumulus, Entercom and others are more than willing to dismiss people they don’t need and then prevent them from working in return for severance – often a mere pittance.
  • Summit Media has gone the big consolidators one better – or worse – with the most restrictive non-compete ever and now the big radio groups are taking notice.

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Cumulus’ Decoy

  • Mary Berner says revenue is up, ratings are great, expenses are being cut, podcasting is killing it and Cumulus has now become an audio company.
  • But she’s hiding four important things that should have investors and employees really worried.

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The New Cox Media Group

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  • What’s going on here? A venture capital group buys a media company and keeps it so together than nothing changes. Or does it?
  • No one is being fired, just a change of ownership – is Apollo a rare venture firm that doesn’t produce cost synergy cuts? Can Cox employees be sure of this?
  • Is Apollo like Bain or a “forever” owner?
  • And just to be sure, what is the doomsday scenario for Cox Media Group’s new owners. 

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Townsquare’s Non-Turnaround

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  • On the surface, Townsquare looks like the little engine that could compared to iHeart, Entercom and Cumulus especially in digital, but are they turning it around?
  • How they are withholding revenue figures that show a revealing picture.
  • Why the big push to make it appear Townsquare is outperforming the larger radio groups.
  • Can they manage their debt while iHeart, Entercom and Cumulus can’t manage theirs?
  • How selling the company fits in to their new CEO’s plans.

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Pittman’s Blueprint for iHeart

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  • iHeart is the best large radio group in the industry, so what does its CEO’s plan to stop being a radio company really mean?
  • The biggest reason advertisers won’t buy iHeart ads spurring a decline in revenue.
  • How iHeart plans to change the way it sells radio advertising while holding on to predatory pricing tactics.
  • Why iHeart’s blueprint is a stop gap – here is when new owners are likely to take over. 

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The Sale of Universal Music Group

INSIDE …

  • Why would parent Vivendi want to sell when Universal Music Group and all record labels are expected to thrive for years to come.
  • Who has the inside track?
  • What about Liberty that very publicly stated its desire to own part of UMG.
  • Where does Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon fit into all of this.
  • Will a private equity firm pay for a growth business trending up for the next decade?

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What Cumulus is Hiding

INSIDE …

  • Everyone knows Cumulus doctors their revenue figures to make them look better, but savvy analysts have unmasked the real numbers.
  • For example, the actual reason why they sold WPLJ-FM, New York and other major market stations is not what you think it is.
  • What’s the real EBITDA – they say it’s $230 million, here’s the real number.
  • How Cumulus is capitalizing commissions for new local revenue contracts which would have the impact of decreasing operating expenses.
  • Why did Cumulus just recently sell a telling $500 million bond at 6.75% -- if you said to raise more money, you’ve only got half of it (and not the main reason).

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Numbers Tell a Sobering Story on Entercom

INSIDE …

  • Here’s what Entercom is covering up when they try to assuage a really bad second quarter, and another quarterly letdown.
  • What Entercom intends to do about David Field’s $110 million cost cutting merger synergies problem.
  • How specifically Entercom is hiding its poor performance.
  • Why it’s hard to believe their quarter revenue projections now – here are the real figures without lipstick on them.
  • Remember David’s promise of $500 million EBITDA, then $400 million, $300 million – here’s where it is right now and what’s their leverage.

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iHeart Firing Employees for Its New Owner

INSIDE … 

  • I know, you don’t believe it – and I didn’t either until it was reconfirmed.
  • What’s up with the future of iHeart when they are reportedly firing in the name of a so-far unidentified new owner. Did they know something and say something?
  • Which two divisions were hardest hit in the latest firings that have not been made public in the radio trades?
  • What about age discrimination suspicions – did iHeart even go there? What we know at this point.
  • The shameless line that was reportedly being used to make it seem like iHeart’s new owners wanted them fired.

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Entercom Now Outsourcing to India

INSIDE …

  • Things are going from bad to worse with each revenue miss – how David Field is now starting to outsource to India to cut expenses.
  • What outsourcing to India means for Entercom employees.
  • But wait – at the beginning of this week iHeart started outsourcing, too – here’s where and what is expected to spread throughout the company.
  • Is David Field looking to acquire more stations.
  • What Field is saying about revised plans for cutbacks going forward.

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Entercom’s Market Meltdown

INSIDE … 

  • Entercom did not become a $4 stock yesterday as expected, it became a low $3 stock (for a while $2) – what spooked investors and why they are bailing on Entercom.
  • No, David didn’t just do that! How David Field did the exact worse thing that he could do to reassure investors.
  • More bad news on the declining CBS all-news franchise.
  • Where’s Weezie?She’s supposed to be driving revenue, does such a big miss mean her head will roll?
  • If you insist on owning a radio stock, here’s the one to buy.
  • What’s next for Entercom Communications.

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#1 to #7 — How Entercom Destroyed its Philly Market Leader

INSIDE …

  • The 6 fatal errors that drove Entercom’s top revenue producer from first to 7thplace for the first time in decades under David Field’s management.
  • Founder and now former owner Jerry Lee gave the one secret to staying number one to Entercom – here’s the advice they rejected.
  • Shareholder alert -- How decisions are being made about big revenue producers like WBEB that are beginning to erode Entercom ratings and revenue.
  • The hilarious rumor about how and why Field changed WBEB’s name from “More FM” back to “B-101.1” that could illustrate capricious decision-making and lack of strategic thinking.

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iHeart’s Decision on Medium/Small Markets

INSIDE …

  • This dramatic plan to stay alive while burdening too much debt.
  • How iHeart showed its hand last week on what it plans to do going forward.
  • Even without a new buyer, circumstances have now changed for iHeart forcing some painful decisions.
  • What hopeful buyers need to know before they take the bait.
  • The chances of iHeart keeping all or most of its 850+ stations.

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Entercom’s Secret Spending Spree

INSIDE …

  • David Field, the same person who is pushing $110 million in CBS Radio cost synergies appears to have a secret spending problem.
  • Examples of what Field thinks is worth spending on for the future of Entercom.
  • What stakeholders don’t know – they are looking at debt, losses, revenue and not secret expenditures of the type explained here.
  • How one Entercom major market station continues its demise because they can’t spend the money they need to turn it around.
  • Meanwhile the list of CBS employees leaving is getting longer – here’s a major CBS employee who is leaving soon but few know it.

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Radio Getting Left Behind in Media Spending

INSIDE …

  • Radio has some really good news and yet the industry is getting screwed by advertisers – look here, every other medium you can name is getting a better break. Time spent listening vs. ad spend. 
  • Even print gets a better break than radio – how radio is getting left behind in media spending.
  • A startling new finding about ecommerce and retail sales.
  • Why there are problems ahead for targeted advertising, the category that has been siphoning off radio ad dollars.
  • Should radio be worried about time spent with digital media?

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iHeart Entertaining Offers

INSIDE … 

  • Keep an eye on Bob Pittman – in running all of his previous companies Pittman knew the exact time to depart – how that applies to iHeart now.
  • Why iHeart can’t continue the way it is for very much longer – how much longer?
  • What’s on the table in dealing iHeart – the entire company or this handful of attractive assets.
  • As I have said previously, Liberty Media wants iHeart and now we know how far they are willing to go to put themselves in the best position to steal it.
  • What their market managers know about the sale of iHeart.

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Major Cumulus Asset Sale Coming Soon

INSIDE …

  • The next shoe is ready to drop – here’s where.
  • I’ve been tickled by how Cumulus is taking what little they get for WPLJ and other major market stations saying the proceeds are being used to pay down debt – but here’s the truth about who is really getting the proceeds.
  • When will Cumulus finally acquire a station instead of just sell them as they’ve been promising -- the board is under pressure to reshape Cumulus – here’s how.
  • How Cumulus is looking like Reader’s Digest, Mary Berner’s first bankruptcy.
  • Lew Dickey, Townsquare and the new Cumulus – what they all have in common now.

Read more …

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EMF’s Mastery of Radio

INSIDE … 

  • I know few hardcore radio people who like what EMF is doing buying up stations cheaply, but they may have stumbled over the future of commercial radio as well – here’s a page out of their playbook.
  • How EMF is prepared to deal with local markets in which they operate but have no presence.
  • The way EMF is handling one-to-many broadcasting in an era of on-demand content.
  • Non-profit EMF refuses to price acquisitions based on revenue multiples suggesting new options for commercial broadcasters looking to expand.
  • What does EMF know about radio that makes them an aggressive buyer in the digital era.

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Emmis Reinvented

INSIDE …

  • Jeff Smulyan is sitting on $100 million from the 76% sale of Hot 97 and WBLS in New York.  Here’s what he’s aiming to do with it.
  • Smulyan is a radio guy so is he shopping for station sales that are steals?
  • Why split the radio company from whatever comes next – here’s the reason.
  • And what’s up with this guy Soo Kim of Standard General – I am hearing that he likes radio at fire sale prices and he’s got a lot of money. Is he a buyer of more distressed properties?
  • To be painfully honest, is all this the end of Emmis or the beginning?

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Entercom Revenue Decline Revealed

INSIDE …

  • I’ve got the revenue info for you for 2ndquarter 2019 compared to 2018 – important because this is the “pig” Entercom will be putting the “lipstick” on soon for analysts.
  • Best and worst markets, flat ones, troubling trends – not touched up by spin.
  • How Entercom will hide the major market revenue losses.
  • Now you see what investors are worried about – where revenue fails, why Entercom quarterly comparisons can’t be believed and the latest on their debt problems.
  • City by city revenue trends – the real trends – and why they are up or down.

Read more …

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The Next Radio Boom

The present slump can’t last forever.

Radio station valuations are at an all-time low.

But some interesting things are beginning to happen.

Emmis and Cox have found ways to hand their debt to investors while they retain a minority interest and still get to manage their former companies.  Is that a sustainable model for others?

Apple Music and Spotify are cleaning up with audiences under 40 and yet a path forward is becoming evident for radio stations without having to have their own streaming music service.

What is projected to be the right time to start buying radio stations again and what will the next radio boom look like?

Read the full article now.

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Visit our website for more – InsideMusicMedia.com

Entercom’s Forced Errors

Yesterday Entercom stock (ETM) lost yet another 20 cents driving it to within 50 cents of being a $4 stock.

I have said many times over that the market knows a bad deal when they see it and from virtually the moment the CBS merger was announced Entercom stock crashed from the $16 range to $5.53 where it closed yesterday.

I’d like to have a dollar for every CBS survivor or victim purged by David Field who warned that Field was screwing up a merger so good all he had to do was essentially stay out of the way.

That didn’t happen and now even more information is coming forward to confirm that many if not most of what’s wrong with Entercom comes from forced errors that did not have to happen.

What’s worse, there are more huge mistakes that even investors don’t know about until this morning.

Read the full article now.

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Public Market Prepping for Entercom’s Fall

INSIDE …

  • Entercom stock is less than a dollar away from being worth only $4 – what is the public market fearing about Entercom.
  • Think the CBS firings have stopped – think again.  An update.
  • Why a CBS exec thinks CEO David Field is “guilty of malpractice”.
  • Sports was to be a big part of Entercom’s revenue, now this revelation.
  • And the one thing that absolutely cannot happen without Entercom’s revenue taking a huge hit is if 1010 WINS and/or other all-news money machines slip. Well, are they?

Read the full article now.

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Visit our website for more – InsideMusicMedia.com

iHeart In Worse Shape After Bankruptcy

INSIDE … 

  • Alright, Pittman and Bressler got most of what they wanted in bankruptcy, now almost 3 months later the 3 things that threaten to drive iHeart into ANOTHER bankruptcy.
  • What happens to the company now?
  • All radio companies are experiencing hard times right now, so what happens next if iHeart can’t service their new, reduced debt load (from $16 billion to $5.75b).
  • How long before Bob Pittman’s $100 million bet on podcasting pays off?
  • What are the new iHeart revenue initiatives in the pipeline?

Read the full article now.

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Entercom Debt Problems

Just last week, a capital investor known as WY Capital put out a puff piece on Entercom calling it “Another Unappreciated Radio Company”.

The fantasy piece was so pro-Entercom that it could have been written by David Field himself.

It’s not known whether Entercom paid WY Capital for setting the record straight but that is a practice that is employed in the investment world these days.

Why all the happy talk now?

Why has David Field’s father, founder Joe Field, spent nearly $12 million in the first six months of this year alone to prop up Entercom’s drooping stock price?

If Entercom is so worried, what are they so worried about now?

Read more …

View a list of all stories here

Connoisseur Becomes a Zombie Company

  • A Zombie company is one that needs bailouts in order to operate, or an indebted company that is able to repay the interest on its debts but not repay the principal – what went wrong at Connoisseur.
  • What did the principals have to pay to rescue Connoisseur from their chief lender.
  • So, what happens now – selling assets like Cumulus, swapping or buying stations.
  • What’s the real deal – what does the burned equity lender get?
  • What does the Warshaw led management group get?
  • And what about Warshaw’s alleged connection to the Cumulus reorganization – exposed here.

Read the full article now.

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Cumulus Bay Area Dilemma

New York is almost gone – one more FM is in the process of being sold.

Atlanta and LA have been eviscerated along with other Cumulus stations that are able to be sold for whatever the market can bring which in these cases amounts to deep discounts.

The biggest dilemma for Mary Berner and her new board of directors who were forced to take over ownership when Cumulus couldn’t make their debt payments is whether to stay or whether to go.

A bellwether market for Cumulus is San Francisco where things are happening so fast that the company may be forced into emergency mode soon.

Read the full article now

The Stephens/Mapleton Takeover

Kagan is estimating that $771 million of radio deals were done in the second quarter.

They are guessing at multiples like the 7 times forward cash flow for Cox FMs and 6 times for AMs, a generous estimate at that.

And there’s the Meruelo steal of Cumulus’ KLOS for only $43 million in LA and other insulting offers taken by opportunists who believe now is the time to start buying radio again.

The big guys are on the ropes but a troubling trend for smaller market owners is also emerging.

Take the Stephens takeover of Mapleton.

When you look inside the deal, it presents a scary scenario for a segment of radio markets that are thought to be bulletproof.

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Taylor Swift and the Relevance of Major Labels

When Taylor Swift left Big Machine for Universal, she left her masters behind.

Now there’s a big kerfuffle over whether Swift was entitled to her masters as she seems to believe while at Big Machine begging the question just how important are the big 3 record labels in the era of streaming music?

There is new evidence that answers this question.

And some interesting new attitudes about the role of radio in hitmaking.

Read the full article now

The Cumulus Dallas Sale

Most of New York and Washington are gone, LA is gone.

Cumulus continues to liquidate its assets as their lenders who in essence became the new owners after taking a $2 billion bankruptcy haircut assess whether they even want to be in the radio business.

Now there is new reporting on Dallas, other major markets and big corporate assets.

What the company is saying publicly and what is reportedly going on behind the scenes are two different things.

If Cumulus sells its network or prosperous revenue producing markets like Dallas will they be able to remain a going concern?

So, which one is it going to be? 

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Subscription Radio

Clip Interactive wants to get radio stations to use their app so listeners can bypass long commercial stopsets and replace it with other things like a different station in the company featuring the same musical genre that is not in a commercial break.

Or podcasts, favorite songs, talk segments, traffic and weather and all the while staying synchronized to the station’s terrestrial signal.

They have their own research that claims terrestrial and even satellite radio listeners would pay $12 a month for this.

Clip thinks stations can even keep their revenue from ads that continue to irritate listeners on the air while mining a new stream of revenue from subscriptions to a new app.

Are these people nuts or are they onto the future?

Read the full article now

What was Emmis Thinking?

Emmis sold ¾ of its New York stations, retains ¼ ownership and gets paid to manage them.

Cox sells TV and radio and retains minority ownership and management stays in place.

There’s a trend developing here to take advantage of declining station prices and help owners get out of the debt business.

In fact, there’s a third group thought to be ready to sell partial ownership next.

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Rolling Stone’s New Non-Radio Music Charts

Can you imagine an album or hit song music chart without radio airplay as a component?

Rolling Stone can and their new charts reflect it.

The radio industry has a new role in making hit music and it’s nowhere near as critical to an artist’s success as it used to be.

While consumer-driven metrics are reshaping how we look at the apparent popularity of songs and artists, they are fast becoming more relevant than radio airplay.

This begs the question can radio continue to thrive when it is now being excluded from hit music ranking?

There are two important things stations can do to become more relevant again.

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The WABC Giveaway

If you thought the sale price for WABC, New York was shocking, how it came about is more shocking.

Even as WABC goes, Cumulus has reportedly distributed brokerage “books” out on stations some of which they claim are not for sale.

And there’s this -- two more Cumulus stations are likely to be given away to the best offer they can get within the next 30 days.

Employees are panicked.

And freaked out by the change in the way Cumulus is reportedly treating its employees during the asset selloff.

Read the full article now

The Story Behind the Cox Radio Sell Off

Cox Radio went to the group that bought its TV stations earlier and specifically did not want radio.

What lead to Apollo Global Management suddenly changing their mind?

There were a lot of other potential buyers (radio groups) interested in Cox stations but not in the usual way.

Did Cox leave money on the table?  Who was the runner up?

So now with a venture capital firm running the show, what happens next to the well-run and profitable Cox radio stations now?

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Radio’s On-Demand Dilemma

FREE PREVIEW

At the recent Conclave gathering in Minneapolis, I had an opportunity to question Lew and John Dickey about what went wrong with their version of Cumulus, what the future looks like for radio as an on-demand business as well as what jobs will be available.

Radio is linear – that is, a one-to-many broadcast medium.

The world (which means anything surrounding a mobile device) is increasingly on-demand and radio does not presently have an answer for that.

That’s why the industry’s reach and advertising revenue is eroding as on-demand solutions are becoming more popular with audiences and advertisers.

To remain relevant, radio will some decisions to make.

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The Fate of Local Radio

If there is one constant in the radio industry, it is that since consolidation was allowed in 1996, local radio jobs have been eliminated every year.

The estimate at Clear Channel/iHeart is somewhere north of 15,000 local radio jobs lost since then and even the less aggressive operators have succumbed to less local and little or no live.

Some markets have empty studios in what looks like a ghost town.

It turns out consolidators have an answer for what to do with the remaining footprint of local radio.

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The New Formats Young Audiences Crave

What’s amazing is that the radio industry always focuses on formats that they are already doing – never something new.

They may make changes to, say, adult contemporary by offering a softer version as Entercom and others are trying to do now with “The Breeze” but essentially it’s a spinoff of what radio already does shifting listeners from one format to another almost like it.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that in an industry that doesn’t fully grasp that streaming music services and not other radio stations are now their chief competitors, it is long overdue to come up with a few new radio formats that only a radio station can do.

Here are 4 totally new, never done before radio formats that have a revenue stream of eager advertisers waiting to support them.

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The Dickey session Conclave video -- 

  1. What happened at Cumulus under the Dickey's control -- regrets, successes, etc.
  2. How radio will necessarily become an on-demand business rather than the current linear one-to-many broadcasting model (Lew Dickey wrote a book on this topic and the audience was interestingly receptive to this view).
  3. The future of jobs in what eventually will be the Third Evolution of Radio (from its inception, competing with television and now on-demand digital).

The session was live streamed but in case you missed it and would like to watch, click here.

John Dickey, Jerry Del Colliano, Lori Lewis, Lew Dickey

Phase 3 Entercom Cutbacks

There’s no denying Entercom has been laying people off especially in programming for most of the first half of this year.

Jenny Q and Blake Powers were blown out Friday at KLUV, Dallas.

Jenny Q did middays.

Powers nights.

And so the pattern of firing former CBS staffers that Entercom thinks are superfluous.

But there is a next wave coming as Entercom anticipates not making its numbers again as the year progresses.

This time David Field goes where few consolidators have been willing to go to save money.

Read the full article now

Entercom’s Big Little Lies

FREE PREVIEW, RIGHT HERE

  • Obscure and unintelligible claims like the really important thing they left out of their claim to have saved $45 million in the first quarter.
  • Hiding why Entercom was forced to buy expensive debt that doesn’t benefit shareholders.
  • Proof CFO Schmaeling and CEO Field are not on the same page.

Read the full article now

The Fate of the Big 3 Record Labels

FREE PREVIEW, RIGHT HERE

  • The threat of Spotify, TikTok and even Fortnite on record label dominance.
  • The move by Spotify and others to encourage artists to go direct and bypass record labels.
  • New competition for record labels in discovering artists and picking the hits and where it leaves radio.

Read the full article now

The Cumulus Debt-Reduction Plan

FREE PREVIEW, RIGHT HERE

  • Shock deal:The market Cumulus would sell in a New York minute.
  • What is the Cumulus business plan now that they have vacated key markets?
  • Are the rumors true about Cumulus’ next big move?

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Cutbacks On Deck for Entercom

FREE PREVIEW, RIGHT HERE

  • What this means for markets that will become “hubs” and those that will become “spokes”.
  • How programming, management and sales shakeups will go down.
  • The future of sales commissions at Entercom.

Read the full article now

Katz Strong-arming Stations

FREE PREVIEW, RIGHT HERE

  • The push to force reluctant stations into programmatic selling
  • The one-sided arbitrage that lines Katz’ pockets
  • How the take-it-or-leave-it offer actually works

Read the full article now

Panic at Entercom

David Field is starting to sweat.

He’s ordering severe layoffs right now because he promised lenders $110 million in cost savings when Entercom took over CBS Radio and two years later, the actual realized savings is approximately half that.

No radio consolidator has ever promised and actually delivered cost synergies that ambitious probably because it is dangerous to do so but Field’s world is beginning to get uncomfortable.

The stock has lost more than $10 a share since the merger was announced, Field’s EBITDA growth figures have been consistently devalued and Entercom is in the same industry with iHeart and Cumulus – one that is selling advertising for less than it is worth making it impossible to deliver consistent year-over-year revenue growth.

The dew is off the lily for Field which is why his plans to shrink expenses will soon be right up there with iHeart and Cumulus.

Dig deeper into Entercom's severe cutback plans

Nielsen’s Overnight Ratings

The CEO of Media Monitors is selling the benefit of their new overnight Nielsen ratings like this:

“We found that the number of quarter hours increased toward the close down of WPLJ on Friday. This was due to more panelists tuning in more often just to hear the swan song of that station.”

Philippe Generali was talking about those high-interest final hours of broadcasting for the iconic WPLJ in New York before it switched to religion.

Why suddenly measure overnights – turns out there is an answer for this and a lot of radio stations are not going to like it.

How this move has little to do with radio as we know it – it’s a sly move with another end in mind.

Even the planned name for Nielsen overnight’s is not going to be called Nielsen Overnight giving a revelation of what this move portends.

With radio groups and stations trying to cut expenses, why is Nielsen and Media Monitors trying to sell them something else at this sensitive time?

Read the full article now

The Emmis, Beasley, Urban One Deals

So, let’s get this straight.

Emmis sells its 50.1% interest in its Austin radio properties for $39.3 million.

That’s only about $3 million less than Cumulus got for KLOS-FM, Los Angeles, a storied station in the second largest market.

And much more than Cumulus got for one legendary WPLJ-FM, New York that was bundled with WRQX-FM, Washington and WYAY, Atlanta with three more smaller market stations thrown in for the low, low price of $103.5 million devaluing WPLJ to garbage status.

And then yesterday, Beasley buys WDMK-FM, Detroit and three translators thrown in for only $13.5 million – and yes, I get that Detroit is not New York or LA or even Austin but something is seriously wrong with the radio industry with fire sales like these going on.

If the good stuff is selling for pennies on the dollar, how does that value the rest of the radio industry?

Cumulus was working on the WPLJ sale for months only to just give it away.

What other stations are on the block and under the radar?

But wait, has the market finally bottomed out for radio stations?

And is it a good time to buy?

Read the full article now

Entercom’s Expense Cutting Shortfall

From almost day one David Field has been telling investors and lenders that there are lots of financial savings to be realized once the two companies merge.

In fact, Field upped his predictions from $25 million in cost cuts all the way to $100 million and even later added another $10 million on top of that.

So far best estimates show approximately half of that $110 million in cutback savings has been reached – some of them came from CBS which was coerced to do them by Field prior to the merger.

Now Field is having a tough time grinding out more savings which sounds like great news for current CBS employees who want to hold on to their jobs except it isn’t.

Read more... 

Radio’s 3 New Rising Competitors

Ask any radio person and they likely cannot name one of the three most potent threats to time spent listening to radio.

And you thought it was consolidation and greedy bankers.

That, too.

But under the radar three alternatives to radio are rapidly gaining strength while the people who are running the radio industry can’t see them coming.

And we’re not talking about digital – it is a factor no doubt, but not the next thing.

More concerning is that these new threats are targeting both young and older, available radio listeners.

Read the full article now

The Liberty Takeover of iHeart

  • Liberty has been buying iHeart debt at pennies on the dollar
  • iHeart isn’t necessarily against a Liberty takeover
  • The iHeart board has open spots for Liberty appointees
  • Can Liberty be stopped?
  • Other potential buyers

Read the full article now

The Demise of the Morning Show

If you caught any of the farewell jock appearances on WPLJ late last week, you heard more radio personality that exists in an entire lifetime on the air for one last goodbye.

It was odd to hear Scott Shannon with Todd Pettengill together considering that Pettengill reportedly went to Cumulus and supposedly offered to take over the WPLJ show for a lot less money getting Shannon fired.

Still, for a few final days the airwaves oozed of what makes radio great – personality and that station had tons of it from the early Allen Shaw ABC days up to and including Cumulus, the company that sold WPLJ for a quick buck.

There was a time when a good morning show drove 50-60% of the total stations revenue but consolidators found a way to weaken these important shows in the name of saving money.

But it’s heading in the wrong direction again.

Radio groups can’t make their revenue numbers without adjusting them to look better.  You saw how Entercom dumped in all that heavy billing from WBEB which it purchased in Philadelphia late last year totally misrepresenting year over year revenue.

Now, faced with more declining revenue, hard-pressed group owners are revisiting ways to cut the great expense of paying for talent in the morning.

They’ve already tried syndication, promoting second bananas to take the helm and other strategies.

Bean counters are readying some frightening new ways to diminish or replace talent driven morning shows.

Don’t even ask.

Read the full article now

Trade & Remnant Ads Blowing Up

In a Midwest market very recently, Cumulus paid a 50% commission to one of the top barter and remnant agencies to secure a buy.

For years, barter and trade have been rearing its ugly head in radio at the hands of desperate radio groups looking to grab whatever ad dollars they can even at the overall expense of the industry.

All of this in a boom economy!

Can you imagine what would happen to radio if an economic downturn feared by economists currently actually kicked in?

So right now, trade and remnant advertising is hitting new highs or should we say new lows.

The rules are being re-written on the fly and one gigantic change that will make matters absolutely worse has taken off with a vengeance. 

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Competing Against Streaming Playlists

Spotify and Apple offer more music than listeners can ever consume.

It’s like a cable channel to older people where they watch only a handful of channels even though they are paying for hundreds.

But now there is new evidence that radio isn’t losing audience to Spotify, Apple Music and streaming music services mainly because they offer too few songs.

It’s not about that at all.

Instead, the few main objections to radio are solvable. 

It’s just the industry is looking at streaming music competitors the wrong way.

The fix.

The easy part and one thing that will take some guts.

How to compete with such potent streaming services.

And the quickest way to start winning young listeners back.

Read the full article now

The iHeart & Cumulus IPOs

Radio has not been able to successfully launch an IPO for years now.

Think Alpha Media.

So why are iHeart and Cumulus even trying now when there is even less interest on the part of lenders and investors?

iHeart signaled some type of public offering in their bankruptcy.

And now it appears Cumulus, out of bankruptcy but not out of financial trouble, may be on the verge of having what iHeart is having.

There are two IPO options to look for – it will be one of these.

How iHeart’s IPO will be priced.

How the Cumulus IPO must deal with distressed debt partners.

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The Cumulus Foreign Ownership Waiver

They’re kidding, right?

A special waiver to allow foreign investors to own 100% of Cumulus?

Or at least some of it.

Why now and why look to offshore financing?

Their stock is trading at close to $17 – and they just dumped $1 billion in debt out of bankruptcy – so what’s driving this sudden move.

What if the FCC says no?

The repercussions at Cumulus clusters – will there be more nationalizing local jobs, cutting costs, etc.

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Meruelo’s One Market Strategy

It’s hard to believe with its purchase of KXOS-FM, Los Angeles, Meruelo is a dominant player in the second largest market with its fifth radio station.

All it took was money of which Meruelo has plenty thanks to the casino business.

And radio stations desperate to sell at pennies on the dollar.

Of which the industry has many owners waiting in the wings.

But that alone is not the future of radio.

Meruelo becomes a big player in LA.

Now what other markets do they need to be in.

These people have a plan that is so unlike that of traditional radio owners that it deserves a closer look.

What the radio industry is looking for next after consolidation may be what Meruelo is doing.

Why are they so bullish on a radio industry barely able to break even?

Here’s the next piece of the puzzle. 

What the greater radio industry should go to school on now that consolidation has failed.

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Cumulus Cash Flow Crisis

Cumulus is back in financial hot water.

Real operating cash flow numbers have been revealed.

The local revenue and trade numbers without adjustments.

They’ve had to trade more and report it as cash revenue – here is that number.

Their recent firing of hundreds of traffic directors is juxtaposition against real expense figures that they legally have to disclose.

How is podcasting working out?

And what is Cumulus becoming more dependent on.

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Why Are Spotify & the Record Labels Getting into Podcasting?

Go figure.

Spotify, Apple Music and the other streamers have become the new radio among in-demo listeners.

But they barely make a profit because music rights fees are so high.

The music industry is soaring.

So why are streaming services like Spotify going into podcasting, a place where Apple already resides without earning its usual profit margins.

Spotify is spending hundreds of millions to build its podcasting platform concerning the music industry.

Now the record labels are jumping in.

Two just launched podcasting deals.

Radio can’t seem to profit from this nascent business.

What do the record labels know that radio doesn’t?

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The Westwood One Dilemma

Lew Dickey didn’t spend $260 million for Westwood One only to see it wither away like this.

Mary Berner all but announced everything is for sale at Cumulus publicly (except Dallas) but she artfully stayed away from commenting on the big elephant in the room – their underperforming radio network.

No statement of support and continued ownership.

No growth plans other than previously mentioned podcasting rep deals.

No sale sign.

Yet Westwood One has two big insurmountable problems begging the question – what are the Cumulus lenders currently overseeing the company going to do with Westwood One.

Are there any interested buyers remaining?

Why is their profit shrinking faster than anticipated?

Is there a plan for shedding Westwood One entirely in a breakup?

The mixed signals as described by those behind the scenes.

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Entercom & Cumulus Outsourcing

Radio is fast adopting outsourcing as a business model.

Nothing is sacred. 

The newsroom at Entercom’s 1010 WINS for example is an expense so great that Entercom is urgently looking for ways to cut the head count down.

But now, faced with the inability to grow revenue, control costs and post a real profit that isn’t adjusted to look good, Entercom and Cumulus are ready to adopt new ways to run radio stations as if they were SiriusXM.

How programming, management and sales will be affected at these two radio groups.

Cumulus and Entercom both have ambitious outsourcing plans.

The time frame is aggressive.

Ignoring the risks they are fully aware of – one group has actually tried outsourcing experimentally and it didn’t work – how they are going through with it anyway.

The body count – first real numbers on just how many jobs will be lost in just one job description by year’s end.

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Should Radio Be Rebranded Audio

Bob Pittman’s first post-bankruptcy news release did not have the word radio in it one time in spite of the fact that terrestrial radio delivers the lion’s share of iHeartMedia’s total revenue.

Even more so since iHeart split Clear Channel Outdoor from the media platform.

Entercom’s two favorite words are Radio.com and audio presenting a somewhat split message.

And iHeart and Entercom plan to appear together to promote audio to the trade as the amazing platform of the future as a united industry searches for ways to brush away the tarnish they, among others, inflicted on radio through vicious cost cutting.

Podcasting is audio and iHeart has spent $100 million while still in bankruptcy staking out a bulkhead – perhaps that’s a clue.

But is radio right to be rebranding terrestrial radio as audio?

What are the advantages that these radio groups seek other than the obvious one?

Is there a downside risk?

And, there is a better way.

Read the full article now

Summit Media as a Potential Buyer

Radio buyers are hard to find these days.

Prices are going down but have yet to bottom out.

And lenders are vanishing – not high on financing radio acquisitions.

There’s EMF, Meruelo and then not too many more potential buyers available right now.

One potential buyer is Carl Parmer’s Summit Media, the company that originally bought a handful of smaller Cox market spinoffs and has been building from there.

With station prices going down, is Summit a player ready to pounce?

And what markets would they be interested in?

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The Projected Effect of Podcasting on Radio Listening

iHeart has spent over $100 million lately to enhance its podcasting efforts.

Cumulus while spending virtually nothing is using podcasting as its savior from poor spot revenue results.

Entercom – check, podcasting spoken there, too.

Meanwhile Spotify, one of the giant music streaming services along with Apple, invested over $400 million of late – with more to come – to make podcasting a co-equal with music much to the chagrin of record labels.

The questions are – can a radio company compete with mega apps that have such dominance?

And what about the law of unintended consequences?

In other words, do we have first clear look around the corner at how podcasting will affect radio’s main terrestrial business?

Does it cause radio listening declines?

Will podcasting help or hurt music streamers and radio?

What will be the effect on younger audiences?

Is it smart to promote podcasting as much as radio does?

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The Cumulus Leftovers

Mary Berner recently sold over $100 million in prime major market radio properties to Educational Media Foundation (EMF), more to others and traded stations and/or clusters to Connoisseur and Entercom in a desperate attempt to raise money.

She settled for EMF pricing – the bottom feeders of station buyers.

And she had to give up former cash cows like Bridgeport, CT cluster because to be blunt, they fired the manager with all the know-how and revenues tanked.

The new Cumulus board may have forced Berner to start selling assets to make them more whole but the rushed way in which it was done leaves them with orphan stations, a dinged Westwood One network and AM stations they seemingly can’t give away.

What they did wrong to be left holding so many unsellable properties.

The options going forward for selling additional stations.

What Cumulus will have to do to repair the damage done to Westwood One in unloading major market stations.

And, what’s not for sale.

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Entercom’s Cost Cutting

iHeart and Cumulus may have had no choice but to resort to bankruptcy, but Entercom is flirting with even more danger than these two competitors.

The CBS Radio merger that David Field wanted to do so badly that he allowed CEO Les Moonves to dump $1.5 billion of debt on the company before he sold it has not gone well.

It’s more than mismanagement and firing the wrong CBS executives, it’s deeper.

Quarter by quarter Entercom promises a turnaround and even using “adjusted” accounting procedures, they can’t deliver causing their stock to suffer.

What was worth over $16 a share before the merger, is now in the $6 range and slips to $5 and change regularly.

Now, there is only one way to survive the last three quarters of the year and it is to slash expenses.

The cuts will come from three format groups and are likely to target all job categories but one in particular.

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iHeart’s New Beginning

With the court’s blessing iHeart Media has emerged from bankruptcy and reduced their debt from $16 billion to a much lower number -- $5.75 billion.

iHeart says it’s back to business as usual but what does that look like after bankruptcy?

Will they now be able to service the $5.75 billion in debt at unfavorable interest rates in a declining ad market for radio?

iHeart split Clear Channel Outdoor and the radio division and that comes with new pros and cons.

The real question is, is the focus back to terrestrial radio?

How do they service even reduced debt when it is so high?

And is a buyer ready to move in and take over?

Read the full article now

Entercom Programming Cutbacks

No announcements have been made.

The radio trade press is in the dark.

Entercom is at work retooling its radio stations.

This is the same Entercom that less than two weeks ago was bragging to investors and lenders that they are growing by leaps and bounds.

Turns out David Field is running out of ways to cut costs.

The new retooling plan targets certain types of Entercom stations.

Evidence of how desperate Entercom is to save money as actual revenue falls short.

Those who are being targeted have the one thing in common.

And there is already a pattern of where these layoffs can be expected right down to the specific daypart.

Read the full article now

The Increased Agency Commission Sham

Several years ago, iHeart began searching for ways to annihilate their local competitors by drastically dropping rates and generously upping commissions.

It was a nuisance that competitors had to suffer.

Now, Entercom has gone all in with iHeart in a “price fixing monopoly” of sorts unlike anything ever seen before.

The price is not fixed by agreement, it’s fixed by greedy competition to drive radio rates down at all costs until one of the two predator radio groups is left standing and any third parties are effectively kept out of major buys.

How are they able to do this – burned market managers know exactly.

Why increased agency commission is becoming the new “trade”.

The three buying services leading the race to the bottom.

More shocking is what these three buying services do with the extra commissions that are the highest ever offered.

The actual year to year metrics that show the disastrous downward effect rate dropping is having on radio comparing big advertisers such as USAA and Cox.

What radio operators not named iHeart and Entercom are doing to push back.

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Mike McVay’s Cumulus Exit

Mike McVay is gone.

And the decision to cut him loose says more about the new direction of Cumulus than it does about McVay.

McVay was hired by the previous regime hated by current CEO Mary Berner.

She stuck with him until no matter what happened because if there is one thing about Mary Berner, she protects her small but compliant management team.

So, beyond the corporate spin, what made McVay fall on his sword at this late date?

Does this mean that market managers can have renewed hope that regional VPs Bob Walker and Dave Milner will be next?

How is the removal of McVay and the uncertainty of Cumulus management related to their future plans?

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Entercom’s True Financials

Last week Entercom told analysts reporting on the first quarter 2019 revenue that the company grew revenue by 43%.

Did it?  

Some Wall Street people are beginning to ask the question how is Entercom doing as good as David Field claims when their stock is hovering so close to a mere $4 a share, the acknowledged breaking point.

So, we took the un-doctored 10k filing Entercom is required to produce as a public company and we asked financial experts with high level radio experience to dig into the legal figures that Entercom cannot parse in search of the true numbers.

Is David Field telling big little lies about the merged company with CBS Radio?

How much cutting back did Entercom really do and at what level are further cost synergies accurately projected going forward.

What about cash flow – this is the true measure of a radio company’s viability – how does Entercom do on that?

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Larry Wilson Eyes a New Radio Group

Here’s a man in his 70’s who is not running for president but can’t seem to give up his addiction for radio.

He built and sold Citadel for a profit.

Turned that into some seed money for Alpha which he planned to cash in on an IPO just when radio was falling out of favor with Wall Street.

Wilson was ousted from Alpha by Paul Stone, something you may want to remember as Larry reportedly wants back in with yet another group.

Not Alpha – could his new company be called Beta?

What Wilson sees that others don’t in buying radio now.

Wilson wrote an email to 141 of his closest friends – what’s in it.

Who is ready to back Larry Wilson – and you’ll need to take a seat for this one.

Read the full article now

Entercom’s Hidden Problems

Entercom is a company selling false narratives.

EBITDA up 42% -- but it’s not real EBITDA, it’s adjusted to make it look like growth.

Revenue barely up in the first quarter.

What happened to David Field’s promised cost synergies?

What’s Entercom’s real EBITDA using generally accepted accounting principles?

Meanwhile, there are new revelations about Entercom.

Why is it a risky investment?

How the future of the company is uncertain.

And what’s the real truth about Entercom’s financial problems.

Read the full article now

Alpha’s Growing Desperation

So, when last we visited Alpha Paul Stone had made a modest investment in the cash starved Alpha Media and wrestled control from founder and then CEO Larry Wilson.

Today, Stone is calling the shots.

But things are growing more desperate.

What is Stone’s plan to turnaround Alpha now?

Big decisions coming soon.

The “Cumulus” option.

What brokers are peddling now.

Read the full article now

Cumulus Board Split Over Berner

Coming up on one year out of bankruptcy and CEO Mary Berner is presiding over a Cumulus board unsure of what to do next, her own future in doubt.

The company’s bankruptcy court valued Cumulus at $1.3 billion for the purpose of giving haircuts to lenders and other aggrieved parties.

That $1.3 billion is about even with the company’s revenues on a good day.

That means, Cumulus is presently worth nothing.

There is an explanation for the sale of great FM stations in New York, LA and DC along with a strategy to trade stations at this late date.

But there is a shocking strategy going forward if some board members get their way.

What will Cumulus sell next?

What’s the plan for making the company work and revenue grow without the major stations that they recently sold?

The real problems inside Westwood One, the only part of Cumulus that posts a modest profit and there are many.

And how critical is the split over Berner’s game plan?

Read the full article now

Outrageous New Nielsen Rates Coming

Nielsen is getting ready to reveal substantial rate increases to its radio clients even as they fight their own financial problems and feed rumors of a sale.

Radio stations would be devasted by these increases which have leaked to our sources as Nielsen ratings is one of the major expenses radio groups can’t easily get out from under.

But it may be even worse than that.

Just how substantial are the planned rate increases – still not revealed to clients.

Are they retroactive under existing contracts or will they be for future deals?

What about diary markets where continuous measurement is the plan?

And what are the 3 likely take it or leave it options for owners who can’t afford the rate hike?

Read the full article now

Streaming Crisis Ahead

The record industry is booming right now and radio isn’t.

Network television is on the decline and what audience is left is out of demo.

Everything is about to be disrupted again.

Trouble ahead for the music industry and they can’t see it coming.

And even as TV is being redefined, the streaming pay model is showing signs of stress.

What corporate takeover could shipwreck the record industry?

What are the concerns about streaming music services?

Can radio survive performance rights fees?

The replacement for network TV coming soon.

Read the full article now

Why Radio No Longer Breaks the Hits

Increasingly, new artists are rising to prominence and new songs and albums are climbing the charts with little to no radio airplay.

Deniers in the radio industry have a lot of excuses but little understanding of the dangerous dynamic that threatens music radio more than anything else.

In the past few weeks and in recent months radio has flubbed opportunities to drive hit music to the top of the charts – after all, that’s what radio used to do, right?

What has changed now?

Why aren’t radio groups learning from their mistakes?  Just in the past two weeks, another artist lit up the music charts without radio airplay.

Is this a fixable problem or another unfortunate circumstance?

One thing more than any other is forcing program directors to cede breaking new hits to streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music.

Read the full article now

Entercom’s Freefall

If you owned Entercom stock three years ago and held it today through the botched CBS Radio merger, your investment would be down 42%.

More recent news is just as bad.

Shares have been rebounding a little over the past month up 6.5% after a year of sustained underperformance.

Still Entercom is down 39.4% over the past 12 months.

What’s wrong with Entercom – how can it be this bad?

David Field’s broken promise that spooked money people.

What keeps investors up at night about the future of Entercom.

And what’s this insider buying the Field family does to boost the price up a few cents.

What are these rumbling of bankruptcy and when.

Read the full article now

Townsquare Turnaround

Townsquare has been the radio industry joke since it came up with the idea of buying micro-small radio markets, using station help to generate digital content and enter the events business.

The events business fell on hard times and Townsquare sold it for what they could get.

Previously, they tried to sell the entire company and got no takers.

They fired their founder, appointed co-CEOs for a year (a strategy that only troubled companies embrace) and finally gave up.

The giving up part turned out to be the unexpected consequence that could be a model for other stations feeling the advertising downturn.

Why is Townsquare’s future looking up?

If no one wants to buy them at any price, why are they rebounding today?

What is Townsquare doing to successfully operate in a depressed radio market?

A tough question is – will anybody buy them now? 

Read the full article now

The Cumulus Exit

Cumulus is fast becoming Townsquare but without a digital strategy.

That’s awful to say but, really, it’s true.

Cumulus is selling off major market assets to get whatever it can to placate lenders who have already taken a haircut in bankruptcy.

Going forward, the future is not as predictable because there is a belief that even the people running Cumulus – and that includes the new board of directors representing the aggrieved lenders – are not sure what move to make next.

What about the option to sell more of their best revenue producing stations.

What happens to the overall company now that it has lost significant cash flow.

Then there is the problem of losing key people before they are ready to.

Why are they suddenly trading smaller markets while giving away major market class B FMs?

Which option is implemented next.

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Entercom’s Next Round of Operational Changes

David Field spent money recently for the advice of Bain Capital on how to run Entercom.

Never mind that Bain is the genius behind iHeart’s $20 billion bankruptcy.

And a main investor in Nielsen the singlehandedly most controversial way to measure real radio audiences.

What’s in the works starting soon.

Now that David has had a few weeks to digest the gist of the Bain recommendations, he’s ready to implement them and both legacy Entercom and newly-purchased CBS Radio have plenty of reasons to be concerned.

Whose jobs will not be safe under the Bain recommendations -- six job descriptions will either be virtually eliminated or drastically cut back and when it will take place.

What functions will not be affected at Entercom even after enacting Bain’s suggestions.

Bain’s recommendations on employee compensation. 

And talent fees.

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Beasley’s Dominance over Entercom

Entercom is supposed to be the big kahuna in sports having inherited many CBS Radio brands.

But Beasley looks like they have Entercom’s number.

The CBS sports professionals are gone from Entercom and the David Field of Dreams is now the strategy that replaced sports talk.

Suddenly, Beasley is doing things that are not just beating Entercom.

How Beasley is using the old CBS sports playbook against Entercom, the company that bought the CBS stations.

The mixed news on sports programming that makes money but drives listeners away in droves.

Just when Entercom and Beasley are betting their futures on sports, everything just changed again.

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Entercom Salesforce Public Shaming

There is no doubt that David Field and his top cadre are feeling pressure from the failed CBS merger and the inability to build shareholder equity for their stock.

Now it appears the pressure is being applied to local station management where itis beingredirected to employees who are performing at a high level – just not high enough to bail out top management.

How Entercom has devolved to shaming their employees.

The way they do it --- to the horror of other employees who look on in fear.

Why this could be the template for other stations.

And why Entercom is only targeting CBS stations.

Read the full article now

The 2nd Cumulus Selloff Including KLOS

Cumulus is apparently willing to weaken its competitive position by selling more radio stations to pay down debt holders.

Usually radio groups do this to keep the wolf away from the door.

In the case of Cumulus, the wolf is already in the company (lenders in ill-humor) which is why they are selling off assets that would be critical to continue operation.

The $100 million raised from selling stations to Educational Media Foundation was just the beginning.

What does the 2nd piece of the Cumulus selloff look like?

Will KLOS will be sold in round two?

What’s up with the previously scheduled “reunion” of Mark & Brain.

Has Cumulus found a buyer for standalone AM stations they no longer need such as KABC and WABC?

Westwood One’s fate.

Read the full article now

Streaming Music Services Confronting Radio

Streaming music services are killing radio.

Playlists are preferred over radio formats.

And it’s getting worse.

Just 39% of 16-19-year old’s listen to music radio, while 56% use YouTube instead for music.

But wait.

Lew Dickey bought a streaming music company Akazoo which focuses on emerging markets and yet he still wants to own radio stations. 

How does he square that?

What’s the new role for modern radio?

Is it even worth doing radio formats for Gen Z or younger Millennials given their unavailability?

And can the connected car and smart speakers help radio defend against streaming music services?

Read the full article now

Plans for a Second Alpha Media

Financially-troubled Alpha Media is in the hands of investor Paul Stone and he is selling whatever he can apparently without regard to whether his surviving radio group needs the billing to remain a going concern.

Stone is experienced.

Has done this sell-off routine before and he always comes out ahead.

Now, there are plans afoot – not by Stone this time – to build another Alpha-type radio group.

Will it be local and live?

What markets is this entrepreneur scouting.

A buyer when no one other than EMF is buying stations.

Who is this masked man and what’s his plan?

Read the full article now

Voltair/CBET PPM Enhancements Backfire

Voltair and then CBET were designed to improve radio listenership.

Their technology essentially presents a “louder” encoded signal that more accurately records radio listening on Nielsen portable people meter devices eliminating drop outs that can occur with certain formats like spoken word or some music formats.

After a period of denial, Nielsen introduced CBET and the radio industry has been rolling along getting credit for the listening it earned.

Or is it?

Why a new analysis indicates further problems with both Voltair and CBET technology.

How these problems could upend the ratings stations and radio groups thought they had.

What the evidence is – and it’s dramatic.

And where that leaves over 1,000 stations that until now thought they were doing themselves a favor by applying Voltair and CBET.

Read the full article now

Bye-Bye CBS All-News All the Time

You give David Field 22 minutes and he’ll give you a world of things that are wrong with CBS Radio.

Field has apparent resentment for CBS people and the very stations he bought.

He’s already fired lots of CBS managers, employees, talent – even people critical to his future success.

Now, Entercom is turning its attention to undoing what CBS Radio has succeeded in doing on the air.

How Entercom has begun tinkering with iconic CBS stations.

On-air changes that lay an egg and defy reason.

Read the full article now

Nationwide iHeart Downsizing Begins

Rumors started flying last week.

Now, it has been confirmed.

Wide-ranging iHeart downsizing of on-air talent that promises to further degrade the on-air product has begun.

Which format is being targeted?

What’s reportedly in the lengthy corporate emails describing these firings.

Why it is likely to be the first step not the last to cut costs.

And why even the survivors are going to fear that a sharp knife is coming.

Read the full article now

New Breeze Soft AC Format Intel

Nothing is hotter than soft oldies. 

And nothing is worrying program directors more than the crosswinds that are developing.

The soft AC format aka “The Breeze” has been adopted in numerous markets looking to flank a hot AC competitor and erode their ratings.

New intel shows for the first time how “The Breeze” is rearranging station ratings.

Consistent proof from several PPM markets where soft AC has been in place for at least six months.

Is soft AC the right move going forward based on evidence?

Do we know the weaknesses so they can be addressed?

Who is winning in markets where “The Breeze” and soft ACs are doing battle.

Some observations from 3 PPM markets …

Read the full article now

The iHeart IPO

With iHeart, it’s all about changing the subject.

Bob Pittman’s much-touted multimedia platform that collapsed into bankruptcy was designed to take your eyes off of their $20 billion in debt.

Podcasting is promised as the future moneymaker to make up for slipping spot revenue  but it has never produced cash positive results for anyone.

“All Podcasting All the Time” stations were supposed to show iHeart putting their stations where their mouth is except they put it on only 1 out of 848 stations – in iHeart’s Allentown market on an AM station guaranteed not to attract the money demo, but still – it changes the subject from the poor job iHeart has done of managing lenders and shareholders money.

Now, they’re back selling radio like this -- “Consumers listen to the radio because the voice on the other side sounds like a friend” – their actual words in its filing from the company that brought you layoffs, voice tracking and less live and local. 

All this begs the question what kind of investor would support an IPO for a sinking ship in stormy waters?

No radio group has been able to do an IPO for years, why does iHeart think they can?

What happened to Apple and Liberty – often mentioned as wishing to takeover a terrestrial radio company.

How will iHeart stations be managed and operated if this IPO is successful.

And what if it’s not?

Read the full article now

The Decline of Average Quarter Hour

Nielsen doesn’t like to release numbers that are not favorable to its radio clients.

But a stealth look into forbidden PPM figures indicates trouble.

Not just a decline in average quarter hour.

Worse – far worse.

And now it can be documented and explained with evidence you’re not supposed to see. 

How can 250 million people a week be listening to radio for so little time.

Who is ramping up to take advantage of this?

How do you stop the decline of AQH?

Read the full article now

FCC Investigating Entercom

Lawyers are involved.

There appears to be a lot of fast talk but the last thing Entercom needs is to pull out a gun and shoot itself in the foot again.

The stock is 39 cents shy of the $4 range – unthinkable when the CBS merger was announced and Entercom stock was flying high at $16.

Investors are concerned with impairment charges that Entercom is writing off to reflect the new, lower valuation of its assets.

And a fear that more impairment charges are coming as Entercom fails to put its CBS merger on track and is stifled by the same revenue decline that has affected other radio groups.

Now there is this new development …

  • How the FCC caught Entercom red-handed.
  • Entercom’s shocking defense.
  • How a disgruntled CBS employee may have dropped a dime to turn them in. 
  • The offense was bogus until the FCC sniffed around and found something else. 

Read the full article

The Cumulus Ratings Collapse

  • Mary Berner says Cumulus is turning around.
  • She’s on a victory lap based on financials and ratings.
  • Investors are now questioning their ratings performance.
  • Leaked documents about their top ten markets.
  • Blunders, missed opportunities, flat out incompetence documented.
  • And in the one market where Cumulus hit it out of the park, they did the unthinkable to ruin it all making investors nervous.
  • Is it finally Mike McVay’s fault?
  • What’s the plan -- investors are now “woke” for answers.

Read the full article

Why So Many Bidders Want Universal Music

  • A handful of new, powerful buyers have emerged in addition to Liberty Media – the rundown.
  • Why so much interest in owning one of the big 3 record labels.
  • How radio could be disrupted and upended if some buyers on the list above control some or all of Universal.
  • What happens to the media business if a cellular carrier buys Universal.

Read the full article now

The Glut of Radio Stations for Sale

Among brokers, the word is that almost every radio station is for sale.

That’s an over exaggeration, but it points to the desperate situation facing owners of radio stations.

The question is:  with few buyers and an industry that has been trending downward in revenue, what happens if owners who have to sell can’t find a buyer?

  • Panicked sellers can’t find buyers – here’s their 3 other options.
  • Why so many station owners want out so badly.
  • Prices are going down and still no buyers – what’s up with that?
  • No sale, no problem – look at the radio station of the future if owners have to keep them.
  • The one way sellers can find a buyer this minute – today – without lowering their prices – so why are they refusing.

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Radio’s Hip-Hop Problem

  • Radio is losing young audiences at a record pace because of music playlist mistakes – here’s a station that figured out and huge ratings followed.
  • Spotify and Apple Music are today’s radio to younger audiences – the secret sauce to their music playlists.
  • 22 million people subscribe to a Spotify playlist that features today’s hit music – here’s how many subscribe to the most popular hip-hop playlist.
  • Examples of how to play more hip-hop to attract more 18-34’s – and what to avoid.
  • Can pop coexist with hip-hop on a station that intends to be number one 18-34.

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Entercom’s Stock Apocalypse

Analysts may be starting to see things my way as it relates to Entercom.

Their stock price has been sinking from a $16 high before the CBS Radio acquisition to within a quarter from being a $4 stock as of close yesterday.

And that means institutional buyers may either be forbidden from investing in “ETM” by their own rules or because they have increasing concern.

Either way the CBS merger is appearing to be the bust we called it from outset and evidence of incompetence are everywhere around the company’s attempt to clean up their mess.

  • Even Wall Street is starting to turn on Entercom – their reasons, concerns, eye-popping quotes.
  • What one thing that almost nobody in radio can name is worrying the financial community the most about Entercom.
  • Previously untold details of how Entercom staves off the dumping of their stock – and it’s all legal if not deceiving.
  • Surprising doubts percolating from fans of David Field concerning Entercom’s growth plan.
  • Real concerns about the all-news stations Entercom bought from CBS Radio – identified and analyzed.

Read the full article

Compare monthly vs. annual subscriptions here

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Jerry will appear with Lew & John Dickey together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20thin a deadly honest conversation about Cumulus and the future of the radio focusing on growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

Fact Checking the Cumulus Turnaround Claim

Proud Mary is back to playing her A game.

Claiming that she has turned Cumulus around but the assertion appears to have no relationship to the facts according to people familiar with the internal workings of Cumulus.

The truth is – Cumulus is not a turnaround, it is a very troubled company.

Just because Mary Berner says it is so does not make it so and that is backed up by facts.

The happy talk radio trade press fell for Cumulus proclaiming a “victory lap” although the facts suggest a weakened company that is misleading the public as to the seriousness of their situation.  

Here are the facts from financial people close to Cumulus based on their recently filed 10-K.

  • How financial experts close to Cumulus debunk dubious company claims of a financial turnaround.
  • Cumulus says revenue is up – here are the real results with specific figures.
  • What is the truth about Cumulus’ cash flow based on correct numbers.
  • How bad is their debt – a critical indicator of future performance is revealed.
  • What to watch to predict more station and asset sales like the ones to EMF for quick cash and low return.

Read the full article 

Compare monthly vs. annual subscriptions here

Report news in confidence here.

Jerry will appear with Lew & John Dickey together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20thin a deadly honest conversation about Cumulus and the future of the radio focusing on growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

iHeart’s All-Podcasting Station

  • Will iHeart’s all-podcasting station get ratings and generate revenue?
  • The one fatal flaw that could shut this new station down fast.
  • Which radio stations/groups should be considering a similar all-podcasting station for their markets?
  • Is it time to jump in or wait?
  • What will work and what will not in a radio podcast format.

Read the full article

Compare monthly vs annual subscriptions here.

Report news in confidence here.

Lew & John Dickey and I will be together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20th in a wide ranging and deadly honest conversation about what happened at Cumulus and where the future of the radio industry is – obviously, it’s not working for companies that can’t fire people fast enough.  We will talk about growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

Radio’s Horniest Buyers

There’s EMF and then who?

EMF’s vast religious broadcasting empire is buying up great radio properties these days for low, low prices because so many stations are for sale.

Brokers list 7 radio groups as potential solid buyers even as radio revenue declines.

The current multiple times cash flow that will be used to price the stations is different.

And it’s interesting that timing is everything but especially in buying or selling a radio station – that “sweet spot” has recently changed, too.

  • There are 7 buyers for radio who are hot to own more stations (not counting Lew Dickey) – here are their chances to expand.
  • The radio group that will pick around the edges and the one loaded with cash that’s under the radar.
  • Why the majority of sellers can’t take even a good offer these days.
  • The up-to-the-minute going multiples for radio acquisitions according to financial experts – broken down into small, medium and major markets.
  • The $103.5 million Cumulus/EMF giveaway – is that the new normal?

Read the full article

Compare monthly vs. annual subscriptions here

Report news in confidence here.

Only Lori Lewis could make this happen -- Lew & John Dickey and I will be together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20thin a wide ranging and deadly honest conversation about what happened at Cumulus and where the future of the radio industry is – obviously, it’s not working for companies that can’t fire people fast enough.  We will talk about growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

The Untold Story of the Cumulus/EMF Sale

I thought Cumulus was between a rock and a hard place.

The “victory lap” and turnaround that they are selling this week is far from that.  In fact, Cumulus is still in a precarious position unless it gets to choose its own facts.

That they were forced to sell iconic WPLJ-FM, New York and other major market properties to EMF for a lot less than they were worth is not the win-win they are trying to sell the public. 

Who calls selling major market stations a win-win when you essentially vacate a market?

After all, they must have needed the money to remain as a going concern.

Cumulus sold those valuable assets for virtually nothing not to keep operating or investing in future businesses as they tried to spin it to the public.

You could almost forgive and understand that.

Mary could now use the proceeds to fund her wall – I mean, her podcasting business.

But it’s worse.

Is Mary Berner even still calling the shots?

Remember this name – Paul Stone. 

Where is the $103.5 million EMF check really going?

Are more Cumulus stations being readied for sale?

Read the full article now

Entercom Labor Troubles

  • Here is the employee lawsuit that David Field should fear the most – and it’s being considered.
  • Details on a disturbing firing allegedly designed to get the union’s attention.
  • How Entercom is trying to pushback unions in 50 markets.
  • How the feared “messing” with his moneymaking all-news stations has begun.
  • What radical severance cuts Entercom is trying to impose.
  • What about digital?
  • Union fears on outsourcing revealed.

Read the full article now

Compare monthly vs annual subscriptions here

Report news in confidence here.

Lew & John Dickey and I will be together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20thin a wide ranging and deadly honest conversation about what happened at Cumulus and where the future of the radio industry is – obviously, it’s not working for companies that can’t fire people fast enough.  We will talk about growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

The Westwood One Sale Attempt Revealed

  • There is an offer on the table right now involving Westwood One – here are the details.
  • Westwood parent Cumulus reportedly wants to sell -- what they want in return.
  • Why one prospective buyer is now going over Mary Berner’s head to get the deal done.
  • How many other Westwood One buyers are making their move.
  • How Westwood has started to consolidate operations detailed – first word on offices to be closed.

Read the full article 

Compare monthly vs annual subscriptions here

Report news in confidence here.

Lew & John Dickey and I will be together on stage at the 2019 Conclave in Minneapolis June 20thin a wide ranging and deadly honest conversation about what happened at Cumulus and where the future of the radio industry is – obviously, it’s not working for companies that can’t fire people fast enough.  We will talk about growth opportunities for radio people in the new modern media.  Details here.

Spotify & Apple vs. Radio for Hitmaking

At the end of 2018 there were 278 million paid subscribers to streaming services according to The MIDIA Research Global Music Forecasts.

And many more users who listen through free ad-supported options.

Nielsen says free terrestrial radio reaches 270 million people per week.

The radio industry claims radio is the number one source for music discovery although anyone with children or who work with Millennials will have a hard time with that claim.

We hear a lot about that special relationship between radio and the record labels being over now in the era of streaming music services such as but not limited to Spotify and Apple.

So, the question is – which is more critical for breaking new hits?

Radio?

Or streaming music services and playlists?

Now we have the answer based on data including every song that broke either the top 50 on Spotify or radio according to Billboard dating back to the week of December 29, 2016.

  • How many weeks does it take radio compared to Spotify to break a new hit record – the evidence is in.
  • What curated playlists mean to Spotify and streaming music services and how they work.
  • Does a song last longer on radio or Spotify?
  • Does radio work simultaneously with Spotify or separate from it in exposing hits?
  • Which genre gets the fastest traction when exposed to today’s hitmaking process.
  • What is the main new role of radio airplay?

Read the full article now

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.

Read the full article now

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?

Read the full article now

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?

Read the full article now

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. 

Read the full article now

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?

Read the full article now

Cumulus Financials Unpacked

Mary Berner is just like the other radio CEOs when it comes to putting lipstick on a pig.

She just does it with more enthusiasm.

The happy talk radio trade press picks up on this combination of carefully selected information and brute optimism without challenge to give Cumulus a pass.

These free passes are based on no specifics, details or quantifiable metrics that a sophisticated public media investor would ever wrap their arms around.

Things are worse there than Berner is letting on.

Revenue problems, EBITDA problems, digital future problems and the evidence is all there for those who know where to look deeper into their Q4 pre-release and investor deck filed in the 8-K.

It turns out to be a lot of half-truths and taking liberty with the numbers.

Here are the real Cumulus numbers unpacked.

  • The real Cumulus revenue figure and how they compare to the adjusted ones Mary Berner is selling.
  • What’s being thrown in to prop Cumulus performance up.
  • It’s right there in the numbers – the specific group of employees who will be taking the brunt of coming expense cuts.
  • What’s the impact of Berner’s podcasting initiative?
  • The expected effects of the sale of WPLJ and watering down major markets on revenue.

Read the full article now.

David Field’s Reboot of Entercom

Have you noticed recently that David Field has muzzled his criticism of CBS Radio and its employees who he acquired through the merger?

Where he seemingly and publicly blamed them for almost everything that went wrong on the assimilation of the two companies, he has now fallen silent.

It’s not an accident.

Entercom is in big trouble missing investors’ expectations, failing to perform up to company estimations and all of this as radio continues to battle declining ad revenue and searching for a solution to the digital puzzle.

It’s not your father’s Entercom anymore.

Or maybe it is – more like founder Joe Field’s company than the grandiose dream of his son, David.

In any case, Field has decided to shake it up and the Entercom that we will see is nothing like the bumbling company that screwed the CBS merger.

  • Will Field give up more control and rely on others to help turn around Entercom?
  • Where’s Weezie – does she keep doing “Where’s Waldo” or does she reemerge and if so, how does she help the reboot?
  • The all-news franchise is in trouble and it was one-third of CBS’s revenue, who comes in to straighten that out?
  • The SAG-AFTRA pissing match – the new David Field.
  • What new initiatives are coming to pick up lagging revenue?
  • The list of what gets rebooted – and what does not.

Read the full article now

The Cox Radio Apollo Acquisition

We know that Cox Media Group is selling off its TV division to the private equity firm Apollo Global Management. 

This includes 13 Cox television stations, a radio cluster in Dayton along with some publishing assets.

No so fast with the rumor that private equity firm Apollo will also roll up the remaining radio stations which are an integral part of TV and publishing.

There are other interested buyers. 

We also know Cox will not solely retain the radio assets so they are on the move, but because Cox is a well-run media company albeit in a declining media industry, there are some breathtaking possibilities beyond the obvious.

  • Some really good buyers don’t have a chance in hell, here are a few of them.
  • Cox is keeping a minority interest so they want a deal their way so the question is what is their way?
  • Why Cox Radio is in such demand when Cumulus is out selling off icons like WPLJ and essentially vacating New York and DC among other places they need to be.
  • What it will all come down to – and what’s fascinating is that price has very little to do with it. Here’s what it will take to win the 61 Cox Radio stations.

Read the full article now

The Next 4 Radio Bankruptcies

A few years ago we predicted the Cumulus and iHeart bankruptcies.

Few believed it then.  Pure speculation, they said.  Can’t be. And the companies denied it up and down until the bitter end.

Now we’re back with 4 more radio bankruptcies and the reasons why.

Obviously when these 4 radio groups file, it will have an adverse effect on the struggling radio industry.

  • Who are these 4 groups?
  • Why will they be forced to seek bankruptcy protection?
  • Which one has the best chance of maybe – just maybe, dodging it – but even then, no guarantees.
  • We’re warning you now, some of the names on this list are shockers.
  • The latest intel on each of the 4 companies and why they are headed down.

Read the full article now

Record Labels To Squeeze Radio Events

Headlines …

  • How record labels plan to disrupt radio’s live event business.
  • The 5 radio groups with the most to lose.
  • What the record labels now want from radio and what they are willing to give in return.
  • The new difficulties of using artists for live radio events.
  • Why, of all broadcasters, SiriusXM could be a surprise live event player.

Read the full article now.

The New Radio Business Model

  • The “new” number of spots per hour.
  • Where expenses will be cut beyond what’s happening today.
  • Where does programmatic buying fit in – and does it fit in?
  • Live and local will be replaced by a new approach that begins with a “P” – this is the replacement.
  • What is reverse digital – it’s coming to radio.

Read the full article now.

Entercom Debt Worries

  • How serious are Entercom’s debt problems?
  • What is behind yesterday’s big Entercom stock selloff?
  • Is it time to be concerned about the future of Entercom.
  • How much time does Entercom have to deal with debt (remember, both iHeart & Cumulus denied bankruptcy up to the end)?
  • What they will do to cut expenses further.

Read the full article now.

Google Targeting Radio

  • How Google has plans to go after broadcast radio.
  • How Google aims to amass audio content without paying for it and profiting from day one.
  • Why Apple, Amazon, Facebook/Instagram are likely to follow Google’s lead.
  • What these tech giants see in radio while radio is flirting with podcasting and digital.
  • How radio can stop Google in their tracks by changing its business model – here’s one to consider.

Read the full article now.

Cumulus Asset Sales

  • Here’s what’s up with Westwood One – plus two buyers who could steal the company.
  • Will Cumulus entertain offers for other WPLJ-type properties now that they’ve all but exited major markets New York & DC?
  • Besides religious broadcaster EMF, who are potential buyers for prime Cumulus assets?
  • The surprising answer to what happens to money made from selling iconic radio stations.
  • The surprising market Cumulus would love to sell off major stations.

Read the full article now.

The 9-year span of listeners that could save radio

  • The sweet spot – the next great group of people who are available now to provide great radio audience growth for the next 12 years.
  • How should a station target a super group this narrow?
  • What is the secret to unlocking their passion – it comes down to one word.
  • Does “narrow targeting” involve inventing entirely new formats or making critical adjustments to existing formats?
  • What are some major do’s and don’ts with which to get started.

Read the full article now.

Entercom’s Event Business in Question

  • The “new look” live events business shaping up under Entercom
  • Puzzling revenue numbers, revamping of what’s a live event
  • New practices and policies created largely by non-CBS people
  • How even Taylor Swift lays an egg for Entercom live events
  • Walking away from money – Entercom’s new strategy

Read the full article now.

The Sale of Westwood One

  • Did Cumulus try to sell Westwood One? Is it still trying?
  • What is Westwood now worth without major New York and DC stations to clear spots?
  • What it is likely to take to buy Westwood One at this point.
  • The best buyer for Westwood.
  • What happens to Westwood One should Cumulus enter a second bankruptcy?

Read the full article now.