Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #182

Radio: July 21, 2017

Officially, “My FM” KBIG (104.3 FM) is a “Hot Adult Contemporary” station, playing music that is “hotter” or more upbeat than traditional adult contemporary stations that in the past were designed in large part to be unoffensive.

But a closer listen shows that My FM is really modern top-40, or as close as one can get. Much of the music played -- from such artists as Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, and Imagine Dragons -- sounds similar to what one-time top-40 giant KIIS-FM (102.7 FM) played in its heyday of the mid 1980s. In fact, My FM sounds more like a 2017 version of KIIS-FM than does KIIS-FM itself.

So perhaps it is fitting that My FM has taken the crown from KIIS-FM to become the city’s number one station for most of this year, including the most recent ratings for June released last week. My FM’s 5.8 share keeps the station solidly in 1st, followed by The Wave KTWV (94.7 FM) at 5.4, KRTH (101.1 FM) at 5.1, KIIS at 5.0 and KOST (103.5 FM) at 4.8.

Some interesting pairings came out of the report. For example, the two top-rated AM stations in Los Angeles were tied at at 8th place with a 3.3 percent share of the audience. Real KRRL (92.3 FM), which tried to destroy Power 106 KPWR (106.1 FM) by stealing the Big Boy morning show -- and did so for a while -- found itself humbled and tied with Power (and Go Country) at 11th place with a 2.9 share. And KKJZ (88.1 FM), licensed to Cal State Long Beach but run under a deal with Saul Levine’s Mt. Wilson Broadcasters, tied Mt. Wilson’s own oldies station KSUR (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) (and religious hit music station KFSH, 95.9 FM) at 38th with a 0.5 share.

KRTH beat Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1) in oldies, 5.4 to 3.5. But “old school” oldies KTWV The Wave beat them both with its 5.4 share. I wonder if the suits at Real 92.3 think dropping old school for urban top-40 was such a brilliant idea after all ...

Classic Rock The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) beat KLOS (95.5 FM) by almost half a point: 2.7 to 2.3. KYSR -- Alt 98.7 FM -- beat KROQ (106.7 FM) by half a point: 2.9 to 2.4. The highest-rated Sports station -- by a nose -- was KSPN (710 AM) with a 1.0 share; KLAC (570 AM) was right behind at 0.9. It must be noted that when both sports stations played music, their ratings were in the 2’s ... but who needs ratings and listeners when you can have programmer and consultant egos?

The top-rated public stations? Another interesting combo ... KCRW (89.9 FM), KUSC (91.5 FM) and KPCC (89.3 FM) tied with KJLH (102.3 FM) at 25th with a 1.5 share.

Looking closer at KFI, it is interesting that Bill Handel mornings and Tim Conway, Jr. evenings truly drive the station with Handel earning a 4.2 share during his time period and mostly Conway (the rating period is 7 p.m. to midnight; Conway is off at 10:00) earning 4.5 -- the highest ratings of the station’s broadcast day. This proves that entertaining content will attract an audience or all ages, even on AM ... that rating for Conway is a 4th place tie with KRTH in the time slot. 

Each rating is an estimate of the percentage of listeners tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight as determined by Nielsen:

1. KBIG (5.8) 2. KTWV (5.4) 3. KRTH (5.1) 4. KIIS (5.0) 5. KOST (4.8) 6. KOST, KCBS-FM (3.5) 8. KFI, KNX (3.3) 10. KAMP (3.0)

11. KPWR, KRRL, KYSR (2.9) 14. KKGO, KSCA (2.8) 16. KSWD (2.7) 17. KRCD (2.6) 18. KXOL (2.5) 19. KROQ (2.4) 20. KLOS (2.3)

21. KLAX (1.9) 22. KBUE, KXOS (1.7) 24. KLYY (1.6) 25. KCRW, KJLH, KPCC, KUSC (1.5) 29. KDAY, KSSE (1.3)

31. KRLA, KSPN (1.0) 33. KLAC, KWIZ (0.9) 35. KEIB (0.8) 36. KABC, KFWB (0.6) 38. KFSH, KKJZ, KSUR (0.5) 41. KWKW, KYLA (0.4) 43. KTNQ (0.3) 44. KKLA, KLAA (0.2)

Leno Does Conway

Yes, that WAS Jay Leno filling in for Conway on June 12th. Missed it? Head over to KFI640.com and click on the Conway page ... the full recording is there via Conway on Demand.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #181

Radio: July 14, 2017

There are specific rules for identifying broadcast stations. Officially, station identification must consist of the station's call letters immediately followed by the community or communities specified in its license as the station's location. This must be done once per hour as close to the top of the hour as possible.

So count me as confused when listening to KRDC (1110 AM) lately. The once-proud KRLA is now Radio Disney Country with one of the strangest sets of IDs I have ever heard. Yes, sets. As in three as I heard on Monday.

The first was “KRDC AM and FM.” The second was “KRDC Pasadena.” The third was “KRDC 99.1 FM and 1110 AM.” Only the second is truly legal, but it appears that the multiple IDs are designed to mislead listeners into thinking that there is an FM station involved. Except there isn’t, at least in the traditional sense. 

The FM station simulcasting KRDC’s AM signal is a translator, or very low-powered FM transmitter designed specifically to bring a station into an area not well covered by the main signal. In this case it is officially called K256CX and broadcasts -- or did broadcast -- from Irwindale on 99.1 FM after station owner Disney/ABC moved it from Beaumont. Rumor is that it is off the air due to interference complaints from KGGI/Riverside, which also broadcasts at 99.1 FM.

But considering that the translator in no way makes for an AM-FM simulcast combo in the traditional sense, what are they doing?

My hunch is syndication. If Disney wanted to syndicate the format to stations owned by others, it would carry more status if it was available on a Los Angeles FM station. Since it isn’t, they are faking it, so to speak, to make it seem more popular than it is. Again this is just a hunch, but I cannot think of any other reason for the multiple misleading IDs, and the press-releases offered touting the format being available on FM in Los Angeles. Which it isn’t, outside of a small area of Irwindale.

What about Pop Disney?

The old kid top-40 format heard on 1110 AM when it was called KDIS is still around. You just need a digital HD Radio tuned to KRTH (101.1 FM) HD2. Whether that remains as Entercom takes control of CBS Radio -- current owner of KRTH -- remains to be seen.

Power Struggle

The transformer explosion that wreaked havoc with electricity throughout much of the Los Angeles area last Sunday knocked the Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters stations -- KSUR (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2), Go Country (KKGO, 105.1 FM), K-Mozart (105.1 HD2) and Unforgettable (105.1 HD3) off the air. Well, partially off the air ... the transmitters were up, they just had nothing to broadcast with the studios dark. Said owner Saul Levine “our backup generator failed ... looks like we need a new one!”

Interestingly, the signal for KKJZ (88.1 FM) -- which uses the same studio complex as KKGO and KSUR -- was not down. Levine explained that the signal was able to be routed to the Long Beach transmitter using battery packs.

Also interestingly, the coverage of the outage was mixed at best. KNX (1070 AM) reported on the transformer problem and the outages throughout the city, but never put the two together nor explained why a problem in Northridge would cause an outage in Westwood or Pacific Palisades. Most likely that is due to it happening on a Sunday ... cutbacks at CBS have left the all news station with a skeleton crew on weekends.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #180

Radio: July 7, 2017

Legendary Los Angeles DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who spent over 40 years on KROQ (106.7 FM) before being released last month in a pre-Entercom/CBS merger housecleaning, will join SiriusXM to host a new weekly show beginning Sunday, July 16 on the Underground Garage, Channel 21.

The move puts Bingenheimer back on a time when people can actually hear him -- he had been relegated to after midnight Sunday nights/Monday mornings on KROQ the last few years. On SiriusXM, he’ll be heard on the West Coast from 6 to 9 p.m. every Sunday night.

While somewhat “challenged” as a DJ -- you would never confuse him with Ryan Seacrest, for example -- Bingenheimer is nonetheless a passionate promoter of music and has helped launch numerous careers over his own long career. Van Halen, The Runaways, The Ramones and many more owe at least part of their success to Bingenheimer and his former program “Rodney on the Roq.”

The Underground Garage channel is executive produced by “Little Steven” Van Zandt, the musician and actor who is still part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. “Rodney was one of my first calls when I started the channel,” he said adding, “this is where he belongs!” Even if it took years to get his there.

Bingenheimer says he is glad to finally be on earlier on the evening, exclaiming, “I can have more listeners who don’t have to worry about missing school or work the next day” and adding, “I’m so honored to be on the same channel as Little Steven ... we’re going to keep great music alive.”

This is quite a coup for SiriusXM, which in many is out-doing local radio in the personality department. It also gives Bingenheimer potentially the largest audience he has ever had, nationwide. It would be nice to hear some new local bands get some exposure ... bands that traditional radio ignores. I am really looking forward to this.

Wood Good

Alt 98.7 FM has extended the contract for the tremendously entertaining morning Woody Show through 2022. Hopefully national syndication -- part of the deal -- will not screw it up. As it is, The Woody Show is one of the best morning shows in town.

Try Again?

AllAccess.Com reports that Lew Dickey’s new Modern Media Acquisition Corporation has filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission explaining what it plans to do with the $200 million it raised and must spend by November, 2018. Kind of ...

"We will seek to capitalize on the significant experience and contacts of our management team and our partnership with Macquarie Capital to complete our initial business combination,” the filing stated. “We believe our management team’s distinctive background and record of acquisition and operational success could have a transformative impact on verified target businesses.”

Whatever that means. There is more, but it tends to be nonspecific and full of jargon. What is worth reading are the comments posted from AllAccess readers in response to the story. Among them:

“It can't be translated... But, here is the best I can do: ‘I have to spend a lot of money quickly to ruin other companies and put good people out of work while continuing to devalue properties and pretend like I know what I am doing.’”

Dickey was head of Cumulus Media, owner of KABC (790 AM) and KLOS (95.5 FM) locally; his tenure saw the company’s stock lose the vast majority of its value and numerous company stations stagnate or falter before he was forced out last year. As one comment noted, most in the radio industry hope he buys a baseball team instead ...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #179

Radio June 30, 2017

Some fun channels have been added to SiriusXM Satellite Radio if you have the right tuner and subscription package to receive them.

Road Trip Radio has returned on Channel 301 ... music to drive to. Eagles, AC/DC, Sheryl Crow, The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Michael Jackson, Avicii, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Kenny Chesney, and Prince star on this channel.

Channel 303 is ONEderland, playing one-hit wonders from bands such as The Shocking Blue, 4 Non Blondes, The Proclaimers, Wild Cherry, Yello, Gary Numan, Chumbawamba, and The Georgia Satellites.

Yacht Rock Radio on Channel 311 plays “smooth sailing” music great for the Summer ... Michael McDonald, Steely Dan, Christopher Cross, Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins, 10cc, and Toto.

These are the best, though there are some others as well. The Covers Channel ... songs you like done by others ... is a bit weird but I am sure there is a market (Channel 302). Velvet (Channel 304) plays songs from contemporary vocalists. And songs you might hear being played on a bar jukebox are on Rockbar (Channel 313). Those and a few more are only around for the Summer, so listen while you can.

Go Lane Country

Country star Chris Lane will be the July guest DJ on Go Country’s (KKGO, 105.1 FM) mid-day show. Lane is an artist on Big Loud Records and replaces Michael Ray, who was the mid-day DJ during the month of June. Hear him weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Big Ratings

“My FM” KBIG (104.3 FM) earned it’s highest rating ever, or at least as high as I can remember, in May: 5.8, easily beating second-place KTWV The Wave’s (94.7 FM) 5.3 share of the audience. Looks like family-friendly KBIG is the new era’s KIIS-FM (102.7 FM) which at one time was the station the whole family tuned in ...

Rounding out the top-5 were KIIS-FM and KRTH (101.1 FM) tied at 4.8 and KOST (103.5 FM) at 4.7.

Abuse of Power

I envisioned the possibility of great things with the merger of CBS and Entercom. Even though I am against large group owners, this would be one in which there is no debt due to the merger structure, leaving the company free to do great radio.

From what I’ve been observing, however, it appears that Entercom is no better and may in fact be worse than debt-laden competitors iHeart and Cumulus.

In a column from respected industry observer Jerry Del Colliano at InsideMusicMedia.Com, Del Colliano talks of Entercom CEO David Field using his power to prevent competitors from growing by refusing to sell stations to companies that directly compete; that they have turned down an offer for The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) precisely for that reason; and that Entercom hopes to build what could be called a sports monopoly through shrewd moves.

Add to that the secret and small cutbacks at stations in cost-cutting moves that management hoped no one would notice.

That is frightening, and it is why Congress needs to put pressure on the Department of Justice and the FCC to not approve this merger. Entercom is acting as an essential monopoly with as much power as Standard Oil had prior to antitrust laws; this is bad for radio and bad for listeners.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #178

Radio: June 23, 2017
 
As the Entercom/CBS merger continues, rumors have been running rampant regarding which station the combined company will have to sell to get within the limit of the number of stations allowed to be owned by the FCC.
 
The two stations already in a trust -- and thus the two stations seemingly ready to be “disposed” -- are KCBS-FM (93.1) and The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM). Observers are (mostly) betting on The Sound.
 
But that would be a horrendously bad idea.
 
First off, while I would loathe the idea, it is very likely that the already impotent FCC will be weakened further by the Trump administration, and the caps on ownership will be changed or lifted. That would mean that no station should actually have to be sold. CBS itself was counting on the idea when it kept KFWB (980 AM) in a trust for a decade as it feigned looking for a buyer.
 
Secondly, between the two, The Sound is the bad choice for a sale. KCBS-FM, also known as Jack-FM, is an established hit, currently at its peak in the ratings. It basically has nowhere to go but down, and the format has gone down in every city outside of Los Angeles. While I don’t expect that to happen here necessarily, holding on to Jack is like holding on to a glass vase with cracks ... looks good now but has the potential to fall apart. It also has little room for growth either in revenue or ratings
 
The Sound, however, is a solid station well-programmed with little direct competition. It’s been holding steady over the past year or so, and in the May ratings hit one of its best ratings points ever: 2.9 overall for listeners aged 6 and over, for an 11th place tie; in the top 10 among listeners aged 25-54 and even stronger among men in that age group. The growth potential is there, and there is room for more especially in revenue, as revenue follows ratings.
 
The above only applies if you are hell-bent on selling two of your best signals. Both Jack and The Sound are “grandfathered” into power levels and effective signal strength that would not be allowed if the stations were being built today. KROQ (106.7 FM), on the other hand, has a much weaker signal emanating from a mountain top lower in height than the Mount Wilson location for Jack and The Sound. 
 
KROQ has been hit hard by competition from Alt 98.7 (KYSR) as well, and both are running a format that has declined nationwide. So from a purely technical and business standpoint, KROQ is the station to sell, unless you want top dollar. Then it’s Jack. 
 
But as I said, if I were Entercom, I’d hold them all with a good poker-face ... I think they will be allowed to keep them for a long time, even though I disagree with the premise.
 
Problems at Disney
 
Remember that story on Radio Disney Country (KRCD, 1110 AM) adding a little FM translator on 99.1 FM in Irwindale? Seems that they may have jumped the gun a bit and might just be operating that translator illegally.
 
You may recall I mentioned KGGI from Riverside broadcasting on that same frequency. Well, KGGI owner iHeart says that the translator was modified without authorization and is now causing interference to KGGI within its protected signal area. The company has asked the FCC to stay any action approving any changes to the license of the translator until an investigation can be completed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #177

Radio: June 16, 2017
Ever since Cumulus Media stock hit the proverbial toilet -- the stock is currently sitting at just over 50 cents per share even after a reverse stock split designed to keep the price above $1 ... and is far from it’s (reverse split equivalent) peak of $406 per share in late 1999 -- I’ve been suggesting a way to save the company-owned stations and save radio at the same time.
Cumulus owns over 400 stations nationwide including KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) locally, along with Westwood One and other content creation companies.
The idea is simple: Buy Cumulus and dismantle it. The current market cap of $14.94 million means the entire company is worth less than one Los Angeles station alone; my plan involves buying the company outright, selling off the vast majority of the stations, and pay off the $2+ billion in debt that the company owes from past ill-advised mergers and acquisitions. 
Even estimating a low average selling price of $11 million per station for those I’d sell, I figure I’d be left with about $4 billion to run my ten stations, ten being the total number of stations any company should be allowed to own if I had my way. I could hire the DJs, programmers and support staff, run the best promotions, and destroy my competition.
People said I was crazy ... except that they couldn’t explain why. But a recent move by Cumulus itself proves the worthiness of the plan: the company adopted a “poison pill” triggered when anyone or anything purchases more than 4.9 percent of the company in the open market. According to InsideRadio.Com:
“Once activated, Cumulus’ poison pill would award shareholders with incremental shares of stock or give them the option to buy shares at a significant discount if the company becomes a takeover target. Either action would effectively dilute the acquirer’s position to 50% or less of what they’ve acquired.”
So that’s that ... unless I can work with the Board of Cumulus for a friendly takeover. The question becomes: why did they do that? Well ...
Lew Dickey’s Back
The man who helped create Cumulus Media through mergers, acquisitions and (in my opinion) horrendously bad skills at running a radio company, who was forced out of Cumulus about 18 months ago, is back. Backed by the same company that gave him the money to build Cumulus into the dying company it is today.
Why Macquarie Capital would give Dickey any financing at all is a true mystery, but they did. And now Dickey has $207 million to play with using his new company, Modern Media Acquisition Corp. The purpose? To acquire and run a company in media, entertainment or related marketing.
Could that be why Cumulus suddenly instilled a poison pill? To keep Dickey out? I’m not a betting man, but ... you can bet on it.
Better Signal
Listened to KABC lately? You can hear them. Better than in years.
When they moved from the longtime transmitter site on La Cienega to a location that now shares -- triplexes -- with two other stations not far from Dorsey High School, the signal seemed to disappear. Vastly inferior to the La Cienega location, at least initially.
It seems the engineers have worked some magic, though, via a power increase from 5000 watts to 6600 daytime and 7900 nighttime. KABC is now coming in loud and clear throughout the area I live and travel even at night, better in San Pedro than in years ... maybe decades. Sound quality for analog is vastly improved as well. Hopefully this will allow the station to better compete; there is some great content that in the past was prone to interference ... of the electronic kind.
Disney Country
I can hear you now: Why doesn’t Radio Disney play country music? Wait ... you mean you didn’t? Well, you’re in luck anyway: KDIS (1110 AM) has changed to KRDC: Radio Disney Country. Country music sanitized for the family.
I like country music. It’s all about trucks, women, drinking and fighting. I’m not sure what Disney can actually play here.
Regardless, they are doing it. They even added an FM translator, which is a fancy word for a low-powered FM transmitter that helps extend the AM signal to parts of the city not covered well by the AM signal. In this case on 99.1 FM in Irwindale. Meaning, due to the strong signal of KGGI/Riverside (99.1 FM), a few blocks near the translator site in Irwindale and nowhere else.
I don’t see Go Country (KKGO, 105.1 FM) being affected at all.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #176

Radio: June 9, 2017

If you play it, they will come ... for those who doubt the viability of AM radio, I have received more mail on the new LA Oldies format of K-SURF (1260 AM) than almost any other topic over the past few years...

... from a station that is licensed to Beverly Hills, has a signal that doesn’t even cover the entire metro Los Angeles area, and is in a part of the band that is crowded, to say the least. THIS is true AM revitalization ... play what people want. And right now they want oldies.

The question at hand is what oldies? Purists believe that oldies are from the 1950s and ‘60s. Yet when KHJ (930 AM) was playing oldies as “goldens” in the Boss Radio days of the 1960s, those songs were ten years old or so ... even newer than the ‘80s and ‘90s hits that KRTH (101.1 FM) plays today.

But there certainly is a market for them, at least judging by the responses to my survey question: what era should K-SURF play? You want what is missing from the dial: songs from the 1950s and ‘60s.

By an overwhelming majority. of all the responses, 91 percent said stay with the 50s and ‘60s. Only nine percent said they liked the ‘70s, though there were a decent number who said they would accept songs from the ‘70s if there were not too many of them and they stopped by the era of Disco.

For those who gave a cutoff year - only a handful actually gave a year - the majority went with 1964, a few with 1969 an one said 1975. As long as it stopped before Disco ...

Here are a few of the comments:

“As far as reaching for songs in the 1970s, all I can ask is ‘why?’ There are so many songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s that can fill the programming.” -- John Wong

“Most of the ‘70s music sounds out of place. (Instead) they should play lower charting songs (from the 1950s and ‘60s): Johnny Cash, Four Aces, Moonglows, and hundreds of other artists.” -- Steve Thompson -- Glendale

“The creeping in of ‘70s era music is annoying. Just leave the ‘50s and ‘60s format” -- Debbie and Robert Ryan

“I would defnitely prefer to have only songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s.” -- Jim McDonald, Van Nuys

“I can get ‘70s music on other stations. Why do they want to mess with a good thing?” -- LonnyS9970

“Please keep it ‘50s and ‘60s oldies. Please! I have more than 100 family and friends tuned in to 1260 because of the oldies.” -- Merappok1

“The music from the ‘60s had an iconic sound; leave well-enough alone. Let the ‘70s stand on its own.” -- Jeff

“Just to follow up on K-SURF: Yes, the songs should only be from the ‘50s and ‘60s.” -- Ken

“I love the format and most of the choices. I never really cared for Carole King or Steely Dan, among others, but I turn the sound down rather than changing stations. But the 1970s have some songs that are carryover from the ‘60s and should not be ignored.” -- Cheri Pratt

If they start playing music from the 1970s, I’ll stop listening” -- Margie Schuler, Glandale

“Cruising oldies from the ‘50s and ‘60s please ... we old folks need our music ‘fix’ too!” -- Cathy Pallitto

Don’t mind a song from the ‘70s once in a while ... but not too many” -- Marie Mull, Glendale

That’s just a sample. What struck me most in the full original letters and emails is the passion people have for the format and the willingness to find and listen to the station in spite of its limited signal. A few letters mentioned buying an HD Radio in order to hear the station in stereo via the HD simulcast on 105.1 HD2. Those living in San Fernando can tune in the station via HD AM once work is done on the transmitter, according to station owner Saul Levine.

So here you have a weak AM station generating more buzz than most of the other stations in town ... AM or FM. Lesson? Just play what people want. Amazing what happens when you do that.