Details are still sketchy but KRTH (101.1 FM) has demoted popular afternoon drive host “Shotgun” Tom Kelly. Kelly – whose contract was up for renewal – will be removed from the afternoon drive slot he has hosted for the past 22 years and will instead become the station’s “ambassador.” His last day is said to be scheduled for today (August 28).
“Ambassador” according to the press release issued by the station means someone who will make personal appearances, work with clients (advertisers), be showcased in on-air features, and work on charitable events and special projects.
“Ambassador” according to everyone outside of the (KRTH owner) CBS la-la land means “we don’t care that you’re one of the primary reasons for KRTH’s monster ratings and success for almost a quarter century, we pay you too much and we need to cut costs now.” Kelly is not the only long-time high-paid personality to be removed from their positions in the last few weeks. It does showcase that any class CBS once had is all gone. And for that matter, CBS radio itself is probably on the way out.
Kelly deserves better. I hope he gets it.
The latest -- and I must stress: totally unconfirmed -- rumor has cost-cutting at CBS-owned radio stations nationwide in full swing. It seems that no station in the chain is not being at least evaluated, and no personality is necessarily safe. KRTH is but one example.
Not that this is new in our corporate McRadio world. Large group owners such as CBS, IHeartMedia and Cumulus were never able to make their multiple-station pseudo-monopoly business plans work, so for years they’ve been laying off the very people who made radio what it once was, and have relied on their essential monopolies to retain ratings.
The ratings side has basically worked. If you don’t count teenagers who haven’t tuned into radio for at least a decade, total listenership to radio has held fairly steady. The problem is that advertisers figured out that listeners with no passion for a station do not make very good consumers. End result: revenue throughout the industry has dropped and the major corporate players are caught with staggering debt. Future years will be worse as the industry has no one to replace current listeners. No wonder stocks are at an all-time low for most radio groups.
In the case of the CBS, the rumor -- and again I must stress it is a rumor -- is that there is pressure on upper management to just dump the stations. But the stations cannot be sold until costs are in line with a supposed goal.
Here’s the juicy part of the rumor: once those costs hit that certain threshold, I am told, the stations are ready to go under pre-negotiated terms to Cumulus and one of the few remaining decent large radio groups, Entercom.
If true, that would shake up the entire industry. CBS is the last of the “original” group owners, though the line back to the original Columbia Broadcasting Company is stretched quite slim. KNX, for example, has been owned by CBS for the vast majority of its 93-year existence. NBC and ABC sold off their radio stations years ago.
Before the recent cuts that include the removal of Kelly from KRTH afternoons, I personally hoped the rumor was false. Now I am not so sure. It seems CBS is hell-bent on destroying stations the same way Cumulus has done with theirs, so I would be fine with Entercom taking control of the local CBS properties. Hopefully Cumulus won’t take part in the fire sale … if, again, the rumor is true.
Of course if they all went away and local ownership returned, that would be the best solution...
The Sage is Back
Since being removed from the lineup at KABC (790 AM), Larry Elder has been doing a podcast at www.larryelder.com. Currently the podcast is live from 12 noon the 3 pm, with the first two hours being available as a simulcast on CRN Digital Talk Radio (online) at crntalk.com.
Now those first two hours can be heard via tape delay every weeknight at 9 p.m. on KRLA (870 AM). Why not live and why not all three hours I don’t know, but fans of Elder are happy just to have him on the air again.
I don’t cover the ratings monthly because I think we would both be tired of the constant coverage. But here’s some quickies from the July Nielsens:
• IHeartMedia and CBS combined control almost half -- 47.4 percent -- of the ratings. IHeart owns such stations as KIIS-FM (102.7), KOST (103.5 FM), and KFI (640 AM) among others. CBS counts KNX, KRTH, and KROQ among its eight local stations.
• The next largest group owner ratings-wise is Univision, with 8.6 percent of the radio listenership. Univision owns four stations in Los Angeles including KTNQ (1020 AM).
• The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) found itself in the top-5 overall ... the best the frequency has done ever.
• KRRL (92.3 FM) and KPWR (105.9 FM) are neck and neck (3.2 vs. 3.1, respectively) after a few months of domination by KRRL. Interestingly, the station that seems to have been hurt more by KRRL’s format change early this year? KRRL sister station KIIS-FM, which found itself down in 4th place ... out of the top-three for the first time since, well, I can’t even remember.