Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #110

In what must be the most ingenious method of avoiding paying debt, iHeartMedia -- which is carrying a staggering debt load of $21 billion -- plans to buy its way into solvency. Or buy some time, as the case may be.

According to The New York Post, iHeart, formerly known as Clear Channel Communications, is planning to convert most of the $2.4 billion in unsecured debt into equity. This in turn will lower interest payments to the point where the company could actually break even.

How can it convert debt to equity? By buying it.

As near as I can tell, the scheme appears to be akin to buying debt on the open market, similar to how home loans get lumped together and then purchased by other companies. Only in this case iHeart appears to be buying itself, and then using the “equity” it has to do an end run on its balance sheets. 

If it can convince enough investors to go along and thus convert all the unsecured debt into faux equity, iHeart could save $100 million in interest payments every year, putting the company into the black instead of losing a predicted $50 million, $80 million and $120 million in 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Now to find a bunch of really stupid investors and convince them this is a good idea. Interestingly, history is on the side of iHeart, as investors constantly make bone-headed moves such as this. I mean, just look at Cumulus ... or iHeart ... or ...

As one source put it, the move “definitely reflects risk and desperation.”

More Cinder

Mike Wagner, former programmer of the original KRLA (now KDIS, 1110 AM) wrote to clarify a bit of information on the dance club owned by former KRLA DJ and popular television personality Bob Eubanks.

There were actually several locations of Eubanks' teen nightclubs called the Cinnamon Cinder. And they were the inspiration for a 1963 hit by the Pastel Six,” which like everything in life can be found on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CWlyeuhz40)
“This info comes from the You Tube page: ‘The Cinnamon Cinder was released by The Pastel Six (Bill Meyers) in early 1963, and was a one hit wonder for the group. The Cinnamon Cinder was also a chain of Los Angeles teen nightclubs started by KRLA DJ Bob Eubanks, which soon spawned a TV show, The Cinnamon Cinder Show (1963-65).’

“‘Acts performed live and were usually backed by a resident band from one of the clubs ... North Hollywood's Pastel Six were one of the most popular, and they got their chance to record ‘The Cinnamon Cinder (It's A Very Nice Dance)’, written by Russ Regan. The show was also known as Bob Eubanks' Hollywood Dance Time.’

“The house bands often backed up such big name artists as Jackie DeShannon, Dick and Dede, The Ronettes, Little Stevie Wonder, The Coasters, The Rivingtons, and Chuck Berry,” said Wagner.

Tim Grobaty wrote of the Cinder for the Long Beach Press-Telegram back in 2008, covering among other things why it was such a success. “strict regulations,” he said, quoting from an even earlier Press-Telegram story on the Cinder from 1963.

Those rules? No alcoholic beverages were served, and people with alcohol on their breath were stopped at the door. No youngsters under 18 were permitted. Single men past the age of 25 were strongly discouraged from seeking entrance. Girls were not permitted in if they are wearing capris or shorts. Boys were barred if they wore T-shirts, sweatshirts, club or school jackets, Levi's or tennis shoes.
According to Grobaty, rules and regulations at the Long Beach traffic-circle location were enforced by the club's manager, Mickey Brown, who was a former LAPD officer. My hunch is that this kept the club safe, while still giving the kids the feeling of having their own place ... and of course, an outlet for them to see their favorite artists.

It lasted eight years, as Grobaty wrote, “the Cinder closed when its wholesomeness had, according to a Press-Telegram reporter, gone to seed.”

I’m trying to figure out how, with his work at KRLA, later work with the Beatles, television programs and more, how Eubanks had time to think!

Seasonal Sounds

From 6 a.m. December 24th through 6 p.m. December 25th, JazzKNOB.org will present its annual 36-hour Christmas programming, Sounds of the Season, highlighted by a reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas by the late, great Chuck Niles. This special reading will be presented six times throughout the holiday special: 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. on the 24th; midnight, 6 a.m. and noon on Christmas Day.
JazzKNOB.org is an online tribute to former all-jazz radio station KNOB, licensed at the time to Long Beach. It is now Spanish-language KLAX (97.9 FM).

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #109

Ryan Seacrest has been without an official co-host ever since Ellen K moved up the dial (and down the hallway) to take over morning host duties at KOST (103.5 FM). That has now changed.
As was announced at the KIIS-FM (102.7) Jingle Ball held on December 4th at the Staples Center, Sisanie Villaclara will take over the co-host duties effective immediately. Sisanie, who uses only her first name on the air, has been mid-day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) host at the top-rated station for the past eight years. She will continue to serve as Music Coordinator for the station. 
Taking over Sisanie’s slot is Letty B. 
Jungle Ball featured a dozen artists performing on a stage that rotated between sets, to reduce change times after a band was through: One Direction, The Weeknd, Selena Gomez, 5 Seconds of Summer, Ellie Goulding, Shawn Mendes, Tove Lo, Charlie Puth, Zedd, Hailee Steinfeld, Conrad Sewell and DNCE. 
Eighties Rule 
The 1980s -- which as a reminder to oldies purists are more than 25 years old -- rule the Los Angeles airwaves according to the most recent Nielsen Ratings. KRTH (101.1 FM) dominated with a 5.7 share, one-half point higher than KBIG (104.3 FM) and KIIS-FM, which were tied for second at 5.2. I may be mistaken, but I believe that is the highest rating KRTH has seen, ever. 
KOST (103.5 FM), which will dominate the December ratings with its yearly holiday music, and KTWV The Wave (94.7 FM) rounded out the top-5 with ratings shares of 5.0 and 4.0, respectively. 
Jack (KCBS-FM, 93.1) and The Sound KSWD (100.3 FM) both bounced back from drops in October; both were up 0.3 to 3.8(tie for 6th) and 3.3 (9th), respectively. KLOS (95.5 FM) was up as well, to 2.4 (19th) from 2.2. 
As usual, KFI won the talk wars with an 8th place 3.4 share. The next-highest talk station was KPCC (89.3 FM) tied with KCRW (89.9 FM) for 23rd with a 1.8 share. The next highest commercial talk station was all-sports KSPN (710 AM) at 27th with a 1.4 share. The next highest commercial general talk station was KEIB (1150 AM) tied at 34th and 0.8. KRLA (870 AM) was 37th at 0.6; KABC (790 AM) was 38th at 0.5. 
The full story: Each rating is an estimate of the percentage of listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight.
 1. KRTH (5.7); 2. KBIG, KIIS-FM (5.2); 4. KOST (5.0); 5. KTWV (4.0); 6. KCBS-FM, KLVE (3.8); 8. KFI (3.4); 9. KSWD (3.3); 10. KNX, KRRL (3.2)
 12. KROQ (3.1); 13. KAMP (3.0); 14. KLAX, KRCD (2.9); 16. KPWR, KYSR (2.6); 18. KKGO (2.5); 19. KLOS (2.4); 20. KSCA (2.2)
 21. KLYY (2.0); 22. KBUE (1.9); 23. KCRW, KPCC (1.8); 25. KXOL, KXOS (1.6); 27. KSPN (1.4); 28. KFSH, KLAC, KUSC (1.0)
 31. KDAY, KJLH, KWIZ (0.9); 34. KEIB, KKJZ, KSSE (0.8); 37. KRLA (0.6); 38. KABC (0.5); 39. KFWB (0.4); 40. KKLA, KLAA (0.3) 42. KTNQ (0.1) 
Bad Commercials 
We’ve all heard bad commercials. Sit ‘n Sleep comes to mind, though I have to admit they’ve grown on me and I now listen to see how Larry will “kill” his accountant Irwin in each new “episode.” I still can’t take 1-877-Kars-4-Kids and fail to understand how any programmer lets those on their station. 
But the worst has to be the “Random Act of Helpfulness” ads from American Honda. 
It’s quite strange, considering that past advertising from Honda was fairly clever. I particularly liked the ads featuring meetings in such locations as “an abandoned oboe factory” or something similar. Also strange since to the best of my knowledge the current ads really do feature real people getting real help. 
The problem is that while they are supposedly real, they sound as fake as a three dollar bill. They are obviously set up ahead of time, and the “reactions” from the people helped are rehearsed ... poorly. Or if they are not, said people being helped are the most under-appreciative people on the planet. Even the people playing the parts of the dealers sound contrived. Considering the potential, Honda is really blowing it with this one.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Radio Waves Podcast #108

Holidays are in the air(waves) as KOST (103.5 FM) continues its annual tradition of playing Christmas and holiday music, and SiriusXM features traditional (channel 18), contemporary (channel 13), country (channel 58), Latin (channel 785), and Hanukkah (Channel 68) holiday favorites, with more scheduled to go on as the season progresses. Even New Years Day gets its own channel on December 31, billed as the ultimate soundtrack to parties around the country. 
It’s a killer ratings time for KOST, which dominates the ratings for December every time it switches formats. As one reader put it years ago, “it just puts me in a good mood. I love listening to KOST this time of year.” 
Rivera Ousted from Cumulus 
Changes continue at Cumulus Media, owner of KABC (790 AM) and KLOS (95.5 FM), under the direction of new CEO Mary G. Berner. Berner replaced Lew Dickie, who many -- myself included -- credit with accelerating the decline of the company. 
The latest move is to finally take Geraldo Rivera off the air in New York; Rivera was once heard on KABC in an East-Coast/West-Coast simulcast, though he was removed form the KABC lineup at the end of 2013. Since that time Rivera had been heard on WABC/New York exclusively, until he was allegedly locked out of the studio last week. 
“This is the end,” he posted on Facebook November 28th. “In the four years since I joined 77 WABC radio in my hometown of New York I have enjoyed uneven success, but managed to establish an open-mined core following.” According to Rivera, Berner (or her team) are not recognizing a handshake deal made to extend his contract that was made with the Dickies before their removal from the company. 
Speaking on the subject of the problems being suffered by his employer, he wrote, “As the company tanked, the men who employed me, the honorable brothers John and Lew Dickey ultimately found themselves in financial peril, over-extended and prey to hedge funders who gobbled up enough clout to oust them as managers and install someone who had no experience in broadcasting but who apparently impressed those adventurous investors.” 
While I tend to agree that someone with no experience in radio running a radio company is a bad idea, Rivera is a bit off-base. It was the Dickies who put the company in peril first by overextending to the point where massive debt held the company down, then by responding by gutting talent. The result: low-ratings, lower ad revenue, and even more debt. Cumulus stock has lost over 99 percent of its value since it hit $50 in December, 1999. 
Think I’m too harsh? Let’s turn the page over to Tom Leykis, who left radio for online media (www.newnormalnetwork.com) due in large part to the Dickie-effect. His response to Rivera: 
"’Uneven success?’ I challenge you to open up the ratings to the public. They will find the same thing you found in Al Capone's vault: virtually nothing. The fact that you think the Dickey Brothers are "honorable" shows what a radio neophyte you are. By not signing a contract with you, they PUT you in the position you're in right now, rather than showing ‘honor.’ 
“Most of us who've worked in radio have known the truth about the Dickeys and Cumulus Media before you ever heard of them. You've conveniently ignored their long list of firings of hundreds of professional radio people. 
“Your firing in this holiday season gladdens the hearts of many of us in the radio business because you had no business working in the business in the first place.” 
Cumulus stock was actually up last week and as I write this is trading in the area of 38 cents per share, double what it was at the close of last Friday. That’s a huge improvement, but still a long way from the $1 per share it needs to maintain in order not to be delisted from the stock exchange. 
Corrections and Clarifications 
Reader Pat Mooney of Torrance sent in some information regarding Bob Eubanks that I never knew. 
“Regarding Bob Eubanks' rise and career in Los Angeles radio: he created and owned the Cinnamon Cider right up the road at the Long Beach traffic circle (I think it is a car dealership now) 
“It was the place to be. The Upstairs Downstairs in Downey was started right after plus a couple other clubs.  But the Cider was the first. Heck, Art Laboe used to hang there.” 
And I wrote that Stephanie Edwards did not have any radio experience outside of Lucky Supermarket commercials ... longtime radio programmer Chuck Southcott checked in to tell me she actually did have some experience: “Edwards was part of the on-air talent Saul Levine hired to host his Broadway format” when it ran on then KGIL (now KMZT, 1260 AM).