Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #170

Radio: April 28, 2017

My FM (KBIG, 104.3 FM) was up a half point to 5.7 from February and a full point since the holiday ratings period, making it the dominant radio force in Los Angeles once again, according to the March Nielsen Ratings released last week. My FM has been moving up every month since the holidays and won the ratings every month in the quarter.

Right behind, though, is The Wave (94.7 FM) at 5.5, which has also seen tremendous growth over the quarter. KIIS (102.7 FM) and KRTH (101.1 FM) came in tied for third at 4.9, with KOST (103.5 FM) rounding out the top-5 with a 4.4.

With the exception of Univision’s KLVE (107.5 FM), the top-ten stations sound like a true horserace between the two dominant essential radio monopolies, iHeart Radio and CBS. It’s kind of interesting to see:

iHeart (KBIG) followed by CBS (KTWV), iHeart (KIIS), CBS (KRTH), iHeart (KOST), Univision (KLVE), CBS (KNX, 1070 AM), iHeart (KFI, 640 AM), CBS (KCBS-FM, 93.1), iHeart (KYSR, 98.7 FM). Combined, all the iHeart stations account for 25.8 percent of the listening audience and CBS accounts for 21.9 percent. The next highest total for any company is Univision with a total of 10.1 percent, while every other company is at 3.9 or lower. Tell me again that iHeart and CBS don’t have too much power in this market and shouldn’t be broken up ...

KNX is the highest-rated AM station in town again with a 3.6 share. KFI is right behind with 3.4. There’s not another AM station on the list, though, until you get to KSPN (710 AM), which earns a 1.1 share of the audience. That means AM is dead, right? 

No, it actually means current programming on AM is generally bad, and AM has the potential for growth. Showing that music can make a difference on the oldest broadcast band, KSUR (1260 AM) came in with a 0.3 share. Not impressed? Consider that the station had no promotions, a very limited signal, no DJs, and was only on the air playing oldies ten days or so during the March ratings period that ran 3/2 - 3/29. I’d call that impressive, and it shows the direction AM stations should take.

The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM) doesn’t really compete directly against KLOS (95.5 FM) any more, but the comparisons still get made. This time The Sound (2.3) beat KLOS (2.1). The alternative race was won again by Alt 98.7, which came in a full point and almost ten places ahead of the format originator KROQ (106.7 FM).

When Emmis shut down country KZLA years ago, they did it because country doesn’t get ratings in Los Angeles. Saul Levine didn’t believe that then and certainly does not believe it now ... His Go Country 105 (KKGO) earned a 2.5 share and remains the most listened-to country station in America.

And just to show you that ratings can be looked at in many different ways, while KBIG was the big winner in the “six plus” numbers I’ve already mentioned (listeners aged six and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight), it was KIIS-FM that had more actual listeners: 3,762,300 vs. KBIG’s 3.744,400.
Those numbers reflect “cumulative listeners” who tune in for at least five minutes during a particular day-part, usually a three-hour period. Why the higher rating for KBIG? KBIG listeners stay tuned to the station for a longer period of time. 

The full story:

1. KBIG (5.7) 2. KTWV (5.5) 3. KIIS-FM, KRTH (4.9) 5. KOST (4.4) 6. KLVE (3.9) 7. KNX (3.6) 8. KFI (3.4) 9. KCBS-FM (3.2) 10. KYSR (3.1)
11. KRCD (3.0) 12. KSCA (2.8) 13. KRRL (2.7) 14. KAMP, KPWR (2.6) 16. KKGO (2.5) 17. KSWD (2.4) 18. KXOS (2.3) 19. KLOS, KROQ, KXOL (2.1)
22. KJLH, KLAX (1.8) 24. KBUE, KPCC (1.7) 26. KCRW, KLYY (1.6) 28. KUSC (1.2) 29 KDAY, KSSE (1.2)
31. KSPN (1.1) 32. KEIB, KRLA, KWIZ (1.0) 35. KABC (0.7) 36. KFSH, KKJZ, KLAC, KWKW (0.6) 40. KFWB (0.5)
41. KTNQ (0.4) 42. KSUR, KYLA (0.3) 44. KHJ, KKLA (0.2) 46. KLAA, KPCC online stream simulcast (0.1).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #169

Radio: April 21, 2017

Wilde Sound

Rita Wilde has been signed up for another multi-year contract on The Sound (KSWD, 100.3 FM), which -- along with the recent similar news for Joe Benson -- hopefully means the station will survive the merger (see below for more on that).

Wilde stared her radio career at KEZY/Anaheim (now KGBN, 1190 AM) during their “1190 Rock days” in 1978 under programmer Dave Forman, working through her tenure alongside such legends as Shana, Steve Downs, Rick Shaw, Dr. Timothy Leary, Strawberry Jan, Mark Denis and others ... “so many great people,” she told me. “I had been interning in the building for a couple of years,” she explained, answering phones for the FM which at the time was automated. “Dave asked me to make him a tape and he put me on the air the following weekend.” It was promoted as “Kick A** Rock and Roll ... “a rockin’ AM station playing FM rock on the AM dial.”

I remember it fondly. The first time I heard The Plimsouls, I heard them on KEZY. But I digress.

In 1982 she moved in to KLOS (95.5 FM) and has been at The Sound since 2013. “The Sound is the kind of radio I love, so I’m thrilled to be here,” Wilde said. Reflecting on her career, she commented “I am blessed and grateful.” Hear her nightly Monday through Friday, 7 p.m. to midnight on The Sound.

Merger Update

Entercom president and Chief Executive Officer David Field send an email to employees (interestingly addressed as “Entercom Users”) giving an update on the planned merger between Entercom and CBS Radio. The letter was also filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in order to keep investors updated as well.

“We have been hard at work, making significant progress towards our transformational merger,” Field wrote. “We are working with various government agencies on deal approval and we are engaging with the CBS corporate team along with a team of expert merger integration advisors to ensure that we achieve as close to a seamless transition as possible when we close.”

The merger is expected to be consummated sometime in the second half of next year.

“As an organization that fundamentally believes there is nothing more important than the people on our team, our first order of business upon making the announcement was to hit the road to meet and introduce ourselves to the CBS Radio staffs. Since early February, we have traveled across the country to virtually every one of the CBS markets. It is with great pride that we have shared the Entercom story and expressed our enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead for the entire organization,” he said.

While I am most certainly not a fan of huge radio companies at all -- the likes of Clear Channel (now iHeart), Cumulus and even CBS itself have stolen the soul from radio and have put a viable formerly creative industry on life support. But Entercom does seem to be a different breed, and as it is a merger rather than a buyout, the company should be on sound financial footing. Hopefully this may help push some money into promotions and programming.

Locally the combined company will -- or may, depending on whether regulations change under President Trump -- need to divest one station. In response, Entercom announced that it will place two stations into a trust for potential sale: KCBS-FM (93.1) and The Sound. Until the merger in finalized, both companies will operate as completely separate entities.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #168

Radio: April 14, 2017

Eye in the Sky

What a treat is it to hear airborne traffic reports on KFI (640 AM) again. It’s been years since the station featured the airborne reports, focussing instead on ground monitors and information provided by Cal-Trans. I imagine the cost savings were a part of the decision to originally drop them as well.

But airborne gives a birds-eye view of problems including a truly accurate estimate of the backlog and how long it looks before the mess will be cleaned up. Plus it’s great to hear the words once spoken by the late, great Bruce Wayne: “K-F-Eye In the Sky,” now brought to you by Jeff Baugh weekday mornings and Mike O’Brien in the afternoon. 


Reelradio.Com is free again!

Celebrating 21 years of service to radio junkies like me, the board-members of ReelRadio.Com have decided to try the free route again and rely on listener donations to cover the costs of providing a virtual museum of top-40 (and more) radio broadcasting.

The repository features both cut and uncut recordings of radio stations dating as far back as the 1930s. Many of the recordings were taken directly off of a radio and thus are considerably lo-fi; others were direct from the air studio and are quite clean. All are interesting listening and give a nice comparison of radio throughout the decades ... how it’s changed, gotten better or gotten worse. 

I think it also gives information to today’s programmers and owners on how to do radio right ... whether they choose to learn from the past or not.

In years past, ReelRadio tried to have a subscription service, but they still had trouble making ends meet. So they are once again opening the recordings to anyone in the hopes that general donations will increase. Perhaps with a larger potential audience, donations will increase. I’ll do my part.

Slated for News

Julie Slater, best known for her musical knowledge on stations such as The Sound (100.3 FM) has joined KFI for weekend, part time and fill-in newscast duties. She will continue with her weekend new-music show on KCSN (88.5 FM) called Out on a Limb, which airs Saturdays from 5-7 p.m.

Highway Vibes

I haven’t driven to Las Vegas in a few years. But I have fond memories of listening to “The Highway Stations, FM 98 and 99” covering a large stretch of Highway 15 centered near Baker and “The World’s Tallest Thermometer.”

The Highway Stations were the brainchild of Howard Anderson, who believed that advertising to a huge audience of drivers from Southern California would increase the number of visitors to the casinos owned by his boss, Howard Hughes: The Sands, Desert Inn, Castaways, Silver Slipper, Frontier, and Landmark 

Hughes gave his approval but passed away before the venture could launch. But Anderson kept with the project and launched the original Highway Stations in 1980. Since that time, power has increased, as has the number of transmitters, giving better reception along a much longer stretch of highway. 

And now there are even more choices: in addition to the originals that play a top-40 style format now called The Highway Vibe at 99.7, 98.1 and 98.9 FM, there is highway rock on The Drive at 96.9 and 94.9, plus Highway Country at 101.5 and 107.3.

Collectively, Highway Radio still helps promote local businesses with advertisements and features related to tourism in the area approaching Las Vegas, plus traffic, weather and accommodation information. Over 3 million people per month are estimated to tune in to one or more of the Highway Radio stations. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #167

Radio: April 7, 2017

“Shotgun” Tom Kelly, transplanted San Diego DJ who made Los Angeles his radio home for almost two decades on KRTH (101.1 FM), will returns to the airwaves for The Shotgun Tom Kelly Friday Night Special on KABC (790 AM) April 7, from 8 - 10 p.m.

I grew up listening to Shotgun on legendary San Diego top-40 stations KCBQ (1070 AM), B-100 (KFMB, 100.7 FM) and others, as the stations came in almost as strong as locals at my house in San Pedro back in the 1970s.

His high energy on-air presentation and thorough professionalism helped him to follow “The Real Don Steele” -- no one “replaces” a legend, Kelly told me as he took over Steele’s former afternoon KRTH shift -- after Steele died too young in 1997.

Kelly was mum on what the KABC show would feature, but he is a great story-teller, so I expect it to be entertaining and perhaps give a glimpse into his long career in radio and television. For now it is a one-time special, but if it goes well ... you never know.

Not Alone

Steve Mittman, who also grew up in San Pedro during the 1970s (San Pedro High class of 1975, he says), was also a big fan of San Diego top-40. “B-100 from San Diego — which, as you know, bombed in loud and clear in San Pedro,had a milestone this week. He writes,

“40 years ago today, B-100 was #1 in San Diego, and they were the first major market FM station to become #1. Prior to becoming B-100, KFMB-FM was a beautiful music station, rated 23 in a market with 25 stations.”

Pala Rez Radio (KOPA, 91.3 FM), owned and operated by the Pala Band of Mission Indians for the benefit of the Pala Reservation and all of inland North County, spent last weekend playing airchecks of B-100 from its top-40 heydays. Included during the weekend was a reunion of many of the great B-100 jocks of the era.

While Pala Rez Radio serves the reservation primarily, it offers some appealing program you can hear via online listening. More reggae than any other station in Southern California, old time radio, and recordings of Wolfman Jack. Head over to to check it out.

Sunday Mornings

You voted Mimi Chen’s Peace Love and Sunday Mornings the best weekend show, as reported in last week’s Waggies awards column. Then I botched the name by calling it “Peace Love and Understanding,” a song which coincidentally is still stuck in my heard a week after making my mistake.

Anyway, the title of the show is indeed Peace, Love and Sunday Mornings.” A big thank you to Katy Simon for pointing out my mistake.

40 years ago today, B-100 was #1 in San Diego, and they were the first major market FM station to become #1. Prior to becoming B-100, KFMB-FM was a beautiful music station, rated 23 in a market with 25 stations.

Readers React

To the Waggies ...

“So glad you took it upon yourself to vote The Woody Show as best am program. Kevin and Bean have allowed the mean-spirited Ralph Garman to hijack their show with his stupid voices and bully attitude. Woody et al, by contrast, have fresh bits and a genuine, likable banter.” -- “Risabill,” via email

“Totally agree with The Waggies, thanks! Long live radio!” -- Sylvia Hathaway

“I agree with you on Peace Love & Sunday Mornings. I found it scrolling through a commercial break from Breakfast With The Beatles (heard on KLOS, 95.5 FM). I am moving away more and more to the Sound’s Sunday show. 

  “Also like listening to Frazier Smith on KLOS Sunday evening. He always has an interesting guest who I haven't heard from in a long time. I like his topics and humor. He seems to have a different variety of guests from sports to tv, etc. 

“And the Sound’s Sunday night show with Mark Thompson and his interesting music info series. Keep up the good work.” -- Thomas Rubio

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #166

Radio: March 31, 2017

The votes have been cast and the counts have been completed. Time for the 2017 edition of the Radio Achievement Awards, also known as The Waggies.

It’s actually been a few years since I last awarded Waggies. And this is the first year I actually counted votes; I was a bit surprised and pleased that many of my choices were also yours. It seems great minds think alike. If the selections were mine alone I will place an asterisk next to the category, otherwise they are based upon your votes. So without further ado:

*Best Morning Music Show: The Woody Show, Alt 98.7 FM (KYSR). Jeff "Woody" Fife, Renae Ravey, Greg Gory and Jason "Menace" McMurray entertain Southern California with somewhat risqué yet still (usually) family-friendly humor, and have helped increase Alt 98.7’s ratings during a time when most alternative rock stations nationwide -- including KROQ (106.7 FM) have declined.

*Worst Promoted Station: KABC (790 AM). They have some good shows: Doug McIntyre in the morning, The Drive Home in the afternoon (especially when Jillian Barberie is busy with another project and John Phillips flies solo or with another co-host. But you’d never know it ... KABC desperately needs some sort of promotions push ... even some ads might help.

*Best Station Owner: Saul Levine. The last of the independent owners in town, he still believes in radio -- including AM radio, which most owners have left pasture. Go Country (105.1 FM) is the number one country station in town, and he just launched oldies on K-SURF (1260 AM) which has brought cheers from classic car clubs for allowing drivers to hear something they like on the original AM car radios.

Best FM Station: KSWD The Sound (100.3 FM). Again, oldies seem to be a favorite format. Official The Sound is Classic Rock, but many of the songs played were hits on top-40 stations first. What sets The Sound apart from other, similar stations? Well, none are truly similar any more. KRTH (101.1 FM) has gone newer, KLOS (95.5 FM) has gone rockier, and Jack-FM (KCBS-FM, 93.1) is just annoying at times with songs that should never have been released in the first place.

Best Alternative Rock Station: Alt 98.7. Surprised? I was. I would have awarded it anyway but your votes -- and station ratings -- backed me up. Alt has a buzz not seen since KROQ (106.7 FM) of the 1980s. 

Best News Station: KNX (1070 AM). The second-place for best AM votes, winning best news isn’t as impressive when it’s the last man standing. Regardless, KNX still does all-news reasonably well considering the cost-cutting moves that have lessened its prestige.
Best Talk Station: KFI (640 AM). No surprise here ... KFI remains consistent snd entertaining; I just wish they’d clean up the audio and bring back the HD signal.

Best Morning Talk Show: Doug McIntyre, KABC (790 AM) weekdays. One reader nominated McIntyre for three different categories: Best Morning Show, Best Ensemble, and Best Speaker. “The only one I can trust,” wrote another.

Best AM Station: K-SURF (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2). This one came from nowhere. And I’m not even sure it even qualifies to win a Waggy because it wasn’t on the air last year. but your votes were clear - you like oldies, and you don’t mind hearing them on AM.

Best Mid-Day Show: Jonsey’s Jukebox, KLOS (95.5 FM). It’s only two hours a day (noon to 2 p.m., but it’s a treat. Steve Jones plays what he wants when he wants, often highlighting music you can’t hear elsewhere while talking with artists who are true to the art form. The show also gives KLOS some real street cred, and have helped put the station back on the map after years of neglect.

Best Weekend Show: Peace Love and Understanding, The Sound, Sundays 8 - 11 a.m. Affectionately called “the hippy show” by some, the program features Mimi Chen offering up songs from the late sixties and more, ... putting you in a great mood for the day. My only problem: it conflicts with the Jesus Christ Show on KFI, to which I give honorable mention.

There were many good choices sent in for many categories that didn’t make the list, but I will do my best to promote them in future columns. A varied list that includes such personalities as Tim Conway, Jr., Bryan Suits, Larry Elder, Kevin and Bean, Gary Bryan, Ron Kilgore, Terri-Rae Elmer, Ric Edelman (or is that Rice Delman?), Peter Tilden, and Johnny Magnus, among others. In spite of the problems facing radio -- many self-imposed -- we still have some great personalities and great stations in town.

Radio March 24, 2017

Last week, Saul Levin’e Mt. Wilson Broadcasting launched a new oldies station on KKGO’s digital stream (105.1 HD2), with a weekend simulcast on sister station KBOQ (1260 AM), which had been playing standards. Calling the oldies format K-Surf, the original plan was to try oldies only on 1260‘s weekends to drive listeners to the HD signal as well as to gauge listener acceptance of the new format.

Just one week later, the decision was made to run oldies full time on KBOQ. It appears that the listeners have spoken.

Levine says that the response has been huge and tremendously positive. This is not surprising; the oldies being played -- primarily music from the 1950s through the ‘60s -- have been essentially missing from the local airwaves for years. So the decision became a no-brainer. Levine says he is looking into hiring an air staff, and the call letters of 1260 were officially changed to KSUR as of 6 a.m. Monday.

What about the standards that 1260 had been playing up until last Friday? They can still be found on 105.1 HD3, as well as online at and via smartphone apps like TuneIn and StreamS Hi Fi Audio.

So to recap: K-Surf is now oldies 24/7. Standards can still be heard on KKGO 105.1 HD3. And K-Surf is simulcast on 105.1 HD3. What a great way to attract listeners to HD streams, as well as to the AM band.

Readers React
Numerous emails arrived almost as soon as the weekend simulcast began on March 10.

“I Remember dancing to 1260 AM music back in the 1950's Van Nuys High School Sock Hop. Love this music the best times in my life.” -- Danielle Gallardo

“I was just lamenting the other day that the oldies which are played on the radio today are not my oldies. I was beginning to think that I was from the dinosaur era ... thank you for introducing me to true oldies.” -- Sheena Caughey

Memories of KPOL

I grew up listening to KPOL (now KMPC, 1540 AM). Not necessarily by choice; it was the station my father listened to in the car and if he was in the car, that was the station we heard. No, there was no other choice. 

KPOL at the time I recall played Beautiful Music, a format that was popular in the 1960s and early ‘70s, especially on FM, that featured string versions of popular songs as well as light vocals. KPOL was also on FM, simulcasting the music on 93.9, but due to the majority of radio listening at the time being AM, KPOL distinguished itself not only by playing the format on AM, it was also one of the few “pretty music” stations at the time with real DJs. And it had very decent ratings as well.

Until recently, I’ve never heard any recordings of KPOL; I didn’t think any existed. But through the magic of the internet, I found one. You can find it too ... at It’s from August 7, 1964 and not exactly the format I remember, but a good sample of easy listening music from long ago. And it does indeed feature the harp interlude sound I remember so well from my days as a passenger in our ’64 Impala wagon or our ’67 Camaro.

Final Tally

What is your favorite station and why? Favorite shows? Personalities? I’m working on the final tally of suggestions for the Radio Achievement Awards -- aka The Waggies -- for 2017, to be announced next week in this very space. Unless something else comes up, of course. Send your suggestions to me now; your suggestions and nominations could make a difference!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #165

Radio March 17, 2017

I wouldn’t put it on the same level as when the fictional WKRP in Cincinnati changed formats from Beautiful Music to top-40, but listeners to many of Saul Levine’s smaller Los Angeles stations must have been caught by surprise last week when most of them made some sort of switch.

First off, Levine’s first musical love -- Classical -- moved down the dial from the digital HD stream of 105.1 HD2 to 88.1 HD2. This puts classical onto Long Beach State’s signal that Levine happens to run from his Mount Wilson Broadcasting Company studios in Westwood.

You need an HD Radio to pick up the digital signal and those mentioned below; HD radios are widely available in many new cars and aftermarket car stereos as well as home tuners and radios. Levine has long been a supporter of the technology.

88.1 HD2 will feature classical music 24/7, while the main signal of 88.1 - KKJZ -- will continue to feature jazz and blues programming. The classical programming on 88.1 HD2 replaces a secondary jazz format the station used to run; 88.1 HD3 will continue as K-Beach, run by students on the campus of CSULB.

Now that classical has moved down the dial, it frees up 105.1 HD2 to become ... OLDIES. Real oldies. As in focussing-on the-1950s-and-1960s oldies, the songs long-ago abandoned by the major broadcast groups. Levine calls it K-Surf, to invoke images of the Southern California beach lifestyle and the songs that were once heard through transistor radios plastered against your ear. As I write this, Bobby Vee’s Devil or Angel faded segued into To Sir With Love by Lulu followed by Pipeline by the Chantays.

It’s only been on a few days -- the debut of the oldies format was last Saturday -- but Levine says the response has been tremendous. So much so that he’s thinking of putting the format full-time on KBOQ (1260 AM) full time; for now KBOQ will continue to play standards during the week, though it added oldies on the weekend ... leading to frantic calls and emails from fans of the standards format.

If all that sounds confusing, here is the program listing:

Classical: KKJZ 88.1 HD2 and online at KMOZART.Com, 24 hours

Standards: KBOQ Monday-Friday only, KKGO 105.1 HD3 and unforgettable1260.Com 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Oldies: KKGO 105.1 HD2 and LAOldies.Com 24/7, KBOQ 5 p.m. Fridays through 9 a.m Mondays.

All of the stations can be found via apps such as TuneIn and StreamS HiFi. It may even be on the iHeart app, but that has gotten so bloated I cannot stand using it any more.

For now the music is commercial and DJ free. I hope Levine adds DJs (and jingles!), especially to K-Surf, even if they are voice-tracked to keep costs down. Radio is a personal thing and DJs bring that connection, at least in my opinion. I’d do a shift for free.

Now, you may be thinking ... didn’t Levine just change 1260 to standards? Why is he thinking of switching to oldies so soon?

Here is where having independent broadcasters is so important. Yes, one could quip that formats change on 1260 more often than some people change underwear. I’ve joked about it myself, though the changes slowed down in the past few years. But that misses the point.
Levine could have sold out years ago and retired very comfortably. KKGO itself is worth a small fortune, KBOQ is worth less but would still fetch a decent amount ... and with the lack of commercials, one can easily assume that KBOQ currently doesn’t make enough to pay the electric bill. But Levine stays in radio because he loves radio, and he is constantly finding formats that are in his opinion missing from the local airwaves.

He did it -- and hit pay-dirt -- with country. He’s continued to support classical and standards. And now he’s playing oldies that absolutely no one else plays. I sincerely hope that the Levine Los Angeles radio dynasty continues for many generations.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #164

History in the Making

For the first time ever, an internet stream had enough listeners to take the number one ratings spot in a key demographic, listeners aged 18-34.

This happened in Nielsen’s January ratings report for the Tampa, Florida area. “Maxima 92.5” WYUU’s internet stream finished first 18-34, ahead of all broadcast stations in the area, including WYUU’s own on-air signal. Quite a feat for a stream that, for at least the previous year, didn’t register enough listeners to even make the ratings at all.

History in the making, right? Absolutely. But for all the wrong reasons.

Turns out that, according to radio industry consultant Randy Kabrich who studied the issue, the impressive ratings came from two -- count ‘em, two -- people who probably received some sort of streaming device during the holidays and left it on WYUU continuously. The likely Nielsen Portable People Meter (PPM) holders are a Hispanic female aged 18-24 who spent 32 hours per week listening to the stream, along with a Hispanic male aged 25-34 listening 20 hours per week.

Let that sink in for a while as I recall the various problems associated with the PPM system: It doesn’t credit ratings well during spoken word programming (news, talk, DJ banter); it doesn’t work in noisy environments as when you’re in a car with windows down; it doesn’t work with headphones; it over counts background listening as in offices and stores; and there have been problems with data collection.

This latest hitch -- one in which a station stream can be credited as the top station via only two listeners -- proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Nielsen has nothing close to as many PPMs in the field as they need to calculate accurate ratings, especially when the data is further split into various subgroup demographics. Let me be clear -- the Nielsen PPM holders (the two listeners in question) did nothing wrong, and I have no doubt that they listened to the stream in question. But two people can propel the stream to the top of the ratings? In a city of over 2.5 million radio listeners? Really?

If this is not proof that Nielsen’s PPM is so severely flawed as a ratings system that its results can not be taken seriously, I don’t know what is. Radio stations have no alternative but to use it, as it is the only game in town. And some observers fault station owners for not wanting to pay the required fees that would make expanding the number of PPM holders a reality.

In my opinion, PPM is one of those things that looks great on paper, only to be proven unreliable and obviously flawed and invalid. The problem is what to do. Advertisers deserve to have a reliable determination of station ratings; it would seem that the Federal Trade Commission or Congress itself may need to get involved.

New Station in the IE

The longtime simulcast on 93.5 FM of KDAY/Redondo Beach and KDEY/Ontario has ended. KDAY will stay the course -- for now -- of playing classic hip-hop, but KDEY is now Wild 93.5 with an urban hits format designed to compete with KGGI (99.1 FM).

“Compete” may be s strong word, as Wild has a very limited regional signal and KGGI is a powerhouse that covers the entire Inland Empire and comes in strong even where I live in Southern Los Angeles. But if they super-serve the local community as the original license intended, it could work. Local businesses need to advertise too, and a local station is always a welcome addition to the radio landscape.

Now the choice of format? Going against KGGI ... as well as the Los Angeles stations that penetrate the market ... may not be the best move. As one post to the KDAY Facebook page said, “Why make a station with modern hip-pop music when we have Power 106, Real 92.3, and 99.1?? Good luck staying relevant.”

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Radio Waves Podcast #163

Radio: March 3, 2017

Cumulus Media, owner of 447 radio stations nationwide including KABC (790 AM) and KLOS (95.5 FM) locally, was dealt a huge blow last week in its effort to reduce its debt. Reuters reports that a federal judge rejected a plan that would have allowed the company to exchange a portion of its $2.4 billion in debt with ... other debt.

The plan involved exchanging “senior notes,” or loans that are soon due to be paid back, for “a combination of stock and up to $305 million in secured debt borrowed through a $200 million revolving credit line.”

I would love those terms. If I could borrow $305 million from a $200 million line of credit, I could pay off the entire line of credit and still have $105 million. Hmm...

The real question, other than the financial sleight of hand that this entire deal seems to be, is: can Cumulus use a line of credit to help it pay down older debt at a discount? Major debt holder J.P. Morgan said no, and the judge agreed. What happens next could decide the fate of Cumulus Media as a company and the repercussions may be felt throughout the industry, as iHeart, the largest radio company in the world, also carries a huge debt load. 

If Cumulus is unable to refinance by March 13, a previously-reached agreement with the majority of debtholders will expire; if that agreement expires, it could trigger what is described as a “springing maturity” of debt that could easily bankrupt the company.

Here is what I don’t understand. I’ve done a few columns on the idea of someone like me buying Cumulus outright. As I write this, Cumulus stock sits at just under 76 cents per share, giving it a total market value of just over $22 million. My plan would be to buy the company for what is essentially less than the value of KLOS alone, sell off the majority of the stations, and -- even if many of station sales were sold at fire-sale prices -- be left with about $2 billion to run the remaining ten stations I’d keep. Those ten stations would have no debt, meaning I could put the remaining money into talent, programming and promotion. With no debt and a huge cash stash to be used for running the remaining group, my ten station network easily be the most profitable, dynamic stations in the country.

Why isn’t someone actually doing this? Or the related obvious question: why isn’t anyone forcing Cumulus to do this themselves? What am I missing? Shouldn’t a company that owes debt have to start selling stations to pay off said debt? And will someone please explain this to the FCC and Congress, both of which allowed this radio ownership model of “too big to succeed” to happen in the first place? The best way to make radio profitable again it to make it smaller, as consolidation has brought down the entire industry. 

A cap of ten stations total nationwide would go a long way to bringing back radio to the level of success it deserves. If new FCC chairman Ajit Pai really wants to help radio -- as he claims he does -- this should be the first move. 

Woody Mornings

It was KNX (1070 AM) that won the overall morning matings -- meaning all listeners aged 6 and over -- but it was Alt 98.7 FM’s The Woody Show that won the coveted and lucrative demographic of listeners 18-34.
If you haven’t heard the show yet, you should check it out. Yes, parts of it may be considered “light crude,” if there is such a phrase. Such as when they play recordings of someone, um, passing gas with listeners calling in to guess which of the morning crew passed it. But over all it is a remarkably creative, clever, funny and witty show that is well worth listening.

Stiffs and Hits

A funny thing happened as I was listening to recordings of The Real Don Steele on KHJ circa-1967 or so via ReelRadio.Com. Lots of stiffs. Thought not necessarily bad music. Let me explain.

I was told once by Bill Drake, who along with Gene Chanault consulted KHJ in the 1960s and KRTH (101.1 FM) in the 1990s, that KRTH could easily play tapes of KHJ and few would notice ... it was the same music.

Yet as I listened to recordings of Steele, I found just the opposite. Many of the songs were not hits, even when new. KHJ, and most hit stations of the era, tried to break as many new songs and new bands as they could. It was a bragging right as well as a survival technique, as many songs were shorter than three minutes and would quickly burn out if new music didn’t come in soon to replace it.

So unlike today, when a song can stay on station playlists for years, in the 1960s and ‘70s the entire playlist could be totally different in a matter of weeks. Thus, even “hitbounds” didn’t necessarily become hits at all. And old recordings such as on ReelRadio offer music that you truly may have never heard in decades, if you ever heard it at all. I’m not saying this is good or bad,  but it is a difference between radio then and now.