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Nielsen: News/Talk, AC Off to Strong Start in 2018


Another year is nearly a quarter complete, and the pace of change in the media landscape continues to nudge habits and consumer behavior month after month. In the world of radio, we've been noting the impact of shifting habits and cyclical trends that appear consistently in the data and Nielsen's February portable people meter (PPM) ratings give us a chance to weigh those cycles-and changes-over a significant period of time.

Nielsen has compared eight years of monthly PPM data across the same formats and demographics, finding the AC format is off to a strong start in 2018, one of it's strongest of all time since the advent of PPM measurement. Continuing the trend, News/Talk was strong again in February, and helped by annual considerations such as nor'easter season in the northeast and a newer surge in interest ever since the new administration came into office.

A good comparison to make to judge News/Talk's performance (which includes both commercial and non-commercial stations in PPM markets) is to contrast this past February with the same month in 2014 -- entering the second full year of the presidential administration. The format has increased its share of audience significantly across the board in 2018.

While these formats are noting changes over a longer horizon, Nielsen says it's also revealing to shorten the scope and compare trends in January and February of last year with trends in the same months from this year. What's more, the year-over-year changes for the top radio formats among Millennials (ages 18-34) offer some key insight into how the tastes of younger listeners are changing.

The table below compares the audience share in January and February combined between 2017 and 2018 for the top 10 most popular formats among Millennials. Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) remains the top format, but tune-in has declined nearly a full share point in the past year. Hot AC and Urban Contemporary are also down, year-over-year, while AC, Alternative and Classic Hits are all up more significantly.

Entercom Names Clay Walker as WPAW/Greensboro PD

Clay Walker
Clay Walker

Entercom promotes Clay Walker to Program Director of WPAW-FM (93.1 The Wolf)/Greensboro. He previously served as Digital Integration Director and Assistant Program Director for the Country outlet. Previous PD Dale O'Brian, who held the role 1 year, stepped down from his role to spend more time with his family and focus on he morning show. Walker has been a part of WPAW-FM for 11 years. During this time, he conceptualized and executed Entercom's CMA Award coverage, and the company's "Count on Country Giving Tuesday" broadcast.

"Clay Walker is a dyed-in-the-wool radio fanatic, interested in every aspect of the business," said Senior VP/Market Manager Brent Millar. "He has long dreamed of having the opportunity to program and has devoted himself to doing his best to be ready when that time comes. It has come and we are proud to have him on the team. I also want to thank Dale for breathing new life into The Wolf, as proven by our very impressive 2016 versus 2017 ratings growth. We're all very glad to know that Dale will continue to lead the ‘Wake Up with the Wolf' morning show."

NAB Show to Feature FCC Chairman Pai, Commissioners

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) and Commissioners Michael O'Rielly, Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel will participate in four separate sessions at NAB Show, April 7-12 in Las Vegas. Chairman Pai will deliver remarks at the "We Are Broadcasters Celebration" Tuesday, April 10 from 3-4:15pm. The event celebrates local radio and television stations' vital role in communities and ongoing commitment to innovation that enables broadcasters to better serve listeners and viewers.

Designated FCC Chairman in January, 2017, Pai subscribes to a regulatory philosophy centered on innovation, investment, creating better products and services, lowering prices, job creation and economic growth. He had previously served as commissioner at the FCC, appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate in May 2012.

Commissioners O'Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel will address three separate sessions within the NAB Show Business of Broadcast (BoB) Conference, April 8-11. The conference brings together radio and television station management executives and digital professionals to examine broadcast and digital business models and practices, and provides insight on regulatory and legislative issues impacting radio and television.

Envision Names Max Lowther Affiliate Relations Manager

Max Lowther
Max Lowther

Envision Networks appoints Max Lowther as its newest Affiliate Relations Manager. Lowther, from the Cleveland suburb of Chardon, OH, graduated from Bowling Green State University where he studied Communications and Marketing and worked extensively with the campus radio station WBGU-FM, where his radio career would begin. He became an afternoon drive host, and later became the promotions director, working with sales, marketing, and hands-on trade show experience.

"We're very excited to have Max as part of the team at Envision Networks. We feel that his work with WBGU-FM, combined with his drive to forward his career in the radio industry will make him an invaluable asset to our affiliate relations team," said Envision Networks CEO Danno Wolkoff.

Steel City Media Files for Chapter 11 Backruptcy

Pittsburgh-based MGTF Radio Company LLC and WPNT Inc.. dba Steel City Media, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday. The company will continue to operate while it seeks to reorganize under Chapter 11 protection. In its filing, the company lists $50-$100 million in assets and $50-$100 million in liabilities. Steel City owns stations in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Wilks Barre-Scranton and York, PA. Steel City made the move following a review by its board of directors.

"The company remains very profitable and expects to be able to generate sufficient cash from operations to meet the expenses of running our business during the Chapter 11 proceedings," said Vice President Michael Frischling. "Despite having paid down our senior lender by more than $20 million, or more than 35 percent, since 2014, softness in our markets has resulted in non-compliance with certain technical covenants."

He continued, "We believe that Chapter 11 is the appropriate venue to seek to resolve these issues. We look forward to emerging from Chapter 11 as an independently owned, strong player in our markets and with a reset capital structure in place for the long term."

The company has retainedRobert Eggmann and Thomas Riske and the law firm of Carmody MacDonald P.C. as counsel, and Gordian Broadcast Technologies as financial advisor to assist it in exploring a variety of alternatives, including stand-alone recapitalization and potential third-party investment scenarios.

Townsquare to Acquire Three Trenton NJ Stations

Townsquare Media has agreed to acquire three radio stations in Trenton, NJ, from Connoisseur Media LLC for approximately $17 million. The acquisition will include leading CHR station WPST-FM.

"We are very excited to announce the acquisition of these radio stations, particularly WPST, one of the Northeast's most respected and highest-performing CHR stations," said Townsquare Co-Chief Executive Officer Dhruv Prasad. "Combined with our market leading news/talk radio station based in Trenton, NJ 101.5, and our existing portfolio of ten other stations in the state of New Jersey, we believe these assets will enhance our ability to deliver high quality, engaging, local content and superior, multi-platform marketing solution. This is the third strategic acquisition that we have announced within the past nine months, demonstrating our continuing commitment to investing capital at attractive values in our local media business."

Ron deCastro, Market President/Chief Revenue Officer of Townsquare Trenton, added, "We are excited to welcome the talented Connoisseur New Jersey team to Townsquare. We respect their accomplishments and are excited to join forces with them to operate the leading radio brands in the region. We will now have even more market-leading assets at our disposal to deliver results to our customers."

"This is a bittersweet deal for us. We are very proud of our talented team and their accomplishments in New Jersey. I'm confident that these stations will continue to thrive as part of the Townsquare family," said Jeff Warshaw, Chief Executive Officer of Connoisseur.

In connection with the Acquisition, Townsquare is acquiring the assets of three radio stations (WPST-FM 94.5, WNJE-AM 920, and WCHR-AM 1040) from Connoisseur. These stations will join Townsquare's existing Trenton, NJ station WKXW-FM NJ 101.5. In addition, Townsquare owns five stations in Monmouth-Ocean, NJ and five stations in Atlantic City, NJ.

This is the Company's third acquisition in the last nine months: Townsquare announced the acquisition of WOUR-FM in Utica, NY in February 2018 and closed the acquisition of a cluster of radio stations in Pittsfield, MA in September 2017. Pro forma for these acquisitions, Townsquare will own 321 radio stations in 67 markets, maintaining its position as the third largest owner of radio stations in the United States. The Company expects the Acquisition to close in the second quarter of 2018, subject to closing conditions and customary regulatory approvals.

Report: iHM Bankruptcy, Expect A Major Selloff of Stations


According to a report from Forbes, when iHeartMedia emerges from the prearranged bankruptcy worked out last week with creditors -- it will be a very different company -- and a lot leaner. The publication says we can expect to see a dramatic shedding of radio stations, likely hundreds, many at rock-bottom prices. "A station selloff is all but assured for a variety of reasons," say Forbes.

iHeartMedia currently owns over 850 stations, and Forbes reports that some number of them are under-performing, or they're simply in markets where the company sees no future. "It just makes sense for the company to dump those stations and focus on its most profitable stations and markets where it sees growth potential," wrote the publication. Even so, "Valuations for radio stations-what they fetch when put up for sale -- have been tumbling in recent years, and they could well be headed for a nose dive."

Forbes says a changed business model is necessary. "The new-old model is local, local, local -- stations deeply involved in their communities with local air talent that shows up at events and plays the music local listeners want. The DJs read the news. They talk about last Friday night's high school football game. It's the only way traditional radio can compete with digital."

Robbins to Join Markley and van Camp Show in Syndication

Scott Robbins
Scott Robbins

Alpha Media announces the return of Scott Robbins to "The Markley and van Camp Show" as a contributor, just as the show begins national syndication. Robbins, a 40-year radio veteran, started on WMBD/Peoria, IL, in 2012 with Jamie Markley joining him in 2014, creating "The Robbins and Markley Show." However, two weeks after signing a syndication deal, Robbins suffered a heart attack.

As he was rushed to the hospital, he endured a second heart attack causing his heart to stop for 40 minutes. Robbins was revived and had a third heart attack stopping his heart for 10 minutes. Against all odds, he was again revived. After 5 bypass surgeries, doctors said there was only about a 5% chance he would make it but Robbins proved them wrong.

After the surgery he was put into a medical induced coma for one month. Robbins would now need to start from the beginning; to regain his speech and physical movement. Three months in the ICU of a 6-month hospital stay and attending therapy 4 times a week and dialysis 3 days a week, he began to slowly improve and was removed from the kidney transplant list. While at home recovering, Robbins fell and broke his tail bone and was placed in a retirement home for a month to attend daily therapy.

"Don't stop. Don't quit. Fight through. I don't take anything for granted now. Every day is a new day. I'm breathing and I get to do what I love. Always do what you love, and if you don't love something, find something you love because life is short. I am extremely thankful for this second chance and to be able to join Markley and van Camp on the airwaves once again," remarked Robbins.

As a result of Robbins' extended absence, David van Camp became Markley's on-air partner. The show, originated in Peoria, will become syndicated nationally beginning April 2 through Compass Media Networks.

Robbins recovery spanned over two years, but during a visit from Alpha Media, Peoria Senior VP/Market Manager, Mike Wild in late 2016, the two agreed Robbins was ready to start slowly returning to the airwaves. A few guest appearances and fill-in roles led to a two-hour daily show on 95.9 The Sports Nut in May, 2017. Robbins will continue to do his show on The Sports Nut while he joins Markley and van Camp, contributing to the day's top trending stories during the syndicated show.

Wild commented, "Scott is a walking miracle and an inspiration. He's also an amazing talent and his intense passion for radio was never so clear as during his recovery. He couldn't wait to get back on the air and remarkably he's still the same compelling personality even after all he's been through."

"Scott and I have been like brothers for years, and I'm sure he'd tell you I irritate him like a brother at times. He's always made me laugh so much, we're beyond pumped he's with us on this ride. It was a long shot he'd survive, let alone be able to do radio again. I thank God for his recovery and the opportunity for all of us to do this show together. I think Scott's comeback is truly a great story," added Markley.

"I'm thrilled he's going to be on the show. He's been working his tail off getting to where he is now. Scott's one of the best broadcasters I've ever worked with, and it's awesome to have him on the team," stated van Camp.

Jim Brickman Show Welcomes New Co-Host Hannah Rae

Hannah Rae
Hannah Rae

Hannah Rae joins the "Jim Brickman Show" as its new producer and co-host. She's a millennial raised on technology and besides serving as a co-host, Rae writes for the show, coordinates in-studio recording, interviews and handles social media. Rae will be featured in the four-hour lifestyle program providing music, interviews and laughs every weekend with host, songwriter and solo pianist Jim Brickman and the formidable slacker and gen-Xer, Bob.

"It's rare to discover an authentic talent who's never done radio, and yet shines when the mic goes on. Hannah Rae rounds out the B-Team with a refreshing, millennial point of view," said Brickman.

"Being the female millennial voice on a radio show is super important to me, and being able to engage in discourse over proper Starbucks etiquette on national radio definitely isn't something most twenty-somethings can say they get to do," added Rae.

Pandora Acquires Digital Audio Ad Tech Firm AdsWizz


Streaming service Pandora will acquire AdsWizz and its digital audio ad technology for $145 million in a combination of cash and stock. The addition upgrades Pandora's ad tech capabilities, and provides its advertisers with greater audience reach. With digital audio advertising growing 42% year-over-year, according to the IAB, the combined offering of Pandora and AdsWizz will capitalize on this trend. AdsWizz is one of the few ad tech firms that is completely dedicated to digital audio, serving some of the largest players in the industry.

"Since I joined Pandora six months ago, I have highlighted ad tech as a key area of investment for us. Today we took an important step to advance that priority and accelerate our product roadmap," said Pandora CEO Roger Lynch. "With our scale in audio advertising and AdsWizz's tech expertise, we will create the largest digital audio advertising ecosystem, better serving global publishers and advertisers - while improving Pandora's own monetization capabilities."

Once fully integrated, advertisers will be able to transact through AdsWizz's marketplace across Pandora and other audio publishers. Pandora will support the growth of AdsWizz's core business and invest in technology development that serves all constituents.

"For the last ten years, our mission at AdsWizz has been to enable the global monetization of digital audio by building innovative advertising technologies for music streaming services, digital broadcasters and podcasters. We believe in providing value to all stakeholders - brands, publishers and listeners - through engaging and well-targeted advertising experiences," said AdsWizz CEO Alexis van de Wyer. "Now is the time to combine forces with Pandora, one of the leaders and pioneers in digital audio, and accelerate our ability to provide solutions that meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of advertisers and digital audiences."

Entercom Ups Hernandez to LIVE 101.5/Phoenix PD

Chris ''DECiPHA'' Hernandez
Chris ''DECiPHA'' Hernandez

Entercom elevated Chris "DECiPHA" Hernandez to the role of Program Director for KALV-FM (LIVE 101.5)/Phoenix. He previously served as the CHR outlet's Assistant Program Director and Music Director. Hernandez began as an on-air mixer on 101.5 JAMZ in 2009 and was promoted to the role of Imaging Director in 2010. He fills the PD post held by Tim Richards since 2014/ Richards remains as VP/Programming for Phoenix cluster and PD KMLE-FM (Country 107.9).

"LIVE 101.5 is my home," said Hernandez. "I'm excited to take this next step in my career with a strong and talented team by my side. Thank you to Tim Richards and Dave Pugh for the continuous support and opportunity."

"We are excited to continue to have Chris on the LIVE 101.5 team. His hard work and dedication, coupled with his extensive knowledge of the Phoenix community, make him ideal for this role," said Senior VP/Market Manager Dave Pugh. "His thoughtful insight, creativity and leadership will ensure the continued success of LIVE 101.5."

Mike Biddle Named WQDR 94.7/Raleigh PD

Mike Biddle
Mike Biddle

Curtis Media Group has hired Mike Biddle as Program Director of WQDR-FM/Raleigh, NC. He succeeds Lisa McKay, who passed away after a brief illness in January. Biddle started his career at WRVQ in Richmond, and joined WQDR in 2002. He served as assistant program director and music director at WQDR, before departing to become program director of Inner Banks Media WRHT/WRHD Country in Greenville-New Bern. In 2010, he returned to Curtis Media Group Raleigh to become program director of Top 40 station WWPL/WPLW. In 2016, Biddle left the company to become operations manager at Heart + Hammer, a digital marketing and strategy agency based in Raleigh.

Curtis Media Group President/COO, Trip Savery commented, "We are very pleased to welcome Mike back to Curtis Media Group, and I know Lisa would also have been very proud to see him grow into this role. Mike is an outstanding leader who will continue the success he was a critical part of for so many years."

"I'm extremely humbled by the opportunity to come back home to Curtis Media and continue building upon the legacy Lisa has built at WQDR," said Biddle. "There are a lot of emotions involved with my return but none greater than the gratitude I have for the twenty plus years of friendship and mentoring she provided, preparing me for this role. There's no place I'd rather be than right here, right now."

George Noory Inducted into St. Louis Media Hall of Fame

George Noory
George Noory

Syndicated "Coast to Coast AM" host George Noory was among 22 news reporters, editors, photographers, broadcasters, filmmakers and others who were inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 17. Selected for their significant contributions to print, broadcast and digital media, advertising, and public relations by the St. Louis Media History Foundation, the inductees were honored at a gala at the St. Louis City Center Hotel in downtown St. Louis.

Noory, who recently celebrated his 15-year anniversary as host of Premiere's overnight radio program "Coast to Coast AM," was recognized for transforming his late-night radio program into an entertainment powerhouse for millions of Americans on more than 600 affiliates.

In accepting this honor, Noory - a former news director on KSDK-TV and broadcaster on KMOX Radio and KTRS Radio in St. Louis -- credited his success to a number of broadcast executives, especially legendary sports broadcaster Ray Lane, who helped him break into the business in Detroit, his hometown, in the early 1970s.

NAB Show to Feature House E&C Chairman Walden

Rep. Greg Walden
Rep. Greg Walden

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) will discuss current legislation and its potential impact on the broadcast industry with NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith during the 2018 NAB Show Opening. Rep. Walden has been representing Oregon's Second Congressional District since 1998. In December 2016, he was selected as Chairman of the full Committee on Energy and Commerce. He previously served as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

"From his days as a longtime radio broadcaster and now one of the most influential members of Congress, Greg Walden has been a steadfast champion of local broadcasting," said Smith. "This is a great opportunity for broadcasters to hear from a key lawmaker about the legal, regulatory and legislative challenges facing radio and TV in Washington."

The opening event will also feature NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith's "State of the Broadcast Industry" address, a keynote by YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan and the presentation of the NAB Distinguished Service Award (DSA) to "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts. The event will take place Monday, April 9 at 9am on the Main Stage in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

WGCI/Chicago Names Matthew Harris Promotions Director

Matthew Harris
Matthew Harris

iHeartMedia appoints Matthew Harris as Promotions Director for Urban WGCI-FM/Chicago, effective immediately. He joined the company's Chicago group in late 2017 as part of the programming team. Harris previously worked at Cumulus Media/Peoria, IL, where he rose from Promotions Assistant to Promotions Director for the market's five radio stations. He also served as in afternoons and nights for WZPW-FM and WIXO-FM/Peoria. Harris is a graduate of Bradley University.

"Matthew brings more than 10 years of promotions and programming experience to our marketing and promotions team," said iHeartMedia Chicago Region President Matt Scarano. "We are excited for the new promotional opportunities he'll be creating for our advertisers and listeners."

"I am very excited about this new opportunity," said Harris. "iHeartMedia Chicago has a great team and I'm looking forward to working with everyone at 107.5 WGCI."

Nielsen: Podcasts Are the Darling for Advertisers

Nielsen's has released its podcasting report "Nielsen Podcasting Insights: A Marketer's Guide to Podcasting." The medium saw a significant growth in engagement from 2016 to 2017. As a result, podcasts are becoming a darling of advertisers, as well as a trusted source for brands looking to reach consumers. To determine if podcasts are driving results, the report looks at three new product categories from Nielsen's Fanlinks Survey: Juice, Milk, and Cereal, mainstream products that nearly all U.S. consumers buy on a frequent basis.

The report also looks at the increasing role of smartphones in podcast usage along with a summary of Nielsen's brand lift studies conducted specifically for podcast networks. Nielsen's Media lab also looked at podcast increase in purchase intent for a variety of advertisers, including personal care, financial services and recruitment sectors.

The category of cereal, in particular, is a good example of how influential avid podcast listeners can be. Ninety-three percent of all households in Nielsen's Homescan Panel have purchased breakfast cereal in 2017-that's nearly 115 million homes in the U.S. When it comes to podcasting, more than half of all cereal-buying households (62 million homes) indicated that someone in the home is a fan of podcasts.

The average podcast household spends $72.51 per year on cereal while avid podcast fans spend $77.93 per year on cereal (13.4% more than the average household). In total, $4.5 billion dollars were spent in 2017 on cereal among podcast households in the U.S.

Mainstream podcasts in the comedy genre delivered +7.3% brand lift on average while more niche-oriented podcasts in the business category scored a +14% brand lift for a variety of advertisers.

For more information visit www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights.html.

Cumulus/Indianapolis Taps Boomer as Operations Manager

Christopher Layfield
Christopher Layfield

Cumulus Media appoints veteran programming programmer Christopher "Boomer" Layfield as Operations Manager for its three-station group in Indianapolis including Country WFMS-FM, Classic Hits WJJK-FM and Rhythmic CHR WYRG-FM. He'll also handle Program Director duties for WFMS-FM. Layfield succeeds Steve Guittari, who left in January. Layfield heads to Indianapolis from Charlotte, where he was Program Director for iHeartMedia CHR WHQC-FM (Channel 96.1). He's also held programming positions in markets including: St. Louis, Richmond VA, San Diego and Nashville.

Cumulus Media/Indianapolis VP/Market Manager Tom Stemlar said, "We are so lucky to be able to add a programming star of Boomer's caliber to help us continue to outgrow a very competitive Indianapolis radio market."

Layfield added, "Cumulus has assembled quite a talented team in Indianapolis getting great results with a pair of the market's iconic radio brands in Classic Hits WJJK and Country WFMS, as well as the exciting new CHR Energy 93.9. For me, it's a privilege and a thrill to join such a thriving operation in one of America's great cities and work alongside such passionate people to elevate these brands even higher."

Changes & Moves
Seth Hughes
Seth Hughes
Seth Hughes takes middays at Hubbard Radio's KNUC-FM (Country 98.9) Seattle. He most recently spent time in the afternoon and morning drive slots at the former 94.1 KMPS. More

Quick Snaps
Westwood One: Laura Okmin co-hosted Westwood One's Today in PyeongChang, a nightly two-hour live broadcast that airs each day and providing coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games. Pictured is Okmin with alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, who won a bronze medal in the downhill.