Fox’s Touchdown Play By The Bay; Are St. Louis and Seattle Next?

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Fox has called an audible at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. It looks like they caught the defense napping and are about to convert on an 80 yard touchdown bomb.

In a power-play type move from Fox, they have announced a deal to purchase television stations KTVU-TV Channel 2 and KICU-TV Channel 36 from Cox Media Group in exchange for WFXT-TV Channel 25 in Boston and WHBQ-TV Channel 13 in Memphis.

KTVU is already a Fox affiliate, and is well-known by sports fans in the Bay Area as once being the longtime local home (in addition to the old SportsChannel Bay Area) of San Francisco Giants baseball.

Brass at KTVU are already saying that the acquisition by Fox will have no impact on its delivery of news—ignoring, of course, a redesigning of the logo to match the other Fox O&Os, a redesigning of the KTVU studios, and the changing of the graphics to, once again, match those of the other Fox O&Os.

In addition to being a Fox station, KTVU blows the other local television stations in the San Francisco Bay Area away in terms of ratings. KGO-TV (an ABC O&O), KNTV-TV (an NBC O&O) and KPIX-TV (a CBS O&O) play second fiddle to the KTVU calls by the Bay.

That’s one big reason why this is such a big deal. It definitely opens up Cox to new markets in Boston and Memphis—two markets where they have never been before and now may have the opportunity to expand in terms of both TV and radio.

The big deal, of course, is on the Fox side with KTVU. This deal will mean that five of the six English-network affiliated stations in the Bay Area will be owned & operateds. The outlier will be KRON-TV Channel 4, a MyNetwork TV affiliate and one whom according to Rich Lieberman’s 415 Media Blog, Fox initially had its eye on before pursuing KTVU.

It’s also huge news for a television network that recently went through an embarrassing journalistic escapade with its coverage of the Asiana Airlines story and the fake names associated with it. Instead, it’s deals like this that make media observers like yours truly say, “Ho Lee Fuk”.

That’s said to be one reason for why Cox wanted to offload KTVU in addition to some moving and shuffling amongst many of the news staff. But, when it comes down to it, this deal can be summed in with three things.

N.

F.

L.

The power that the NFL has in local television arrangements cannot be ignored. In the mid-1990s when television stations across the country were changing affiliations to Fox (primarily because of its wresting of NFC football from CBS), it caused the other “Big Three” networks scrambling for new stations to carry its programs. Fox was doomed to be a failure as a broadcast network without the NFL.

Oh, and that yellow family from Springfield better known as The Simpsons.

CBS had to air AFC football in response. Fox’s strategy has been to establish owned & operated stations in every single market with an NFC team so they could rake in both the local and national dough that those NFL deals offer. And as we know, there’s no money like football money.

Here’s the list of O&Os Fox currently has in NFC cities:

WNYW-TV Fox 5 New York (Giants)

WTXF-TV Fox 29 Philadelphia (Eagles)

WTTG-TV Fox 5 Washington, D.C. (Redskins)

KDFW-TV Fox 4 Dallas (Cowboys)

WFLD-TV Fox 32 Chicago (Bears)

KMSP-TV Fox 9 Twin Cities (Vikings)

WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit (Lions)

WAGA-TV Fox 5 Atlanta (Falcons)

WJZY-TV Fox 46 Charlotte (Panthers) (Deal done last year)

WTVT-TV Fox 13 Tampa/St. Petersburg (Buccaneers)

KSAZ-TV Fox 10 Phoenix (Cardinals)

Stations jumped to Fox after the NFC rights buy. Fox moved in and assumed not only their affiliation, but also locking them up as owned & operateds later on.

Fox is doing this deal because it allows them to have an O&O in another NFC market: the Bay Area with—the San Francisco 49ers who right now are probably the best team in the NFC not named the Seattle Seahawks. Also, having an O&O in market #4 is not something you want to pass up if you are a smart girl or guy in charge of a network.

Fox may not be done either. Variety reported last year that Fox was planning on making buys in Seattle and St. Louis in addition to the San Francisco purchase. The St. Louis Fox affiliate is KTVI-TV, a Tribune station. Tribune, based in Chicago, primarily runs CW affiliates, including the three flagship CW stations in New York City (WPIX-TV 11), Los Angeles (KTLA-TV 5), and Chicago (WGN-TV 9).

The Seattle situation is actually rather intriguing. The station that Fox is said to have its collective eyes on is not KCPQ-TV Q13 Fox, another Fox Tribune station. It’s KIRO-TV Channel 7, another Cox station, but is affiliated with CBS.

I’ve had numerous conversations with SeaTac Media’s Jason Remington about this issue and we both have thrown around ideas. I suggested that if Fox buys KIRO and changes it into a Fox O&O, then it turns the entire Seattle market upside down.

Seattle has already seen a change in its media landscape with Sinclair acquiring locally-based Fisher Communications, owners of stations such as KOMO-TV 4 (ABC), KUNS-TV 51 (Univision), and KATU-TV 2 (ABC) in Portland, Oregon. In addition, the purchase of Belo Broadcasting by Gannett has put the market’s NBC affiliate, KING-TV (and independent station KONG-TV) (get the King Kong reference?) under new management as well.

The idea I suggested to Remington was that Fox will make the buys in St. Louis and Seattle because those are two cities with NFC teams. Fox wants O&Os in both. If KIRO changes, then it raises the possibility that KCPQ and KSTW-TV CW 11 also change network affiliation. KCPQ, being a Tribune station could jump to the CW, and KSTW could become CBS considering that it’s already a CBS-owned station.

That market could see a “Big Switch” similar to what Denver, Phoenix, and Philadelphia all notably experienced in the mid-1990s during the days of the mass realignment of the local affiliations with the networks.

One cannot ignore said ramifications of a deal if it goes through in all three cities. Assuming Fox gets its coveted O&Os in San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Louis, Fox will have O&Os in every NFC market outside of New Orleans (Saints) and Green Bay/Milwaukee (Packers).

New Orleans’ Fox affiliate, WVUE-TV Channel 8 is owned by Tom Benson’s (Saints owner) Louisiana Media Company in conjunction with Raycom. Green Bay’s Fox station, WLUK-TV Channel 11, is owned by LIN Media while Milwaukee’s at WITI-TV Channel 6 is a Tribune station.

It’s even possible that Cox may have considered exchanging either their San Francisco station or their Seattle station in exchange for the Boston and Memphis stations. But Fox wasn’t getting both on one shot. So, if that’s what Cox was offering, then it was a slam dunk for Fox. A heritage station plus an indie in the largest NFC (and NFL, for that matter) market west of the Mississippi.

And, this could only be the beginning. If the trajectory as to where Fox is going with these deals is any indication, it may not be long before Fox says hello on an O&O basis to the Space Needle & the Gateway Arch as they have just done so to the Golden Gate Bridge on the city by the Bay.

“The Voice of New York” to Find a New Microphone? Angie Martinez Resigns from Hot 97

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This one literally came out of nowhere!

At approximately 3:45 p.m. in the New York City area, Longtime WQHT-FM Hot 97 afternoon DJ Angie Martinez announced via her Twitter and Instagram that after 20-plus years on the Urban station that she was resigning from Hot 97.

“Today I resigned from Hot 97. I am grateful to the Emmis family for my time with the company and the immeasurable way that it has shaped my life. We made history in so many ways and I will cherish those memories and my friendships forever. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but ultimately it is time to move on, to grow, and to be challenged in new ways. Saying goodbye is always emotional and bitter sweet, but I am extremely excited about the future. Thank you Hot 97 and most importantly…the listeners…for an unimaginable journey. Today will be my last show. Stay tuned….Love, Angie” –Angie Martinez via Instagram, June 18, 2014

Along with her Instagram post was a photo with the words “Life Has to Move Forward. Everything Has Its Time and Everything Ends.”

Such a move could not have come at a worse time for Emmis’ Hot 97. The company is expected to close on its purchase of Urban AC 107.5 WBLS and Gospel 1190 WLIB by the end of the year, but it is coming at a time where Hot 97 is in the throes of a perceived identity crisis inside the Tri-State area, among aficionados of Hip-Hop, and radio listeners.

In the May PPMs, Hot was still leading Power 105.1 by a margin of 3.5 to 3.2, but R&B WBLS (buoyed by the fact that it has had no real competitor since Emmis LMA’ed 98.7 Kiss to ESPN) is near the top of the NYC PPMs at a 5.6—ahead of both Hot and Power.
As far as Hot’s perceived identity crisis among hip-hop heads goes, it is said that while Power caters to more “hardcore” fans of hip-hop & R&B (The Breakfast Club—DJ Envy, Angela Yee, Charlamagne the God probably helps a lot as well), Hot has seemingly become too “Hot” for its own good. Critics contend that Hot has drifted too much into the territory of other stations that typically play the “hits” like WHTZ “Z-100”, WKTU “103.5 KTU”, WPLJ 95.5, and WNOW 92.3 Amp Radio.

Let’s call a spade a spade for just a second—in many ways, Angie Martinez CARRIED Hot 97. She was #1 in afternoons in market numero uno. In radio terms, that is an accomplishment, to say the least. That’s why I wouldn’t want to be an Emmis executive.
There’s no doubt about it that with Martinez leaving Hot 97 that their slim lead they have (per the May PPMs) over Power 105.1 will shrink or even evaporate completely. By how much is anyone’s guess, but I guess we’ll have to wait for the July PPMs in August for a clear picture on how that goes.

Tick…tick…tick…tick…tick

It’s also the second time that a major Gotham radio personality has taken an offer from “across the street”. Radio legend Scott Shannon (formerly from the True Oldies Channel and the “Scott & Todd” Morning show on ‘PLJ) left to become the new morning jock at heritage Oldies/Classic Hits 101.1 WCBS-FM.

Now, “The Voice of New York” will find a new microphone for said voice to be heard all throughout the Tri-State. But where?
Immediately, speculation ran like a flood of subway trains that Angie had also accepted an offer from across the street at Power 105.1. Already with The Breakfast Club and the perception that they’ve unseated Hot 97 as The Big Apple’s Hip-Hop station, for them to be the new home for “The Voice” would be huge…like, the Empire State Building.

In addition, there seems to be another wrinkle to this story that is not even being provided by Emmis or Clear Channel.

Think…Atlanta. More specifically, the Dickey Brothers.

Cumulus Media already were the owners of PLJ and Conservative News/Talk Information station WABC-AM 77. Plus, when Cumulus bought WFME 94.7 from Harold Camping’s Family Radio, they used it as the launching pad for the first of their many “Nash-FM” Country radio stations. Nash has since set up its state-of-the-art studios at its “Nash Campus” in Nashville at WKDF 103.3 and is emphasizing the Country lifestyle as well as the music.

Cumulus also happens to own a radio station in Westchester County at 103.9 WFAS that airs an Adult Contemporary format. There has been plenty of speculation about if Cumulus may move the 103.9 tower from White Plains and into The City.

That looks like it is about to happen as Cumulus seems to want to move the 103.9 out of the pricy NYC suburbs of Westchester and into The Bronx to target more of the Boroughs.

That would seem like it would be a perfect place for a new Alternative or Active Rock station in NYC, wouldn’t it? Especially since Gotham has been starving for a Modern Rocker since 101.9 was bought by (now defunct) Merlin Media and changed into an FM News Radio station—a move that turned out to be one of the biggest failures in New York City radio history.

Exactly.

101.9 is now owned by CBS Radio and is simulcasting 660 WFAN.

A random Twitter account was spotted under the tagline @radio1039NY. Does this mean a stunt, or the actual rebranding of the station? The brand “Radio” is more commonly used for Alternative, Active, and AAA Rock stations as well as CHRs. But given Amp’s struggles vs. Z and the fact that Cumulus already owns ‘PLJ, it is unlikely Cumulus tries a Q-100 (Atlanta) clone in Gotham.

As for the 103.9, the news regarding Angie Martinez broke at the exact same time that many observers and radio pundits remembered in the back of their collective noggins that Cumulus has plans for its 103.9.

And reports say that they do not include amps and electric guitars.

Rumors are running rampant that 103.9 may change its format to some variation of Urban and is a possible landing spot for Angie Martinez. Format wise, it would automatically be an assumption that the best fit for her would be Power 105.1.

Uh….not exactly.

103.9 could also go Mainstream Urban, but Cumulus would seemingly be only flipping said station to a Mainstream Urban outlet solely to market Angie Martinez as the face of the new station. Such an outlet would garner ratings in a New York minute given how popular she is around New York—and around the country.

But the station does not necessarily have to be Mainstream Urban to fit Martinez. Cumulus could change 103.9 into an Urban AC station ala ‘BLS and the old Kiss FM. When Kiss flipped to ESPN Radio, Martinez tweeted about her fandom of Kiss FM.

In addition, Urban radio disc jockeys regularly transition to Urban AC and Urban Oldies stations later in their careers. This is partly because being a 40+ or 50+ year old on a Mainstream Urban station is not exactly a good fit. In addition, they do it themselves for the sole purpose of reconnecting with their audience that listened to them early on in their Mainstream Urban days, that thanks to age and the changes in the music business, were probably no longer listening to Hip-Hop and were transitioning themselves to R&B/Urban AC/Oldies stations.

Rick Party was a popular DJ on Chicago’s WGCI 107.5 (Urban) for many years. Now, he does afternoon on WHQT Hot 105 in Miami—an Urban Oldies outlet owned by Cox.

Ed Lover (of Yo! MTV Raps and “C’mon Son!” fame) had stints on Hot 97 and Power 105 before accepting a weekend DJ gig on 98.7 Kiss FM as the host of “Friday Night Flava”. He now does a show six days a week on Sirius XM’s Old School Hip Hop channel, Backspin.
So it would not be unusual if Martinez went the same path—to an Urban AC on a 103.9, if Cumulus flips 103.9 to Urban AC and if that’s where Martinez ends up.

But such a move would come at an almost unbelievable time for Cumulus. They would flip a 103.9 to Urban AC—a second Urban AC. The Tri-State has not had a second Urban AC since the Kiss flip.

Also, Cumulus seemingly wants one major Urban personality while making life anything but a smooth broadcast for another. They are suing former nationally syndicated afternoon drive-time host Michael Baisden for an estimated $1 million according to reports. The suit alleges that Baisden and his production company were paid for over a year after he left.

There is no market that Baisden coveted more than New York City, even as a native Chicagoan. As time drifted closer and closer to the cancellation of his show by Cumulus Media Networks, Baisden was hemorrhaging affiliates, including a Radio One station in Dallas at 94.5 K-Soul that shifted its format from Urban AC to Urban Oldies “Old School 94.5” (that has since reverted back to the K-Soul name). A Clear Channel outlet in Philadelphia (105.3 WDAS) also stopped airing his show.

When Kiss flipped to ESPN, Baisden began an on-air and social media campaign to get WBLS to pick up his show. Some of Kiss’s hosts were successful in moving over to ‘BLS, including late-night host Lenny Green, but ‘BLS never tapped the syndied Baisden for afternoons.

Baisden was let go without even being allowed to do a week’s worth of shows to say goodbye to his audience. He has since been replaced in afternoons by D.L. Hughley. Baisden has since gone on to put more emphasis on his endeavors as a motivational speaker and author.

There is even talk that perhaps Martinez may link up with Sean “Puffy” Combs and become a host of her own show on his “Revolt TV” channel. The “bossip” site…well, called Bossip has a supposed exclusive on its website saying Martinez already has accepted an offer to go “across the street” to Power 105.1.

But that is a tabloid site, of course, along the lines of Media Take Out. I prefer to be patient and “esperate” (wait) for official word from either a station or from Angie herself.

That remains to be seen, if it is Power, the new Urban at 103.9, Revolt, or someplace else. One thing is for sure—wherever “The Voice of New York” is heard, New York is likely to listen.

Oh, one more thing as an abrupt P.S.: Dare I say that, Angie, your loyal fans “will go, contigo” wherever it is you are. Anyone forget that she also gave us this circa 2002? Around the same time that Power debuted on New York radio after flipping from “Jammin’ Oldies”

Wonder how much Power played it at the time. They ought to now if she’s heading across the street from Hot 97!

Boston’s Evolution Ends at a High Point for EDM

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My ears began noticing something circa 2010 that was happening to Top 40/CHR radio.

I began noticing that the BPM of the songs that are played on Top 40 CHR radio began to increase…and increase…and increase.
And increase.

I have always been an advocate of Dance music on American radio. This is partly because I am such a huge fan of the dance music that came out of the 90’s before it Finding such Dance stations on the radio in other countries is not hard—especially European countries. In Europe, Dance is one of the most popular musical genres there is on the radio.

Usually, because of the corporate structure of many radio stations, dance has made inroads into radio only to see those inroads reach dead ends. Whether it’s the “Energy 92.7 and 101.1” in Phoenix, “Energy 92.7 & 5” in Chicago, “Energy 92.7” in San Francisco, “Groove 103.1” in Los Angeles, “Party 93.1” in Miami, “Hot 107.1” in Denver, or “Pulse 87” in New York City, Dance has tried mightily to find permanent places on the radio only to see them either sold or flip to other formats.

The same fate that has befallen other Dance/EDM outlets recently happened to another. Add WEDX-FM “Evolution 101.7” in Boston to that long list. Clear Channel Communications flipped the EDM’er to Country “101.7 the Bull” with the moving of Pete Tong’s Evolution format (which already is available with a national feed on iHeartRadio) to the 107.9 HD-2 of WXKS-FM CHR “Kiss 108”.

There is one motivation behind the move and one motivation only—Clear Channel wants to prop up Kiss. They want to slice numbers off Greater Media’s market-leading Country 102.5 WKLB in order to move Kiss to the top place on the Boston PPM’s.

Except one can make the argument that Kiss’s sister in crime at WJMN “Jam’n 94.5” is already doing a very good job of that on its own—along with two CBS Radio stations in Hot AC WBMX “Mix 104.1” and WODS “103.3 Amp Radio”.

Evolution may have done it as well.

Typical Clear Channel move if you ask me where the PPM charts are the sole motivation for a move. In a city where there has been no Oldies/Classic Hits station since 2012 when WODS flipped from its longtime heritage Classic Hits format to Top 40. This in a city where there has been no (legitimate) Urban AC (sorry, you don’t count, Touch 106.1!) station since Radio One sold off their cluster in the City of Beans to Entercom. And in a city where, despite its huge Country audience, probably doesn’t need a second Country outlet.

But that’s beside the point…at least for now.

Just a few short years ago, most mainstream radio listeners probably wouldn’t be able to name one EDM artist.

Now, North American radio listeners know who Avicii, Armin Van Buuren, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Diplo, David Guetta, Zedd, Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, DJ Tiesto, Afrojack, and countless other EDM DJ’s are. Dance music hasn’t been this popular and received this much radio airplay since the mid-1990s.

The difference between the mid-1990s and today is that radio was not as concentrated in the hands of a few owners as it is today. The difference between the mid 90’s and today is that the business climate for dance stations was much rosier than it is today, unfortunately.

These artists are getting a mountain of airtime on CHR radio stations, but why hasn’t it translated into EDM formats springing up all over the country like leaves in the springtime?

Alternative music is also experiencing a renaissance with musicians such as Lorde, Lana del Rey, and Imagine Dragons lighting up the Billboard charts. The difference is that there are already plenty of Alternative and Indie formats on the radio, even those that happen to be to the left of 92.1.

Wherefore, art thou, EDM?

I can’t quite put my finger on this one except for the obvious answer that something about full time EDM formats just doesn’t seem to fit a model for mainstream corporate radio. After all, it took Pete Tong just to twist arms enough in San Antonio for them to even do a 24-hour channel on iHeartRadio.

Also, the 93.5 in Miami doesn’t count just because of the fact that it’s near the former home of Party 93.1. 93.5 is a translator.
Other than Sirius XM Satellite Radio and a bevy of internet radio stations (like what Pulse 87 is now), there are not that many places where EDM fans can get their consistent fix of music with abnormally high BPMs. This is other than weekend “Party” mixshows at “Club CoCo” which already are basically all EDM, all the time. Now, any random daypart on your local Top 40 station sounds like a weekend mixer.

Just imagine if your favorite musical genre started to become very popular and began to receive a lot of radio airplay. Wouldn’t you want that genre to not have to rely on Top 40 stations to get airplay and would rather see it stand on its own with its own radio stations?

Because, sometimes, radio stations aren’t simply media outlets. They can (when done right) also be outlets that can exude musical culture. That’s the marketing strategy behind the Nash FM stations.

For radio conglomerates to say that EDM mixers and artists are good enough to have their music played on CHR outlets (which have gone heavily Rhythmic thanks to EDM’s rise to mainstream prominence lately) but not on their own radio stations like Evolution in Boston sounds like a subtle slap in the face. It’s like saying to a sports reporter at a radio station that she’s good enough to cover major events like basketball games, but they’ll wait to promote her to being in charge of the department simply because she’s a woman.

Look, one should not complain if you’re an EDM fan. When you’re in the position that dance has been over the past couple of decades, you have to take what you can get. And, perhaps, this could be part of the thinking of radio conglomerates that if they were to give EDM their on stations that it would take away from CHRs. After all, EDM and Alternative’s stock are both up while that of Hip-Hop is down.

But it wasn’t part of the thinking by these same radio bigwigs when people had forgot what dance was and Hip-Hop was going through a radio renaissance like it was for a good portion of the 2000’s.

Every time this back-and-forth on EDM is referenced, we cannot forget about one artist in particular—Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga.

How did Lady Gaga get her big break into the superstar she is today? This little thingy in New York called…Pulse 87.

Exactly. Z-100 wasn’t the radio station that discovered Gaga. Pulse 87 did. In fact, prior to Joel Salkowitz going bankrupt on Pulse, he had a master plan to beam in multiple “Pulse 87”’s into Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Chicago.

Again, I would not complain one bit if I am one of the millions of EDM fans in the USA. Those who probably never even knew what BPM stood for are embracing the genre. Pop culture is embracing the genre. Rappers, as evidenced by Snoop Dogg, are embracing the genre. Alternative artists like Coldplay are embracing the genre as evidenced by their work with Avicii. There’s even a such thing as EDM artists producing COUNTRY songs!

What’s next, a genre that fuses together EDM with Smooth Jazz? Oh wait—there already is a genre for that—it’s called Chill. WQCD CD 101.9 in New York once tried the Chill experiment for a while before eventually reverting to Smooth Jazz.

If everyone else is on board EDM’s bandwagon which seems to get bigger and bigger by the day, why can’t radio in the form of full time formats? After all, Zedd recently signed an endorsement deal with Bud Light.

There’s one advertiser. And we know how much you lurrrrve those, radio.

You Can Catch it All on WBBM? What Triggered the Cubs’ New Radio Deal?

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Poor Steve Goodman…

As most Cubs fans know, in 1984 when the Northsiders were in the throes of a pennant chase, he recorded the oh-so-popular “Go Cubs Go” track that is once again played on the speakers at Wrigley Field after Cub wins and it becomes “White Flag Time” at the Friendly Confines.

Included in the middle part of the third and final verse, it includes the lyrics: “Baseball time is here again, you can catch it all on WGN…”

Thanks to new Cubs owners the Ricketts Family, that is about to change.

CBS Radio and the Chicago Cubs recently announced a new 7-year $70 million agreement that will allow CBS’s News Radio station WBBM 780 to broadcast Cubs games starting with the 2015 season. The deal ends a partnership (for now) with Radio 720 WGN that goes as far back as 1925—17 years after the Cubs’ last World Series victory, 11 years after the debut of Wrigley Field, and 9 years after the Cubs played their first baseball at the Friendly Confines.

Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer will still remain at the mic for Cubs broadcasts. Reports say that this was “non-negotiable” on the part of the Cubbies’ brass (meaning the Ricketts family and team president Crane Kenney).

The Cubs just aren’t signing a radio partnership with WBBM to broadcast games. It is also supposedly doubling as a marketing partnership as well. It will also allow the Cubs to promote upcoming concerts at Wrigley Field through CBS’s other music radio stations in the Windy City. These stations are WBBM-FM “B96” (CHR), WXRT-FM 93XRT (Adult Alternative), WUSN-FM US 99.5 (Country), and WJMK-FM 104.3 K-Hits (Oldies/Classic Hits). They also own sports WSCR-AM 670 The Score.

In other words, the Wrigley Field Concert Series is essentially a marketing tool now of CBS Radio and the Cubs.

Surprisingly enough, it is this partnership that is the reason why the dollar amount that CBS will pay to the Cubs is actually less than if they would have re-upped again with WGN. Jimmy de Castro went on both of Tribune’s radio stations (WGN 720 and WGWG-LP 87.7 The Game) and expressed that it was a case of the Cubs losing WGN, not the other way around.

While de Castro was a little more reserved when talking to his own media outlets in the Chi, he fired some shots at Clark and Addison in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

“They’re making step by step that are PR nightmares…At the same time, they’ve lost 35 games this year, 288 in the last three years, and no one’s listening or watching.”—De Castro to the Sun-Times

The door was kept open to a return for the Cubs to 720. De Castro, in his interview with 87.7 The Game mentioned how the St. Louis Cardinals ended their long time partnership with KMOX 1120-AM as they pursued their own radio station for a few years. That did not work and the Redbirds eventually returned to KMOX prior to the 2011 season. In the Cards’ first year back, they won the World Series over the Detroit Tigers. He also said that the station would still stay committed to covering Cubs baseball and that they have supported the rebuilding process led by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

De Castro said that from a business perspective, what the Cubs wanted out of the Tribune Company didn’t make sense. He said that they couldn’t justify an arrangement where they lost a grand total of $6 million a year while they’ve maintained their status as the flagship station of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks who have won two Stanley Cups in the past five years. WGN is also the flagship outlet for Northwestern University athletics. Given the ‘Hawks partnership, it did not make smart business sense to keep the Cubs on the station if they were demanding more than what the Blackhawks were receiving.

If anything in Chicago sports is worth ponying up a full $10 million on, it’s Patrick Kane, not Anthony Rizzo.

Even with this, Robert Feder’s blog on Chicago media reported that WGN still tried everything in their power to keep the Cubs on ‘GN, including granting the team a minority ownership stake in the station.

Ultimately, this wasn’t enough as the opportunity to market Wrigley Field as a concert venue through CBS’ Chicago cluster was too much for the Ricketts Family and Crane Kenney to pass up. The result—the Cubs will be on WBBM 780 starting in 2015.

At the introductory press conference that featured Tom Ricketts, Crane Kenney, Dan Mason (president of CBS Radio) and Rod Zimmerman, who is in charge of CBS’s Chicago cluster, Mason and Zimmerman were presented with honorary Cubs jerseys that said their last names and the number “15” on the back.

Cliff Floyd once wore this number during his short-lived career as a Cubbie.

A third jersey featured “CBS Radio 780” on the back. At the press conference, it was revealed that 780 AM (only a few ticks on the dial shy of 720) will broadcast games while 105.9 FM retains its All-News format.

Feder also reported that whenever there is a scheduling conflict with the Bears (who also have WBBM as a flagship), the Bears will be on 780 while the Cubs will be heard on 105.9. A new logo featuring the Cubs Radio Network has already been released and is on the CBS Chicago website. The Cubs say that network will be duplicated with ‘BBM as the flagger. At the presser, Kenney touted how 780 has the same signal clarity and strength as 720.

With all of this mentioned, only one question needs to be asked—how much money did WGN offer the Cubs?

$19,080,000 a year?

I kid…

It must be asked. After all, it turned out that the CBS amount was actually less than the amount offered by WGN because of the additional incentives given thanks to the concert opportunities for Wrigley Field. Thanks to the upcoming “WrigleyPalooza”, CBS’s offer (if we’re supposed to believe what is coming from CBS and the Cubs) is actually lower than that of WGN’s.

What has to be asked is how much did WGN offer the Cubs? If it was over the $10 million that they’ll be receiving annually from the Tiffany Network until 2021, then the motivation behind the Cubs’ move was about the marketing opportunities and the concerts instead of the money.

If ‘GN’s offer was under $10 million, then CBS basically offered everything short of all of Cook County for the rights to broadcast the Cubs.

With this deal, CBS now has the rights to half of the major professional teams in the City of Broad Shoulders (including the MLS’s Chicago Fire). One of those other teams just happens to be another team that happens to play its games at U.S. Cellular Field—on the South Side of town.

The White Sox air on 670 The Score WSCR. In 2010, the Sox and CBS Radio signed a five year agreement to continue broadcasting White Sox baseball on The Score with Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson at the call. That contract ends after the 2015 season.

It has been speculated that this move could push the White Sox to pursue other options, especially if they are getting paid by CBS less than what the Cubs are getting via their new contract. After all, it is obvious to say that the Sox’ on-field baseball product surely merits more than the $10 million the Cubbies are about to receive from CBS Radio—does it?

One of the stations that could be in play is WMVP-AM ESPN Radio 1000. They’re one of four ESPN owned and operated stations across the country along with their affiliates in New York (WEPN-FM 98.7 via LMA), Los Angeles (KSPN-AM 710), and Dallas/Fort Worth (KESN-FM 103.3). One reason they could be in play is because they are already the flagship radio station for Chicago Bulls basketball. What do the Bulls and White Sox have in common? Both are owned by Jerry Reinsdorf.

Reinsdorf would surely love to have both of his teams on one station for the cross-promotional opportunities that would explode from such an arrangement.

But, it could be a number of things that are pushing this Cubs bit to have Breakfast at Tiffany’s. From 1981 until the late 2000s, the Tribune Company weren’t just broadcast partners of the Cubbies—they owned the team. So it was very easy for WGN-TV, WGN Radio, and the WGN Superstation to broadcast their games. In Rickettsville, tradition runs second to the big bucks, and Tiffany’s got plenty of them.

Wrigley Field was already a hot concert venue even before the Cubs inked this deal. The temperature at Wrigley just rose a little bit.

One more note to this deal: Cubs TV broadcaster and noted rock music fan Len Kasper once hosted a weekly show Wednesday evenings at 8:00 pm on 93XRT. Any chance of that show returning now that Clark and Addison is now H&H with 22 West Washington Street?

That is neither here nor there. What is obvious is that when a 90 year partnership in radio has severed ties and has at least said “See you later” if not “farewell”, it makes all of us say this:

The Double-Edged Sword of Radio’s Format Changes

radioflip

Anyone who knows little ol’ me knows that I am probably the biggest radio geek on the planet. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I know that there are places with radio stations that they didn’t even know had places.

My radio geekiness began in 2006 in Atlanta. At the time a popular radio station called 105.3 the Buzz (WBZY-FM Bowdon) was running liners in a continuous loop redirecting listeners to 96.1 WKLS. At the time, the station was the home of 96Rock, a heritage Classic Rocker that at the time was the flagship station for The Regular Guys Morning Show (Larry Wachs, Eric von Haessler, Southside Steve, etc.) as well as the home for Atlanta Braves baseball on FM.

The Braves, at the time also simulcasted on News/Talk 640 WGST.

The new station that was to debut on 96.1 was supposed to be what is referred to in the radio business as “Active Rock” (predominantly current hard rock with a few classics sprinkled here and there)—Project 9-6-1. Clear Channel has since ended ATL’s “Project” and is now airing CHR on 96.1 as “Power 96.1”.

Going back to the original format change in 2006, 105.3 basically relocated to 96.1 just under a new name. 105.3 itself debuted a new Regional Mexican format called “El Patron”, predominantly targeted towards the northeast Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County, where most of metro-Atlanta’s Hispanic population lives.

The fact that radio stations everywhere choose such creative ways to end and debut new formats is definitely pleasing to the ears. Shortly after the change in Atlanta took place, I discovered a website called FormatChange.com that features format changes throughout the years in radio. These include very historic ones, such as the MusicRadio 77 signoff in New York and the debut of Smooth Jazz 94.7 The Wave in Los Angeles.

Recently I remember listening to the aircheck I recorded of the debut of Wild 94.1 in Tampa. The buildup to the change (as for any Rhythmic CHR) was well-ballyhooed, so I figured I wanted to listen to this one would sound like. I didn’t hear the actual format change as can be heard on the 94.1 frequency because CBS Radio maintained the stream as if the station was simply changing its name and not moving to 94.1 from 98.7. In other words, the streaming audio was not the same as the frequency. I’m also guessing it’s why despite the enormous buildup to the flip, it’s why the aircheck didn’t make the Format Change Archive.

Wild’s move from 98.7 to 94.1 took place in 2009. It assumed the position of a Broadcast Architecture Radio Network-affiliated Smooth Jazz station at 94.1 which moved to 98.7. That station has since flipped to Hot AC “Play 98.7” and now as CBS Sports Radio affiliate “98.7 The Fan”.

With technology on the up-and-up as it is, the ways in which radio stations flip formats is more sophisticated than ever. With stations having to fulfill financial and ratings obligations to their owners, the rate of format changes is running at more of a breakneck speed than ever before.

The ways in which a radio station can change formats can vary. It can be simple such as quick transition from one song into a top-of-the-hour liner and a promo featuring the new format. Or, a station can flip its format by a long sendoff with DJs saying their final goodbyes and thank you’s to the listeners, then a sequence into the new format that can sound so dramatic that the soundbytes were plucked from “Gladiator” or “The Scorpion King”.

A station can also “stunt”. Say, for example, Alternative radio station 106.3 the Buzz in New York (DISCLAIMER—not a real radio station by the way) was about to flip formats. It signed off, then stunted as “Akiem 106.3” for a few days. After the stunt, a brief announcement could be made by the station’s general manager into the debut of the new format, which could include a simple intro or a more complex one such as a full intro of the new format. In this case, we’ll say it changed to “Love 106.3”—an R&B station—or as it’s known in the radio biz, Urban AC.

Such soundclips, again, can be pleasing to the ears since we’re hearing things that we aren’t used to hearing on a typical radio station at any given day. I have conversations with many of my radio geek folks on Facebook and Twitter always urging them to get their aircheck equipment ready whenever a format flip is about to come down the pike.

While there is an entertaining side to format flips, there’s also a dark side. A yin and a yang. A black and a white.
Format flips, for the most part happen, because either a station’s ratings aren’t doing so hotly against its competition. Or because the station isn’t making enough money. Usually what happens is that the entire airstaff will get fired prior to the change happening. Adam Carolla once said recently that radio station owners sleazily will fire the airstaff prior to the change occurring because if they gave subtle hints of a flip prior to a station changing, the revolt among the airstaff will be massive. This was the case with the old “Froggy 94” in Memphis. This was a beloved Country station that had a close relationship amongst its airstaff—something EVERY radio station should strive for.

Also, many DJs are put into non-compete contracts. For example, if a station flips and the airstaff gets fired, that DJ can’t be on the air for a certain period of time on a competing radio station. This is why it is advantageous for every DJ (or would be DJ) to have a strong internet presence as a way to get their message out.

We have to remember sometimes (and I’ve thought about this more as I continue my observation of the radio industry) that while format flips may produce ear candy for radio nerds, these are people’s livelihoods as well. The job market for radio can sometimes be so screwed that on-air talent will have to move cross-country just to find their next gig.

The format change bug has since hit home when I learned a month ago of a planned format change at Georgia State University’s student-run Album 88 WRAS-FM, a heritage indie music station in Atlanta. The plan was for the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to be used by Georgia Public Broadcasting as WRAS was to become its flagship station for its radio network. The remaining 10 hours would still be used by students and the student-run format would still be available online. The takeover of the radio station by GPB is scheduled to take place on June 29th.

The pushback by fans and students has been noticeable. The format flip will provide fewer opportunities for would-be DJs in the future for which WRAS was a major reason why they chose to attend GSU in the first place.

On the subject of these changes again, I can’t even say that when you hear one format flip then you hear them all. They get somewhat repetitive after a while especially when you know how certain stations will debut themselves. The intro for Cumulus’ Rock stations is almost identical. In the early 2000’s shortly after Clear Channel bought out two other radio companies (AMFM and Jacor), they “Kissed” many of their stations (mostly Rhythmic AC or “Jammin’ Oldies” outlets) with Top 40/CHR. The debut sequence for the Top 40 outlets were almost identical. Don’t believe me? Check out FormatChange.com.

I don’t get excited for format flips the way I used to. Partly because I’ve tried to become more in tune with the human element of radio and realize that format changes mean job loss, and the only reason they lost their jobs isn’t because they did something bad. They’re only because of a certain radio organization’s bottom line.

Also, I’ve listened to so many format flip airchecks that I don’t necessarily get excited for format flip sequences anymore. When Adult Alternative station 95.3 The Peak debuted in Calgary, that one was pretty good since it connected the debut of the station with many other landmarks and famous sites in Calgary and around Alberta.

I liked that one. I’m not saying that radio geeks and aircheck collectors should not crave more format flip airchecks, but let’s just remember who is (or was) on the other side of our radios and computers when we hear them.