Saturday, March 3, 2018

BREAKING : Owner of eight Boston radio stations prepares to file for bankruptcy

Embattled IHeartMedia is circulating documents for a bankruptcy filing that could come as soon as this weekend for the biggest U.S. radio broadcaster and owners of eight Boston stations.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is all but certain, with iHeart and creditors each swapping proposals in recent weeks for a consensual restructuring. But pressure is mounting on iHeart after it missed a February 1 interest payment, with a 30-day grace period about to run out. On top of that, the broadcaster on Thursday skipped payments on two more sets of bonds. If the company files without a pre-negotiated restructuring plan in place, the bankruptcy could turn into a free-fall, with prolonged, contentious tussling for years over about $20 billion of debt.

Billionaire media mogul John Malone's Liberty Media stepped in with a last-minute offer to senior creditors that would help salvage iHeart by injecting cash and financing a trip through bankruptcy, but the bid wasn't high enough to win over creditors. Still, talks remain fluid and ongoing between the secured creditor group and Liberty Media.

Liberty has already bought a substantial position in iHeart debt and sees potential synergies between iHeart and SiriusXM radio. IHeart runs the biggest land-based radio network with about 850 stations and Sirius has the largest satellite radio platform with nearly 32 million subscribers.

The company's stations in the Boston market are WXKS/Kiss 108, WJMN/Jamn 94-5, WZLX 100.7, WBWL/Bull 101.7, WKAF 97.7, WRKO 680, WBZ/NewsRadio 1030 and WXKS/Talk 1200. WKOX/Rumba 1430 is currently in trust awaiting a sale. (Ed. Note : Some local and regional media watchers reported that Iheart owns 10 stations in Boston which is incorrect and not legal.)

BRW Notebook :

Daze in the Life : On the eve of the 50th WBCN anniversary, its longtime morning host Charles Laquidara will hold a special event to preview his new multimedia memoir called "Daze In the Life". The event will take place at 8pm on Wednesday, March 14 at Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Full details and ticket info are available here. Boston radio icon, Laquidara, signed off his morning show at WZLX 100.7 in August 2000 and retired to Hawaii where he currently lives. WBCN ended its 41-year run in August 2009.

Mutual admiration society : In his recent sitdown with Boston Magazine, legendary Kiss 108 morning man Matt Siegel who turns 68 later this month mentioned that he had quietly renewed his contract. The extension now runs thru 2020. Siegel also happens to be a big fan of WGBH 89.7's midday duo Eagan and Braude who recently celebrated their 5-year anniversary at Boston Public Radio and were also recently featured in the same publication....And speaking of contract extensions, Entercom and WEEI's morning man Kirk Minihane haven't quite worked out a new deal(last one was signed in early 2014).  Kirk and Callahan show was named country's top morning drive sports show of 2017 by trade publication Barrett Sports Media.

Schedule change : Starting Monday(3/5), WRKO 680 will begin airing Joe Pagliarulo's nationally syndicated The Joe Show from 10pm to 1am where it will replace syndicated Jim Bohannon's show. The Weekend Edition of the Joe Pags show will remain on the new Talk 1200.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Michael Holley exits WEEI for exapnded TV role and a teaching job

On Wednesday(2/28), after a 13-year run at WEEI 93.7, afternoon drive co-host Michael Holley announced he is leaving the station for a higher profile role at the regional sports network NBC Sports Boston and a teaching position at Boston University.

Holley, former Boston Globe sports writer,  joined WEEI back in March 2005, made a moving announcement during the final hour of Wednesday's "Dale, Holley with Keefe" show. "I'm nervous," Holley said. "I never imagined making this announcement. Thirteen years ago, I took this job, and that in itself is a blessing. Today is my last day at WEEI."  Holley spent 10 out of 13 years at WEEI his on-air partner Dale Arnold, first as a midday show(2005-2011) and later on afternoon drive program(2014-2018). For three years in between, Holley co-hosted WEEI's afternoon drive with Glenn Ordway(now in middays) from 2011 to 2013 and for a year with a very unpopular Mike Salk who left to return to program his former Seattle station KIRO/ESPN 710 where he's also a morning co-host. 

WEEI VP Mark Bannon said in a statement that Holley chose not to renew his contract after they offered him a multi-year extension. Instead, Bannon said, Holley chose to "expand his role with NBC Sports Boston." where he's been co-hosting "Boston Sports Tonight"(9pm-Midnight). Boston Globe's media writer also reported that Holley will become an instructor at Boston University's College of Communication starting in September.

WEEI's official statement on Holley's departure :

Starting Thursday(3/1) the show has re-branded as The Dale and Keefe Show. The search for the 3rd co-host is now officially on and some of station's current fulltime and part-time personalities(John Tomase, Mike Mutnansky, Trenni Kusnierek) are expected to on-air audition.

iHeart debuts new Talk 1200 in Boston

iHeartMedia Boston announced the debut of the new WXKS/TALK 1200, Boston's Conservative Talk, effective Thursday(3/1). The station launched at 9am on Thursday with The Glenn Beck show. The rest of the day features Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Buck Sexton, Mark Levin. From 1am to 9am, the station features Fox Sports Radio programming including Ben Maller(2am-6am) and Clay Travis(6am-9am). [Ed. Note : This is basically a shift of programming  from another IheartMedia AM signal - WKOX 1430 - which was Talk 1430 since June 2015(BRW 6/29/15). WKOX is currently in a trust and awaiting an ownership change. More on that below]

In March 2010, WXKS 1200 launched a similar format initially branded as Rush Radio 1200(later switching to more generic name Talk 1200) with a mix of local(Jeff Katz, Jay Severin) and nationally syndicated talkers including Rush Limbaugh.(BRW 3/3/10).  After 2 1/2 year run, in August 2012, the station changed formats to a short-lived all-comedy programming. (BRW 8/13/12). 

In February 2013, IheartMedia Boston and Bloomberg Radio signed a 5-year lease to air Bloomberg Boston programming(BRW 2/27/13). However, Bloomberg's new radio strategy involved expansion to FM dial and Beasley's new 106.1 downtown translator sealed a new deal between two companies last July(BRW 7/4/17). Bloomberg is also heard on Beasley's WRCA 1330 and WBOS 92.9's HD2 sub-channel. 

In addition, last August(BRW 8/6/17), Bloomberg plunked down $1 million for a North Shore combo of FM 106.1 translator and a 1,000-watt 1450 AM signal.

Back to Iheart, in addition to moving syndicated talk to Talk 1200, WKOX 1430 was rebranded as Rumba 1430 and features Latin hit music format.  Last fall, WKOX/Rumba 1430 AM was placed into Ocean Station Trust pending a spinoff to a new owner after Iheart acquired divested Entercom-CBS merger stations - WRKO 680, WZLX 100.7, WBZ 1030 and WKAF 97.7.  Per FCC ownership rules, a company can not own more than 8 stations in a single market. Iheart Media already owns WXKS/Kiss 108, WJMN/Jam 94-5, WBWL/101.7 The Bull and WXKS-AM/Talk 1200.

Talk 1200's  is now also simulcast on WJMN 94.5's HD2 sub-channel. 

iHeartMedia Boston Announces the Debut of the
New TALK 1200

 All-New Programming Lineup Launches with
America’s No. 1 Talk Radio Personality Rush Limbaugh

Boston, Mass. – March 1, 2018 – iHeartMedia Boston announced today the debut of the new TALK 1200, Boston’s Conservative Talk, effective immediately. The station will launch at 9 a.m. with The Glenn Beck Program.

TALK 1200 will broadcast premier conservative programming featuring America’s top talk radio personalities including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Buck Sexton, Mark Levin and more. The station’s programming will simulcast on 94.5 HD2.

“We are excited to have this powerful lineup of conservative talk on a new channel here in Boston,” said Alan Chartrand, President of iHeartMedia’s Boston Region. “We are confident that with the biggest names in the talk radio format, we'll be able to serve our listeners and advertisers well.”

“We are proud to have the best talent in talk radio on TALK 1200,” said Dylan Sprague, Senior Vice President of Programming for iHeartMedia’s Boston Region. “With a more powerful signal, we can now reach a wider audience.”

Full Programming Lineup:
The Glenn Beck Program                   9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Rush Limbaugh Show                  12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
The Sean Hannity Show                      3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
The Buck Sexton Show                        6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Mark Levin Show                         9 p.m. – 12 a.m.

iHeartMedia is the leading media outlet in the Boston market with multiple platforms, including its broadcast stations; live events; data; and its digital businesses and platforms, including mobile, social and its own iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s free all-in-one digital music, podcasting and live streaming radio service – with more than 1.7 billion app downloads and 110 million registered users.

About iHeartMedia Boston
iHeartMedia Boston owns and operates WXKS-FM, WJMN-FM, WBWL-FM, WZLX-FM, WKAF-FM, WBZ-AM, WRKO-AM and WXKS-AM, and is part of iHeartMedia. With over a quarter of a billion monthly listeners in the U.S. and over 129 million social followers, iHeartMedia has the largest national reach of any radio or television outlet in America. As the leader in multiplatform connections, it also serves over 150 local markets through 858 owned radio stations, and the company’s radio stations and content can be heard on AM/FM, HD digital radio, satellite radio, on the Internet at and on the company’s radio station websites, on the iHeartRadio mobile app, in enhanced auto dashes, on tablets, wearables and smartphones, and on gaming consoles.

iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s digital radio platform, is the fastest growing digital audio service in the U.S. and offers users thousands of live radio stations, personalized custom artist stations created by just one song or seed artist and the top podcasts and personalities. With over 1.7 billion downloads, iHeartRadio reached 110 million registered users faster than any other radio or digital music service.

iHeartMedia’s platforms include radio broadcasting, online, mobile, digital and social media, podcasts, personalities and influencers, live concerts and events, syndication, music research services and independent media representation. iHeartMedia is a division of iHeartMedia, Inc. (PINK: IHRT). Visit for more company information.

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Joe Mazzei 781-396-1430

Thursday, February 22, 2018

January numbers are here....

Entercom and Beasley had four of the top five stations Boston’s January(4-31) Nielsen Audio ratings released yesterday. Leading the pack was Iheart Media’s WXKS/Kiss 108 with a 7.3 share, followed by Beasley’s 98.5 The Sports Hub at 7.1 and WROR 105.7 at 6.7, Entercom’s WEEI/SportsRadio 93.7 and WMJX/Magic 106.7 tying for 4th at 5.4.

Rounding out the Top 10 were News/Talk WBZ/News Radio 1030 at 5.2, pubcasters WBUR 90.9 and WGBH 89.7 and Beasley’s WKLB/Country 102.5  tying for 7th place with impressive 4.9, and Iheart’s recently acquired classic rocker WZLX 100.7 rebounding nicely from a soft Holiday survey with a 4.6.

Five of Boston’s top 10 stations in January were spoken word formats (2 sports stations and 3 stations with news/talk/info format). While Top 10’s total share of music formats slightly favored music formats – 28.9 vs 27.5 – there’s no denying that spoken word stations with very strong digital and podcast presence are carving out a very loyal audience across all platforms.

In the overall ratings for listeners 6 years old and up, WXKS 107.9/Kiss 108 had the highest number of listeners in the morning drive where Matt Siegel’s show finished first. In the midday time slot, the winner was WROR 105.7 where Julie Deveraux hosts 10am-2pm shift and afternoon drive belonged to “Felger and Mazz Show” on Beasley’s sports talker WBZ 98.5 had an outstanding month with the Patriots driving to the Super Bowl.

Here are top 25 stations in the Boston market from January 4 to January 31.

Rank Station Owner Format Dec-2017 Holiday 2017 Jan-2018
1 WXKS/Kiss 108 Iheart Merdia Top 40/CHR 7.2 6.4 7.3
2 WBZ/98.5 The SportsHub Beasley Broadcast Group Sports 5.4 5.9 7.1
3 WROR 105.7/Boston's Greatest Hits Beasley Broadcast Group Classic Hits 5.7 5.5 6.7
4 tie WEEI/Sports Radio 93.7 Entercom Sports 4.1 4.0 5.4
4-tie WMJX/Magic 106.7 Entercom Adult Conterporary 8.8 13.6 5.4
6 WBZ/NewsRadio 1030 Iheart Merdia News/Talk/Info 5.0 4.9 5.2
7-tie WBUR 90.9/Boston's NPR NewsStation Boston University News/Talk/Info 4.9 4.2 4.9
7-tie WGBH 89.7/Boston Public Radio GBH Educational Foundation News/Talk/Info 4.5 4.2 4.9
7-tie WKLB/Country 102.5 Beasley Broadcast Group Country 4.4 4.5 4.9
10 WZLX 100.7/Boston's Classic Rock Iheart Merdia Classic Rock 4.3 3.4 4.6
11 WWBX/Mix 104.1 Entercom "Hot" Adult Contermporary 3.3 2.8 3.2
12 WBQT/Hot 96.9 Beasley Broadcast Group Rhythmic AC 3.2 2.9 3.1
13 WRKO 680/The Voice of Boston Iheart Merdia News/Talk/Info 3.1 2.5 2.9
14 WKAF 97.7/Boston's #1 for R&B Entercom Urban AC 2.4 1.8 2.6
15 WJMN/Jamn 94-5 Iheart Merdia Top 40/Rhythmic 2.5 2.3 2.4
16 WODS/AMP 103.3 Entercom Top 40/CHR 3.2 2.6 2.2
17-tie WBWL/101.7 the Bull Iheart Merdia New Country 2.2 1.9 2.1
17-tie WXRV/92.5 The River Northeast Broadcasting AAA 1.9 1.6 2.1
19 WBOS/Alt 92.9 Beasley Broadcast Group Alternative Rock 1.6 1.8 1.8
20 WAAF 107.3/The Only Station That Really Rocks Entercom Mainstream Rock 1.4 1.2 1.6
21 WXLO 104.5 Cumulus "Hot" Adult Contermporary 1.2 1.2 1.3
22 WCRB/99.5 Classical Radio Boston GBH Educational Foundation Classical 2.1 1.9 1.2
23 WERS 88.9/Boston's Music Discovery Station Emerson College Variety/Block Programming 0.9 0.7 0.9
24-tie WCTK/Cat Country 98.1 Hall Communications Country 0.9 0.7 0.8
24-tie WUMB 91.9 Umass Boston AAA 0.5 0.7 0.8

BRW Notebook :

Reimer's re-entry : WEEI's hosts are hinting that suspended host and writer Alex Reimer might be returning in some shape or form this Friday(2/23).  Reimer was suspended by Entercom from his WEEI's on-line and on-air duties nearly a month ago.

The boys of summer are back : The mild February weather is bringing with it 31 Red Sox spring training games starting this weekend. Starting Friday(2/23), WEEI/"ESPN on 850" will air 28 games while only 3 are slated for WEEI 93.7. Joe Castiglione, 71, is back for 36th season in the Red Sox booth while on-air partner Tim Neverett, 52, is starting his 3rd. Full WEEI 850/93.7 schedule is here.

New time, new station : With all the recent ownership changes, the long-running "Breakfast with the Bealtes" hosted by Larry "Cha-Chi" Loprete has recently left  Iheart's WZLX 100.7 and as of mid-February is now heard on Saturdays on WUMB 91.9 from 6am to 8am. This Saturday's show will be celebrating George Harrison's 75th birthday....In other WUMB news, former River 92.5 part-timer Michelle Briand is WUMB's new night host(7-11pm)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The day when WEEI got silenced

On Friday, February 16, Entercom's WEEI 93.7 pulled all of its local programming from 6am to 6pm in order to accommodate an all-day sensitivity training for station's full-time personnel. That came in the wake of recent controversies which included indefinite suspension of nightime host Alex Reimer who was suspended just before the Super Bowl after he called  Tom Brady's daughter an "annoying little pissant.' Then on February 9th, midday host Christian Fauria was suspended five days for using a racist impression of Don Yee, Brady's agent. Lee is of Chinese descent. Fauria has returned to air this week but Reimer's future at the station should be answered pretty soon. (Ed. Note : Note that Reimer attended last Friday's sensitivity training so all signs point to him returning shortly)

The station filled 12 hours of programming with nationally-syndicated NBC Sports Radio's programming which typically airs on WEEI from 2am to 5am weeknights.

WBUR axes Ashbrook

Tom Ashbrook, the longtime host of NPR’s syndicated radio show On Point(heard locally from 10am to Noon), was fired by WBUR 90.9 on February 14. An internal review by Boston University, the station’s operator, confirmed claims made late last year that he had created an abusive work environment. Ashbrook, who has hosted the daily two-hour morning news and analysis program for 16 years, had been on leave since the allegations emerged on December 9(BRW 12/24/17).

Boston University, which owns and operates the NPR-affiliated station, said a law firm and a consulting firm conducted a pair of investigations into Ashbrook's alleged conduct. Officials said that the investigations involved interviews with employees, managers and Ashbrook himself.

The law firm's review, in particular, determined that Ashbrook's conduct was not sexual in nature and did not constitute sexual harassment under BU's policy, WBUR said.

"Both reports also stated that WBUR management was aware of Mr. Ashbrook’s behavior and repeatedly talked with him about it, but was unsuccessful in changing his behavior," the radio station wrote in a statement.

“On Point employees expressed enormous pride in the program and they recognized that along with everyone else, Mr. Ashbrook was under a great deal of pressure to make sure that the two-hour daily program was perfect. But the employees also described ways in which Mr. Ashbrook consistently overstepped reasonable lines and created a dysfunctional workplace in the process," said Gary Nicksa, BU senior vice president for operations.

“I recognize that we must do better in the future,” said Charlie Kravetz, general manager of WBUR. “Despite the high-pressure nature of so much of our work, we must all be committed to a positive, respectful, and compassionate work environment in every corner of WBUR. We welcome the University’s support and Longpoint’s continuing efforts.”

"On Point" can be heard on more than 290 NPR affiliates across the country, WBUR said. The program will keep using rotating fill-ins until permanent replacement is found.

BRW Notebook :

Free agent signings At year's start, Beasley Broadcast Group announced that Mike Felger, co-host of the afternoon drive's "Felger and Mazz Show" on WBZ/ 98.5 The Sports Hub, has signed a multi-year contract extension. 

"We are thrilled to have Mike continue entertaining Boston's loyal and dedicated sports fans", said company Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brian Beasley.

“Mike Felger is a Boston institution,” said Beasley Media Group Boston Vice
President and Market Manager Mary Menna. “He is a lightning rod who will
be lighting up Boston radio for years to come!”

Felger, a graduate of Boston University, began his career in the Boston 0sports media in 1989 as an intern at the Boston Herald, where he ended up working for 19 years, ultimately covering the Bruins and Patriots and serving as the paper’s lead football columnist. From there Felger branched out to
broadcast media, hosting the afternoon drive program on ESPN Radio Boston and, from 2007 to present, serving as an anchor at NBC Sports Boston. He joined the Sports Hub at its launch in 2009. 2018 will mark Felger’s 30th year covering sports in Boston in some form

"I couldn't be happier to continue what we started here almost nine years ago and keep it going with Beasley Media Group," said Felger.

On January 24, The New England Patriots and Entercom have announced a multi-year partnership extension. The agreement includes broadcasting rights of "Patriots Monday" and "Patriots Friday" headlined by five-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, as well as the Patriots' five-time Super Bowl champion Head Coach Bill Belichick on WEEI Sports Radio Network. "Entercom is enthusiastic of and committed to its role as the nation's premiere sports audio producer," said Chris Oliviero, Executive Vice President of Programming, Entercom. "Continuing this winning combination of WEEI and the Patriots, one of Entercom's over 40 professional team partnerships, is a strong sign of that commitment and passion to our listeners."

WEEI-Patriots' previous 3-year deal ended with the unhappy conclusion of 2018 season.

Radio sales :  Last month, Salem Communications has agreed to sell WBIX 1260 to International Church of the Grace of God, Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit religious broadcaster, for $685,000. Salem had purchased the former Radio Disney station in June 2015 for $500,000(BRW 6/6). For the past two and half years the stations known as the Buzz was programming primarily Salem's national talk network lineup and some locally produced shows on weekends. On January 8th, new owners, began programming local shows out of its Somerville studios. The new station is now known as "Nossa Radio USA" and features Portuguese language programming geared toward local Brazilian community.

Meanwhile, Salem moved some of Salem's talkers like Dennis Prager(12-2pm) and Hugh Hewitt(9pm-Midnight) to WROL 950/100.3. In addition, the station now features a local afternoon drive show called The Answer hosted by former WTKK 96.9 personality Joe Ligotti and local media personality Christ Palermo. Once the sale of WBIX is finalized, Salem will still own religious “WEZE 590/The Word,  WROL 950/100.3/The Spirit and Spanish religious WWDJ 1150/ Radio Luz.