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The Radio Business Slayed The Beast 980

Jason Barrett

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The beauty of “The Beast 980” crossed paths with the nature of the beast that is the business of radio.

It happened on Wilshire Boulevard this week, just down the street from the La Brea Tar Pits.

No one comes out smelling great when you’re stuck in this kind of muck.

CBS Radio has been trying to sell off the iconic KFWB-AM station since the end of 2011, hiring Diane Sutter as a trustee to take care of the “asset” and make it presentable.

Eighteen months ago, after the go-to all-news format was bastardized into various hybrids of news, talk and entertainment, they decided to give it a go with the all-sports route. This would finally allow Jim Rome the syndicated spot in L.A. that CBS has been promising, and it could build something around a relationship with the Clippers as their home base.

Then, a buyer showed up. CBS, which by all reports was at a point of just trying to get this beast off the books, somewhat surprisingly accepted the offer. With this proviso: The remodel may look spiffy, but it wanted a tear-down, replaced with foreign-language programs.

Those who’ve been employed at the fourth all-sports format in Southern California — one that gave off a much more home-spun, independent feel than what gets filtered with ESPN-owned KSPN-AM (710), iHeartMedia/the Dodgers’ KLAC-AM (570) and the Angels’ KLAA-AM (830) — have until mid-February to say goodbye, in the language of their choosing.

“You don’t know what will appeal to a new buyer — you try to create something with value, and what’s what we did with this sports format,” said Sutter, the president and CEO of Shooting Star Broadcasting who eventually arranged the sale to Universal Media Access, a company connected to a private equity firm that boasts of buying stations “at a distressed price” and turning them into brokered ethnic programming.

“This was a great programmed radio station,” Sutter added, “but the buyers liked the station for other reasons. That’s their right.”

Yeah, but they’re wrong.

No matter how many times those in the business of media have to endure this kind of change, it’s never a sporty process.

“When we were hired, we were told the station was for sale and the goal was to sell, but all the research out there indicated there was a need for real, localized sports talk in L.A.,” said early-morning co-host Jeanne Zelasko, there from the launch in September 2014 with experience working at San Diego-based XTRA-AM and Fox Sports Radio and TV.

“We can’t control the business aspect of all this, but I don’t think we had any game pulled on us. There are some young producers in the building who are learning a tough life lesson. You can’t commit yourself so fully to a job that just won’t love you back.

“It almost felt like we were ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ a small station in some ways that kept going when others were trying to swat us away. Maybe there was slow recognition at the start, but I felt we were turning a corner because of the Twitter activity and the Clippers’ exposure. We were hiring solid people (like Bill Plaschke in the morning and Chris Myers in the afternoon) and it was time to go kick some butt.

“What’s frustrating for me is I felt we were finally providing a good service to this city and we believed in it. When we first started doing mornings (with Marques Johnson), I felt we could stand on a rock on Highland and Wilshire and reach more people if we just screamed loudly. Eventually we were watching our ratings go from a 0.1 and hit a 1.2.”

Ratings will unfortunately be the bottom-line measure of semi-failure and true failure in the radio world these days. What “The Beast” generated wasn’t spectacular by any means compared to its direct competitors, even with the Clippers’ momentum.

A year ago, KSPN was cutting staffers and leading the L.A. sports-talk format with overall ratings at 1.3, well ahead of KLAC (0.6) and KFWB (0.2, last among the 41 stations monitored by Arbitron). While most ratings for these formats are broken down further into how the men 25-54 demographic fares, it looks more like a dissection of a sliver of pie that’s half eaten.

Program director Tom Lee, who came into his job just nine months ago replacing Owen Murphy, said he was “proud of our significant ratings growth and was very optimistic we were positioned well for 2016. But this is a tough business. It’s sad to see it end. The ‘buzz’ may have been there, but ratings are the real scorecard in programming.”

In assessing “The Beast” upon its arrival in 2014, and even months before that, the hope was KFWB would be taken into the 21st century in a more dignified way than predecessors that came and failed.

Survival of the fittest, ironically, won’t be legacy of the “The Beast.”

To read the full article visit the LA Daily News where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Chick Hearn Headlines Radio Hall of Fame Legends Inductees

Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.

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Chick Hearn

The Museum of Broadcast Communications announced today the selection of 10 new Legends inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame for 2022. This distinction honors those in the industry who have contributed greatly to it and have since passed away.

Chick Hearn, the longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers, will be amongst those inducted in Chicago next month. Hearn was the voice of the Lakers for 41 years (1961-2002). Amongst other accolades, he is credited with broadcast 3,338 consecutive Lakers game from November 21, 1965 to December 16, 2001.  

The full list of those to be inducted as part of the Legends class are:

  • MrDoug Banks– Nationally syndicated on-air personality;
  • MrJames Brown– Legendary singer, to be inducted as a radio station owner of WJBE Knoxville, TN;
  • MrBob Coburn– Host of the syndicated Rockline show;
  • Mr. Chick Hearn– Play-by-play announcer/voice of the Los Angeles Lakers;
  • MsBernice Judis– Owner and General Manager, WNEW-AM, 1930’s–1950’s;
  • MrSid Mark– Host of syndicated program, Sounds of Sinatra show for 60+ years;
  • Mr. Bobby O’Jay– On-air personality, WDIA-AM/Memphis;
  • MrPervis Spann– On-air personality, WVON-AM/Chicago;
  • Mr. James Thompson– Group W Broadcasting President and President of the Broadcasters Foundation;
  • Ms. Rosalie Trombley– Music Director of CKLW-AM/Detroit in the 1960’s–1970’s.

“The Radio Hall of Fame is dedicated to recognizing the individuals who have made the greatest impact on our 100+ year old industry,” Kraig T. Kitchin, Co-Chairman, Radio Hall of Fame said. “I’m thrilled to see the Nominating Committee confirm the induction of these 10 individuals who each made such an impact on our industry in their time.”    

The Radio Hall of Fame will recognize its 2022 class of inductees, including the class announced in July, during a ceremony on Tuesday, November 1st.

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Sports Radio News

Tobin and Leroy Debut on WQAM Middays

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tobin and Leroy

After a brief hiatus and the closure of 790 The Ticket, Brendan Tobin and Leroy Hoard officially returned to the Miami airwaves on Monday on 560 WQAM.

Tobin and Leroy debuted in its new midday timeslot of 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on the station.

“This is a big change for us,” Tobin said. “I’ve been doing morning drive, producing or hosting now, for the last decade. Now it’s to middays we go.”

Tobin added that the timing between when they made their exit from The Ticket and returned on WQAM was a bit off.

“It was a very weird week for us to take off last week. Because they were like, ‘Hey, you’re change times, you’re gonna change stations, and also it’s gonna be the busiest sports week of the year,'” he said. “So now we’re back, and nothing will happen this week.”

“There has been less action on days we thought we had to be here than what happened last week,” Hoard added.

Hoard actually arrived to the show late, citing traffic issues getting to the station. That was something even Tobin noted is an adjustment they have to make from when they were doing morning drive.

“We’ve all discovered here today is traffic is not the same at 8 a.m. as it is at 4 a.m.,” he said. “Very different.”

Tobin made sure WQAM listeners knew that even though they switched stations, the show isn’t changing. They continued with all the usual segments that fans know and love on Monday.

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Sports Radio News

Mike Rhyner Introduces Dallas to 97.1 The Freak

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

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Ben Torres / Special Contributor Dallas Morning News

There’s a new radio station in Dallas which features a number of personalities familiar to local sports radio listeners. 97.1 The Freak made its much anticipated debut and the first voice to be heard belonged to the ”Old Grey Wolf” Mike Rhyner.

97.1 The Eagle stopped regular programming late Monday morning and began stunting, a technique radio stations use to separate listeners from old programming and prepare them for new content. The station began by playing songs with the word “freak” in them before transitioning into a continuous loop of “The Waiting is the Hardest Part” by Tom Petty until 3p CT. Then, a voiceover detailing the Eagle’s history switched into the voice that Dallas-Forth Worth residents have gotten to know so well, Mike Rhyner.

“So, where were we?” began Rhyner.

Rhyner went on to relive his final moments at The Ticket in Dallas. He said he was getting his “head around being a Paw Paw” before getting a call from Ben Rogers of the Ben and Skin Show and thus an idea for The Freak began to take shape.

After that, the show’s intro music played and Rhyner welcomed in Mike Sirois and before you knew it, the guys were wondering about a quarterback controversy in Dallas.

97.1 The Freak is off and running with a lineup that includes “The Speakeasy,” with Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs, and Matt Cather in mornings (7-11am), “Ben & Skin Show” in middays (11am-3pm) and “The Downbeat” in afternoons (3p-7p) featuring Mike Rhyner alongside Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber.

The station is positioning itself as a lifestyle brand but given its talent connection to local sports radio and the strong interest in Dallas sports, it’s likely the talent will weave sports talk into their on-air discussions. Sports Radio 1310/96.7 The Ticket and 105.3 The Fan have enjoyed good ratings with the male 25-54 demographic and The Freak is expected to challenge them and every other brand that produces spoken word content.

“We’re beyond excited to introduce 97-1 the Freak – the level of talent is insurmountable, and we’re thrilled for the opportunity to further connect with Dallas Fort Worth,” Patrick Davis, Regional Senior Vice President of Programming Dallas, shared in an announcement.

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