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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

Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

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The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.

“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.

“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”

“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.

“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.

“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.

“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.

“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.

When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.

“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”

Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.

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Sports Radio News

Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’

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Craig Carton

ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.

“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”

“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”

“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”

Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.

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Sports Radio News

Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit

“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.

“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”

“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”

“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”

After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.

“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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