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The Radio Business Slayed The Beast 980

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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

Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Sports Radio News

Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate

“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”

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Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, sits just over three and a half hours from Chicago. It makes sense to assume plenty of alumni move to the Windy City after school and that other Iowa fans live in the metro area as well. That is why the Hawkeyes have struck a deal with WCKG to become their radio affiliate in Chicago.

The station, which is heard on 1530 AM, will air the entire season of Iowa football.

“Iowa Football’s storied history, continued success, and loyal fan base and alumni network throughout Chicagoland made this move a no-brainer for WCKG,” WCKG Sports Director Jon Zaghloul said in a press release. “I’m excited to bring the Hawkeyes to Chicago, and can’t wait to start airing games this Fall. It’s a huge acquisition for our brand, and, more importantly, our devoted listeners.” 

The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State. Gary Dolphin has called all of the school’s sports on radio since 1996. Ed Podolak is his partner in the booth during football season.

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Sports Radio News

Dave Rothenberg Can’t Stand Hearing Kenny Albert Mispronounce ‘Raleigh’

“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it.”

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Dave Rothenberg has a tiny bone to pick with Kenny Albert, and it’s over the way Kenny pronounces the Carolina Hurricanes’ home city.

Talking on his show on ESPN New York on Tuesday, Rothenberg, who spent three years working in Raleigh on 99.9 The Fan, said he wished someone would get in Albert’s ear and correct the way he’s been saying it adding that it has made him wish one of the top play-by-play voices in hockey wouldn’t be on the call for the playoff series between the Canes and New York Rangers.

“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it,” Rothenberg said.

Albert has been pronouncing the city’s name as “RAW-lee”. It is properly pronounced “RAH-lee”.

Co-host Rick DiPietro and the rest of the show crew thought Albert would take offense to the correction, especially since it’s such a minor thing, but Rothenberg thought that was ridiculous.

“See, no one can deal with tough love anymore,” Rothenberg said.

The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series shifts back to Raleigh on Thursday for Game 5. The series is tied 2-2.

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