Ottawa radio station kisses off hockey’s ‘Yoko Ono’
OTTAWA – Sheís being assailed from one end of Ottawa to the other, over social media, in the papers and being called everything from manipulative to hockeyís Yoko Ono.
Now Carrie Underwood wonít be heard on one of the cityís most popular radio stations.
The New 105.3 KISS FM is vowing that someone is going to pay for the ìbetrayal to our communityî and that someone is Underwood.
ìWe know Mike Fisher is not to blame for this trade but feel he was lured away from Ottawa by a country-music superstar. Sure, sheís pretty. Yes, she can sing. But can she play hockey? Can she put one on the top shelf with a slap shot? No!î said the station.
True to its word, not one Underwood single was listed in its playlist and program director Gayle Zarbatany said the ban is in effect forever.
ìThis is a wretching announcement and the city is completely upset,î she railed.
ìHeís been here for 10 years, heís the second most popular player and itís awful.î
Still, Zarbatany said it was only a matter of time.
ìHeís married to her. Where is he going to live? Sheís in Nashville and heís here.î
Responding to the Yoko tweets, she said they sadly seem to suit Underwood.
ìThatís harsh, but it is what it is.î
Stern’s threat to quit Sirius could be empty talk
Howard Stern is threatening to leave Sirius XM Radio Inc. now that the shock jock and the satellite radio provider are getting set to enter contract talks in 2010.
That threat probably seems less daunting to Sirius than it once would have. Sirius originally wanted Stern so badly that it gave him the most lucrative radio contract ever, a five-year deal that started in 2006 and paid him $500 million in cash and stock.
Today, he doesn’t have many places left to go ó at least if he wants another huge payday.
Free radio stations are struggling with steep drops in advertising and high debt loads, and probably can’t pay top dollar to get Stern back to the medium where he began. He also likely would chafe at being censored again after enjoying the freedom of satellite radio, where his racy banter hasn’t been subject to federal restrictions on language and content.
He can’t switch to another satellite radio provider ó Sirius swallowed the only other one, XM, last year.
So if Stern, 55, does re-sign with Sirius, it’s likely to be for less this time around.
Sirius nearly had to file for bankruptcy protection this year and is still trying to reduce costs. The company is feeling the brunt of weak auto sales, which deliver many of its new customers. And it faces new threats from emerging commercial-free rivals such as Internet radio.
For these reasons ó and because Stern has warned other times that he might quit or retire ó his latest threat rings hollow to some analysts.
“It’s probably positioning for contract negotiations,” said Brett Harriss, an analyst at Gabelli & Co., whose parent Gamco Investors Inc. owns 1.1 million shares of Sirius. “I don’t think he would give up his bullhorn.”
Sirius’ chief executive, Mel Karmazin, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he will work hard to retain Stern, but the company would not offer more detailed comments. Stern’s agent, Don Buchwald, did not respond to requests for comment.
Stern made his name on traditional or “terrestrial” radio. While Sirius mainly makes its money from selling subscriptions, the money that flowed to Stern on traditional radio came from syndication rights. In that setup, radio stations pay companies that distribute programs such as Stern’s.
Many of those radio stations have struggled since Stern left the free airwaves, and the recession compounded the problems. In the first nine months of the year, radio advertising revenue fell by 21 percent to $11.8 billion, according to the Radio Advertising Bureau.
Citadel Broadcasting Corp., the nation’s third-largest operator of radio stations, filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday. Other big station owners also are wrestling with debts, and the syndication division of the largest station owner, Clear Channel Communications Inc., already is believed to be paying Rush Limbaugh $400 million over an eight-year contract.
“Who else can afford Howard Stern?” Harriss said.
When Stern signed with Sirius, the company trailed XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. in the race for customers. It badly needed a marquee name to attract subscribers to its service, which delivers 130 radio channels anywhere in the country for $6.99 a month to $19.99 a month, depending on the package.
Now after buying XM for $3.3 billion, Sirius has 18.5 million subscribers, down slightly from a peak of 19 million at the end of last year. Sirius’ radio lineup beyond Stern includes Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, NFL games and Major League Baseball. Half of its channels are music and free of commercials, while the rest air sports, talk shows, news, entertainment, traffic and weather.
The company still has never posted a net profit. Revenue was nearly flat in the last quarter, and Sirius remains pressured to cut costs. Sirius narrowly avoided bankruptcy protection 10 months ago by getting $530 million in financing from Liberty Media Corp. Sirius had to give a 40 percent ownership stake to Liberty, which is controlled by satellite mogul John Malone.
As Sirius tries to get its finances in order, it must cope with threats from emerging technologies, such as Internet radio services that also deliver radio programming without commercials.
The company has been trying to cut costs. Sirius’ programming expenses in the past four quarters fell 18 percent from the total paid by Sirius and XM in the previous year, when they were still separate companies. Sirius has eliminated duplicative radio programs since it absorbed XM and found ways to reduce “on-air talent costs.”
Given the climate, if Stern returns to Sirius, “he’s not going to get $500 million again,” said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce. Robert Eatman, the agent for Sirius talents Opie & Anthony and rapper Nick Cannon, agreed that Stern is “probably not worth” $500 million to Sirius now.
But the question will be just how much less Sirius can pay and still keep Stern.
Stern accounts for about $80 million of Sirius’ annual programming costs, which have totaled $365 million over the past four quarters. The $80 million covers Stern’s salary, wages for his staff and production and operating expenses, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The remainder of the contract was paid in stock.
There are no independent ratings available to track the popularity of Stern’s show, which airs Mondays through Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. But he has been so important to Sirius that he was the sole radio talent mentioned in SEC filings from 2006 through 2009 as a party whose failure could hurt Sirius’ business. (Automakers were also among the listed entities.) In his first year at Sirius, Stern received a stock bonus worth $82.9 million because Sirius’ subscriber count exceeded an agreed-upon target by more than 2 million.
Stern could leave to start a new venture, perhaps a subscription service that sends his show to PCs and mobile devices. Sirius already streams Stern’s shows online and through the iPhone. Or he could explore more options in cable TV, where his first pay-per-view special, “Howard Stern’s Negligee and Underpants Party,” was offered in 1988.
Stern also could retire.
“Howard has the creative and business freedom to do what he wants to. He can just about write his own ticket in a number of areas,” said Tom Taylor, executive news editor of Radio-Info.com, which tracks the radio industry. “He doesn’t need to do anything. He’s going to pay the rent fine.”
Sirius hooks up iPhone to premium satellite radio
NEW YORK (Reuters) ñ Sirius XM Radio unveiled a dock on Wednesday that lets iPhone users listen to premium satellite radio programing, including shock jock Howard Stern, a feature missing from previous iPhone software.
The $120 XM SkyDock turns Apple Inc’s iPhone or iPod Touch into a satellite radio receiver.
The dock, which will go on sale in the next few months, is powered through a car’s cigarette adapter. It comes with technology that eases installation by tapping into the car’s radio system. It also allows users to flag songs they hear and buy them via Apple’s iTunes software.
Sirius XM hopes to boost its subscriber base of 19 million. It gets most of its new subscribers when people buy cars with satellite radio receivers built in.
The company debuted the dock at a product showcase in New York, its biggest since Sirius completed its acquisition of XM Satellite Radio last year.
Earlier this month. Sirius said it lost some 300,000 subscribers who buy their own radios in the second quarter. It gained about 120,000 users through car sales.
With auto sales slowing, Sirius would like to get some of the tens of millions of iPhone and iPod touch owners.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has granted preliminary approval to the dock.
Sirius’ first bid for iPhone users came with a software application released in June that lets fee-paying users stream Sirius’ Internet package of music and talk stations.
Satellite radio analysts and Internet enthusiasts balked when they discovered that premium content such as Major League Baseball, NFL Football and Howard Stern were not available.
Shares of the company, which earlier this year secured financing from John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp to stave off looming debt problems, have risen sharply this month, after it raised its income outlook, citing cost cuts and a potential rebound in automobile sales.
The company on Wednesday also showed several new radios priced below $100, as well as a $150 tabletop model.
On the Radio: Casey Kasem made the top 40 really count
Casey Kasem wasn’t on the radio for quite as long as Paul Harvey. But when Kasem didn’t have a new countdown show on the radio this weekend, for the first time since 1970, it felt almost as strange as it felt when Harvey died.
Casey Kasem is still alive, happily. He turned 77 in April. But he has stepped away from his two remaining countdown shows – “American Top 20” and “American Top 10” – to “pursue other projects.”
That familiar phrase doesn’t completely explain why the countdowns ended. As Tom Taylor noted in the newsletter T-R-I, Kasem always seemed like Harvey in the sense that you didn’t imagine him ever voluntarily stepping down.
“He still sounds great,” says Rob Durkee, author of the 1999 book “American Top 40: Countdown of the Century” (Schirmer). “His voice is as good as ever.”
Durkee, who has stayed in periodic touch with Kasem, says he doesn’t have any inside information on why the shows ended. But he notes that radio, like all media, has an inevitable pull toward youth.
Kasem’s own career underscores that evolution. Seventeen years ago, in 1992, he began supplementing his long-running top-40 pop countdown with the two “adult contemporary” countdowns.
“With those shows, he could keep appealing to the older audience that had grown up with him,” says Durkee.
When Kasem turned over the top-40 countdown to Ryan Seacrest in 2004, says Durkee, “that was a natural transition. The younger audience that listens to top 40 could all relate to Seacrest because of ‘American Idol.'”
By the way, Durkee doesn’t hear much of Kasem when he listens to Seacrest. “I hear a lot of Casey in Bob Kingsley, but not much in Ryan,” he says. “Ryan’s a great air talent, he just has a different style.”
But then, he adds, so does almost everyone.
“Casey was one in a trillion,” says Durkee. “What made him so great was the way he talked to the listeners. When he told a story, you’d swear he was sitting right next to you. It takes years to understand how to do that, and no one does it like Casey.”
The one thing Kasem couldn’t do, however, was make himself 30 again. So although his ’70s and ’80s shows continue in syndication, last weekend he quietly stepped away.
At the end, he talked briefly about his radio years, played “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold, and told everyone “to keep reaching for the stars.”
After 39 years, a final countdown for Casey Kasem
LOS ANGELES (AP) ó Casey Kasem has done his final countdown.
The 77-year-old DJ told American Top 20 listeners across the country Saturday that the program would be his last.
Kasem launched his weekly countdown of the nation’s most popular songs, the American Top 40, on July 4, 1970. Ryan Seacrest took over the show in 2004, and Kasem went on to host two syndicated spinoffs, the American Top 20 and American Top 10.
Kasem said he “loved every minute” of his broadcasting career, but that he was leaving the show to “free up time I need to focus on myriad other projects.”
Station takes call letters of TV show
CINCINNATI ñ WKRP is back on the air in Cincinnati ó but this time it’s for real.
A low-power TV station has changed its call letters to WKRP, the same as the fictional radio station in the 1970s hit series “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
The station changed its call letters to promote its new digital TV signal. It formerly went by WBQC-TV.
General Manager Elliott Block says the new call letters give the station recognition because so many people remember the television sit-com.
XM, Sirius deal closing in on FCC approval: reports
The proposed merger of the U.S.’s two satellite radio broadcasters is expected to be approved after the companies agreed to pay $19.7 million US to settle rules violations.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin said Thursday the regulatory agency reached agreements Wednesday night in which XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. will pay $17.5 million and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. will pay $2.2 million to settle agency violations.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday the deal was all but done after commission member Taylor Tate cast the deciding vote.
“I think it’s fair to say an agreement in principle has been reached,” Martin was quoted by the Journal on Thursday as saying.
The proposed merger ó whereby Sirius would buy out XM in a $3.9-billion US deal ó has been in a holding pattern during an FCC approval process that has gone on for more than a year.
Critics of the deal, including the ground-based radio industry and consumer groups, argue the merger would essentially create a monopoly in the satellite radio industry.
It remains unclear how the proposed merger would affect the two companies’ Canadian partners, which operate under a separate regulatory structure.
Sirius Canada Inc. is owned by Sirius Satellite, Toronto-based Standard Radio and the CBC. XM Canada is run by Canadian Satellite Radio Holdings, also of Toronto, in partnership with XM Satellite.
XM Canada has maintained that the U.S. development has no immediate implications for Canadian subscribers and that the stated intent of its XM U.S. partner and Sirius is to maintain two separate satellite delivery systems.
Sirius Canada Inc. said it has more than 750,000 paying subscribers, while XM Canada claims close to 400,000 subscribers. Their U.S. parents have 8.3 million and about nine million subscribers, respectively.
An XM Canada spokesperson said the company had no comment, since no official announcement has been made. However, XM Canada has repeatedly stated that a merger would not bring any change in the service for Canadian subscribers.
Sirius Canada spokesman Jeff Roman said the company also wouldn’t speculate on the outcome until a decision from the FCC is final.
He said regardless of the outcome, Sirius Canada is a separate company and its subscribers wonít experience interruption to their programming and their radios “will not become obsolete as a result of a merger.”
U.S. satellite radio merger gets antitrust OK
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sirius Satellite Radio’s $4.59 billion purchase of rival XM Satellite Radio was given antitrust clearance on Monday as the Justice Department concluded consumers have many alternatives, including mobile phones and personal audio players.
Investors sent shares of both companies sharply higher even though the Federal Communications Commission must still approve the combination of the only two U.S. providers of satellite radio, a deal first announced in February 2007.
In a victory for Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin, who lobbied hard for the deal, the Justice Department agreed the satellite radio companies face stiff competition from traditional AM/FM radio, high-definition radio, MP3 players and programming delivered by mobile phones.
“Competition in the marketplace generally protects consumers and I have no reason to believe that this won’t happen here,” Justice Department antitrust chief, Thomas Barnett, told a conference call with reporters.
The traditional radio industry, consumer groups and some U.S. lawmakers had criticized the deal, which would bring entertainers such as talk show host Oprah Winfrey and shock-jock Howard Stern under one roof.
The National Association of Broadcasters, which fought against the deal, said the Justice Department had granted XM and Sirius a “monopoly” and called the decision “breathtaking.”
Sirius and XM, which are losing money, each currently charge subscribers about $13 a month for more than 100 channels of news, music, talk and sports.
New York-based Sirius’ programming includes lifestyle guru Martha Stewart and NFL Football while Washington, D.C.-based XM is home to Bob Dylan’s radio show and Major League Baseball.
The Justice Department said the combination would lead to “substantial” cost saving steps such as consolidating the line of radios they offer. It said those savings would “most likely to be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices.”
XM stock ended Monday up 15.5 percent to $13.79, while Sirius closed up 8.6 percent to $3.15, both on Nasdaq. At that price for Sirius’ stock, the deal, in which 4.6 shares of Sirius are to be exchanged for each XM share outstanding, is worth $4.59 billion.
AWAITING FCC DECISION
The antitrust decision shifts the spotlight to the FCC, which must determine whether the XM-Sirius is in the public interest, and whether to enforce its 1997 order barring either satellite radio company from acquiring the other.
A source at the FCC said Chairman Kevin Martin has yet to make a proposal either approving or opposing the XM-Sirius combination, but has asked the agency’s staff to draft documents for different possible outcomes.
This source said the FCC could be strongly influenced by the Justice Department decision. “I think it would be hard to go in the complete opposite direction,” said the source.
Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said the FCC could impose conditions, such as requiring the companies to adhere to promises Karmazin made to Congress last year.
Karmazin promised lawmakers that a combined company would offer packages of channels that customers could pick on an “a la carte” basis, and that customers would be able to block adult channels and get a refund for those channels.
In addition, Stifel Nicolaus said, the FCC also may require Sirius and XM to promise that all existing satellite radios will continue to work after the companies are combined.
David Bank, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, was optimistic about FCC approval. “Now it’s past DOJ, and we feel pretty optimistic it will get through the FCC,” he said.
The Justice Department’s decision provoked immediate criticism from a key lawmaker in Congress, Senate antitrust subcommittee chairman Sen. Herb Kohl, a Wisconsin Democrat.
Kohl took the department to task for “failing to oppose numerous mergers which reduced competition in key industries, resulting in the Justice Department not bringing a single contested merger case in nearly four years.”
“We urge that the FCC find the merger contrary to the public interest and exercise its authority to block it,” Kohl said in a statement.
Sirius and XM said in a brief statement that they had received antitrust clearance and that their deal was still subject to FCC approval.