Friday, August 10, 2012

What You wanted to know about the Cumulus End Game But Didn't Know; The KGO/KNBR and Other Assorted SF Properties; The Inside Story; RL 415 Media Exclusive



There has been some intense intrigue, speculation, and countless ideas as to what the hell Cumulus has plans on doing in this market.

An endgame if you will? I mean, they've destroyed KGO and marginalized their other radio properties here; (and other markets too). To wit:



--From Inside Radio:

Ten stations drag second quarter Cumulus revenue down:


Cumulus Media reported a pro-forma revenue decline of 3% for the second quarter. But CEO Lew Dickey told investors yesterday that just ten stations – primarily news/talkers in the top 10 markets – were the culprits behind the revenue shortfall. Billings for the ten stations sank by more than $10 million in the quarter. The top three under-performers were off by a combined $5.5 million. That’s more than the company’s total $4.8 million revenue shortfall in the quarter.


One of those "news-talkers? Uh, take a wild guess. Uh, yeah, KGO...what a shocking surprise. When you run an operation into the ground, alienate your core listener base, hire and fire staff with a wanton disregard and without any reservation, chances are you're going to have chaos. And chaos reigns at Cumulus SF.   There's a ton of information and some delicious stories. Some, I can't prove. Some, with the help of sources who work right inside the building, have been fact-checked and are reliable. It's a complicated web, bear with me.   From one of the sources who like all, spoke on condition of anonymity:   Again, some of the following is a bit of endless minutiae and the mother of all complicated webs, but it's pretty darn accurate. .

We digress to the thrust of the Cumulus inner workings. From one of my moles:



Seems a lot of people on the blog are up in arms about the decisions being made by Cumulus higher-ups, but I can assure you in a situation like theirs, no one is making any final decisions. What will be happening, over and over and over, is qualified people will quit, or take severe pay cuts. Quitting is usually the alternative, or being fired, which was apparently the case for the sports personality Ralph, (Barbieri); not aware the company was making a case against him for months, and will assuredly lose any court case regarding his termination, unless he has scantily clad photos of the new owners doing things they shouldn't. He also doesn't have the deep pockets for a fight, and most large companies will not allow a precedent to be set involving a lawsuit.

I actually think Barbieri has a case, but I'm not a lawyer. We move on.

Regardless, this is the process. Along the way really weak candidates will take jobs they could not normally get, and in this case, it seems to be most of the management types on the KGO side. Fun thing is in reading the blog I'm noticing an expectation by readers, who I am guessing are/were in the business, that the people in these jobs will quit, step down, or acknowledge incompetence. I am not sure what fantasy land this actually happens in, but I can assure you it does not happen in the real world, as I'm sure you know. People will hope to do as good a job as possible, and keep a job. The company hopes they can do the job, and can pay them little in the interim. Usually, neither thing works out. USUALLY, the person does the job at an average level, and the company ends up paying them even more to keep them on because a REAL replacement with experience will cost A LOT more.

Sounds right.

I was messaging with my buddy inside the Cumulus cluster building--he asked me why I was "so interested in this?" Well, everyone likes drama, right? I'm no different. I also explained to the individual that I've never heard such unmitigated garbage on the air ever. Ever. High-school stations don't operate like this. And I'm being kind. Not to denigrate some of the good newspeople, the reporters, the few anchors and editors and people over there at KGO who know I'm aware of the fact that they have to make a living and it's tough out there. It is.

I'm speaking more about the usual suspects that have surfaced out of nowhere on the air--let's refer to them as complete imbeciles. Weekend should be highlighted here and ingrained into the brain. The train wreck that constitutes some of KGO, (and KNBR too) so-called "prized" pupils. Good grief, if you read this blog, you know what I'm referring to, so pay attention.


Let's get back to the stories, shall we? OH, here's a good one:

**********************************************************************************

Ronn Owens will obviously be leaving at the end of his contract because they cannot pay him what he makes. That's no secret. What is a secret is how a man with so much experience and relevance to the station has not even been given an office, according to my source. (NO OFFICE? The ego must have run amok.) Still embarrassing for your top dog.

We move further into the abyss, again, from someone way, way up in the food chain:

The Cumulus business plan (this is not coming from Cumulus people in San Francisco) is to merely get a piece of the advertising pie. They are not concerned with being Top 5 in the market, regardless of market. Only in being in the Top 10, which they believe is a high enough rating to garner ad dollars. If there are only 2 Talk/News stations within the Top 10 then they are basically going after the same dollars, which they believe they can get, especially with a cheaper staff. It's not only happening to them in San Francisco, but is also happening in New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. They believe news costs less, and that getting the to the top is not worth the effort. News will be a consistent thing if successful, with few fluctuations, which in turn should create a steady stream of ad dollars which their investors want to see. The ONLY way KGO, or any news station which has changed formats, will go back to "what it once was" is if they cannot for the life of them get any ad revenue in the door. If they consistently cannot get into the Top 15, or within a single ratings point (give or take), they would consider the move back. Yet that is unlikely since they have a built in audience (regardless of what they lost), and their product will compete with the other news station in the market. 


*RICH LIEBERMAN 415 MEDIA EXCLUSIVE


*Follow me on Twitter

47 comments:

  1. Regarding the Barbieri case: Here is what happened to me. I was let go from my job (not a media industry position) and spoke with a lawyer as my employer was a scum sucking troglodyte who let me go illegally. She was willing to take my case, but the problem is, if you lose, you are responsible for court costs and attorney fees. So, unless (as your mole says) Barbieri has photos, he will probably lose because the station has the deeper pockets.

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    1. That is only the law for non contract employees in most states. since he has a contract it depends what the contract states as far as legal fees are concerned. On the other hand if you win then the defendant pays your attorney fees but if you have no contract then you never win, that is the law in CA like it or not.

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  2. The shocker is these monkeys actually make money in some markets.
    Thankfully for internet radio I listen to NYC sports talk and news stations.

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  3. This isn't deep throat, but very interesting...

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  4. KGO is being marketed to advertisers as part of a package with KNBR,KTCT,and KSFO, and in some instance with KFOG and KSAN too.

    Sort of like owning all the gas stations, or all of the Starbucks at a particular intersection. None of these stations have to be #1 in the market, but if they own a bunch in the top 15, with low operating costs, they will do well financially.
    Overall numbers don't mean shit,it is all about the demos.

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    1. What demos are you talking about then? 25-54? 18-49? KGO gets about a 1 share in both.

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  5. well written...sounds like this might be an accurate explanation...basically in the instance of KGO, they are lowering the quality of the talk part and hoping the local news aspect will catch on. Since they have such a great signal, we radio listeners are sitting ducks, and some will just listen because they can. The rest of us will be changing the dials desperately trying to find something interesting and of good quality to listen to as we go on with our day. Money is the bottom line by a mile. Quality is out the door.

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  6. The case involving Barbieri is likely not cut and dry, but if it is in fact true he was late to his job an excessive amount of times, and was warned of the consequences, then he has no case. Assuming the reason for his lateness has nothing to do with actions taken by Cumulus, and that he does not have definitive proof allowing him to be tardy, you should assume Barbieri will lose.

    But does it really matter all that much? He made a lot of money talking about sports, and even if the company is not acting in a saintly manner (few do), should we really be shedding a tear for a man who seemed to not take his job too seriously when so many others would kill for the chance? I liked Ralph's on-air personality but I'm not bothered by his dismissal one bit.

    It is also hard to feel bad for Owens who is close to retirement age, and has made a small fortune working for the company. I'm sure if he wanted a desk, or an office, he could ask for both and get it. He must not give a crap.

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    1. Without Owens, Barbieri and others, why listen? Just read your twitter feeds. Guess that explains the growing popularity of podcasts.

      Actually, I could live with "seat fillers" as on air personalities, sans the ego inflation that inevitably sets in. At least be humble and thankful for the gig. Don't assume you're better or more informed that your colleagues, or your listeners.

      Have another drink and chill.

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  7. They're big into bundling on time buys. As along as Cumulus and the advertising agencies can find a CPM figure both sides can live with, business will go on. Think of that line The Architect said in The Matrix Reloaded: "There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept."

    As for Ronn Owens not having an office, puhleeze. All he and his producer need is a desk, computer, phone and access to a printer. It's doubtful Owens hunkers down in an office and works on his show. Most personalities do the bulk of their work at home.

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  8. No office space at the new Cumulus studios for Ronn Owens?

    I wonder if it was taken over by his wonder boy producer Jared, who must think he's God's gift to talk radio.

    It seems to me that Jared's the one who pulls the strings during Owens' show, from selecting topics to selectively screening out callers to ordering Owens to stake out some outrageous positions on the air in an attempt to spark more calls.

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    1. I guess that's why its doing sooooo well!!!

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  9. Rich, did you hear Vern call Dennis Gary. In the opening of the 49ers game... drunk

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    1. I heard it too! Then I rewound the DVR to confirm it and yep he said "Gary, I mean Dennis" I felt bad for Vern almost like he was conditioned into resentment by the mandible claw aka Radnich

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    2. Haha, I caught that too.

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  10. The end of AM/FM radio as we know it is coming to an end. Not next week but in the near future. We now have satelite, wifi radio, your home computer,and your smart phone. What is happening is that there are various ways of reaching consumers without standard radio. YouTube, TV, Pandora, AOL and other computer services are getting some of the advertising dollar.

    Radio has reached the point where they must operate as the average everyday business does. That is; a business without highly paid employees, expenses which are low and a reasonable income.

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  11. It's only businessAugust 10, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    Cumulus isn't philanthropic organization, it's a public corporation with a duty to its shareholders to make money. Surely this isn't news to any of us.

    So what is shocking or even surprising about the information in this "exclusive" report?

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    1. No, Cumulus is not a philanthropic organization at all. Nor is it a "successful" public corporation, if it's months' long stock price down-trend is any indicator.

      The blatantly amateurish management of Cumulus media venues in the ten biggest talkers markets is gradually turning CMLS shares into penny-stocks. These previously successful venues could be their flagship income generators, but they're not, due to inept management and a failed business model.

      Congrats to the clueless Cumulus management on being seen for the bungling Bozos they are. What business wizards!! Go into successful businesses and drag them down into failures with your new business model. The egos of these uber-rich upper-management bastards have their intellect overpowered by about one hundred to one!

      I suggest that CMLS management take their collective business management knowledge base and apply it to the organic fertilizer industry. Lord knows these folks generate enough self aggrandizing bullshit to drive at least that sort of corporation successfully.

      And, they already carry its smell.

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  12. Romney just picked Paul Ryan as his running mate and where is John Rothman to talk about it? Oh yeah, he was the victim of the Dickey hatchet. May those two Richards burn in hell. Political junkies like myself mourn on days like today. Interesting choice by Romney, I wish we could talk about it....

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    1. Oh, I'm sure Karel will have something scintillating and provocative to say on the topic. And don't forget that Maureen Langan will be on Sunday! It's an embarrassment of riches over at KGO these days.

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    2. You are so right I miss John Rothman everyday, he does 80 seconds on politics on Tom Sullivans show I think it is everyday now, it started out on just mondays, and Gil has him on as political commentator also on 910. 910 keeps giving him more exposure, hopefully if he gets ratings they will give him a show eventually. I like other readers of this blog would have preferred him over Gil, or a compromise Gill 2 days John 3 days, I know that usually isen't done, but I think it would have been better than 5 days of Gil, since we can't have Gene Burns. Does anyone know who had better rating at KGO John R or Gil? Every John Rothman fan should keep on asking KGO to give John a show.

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    3. It would be great to hear Rothman on KKSF full time but their ratings are coming up ohhhh soooo slooowly. They gained less than 20,000 listeners in the last survey. Even if they are pleased with the up tick I am sure they are being careful about overhead.

      And to comment on Del Thomas' comment at 10:50 AM....very well said!! If everyone who is bitching about what they are hearing on KGone would stop listening and turn on KKSF, we would be helping John R. and others get gigs!

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    4. Don, I for one listen to KKSF on weekdays. The problem is they have nothing on weekends, which is why we bitch and moan about KGONE. There is nothing on weekends, even on KSCO....

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    5. You are correct, weekends are awful. Who listens to those paid programs? Someone must??

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    6. The paid programs are so bad, especially on KSCO. They have some ”doctor” peddling vitamins and shakes. Fake callers get vitamin prescriptions from this ”doctor”. Soooo bad. It must pay the electricity bills at KSCO...

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  13. KGO didn't seem to be dragging down Disney/ABC or even Citadel. It was my understanding that KGO was subsidizing the rest of the station group during the final days of Citadel. Cumulus fired all the talent and went to "news on the cheap". The station is unlistenable. You alienate your legacy audience and then wonder why the station is dragging you down? It's about the content stupid.

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    1. "Unlistenable" is a good description. Saturday morning the sports "reporter" had "breaking news" about an LSU player kicked off the team. The story was 24 hours old at that point. But he wanted to play that Honey Badger audio so it was "breaking news." Immediately followed by a Karel story about a spider burrowing its way into a woman's head.

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  14. I would like to hear some intelligent thoughts about the Ryan pick for Veep, but instead on KGO this weekend, we'll get more rants from Karel and the stupid jokes from the 'NY Wtich' Maureen Langden, as well as 'Monty' and his loudmouth, over-the-top,
    out of touch conservative point of view (just what the Dickeys like!)
    KGO is indeed, an embarrassment of riches these days!

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  15. The odd thing about the KGO situation - is that I don't think it would take that much to make it more listenable. And it seems like there is a massive hole in Cumulus's demographic - female listeners.

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    1. probably want to start with a real program director but i don't expect that will happen. in all likelihood they will just go to all news.

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  16. Great move by Romney to pick Paul Ryan. Almost as inspiring as McCain tabbing Sarah Palin last election. The only people who are going to be more inclined to vote for Romney now are the lunatic fringe tea partiers and the 'birthers' who insist that Obama wasn't born here. It's amazing how foolish the Republicans are and how far they've fallen.

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    1. Bold move to bring an uber-smart, honest man to the front.

      Let's see, Ryan proposed a real budget with true cuts across-the-board, loophosles closed, and policies that are proven to promote growth; and Obama has yet to pass a budget!

      The last vote count on an Obama budget was what, 0-97? He didn't even get 1 Democratic vote!!

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  17. Thurston is supposed to be off air this weekend. Anybody know who is filling in? It is unbelievable to me that here we have a vice-president announcement and on KGONE they have Finney and that goofy chef for the next several hours. What the hell!? Btw, anybody else is glad the pseudo intellectual Fareed Zakaria got caught plagiarizing? He has always rubbed me the wrong way. Schadenfareed! Lol

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    1. Thurston is "live" and well and gave 'em hell last night with no promo for the "entertainer" Karel! She's back at 4 today as well. Loud and clear last nite.

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  18. Actually, I really like Fareed Zakaria and have learned so much listening from him. I can't think of anyone better that is on air. Sadly, he stooped to plagiarizing and it makes no sense. His shows are always of the best quality. Go figure!

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    1. so did Martin Luther King...many, many times.

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    2. @1044, I did not know MLK had a CNN show after all these years...

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  19. Great pick by Romney. Not the boring but effective Pawlenty. A young political rock star who will ignite the base.

    Marco Rubio was also a great choice, with the Lation angle thrown in, but not sure how many Americans from Central or South Americans would be drawn to a Cuban-American. Rubio and Bobby Jindahl need a little seasoning, as does Chris Christie.

    Ryan put forward a serious budget, something Obama has never done. He'll also dice Biden in any debate.

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    1. Yeah, under that Ryan plan Romney would pay less than 1% in taxes instead of the 14% he does now. More fellation of the rich by the GOP.

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    2. Uncle Joe better get ready because Ryan's going to slice him up in the debates.

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    3. yes Paul Ryan will rock the base and they will be so happy if he can take away their socialistic social security and medicare and invest those funds in the stock market!! Should be a real winner!

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  20. Correction on my 10:38 comment. I meant of course KKSF 910 should give John Rothman a permanent spot, I doubt KGO would hire him back, and hopefully if they did he would have too much pride to go back.
    I think we need to be patient with 910 am, they have made a lot of changes, and I'm sure they can't totally change programming just like that. However, I'm disappointed that they just did a week of "Best of Armstrong and Getty" when they were off, after earlier having John, Gil and others on. Perhaps A&G does not like others filling in for them. I for one don't care for best of, usually I have already heard the show, or they are discussing old news, so I don't listen, which I e-mailed 910/

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  21. PAUL RYAN!..THAT'S who was married to Viki Liviakis. Jeez,Paul with Steve Stone,maybe Leon at weather...one of the earliest bay area news teams that was non ch7 personality driven.

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    1. Steve Somers,I meant..

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  22. Rich,

    You should really start a new blog for disaffected KGO listeners. Judging from the Romney/Ryan discussion, you could have different topics, a pop culture thread, politics, Bay Area stuff and maybe even have former KGO hosts moderate the thing.

    Just a thought.

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  23. Thin-skinned Rich,
    If you are going to selectively exclude user posts that merely disagree with the viewpoint that you are expounding, please make it clear somewhere at the top of your blog that this is what you are actively doing.
    Also, for the sake of honesty - because we all know about your own enormous personal integrity - please explain the policy which governs how and why you choose to govern the viewpoints expressed on this site. Otherwise it appears you are conveying a distorted picture of support for your own personal agenda.

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  24. Agreed - i have a couple posts that have notnbeen published. Please explain your policy - thanks rich

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