Monday, February 20, 2012

LFM Denies Sale Speculation

Inside Radio addressed the rumor that Lincoln Financial Media would soon be sold, following Lincoln's recent financial call to analysts.  As I mentioned last week, columnist Jerry Del Colliano has been speculating that Cumulus is readying to purchase LFM.

The article starts by reiterating what former Lincoln Financial CFO Fred Crawford told Wall Street in February, 2010.  Crawford said the insurance company was in no hurry to sell its well-performing Atlanta, Miami, Denver and San Diego clusters at depressed prices. With a strategy of waiting for the market to turn before making any decision, no sale was imminent.  Current CFO Randal Freitag recently commented to analysts that little has changed since then.

We all lament the dumbing down of radio, which of course is why we panic at the thought of Cumulus buying LFM.  Technology is allowing the debt-ridden consolidators to cut corners by voice tracking and sending out "local" programming from centralized control centers.

A major problem for proponents of live and local radio, however, is the public at large apparently does not notice...or care.  For the most part, ratings of heavily voice-tracked stations do not differ to any great extent from ratings of stations that lean more live and local.  Do weekend listeners mind when weather forecasts leave out how many "Bgrees" are on the thermometer?

Over-the-air Radio has been facing an onslaught from, well everywhere, in the form of Satellite, iPods, Pandora and more.  And while the all the new cool stuff has hurt radio, the audience loss thus far does not correlate with the widely-forecast doom and gloom.  Radio is still very, very strong.

Radio has such an advantage over everything else.  It's available everywhere; it's free; no buffering is required.  If Radio was ever seriously damaged by the new consumer options, it could immediately adjust its programming and climb back on top.

Ideally, live and local stations would take the lion's share of audience.  That would put pressure on voice-tracked and largely syndicated operations to make a change.  But that's not what is happening in most markets.  Even when cheapening the product has harmed ratings, such as what Cumulus has done at San Francisco's KGO-AM, operating costs are lower, increasing profit margin even with lesser audiences.

Like everything else in a free market, radio companies will do as much or as little as needed to attract business and make money.  That means unless competition forces them to do otherwise, the Cumulus Medias of the world will continue to voice track and cut corners where they can get away with it.  So the question becomes whether we want radio to fail so that the product is forced to become better.  The logical answer is no.

If the consolidators are able to maintain ratings, generate a profit and service their debt, we are not likely to get more live and local radio any time soon.  If alternative music delivery sources did grab a significant chunk of radio's audience, radio would quickly adjust and get better.  Radio's delivery system is just too superior to not win the ultimate fight.

27 For Kelly McCoy
Kelly McCoy has completed 27 years in afternoon drive on B98.5 FM, and he's still going strong.  Has anyone been on one station longer?  When I recently mentioned Kelly to former V-103 morning legend Mike Roberts, Mike's comment was, "He's always been one of my favorite voices in Atlanta radio."  A few weeks ago, I found myself having dim sum with the executive assistant for Cox/Atlanta's top radio executives(The friends who invited me were also friends with her and her husband.)  I mentioned Kelly, and she immediately commented on what a terrific person he is.

I bring up these instances because they are typical of what I hear when I mention Kelly McCoy.  He is at the top of the charts as a talent and a person.  Congratulations, Kelly.

Boomer Still Needs Our Help
Steve Boomer Sutton, who has entertained Atlanta at Power 99, Star 94 and other area stations, is getting closer to his goal of raising enough money to get a new kidney and stay alive.  Boomer's second annual Benefit Golf Outing will be held on Monday, April 18 at the Callahan Golf Links in Waleska, Georgia.  The cost to play is only $100 per person.  Pre-register here:

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:

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