Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Forecast: Geo Targeting To Be Boon For FM Radio

More than 90% of local retailers and two-thirds of national advertisers are poised to put more money into FM radio when geo-targeting, or ZoneCasting, becomes available, according to a joint study by BIA Advisory Services and Advertiser Perceptions.

ZoneCasting is a new technology that enables FM radio stations to air different ads for listeners in different geographic areas within local markets. The FCC is reviewing ZoneCasting, and advocates are pushing for approval this year.

The joint study provided insight on advertiser perceptions and spending plans as it relates to geo-targeting. Currently, 81% of local retailers and 63% of national advertisers and media agencies currently use some form of geo-targeting. If ZoneCasting is approved by the Federal Communications Commission, 91% of local retailers indicate they would spend more on broadcast radio advertising.  Meanwhile, 66% of national advertisers indicate they are interested in ZoneCasting, and 49% expect to put more ad dollars into radio to support it.

“ZoneCasting will come to market fast because the appetite is there,” said Andy Sippel, EVP of Advertiser Perceptions. “Advertisers are already very comfortable using geo-targeting with cable TV and have had success. Now, we continue to see renewed interest in radio as a medium.”

The study is the result of two important surveys. Advertiser Perceptions studied 301 national brands and media agencies in October 2019. BIA Advisory Services then surveyed 300 local retailers in December of 2019. While the joint study finds Main Street more aware and prepared for ZoneCasting – with 70% of Main Street familiar with the capability vs. 26% of Madison Avenue – ease of adoption indicates the gap should close fast.

“ZoneCasting uses the existing radio broadcasting tech platform and existing consumer radio devices in cars, at home and work,” said Rick Ducey, Managing Director of BIA Advisory Services. “Once approved, there’s no barrier to advertisers that want to tailor their advertising messages to the most strategic locations within a radio metro area.”

D/FW Radio: Mike Preston to Program KPLX, KSCS

Mike Preston
CUMULUS MEDIA announces that it has appointed 25+-year radio veteran Mike Preston as Program Director for Dallas/Fort Worth Country radio stations KPLX 99.5 The Wolf and KSCS New Country 96.3.

Preston was most recently Senior Vice President of Programming, iHeartMedia Baltimore, MD, and was Program Director for the group’s Country station WPOC and Adult Hits WQSR/102.7 JACK-FM. Prior to that, he was Program Director of Entercom Country station KKWF/100.7 The Wolf and Rhythmic AC station KHTP/Hot 103.7 in Seattle, WA.

Previously, Preston was a senior programmer with CBS Radio in San Francisco and Seattle and served at ABC Radio’s WPLJ in New York.

“These two country brands, each in their own distinctive way, have captured the hearts of DFW country music fans. We believe Mike Preston is the right person to lead our talented teams into the future,” said Dan Bennett, Regional Vice President, Cumulus Dallas-Houston.

“Mike has had big success in his career as a creative PD who knows how to coach big time talent. We can’t wait to have him in Dallas to further ignite two of the most listened-to Country stations in America.”

Preston commented: “I’m honored to be joining Cumulus and taking the helm of these two storied stations. Country music is alive and well in Texas and I can’t thank Dan Bennett, Brian Philips and Bruce Gilbert enough for the chance to work with these amazing brands and their teams.”

D/FW Radio: Jenna EXITS Syndicated Kidd Kraddick Show

Jenna Owens
This morning, Jenna Owens announced that she is leaving her daily co-host role with YEA Networks’ syndicated “The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show” to focus on her “Fitish” skin care business that is growing exponentially.

Owens started with the show more than 12 years ago and was promoted to co-host in January 2010. Fans won’t completely lose her voice as she’ll continue her weekly “That’s What I Like” segment each Friday and will become a correspondent for the show, doing press junkets in New York and LA, reporting live from events like SXSW, Coachella and more.

“I feel honored to have spent the last 12 years of my life with such a talented group of people, carrying on the great Kidd Kraddick legacy. Kidd always said “Keep Lookin Up” and that mentality is precisely what led me to start my own business Fitish,” said Owens. “Though I will miss so many facets of this show, I am excited and energized to embark on this new chapter of my life with the Fitish brand. I am very much looking forward to working with my radio brother J-Si on our new Fitish podcast and remaining a correspondent on the show, almost as much as I am looking forward to no longer waking up at 4am:)”

Shawn Nunn, President of YEA Networks added, “We’re so proud of Jenna and all that she has contributed to the show over the years. Although we are sad to see her go, we’re very excited to continue watching Fitish become a global brand that she has worked so hard to build. I’m pleased that Jenna will remain part of the YEA family and I can’t wait to see what all she’ll bring to the show as a correspondent.”

In addition to the correspondent role, she’ll be teaming with her “The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show” co-host, J-Si Chavez, to launch a weekly podcast, also called “Fitish,” that will be produced and distributed by YEA. The Fitish Podcast will debut next Wednesday, March 4th.

Wade Davis To Become CEO When Univision Deal Closes

Univision HQs, Los Angeles
New investors have agreed to purchase Univision Communications Inc., the nation’s largest Spanish-language media company.

The L-A Times reports the finale of the months-long auction came early Tuesday when former Viacom executive Wade Davis and private equity firm Searchlight Capital Partners announced that they were teaming up to acquire 64% of Univision for an undisclosed price. The new investors hope to restore luster to the broadcaster known for its over-the-top telenovelas and star news anchor Jorge Ramos.

And, in a telenovela-like twist, Mexico City media giant Grupo Televisa will retain its nearly 36% stake in Univision. Televisa’s founder helped launch Univision with a single Texas TV station in 1961, and the company has long been a key stakeholder and supplier of the spicy soap operas that run in prime time.

Wade Davis
Davis will become chief executive of Univision once the deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is complete.

The sellers, including Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban, initially had been seeking $10 billion for the Miami-based company — significantly less than the $13.7 billion they paid in 2007 when they bought an emerging Spanish-language powerhouse from the late Jerrold Perenchio and his Latin American partners.

But years of infighting, management misfires and changing demographics took a heavy toll, according to The Times.

Millions of viewers still turn to Univision for news and entertainment, and the company has long served as a champion of immigrant rights. But the audience for Univision’s flagship TV network, which draws about 1.4 million viewers in prime time, is half what it was a decade ago. Univision’s television, radio and digital outlets compete with Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, along with English-language networks.

The deal was expected. Davis, the former chief financial officer of Viacom, departed that company in early December when Viacom completed its merger with CBS Corp. The former investment banker, who spent nearly 14 years at Viacom, owner of MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, made it clear last summer that he would be leaving Viacom with the merger. Davis, 47, formed his own firm, ForgeLight LLC, in December.

Investment Firms To Acquire Majority Stake In Univision

Univision Holdings, Inc., Searchlight Capital Partners, LP and ForgeLight LLC today announced a definitive agreement in which Searchlight and ForgeLight will acquire a majority ownership interest in Univision from all stockholders of Univision other than Grupo Televisa, S.A.B.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Televisa, a leading media company in the Spanish-speaking world, has elected to retain its approximate 36 percent stake in Univision's fully diluted equity capital on an as converted basis. Televisa's Program License Agreement with Univision will remain in effect and will not expire unless Televisa voluntarily sells down a substantial portion of its ownership stake, at which point the agreement would remain in place for an additional 7.5 years. The agreement, which is one of Univision's most strategic assets, provides the company exclusive access to the largest Spanish-language video library in the world.

Under the terms of the acquisition, Searchlight and ForgeLight will purchase the remaining 64 percent ownership interest from the other stockholders of Univision, led by an investor group including Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity Partners, TPG, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Saban Capital Group. Searchlight and ForgeLight will partner closely with Televisa and Wade Davis, founder of ForgeLight, who will become CEO of Univision upon close of the transaction. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions including receipt of regulatory approvals, is expected to close later this year.

Univision is the most recognized and trusted brand among U.S. Hispanics, providing best-in-class, culturally relevant media anytime, anywhere via its multi-content platform. Univision is a top destination for national and local Spanish-language news, sports and entertainment, and operates a leading Hispanic radio network and Latin music media platform. On average, Univision News reaches nearly five million Hispanic Adult 18-49 viewers weekly, out-delivering its English-language broadcast (+34%) and cable network (+89%) competition by double-digit audience advantages. Univision's successful platform allows advertisers and multichannel programming distributors to reach one of the fastest growing demographics in the U.S., young Spanish-speakers, in their own language.

Univision has performed strongly and consistently, with recent highlights including:
  • Univision ranked among top five broadcast networks in prime time with Hispanic adults 18-49 for the 16th consecutive year
  • In the fourth quarter, Univision had the fastest growing portfolio of networks in prime time, regardless of language, among the top-10 U.S. media holders
  • UniM├ís, Univision's second broadcast network, boasts 41% prime time audience growth season to date versus prior period
Vince Sadusky, Chief Executive Officer of Univision, said, "We are a re-energized and refocused company, and today marks the start of an exciting new chapter with partners that recognize the excellent position Univision is in. I want to thank our talented employees for their hard work and dedication—I'm so proud of everything we have accomplished that has led us to this great outcome."

Eric Zinterhofer, Founding Partner of Searchlight, said, "Univision has a proven track record of success in reaching and serving the U.S. Hispanic community, who represent 1 in 5 Americans and growing. Most recently, Univision and its talented employees have made great strides under the leadership of Vince Sadusky and the stewardship of Chairman Haim Saban and the full Sponsor Group. The strong support of Televisa, a premier content producer in the Spanish speaking world, and Wade Davis, a proven executive in areas which include advanced advertising and digital distribution, further enhances our confidence in Univision's bright future."

Davis, CEO and Founder of ForgeLight said, "First, I would like to thank the Sponsor Group for their work to bring Univision to where it is today and for choosing us to take the company forward. I am proud to partner with Searchlight and Televisa to lead Univision at such an exciting point in its history. Univision's leadership and connection with one of the most important audiences in the U.S. today creates an amazing platform to drive innovation, build market-defining content and create an even deeper relationship with its audience. Vince and the entire Univision team have done an outstanding job of refocusing the company over the past 18 months, which has further enhanced the company's position as a market leader in Spanish-language media and created this incredible opportunity going forward."

Uforia Audio Network, is the radio broadcasting and music events division of Univision Communications. Formerly known as Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation and Univision Radio, It is the eighth largest radio company in the United States, and the largest Hispanic radio company in the nation. Uforia is also the name of an app that streams all its radio stations, as well as specialty internet streams, it's the first said app with a predominantly Spanish-language interface in the Americas. It is headquartered in Los Angeles, California.

Report: CBS Puts 'Black Rock' On The Block

CBS is looking to sell its 38-story headquarters in New York for more than $1 billion as a result of the company’s merger with Viacom, according to a report from the commercial real estate publication CoStar News.

51 West 52nd Street, NYC
The black granite skyscraper at 51 W. 52nd St., which has been aptly nicknamed “Black Rock,” was designed by American Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and officially opened in 1964. The marketing process is underway with a brokerage team at the commercial real estate firm CBRE Group.

"We have completed the initial preparation work with CBRE and are in the market," said Christina Spade, ViacomCBS’ chief financial officer, in an earnings call last week. “We anticipate the sale to close in 2020 and we expect to use the proceeds from this transaction for a mix of debt reduction and opportunistic share repurchases.”

The $12 billion merger inked between CBS and Viacom last year not only united the two media companies but brought the new ViacomCBS platform’s value up to $25 billion. However, the merger still came with significant costs, Fox Business reports.

ViacomCBS reported a net loss of $273 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, which is a contrast to the $884 million in total profit the two companies made as separate entities the year before.

CBS occupies a significant portion of the 870,000-square-foot building, but it is reportedly no longer needed after many executive employees have been moved to Viacom’s Times Square headquarters at 1515 Broadway.

The near 90 million-square-foot Plaza District in which Black Rock resides has been trading at $1,100 per square foot in the last 12 months, according to internal data from CoStar News. It is the second-most expensive neighborhood in New York City with the Upper East Side costing $100 more on average.

Entercom Squeezes Out One Percent Gain In 4Q Net Revenue

Entercom Communications Corp. today reported financial results for the quarter ended December 31, 2019.

Fourth Quarter Highlights
  • Net revenues for the quarter were $414.1 million, up 1% compared to $411.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2018
  • Operating loss for the quarter was $455.5 million, which included a non-cash impairment charge of $545 million ($520 million net of taxes), compared to an operating loss of $377.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2018
  • Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter was $113.0 million, up 2% compared to $111.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2018
  • Net loss per diluted share for the quarter was $3.64 compared to a net loss of $2.80 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2018
  • Adjusted net income per diluted share for the quarter was $0.40 compared to $0.35 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2018
David Field
“I am pleased to report that Entercom achieved its fifth consecutive quarter of growth, completing a year in which the Company delivered strong financial performance as Net Revenue, Adjusted EBITDA, and Adjusted Net Income Per Share grew 2% (3% ex-political), 10%, and 19%, respectively”, stated David J. Field, Entercom’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Our significant investments in podcasting, digital, and data and analytics, along with the expansion of our sports, networks and events businesses, are beginning to reshape our Company and position us for sustained growth as we enhance our integrated, multi-platform offerings to advertisers increasingly interested in the undervalued and emerging audio space.”

Additional Information

➤In February, the Company announced an agreement to sell Boston station WAAF 107.3 FM to Educational Media Foundation for $10.8 million in cash. EMF began programming the station on February 22 under a network affiliation agreement. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2020.

➤In December, the Company executed a debt transaction in which it extended the maturity of most of its revolving credit facility from November 2022 to August 2024, lowered the margin on its Term Loan B by 25 basis points and issued an additional $100 million of its senior secured second-lien notes. The Company used the proceeds of the additional notes to repay $97 million of its Term Loan B and pay fees, expenses and accrued interest.

➤As of December 31, 2019, the Company had outstanding $887 million of senior debt under its credit facilities, $425 million in second-lien notes and $400 million in senior notes (the amounts of senior debt and senior notes both exclude unamortized premium). In addition, the Company had $20 million in cash on hand.

Spotify Surpasses Pandora Listeners

Pandora is no longer the most popular music streaming service in the US, with Spotify taking the No. 1 spot in 2019. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast on digital music listeners, the number of Spotify listeners surpassed those of Pandora two years sooner than predicted in our March 2019 forecast.

In 2019, Spotify grew by 25.8% to 65.4 million US listeners, surpassing Pandora which had been the dominant music streaming platform in the US since its launch in 2000. eMarketer defines listeners as internet users of any age who listen to Pandora or Spotify on any device at least once per month.

Spotify will continue to experience growth in 2020, gaining more than 10 million listeners year over year.  By the end of 2020, we expect Spotify to reach 75.9 million listeners.

Spotify’s rapid growth can be attributed to a few key business decisions. In 2019, Spotify acquired multiple podcast companies, which resulted in more content on the platform. Following these acquisitions, Spotify made its podcast content more prominent by applying its recommendation algorithms and featuring them in more places. Additionally, Spotify partnered with Google Home Mini, Hulu and Samsung devices, offering deals that have allowed it to reach more listeners.

 “Thanks to a great user experience and strong discovery features, Spotify has added listeners to its free and premium services a lot quicker than we expected,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Peter Vahle. “In 2019, Spotify focused on adding and curating podcast content, which was largely successful in driving engagement and appealing to a wider range of listeners.”

Conversely, Pandora has been losing listeners since its peak in 2014. At the end of 2019, Pandora had 63.1 million listeners, down 8.1% over 2018.  Although Pandora will remain the second-largest platform in terms of listeners through 2024, it will continue to see a listener decline throughout that time.

Meanwhile, Apple and Amazon added listeners in 2019 but have much smaller listener bases than Pandora and Spotify. Amazon Music had 38.7 million listeners in 2019, up 27.0%, which is slightly above Spotify’s 25.8% growth. Much of Amazon Music’s growth can be attributed to the many music streaming options it offers—ad-supported, Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Music HD—in addition to the increasing popularity of its Echo smart speakers. In 2020, Amazon Music will grow by 12.0% reaching 43.3 million listeners.

L-A Radio: Gene 'Bean' Baxter Joins U-K's Podcast Radio

American radio legend Gene Baxter has joined Podcast Radio.

Gene co-hosted the morning show at KROQ in Los Angeles for thirty years and moved back to the UK, his birthplace, at the beginning of the year.

He will become the second of Podcast Radio’s ‘podjocks’ – a cross between a DJ and announcer.

CEO Gerry Edwards says: “Gene is a massive star in the States and we’re thrilled to welcome someone with his experience and expertise to Podcast Radio.  With his mesmerizing American accent and natural creativity, Gene is perfectly placed to reflect the dynamic world of podcasting.”

Gene says: “I don’t feel like a legend at all and thanks to Podcast Radio I have the same enthusiasm I had at the start of my career because of this fresh, new, exciting concept for a radio station.

“I love the way podcasts have taken off over the last few years and I believe the love that goes into the curation and presentation of them on Podcast Radio will only make them bigger.  Plus, Podcast Radio is giving me the creative freedom to do what I want between podcasts – and it’s so much fun!”

Gene, together with on-air partner Kevin Ryder, have hosted their “Kevin and Bean” show on alternative rock station KROQ since 1989 and it went to Number 1 in the LA radio market in 2003.  The show was inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2015 and the National Radio Hall of Fame last year.

Report: Mike Bloomberg Prepares Media Onslaught

Mike Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders
Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign plans to unleash its cash-flush media operation against Bernie Sanders in the wake of the Vermont senator’s resounding victory in the Nevada caucuses.

CNBC reports Senior aides to Bloomberg’s campaign have been discussing how they are going to use some of their resources against Sanders, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named because these decisions were made in private. Already, the campaign has spent over $500 million on media ad buys, according to Advertising Analytics.

The campaign plans a multipronged attack, including the publication of opposition research on Sanders, these people said. It will also push out digital attack ads focused on Sanders’ record. On Monday, the Bloomberg campaign attempted to paint Sanders as a past ally of the National Rifle Association, a gun advocacy group that Bloomberg has fought for over a decade.

The attacks on Sanders, who has accused Bloomberg of trying to buy the Democratic nomination, will also attempt to highlight negative aspects of his record on race relations both as a congressman and senator, the sources said. This comes after Sanders, now seen as the Democratic front-runner, has taken aim at Bloomberg for his support of a policing policy known as stop-and-frisk that often targeted black and Latino people.

People within the Bloomberg campaign are also discussing whether to have surrogates and supporters write op-eds and show up on TV to speak out against Sanders, these people added.

Bloomberg’s campaign is sounding the alarm on Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, ahead of Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states hold their primaries. Sanders has pulled ahead in state and national polls, while Bloomberg’s momentum has stalled somewhat following a poorly reviewed performance in the debate last week.

Bloomberg has an estimated net worth of just over $60 billion, giving his self-funded campaign voluminous resources to target President Donald Trump and Sanders. It spent over $220 million in January alone, Federal Election Commission records say.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews Issues Apology to Bernie Sanders

MSNBC's Chris Matthews
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews apologized to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for comparing the Democratic presidential candidate's victory in the Nevada caucuses to a Nazi invasion.

The Hill reports Matthews started his “Hardball” on Monday by saying he wanted to “say something quite important and personal.”

“As I watched the one-sided results of Saturday's Democratic caucus in Nevada, I reached for a historic analogy and used a bad one,” he said. “I was wrong to refer to an event from the last days, or actually the first days, of World War II.”

He then directed his comments at Sanders, saying “I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people, to an electorate result in which you were the well-deserved winner.”

The MSNBC host faced massive criticism, including from an MSNBC contributor, after he compared Sanders’s win in Nevada to the Nazi invasion of France, leading several on social media to call for Matthews’s resignation.

"I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940," Matthews said during MSNBC's live coverage of the caucuses. "And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, 'It's over.' And Churchill says, 'How can that be? You've got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?' He said, 'It's over.'"

Sanders, who would become the first Jewish president should he be elected, has relatives who died in the Holocaust.

Edison Research Issues New Podcast Ranker

Edison Research has realeased its first Top Ten Podcast ranker, new from the company’s subscription product, the Podcast Consumer Tracker (PCT).

The ranker depicts the top ten podcasts in America by reach among weekly podcast consumers. The PCT is the only comprehensive and all-inclusive study of the reach of podcast networks and shows in America.

The top ten podcasts in America for the third and fourth quarters of 2019, as ranked by the percentage of weekly podcast consumers 18+ who have listened.

Begun in Summer 2019, the PCT is now in its third quarter of fielding and is the only study that measures the entire podcast space continuously, compared to other download rankers which only measure participants/customers of those rankers, or users of a specific platform. As such, the PCT offers a holistic view of the reach and impact of all leading podcasts and podcast networks.

“This ranker looks deceptively simple,” notes Edison Research  Senior Vice President Tom Webster, “but it’s the product of hand-coding tens of thousands of podcasts from a sample of over 4,000 podcast listeners. Podcast listening is still fairly fragmented, and it wasn’t until we had this large a sample that we felt it would be responsible to even put out a top ten, let alone a longer list.”

The PCT is sampled continuously throughout each quarter to negate the effects of limited releases and new shows and is weighted to the industry standard measure of podcast listening, the Infinite Dial research series from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

“Attempting to distill the listening habits of thousands of podcast listeners is a formidable research challenge, not to be entered into lightly, and certainly not by fielding a small sample study over a handful of days,” said Webster. “Fortunately for us, we had the mechanisms and methodology in place from other large sample projects, like our Share of Ear® series, to do the task justice and finally provide podcast networks, agencies, and media buyers with numbers they can trust and that can be projected across the entire listening population.”

Fielding is continuous and currently underway for the next quarterly report in the series, to be delivered in April 2020. More information is available at https://www.edisonresearch.com/the-podcast-consumer-quarterly-tracking-report/.

Report: Disney+ Lacks Programming For Adults

Disney’s new streaming service appears to be losing steam after bolting out of the gate last year — raising questions about its ability to catch up to Netflix, The NY Post reports.

When the Mouse House launched Disney+ and its marquee Star Wars spinoff “The Mandalorian” in November, it racked up a massive 10 million subscribers in its first 24 hours — stunning both Wall Street and Hollywood.

But now Wall Street researchers are predicting that Disney+’s early success is waning, in part because anyone who wanted the service wasted no time signing up for it — leaving little room for growth.

“Disney+ has probably already achieved its peak absolute net adds in the first quarter of its existence,” Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger said in a recent research report. “In other words, there will probably never be another year where Disney+ adds as many subscribers as it did in the first year, or frankly in its first quarter.”

Juenger said he expects Disney+ to hit around 40 million subscribers by the end of the year, or just 12 million above the 28 million it racked up at end of 2019 — even as it readies to launch in Europe in March.

By contrast, online video powerhouse Netflix has added 167 million worldwide subscribers, including over 61 million in the US, since launching in 2010.

Adding to the problem is a dearth of original programming for adults to watch after they’ve binged on “The Mandalorian,” the Disney+ action series that spawned internet sensation “Baby Yoda,” noted LightShed Partners analyst Richard Greenfield.

Report: U-S Considers Response To 'Sick Man' Expulsions

The Trump administration is considering punishing Chinese journalists and state-run news organizations — as well as Chinese intelligence agencies — because of China’s decision to expel three Wall Street Journal reporters, American officials said on Monday.

The NY Times reports any action could be partly aimed at limiting Chinese intelligence collection efforts in the United States by expelling journalists who have contact with intelligence agencies, people familiar with the discussions said.

“The United States condemns Beijing’s expulsion of three Wall Street Journal foreign correspondents,” said John Ullyot, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council. “This expulsion is yet another attempt to control the press, and prevent the world’s readers as well as investors from reading important stories about China.”

“The United States is considering a range of responses to this egregious act,” he added.

Retaliation by the United States could lead to escalating cycles of retribution involving the two governments, private and state-run news organizations and intelligence agencies.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday that it was expelling the reporters in retaliation for a headline on a Feb. 3 Wall Street Journal opinion column: “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.” The column criticized China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Historians say a Chinese reformer, Liang Qichao, coined the phrase “the sick man of Asia” in Chinese in the late 19th century to describe the Qing dynasty, but Chinese officials argued after the column’s publication that it was an insult to the Chinese people and demanded that The Journal apologize.

Study: Smart Speakers Are All Ears

One in every four adults in America now owns a voice-activated smart speaker.

USAToday reports Researchers at Northeastern University and the Imperial College of London spent the last six months streaming 125 hours of popular Netflix TV shows to a handful of voice-activated smart speakers. Their goal, which you can read about on a just-published webpage, “When Speakers Are All Ears,” is to figure out what words accidentally activate smart voice assistants – from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft – the most and what implications it might have on our privacy.

For the study, researchers built a custom cubicle and tested five types of speakers: a first-generation Google Home Mini, a first-generation Apple HomePod, Microsoft’s Harman Kardon Invoke, and two Amazon Echo Dots – a second-generation and a third-generation model. For the experiment, they binge-played TV shows including "Gilmore Girls," "The Office," "Dear White People," and "Narcos." They used a camera to detect when the speakers lit up, a microphone to monitor what audio the speakers played, such as responses to commands, and a wireless access point to record "all network traffic between the devices and the Internet."

The Amazon Echo dot device in the center is lighting up, signaling a voice activation

“We want to find out what exactly these systems are recording and where it’s going,” David Choffnes, an assistant professor involved in the study at Northeastern, told USAToday over the phone. “People fear that these devices are constantly listening and recording you. They’re not. But they do wake up and record you at times when they shouldn’t.”

In short, you’re not crazy. The smart speakers accidentally activated as many as 19 times a day and stayed awake – potentially recording and/or exposing private conversations unbeknownst to users. Around half of the accidental activations lasted less than six seconds.

The bad news: The other half recorded for as long as 43 seconds of audio each time. “We have found several cases of long activations. Echo Dot 2nd Generation and Harmon Kardon Invoke devices have the longest activations (20-43 seconds). For the Homepod and the majority of Echo devices, more than half of the activations last 6 seconds or more.”

Choffnes is quick to point out they found no evidence that these accidental recordings are being used in any nefarious way. “We haven’t found this to be a major privacy issue,” he said. “But we have a lot more work to do. We want to know how many activations lead to audio recordings being sent to the cloud vs. processed only on the smart speaker and whether cloud providers correctly show all cases of audio recording to users.”

"Anti Greta' To Make News This Week

A teenager who has been dubbed the 'anti-Greta' is to speak at a Republican convention is Washington D.C. later this week, The Daily Mail reports.

German citizen and climate change skeptic, Naomi Seibt, 19, will appear at the Conservative Political Action Conference known as CPAC in the biggest annual Republican convention of its type running from Wednesday until Saturday of this week.

The event will feature Republican lawmakers, officials from the White House and Trump's re-election campaign, members of the conservative media and even a speech from the President himself. 

Seibt has been dubbed as the 'anti-Greta' because of her views on climate change are the polar opposite to those of Swedish environmental campaigner 17-year-old Greta Thunberg.

A YouTube video created by the Heartland Institute, a think tank which firmly rejects climate change, pitches Seibt against Thunberg.

'I have good news for you. The world is not ending because of climate change,' Seibt says in the video for the lobbying group.

Seibt called Thunberg's a proponent of 'climate alarmism.

'I used to be a climate change alarmist myself because, obviously, as a young girl I grew up around the climate change hysteria in the media, in my school books.

'I was an innocent young girl and I thought by hugging the trees I could save the planet, which quite frankly turned out not to be true,' she says in one YouTube video.

Seibt says the current thinking on climate change is an 'insult to science, and the complexity of nature, and freedom of speech' adding 'it is important we keep questioning the narrative that is out there.'

'Climate change alarmism at its very core is a despicably anti-human ideology. We are told to look down on our achievements with guilt, shame, disgust and not even to take into account the many major benefits we have from using fossil fuels as our main energy source.

'Look around. We are living in such an amazing era of fast progress and innovation. We are not allowed to be proud of that at all? Instead debates are being shut down and real scientists lose their jobs.'

February 25 Radio History

➦In 1928.. the Federal Radio Commission issued the first U.S. television license to Charles Jenkins Laboratories in Washington, DC. The first commercial TV license was issued in 1941.

➦In 1943...George Harrison born (Died 29 November 2001 from cancer at age 58).  He was an English musician, singer-songwriter, music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of The Beatles.

Often referred to as "the quiet Beatle", Harrison embraced Indian culture and helped broaden the scope of popular music through his incorporation of Indian instrumentation and Hindu-aligned spirituality in the Beatles' work.

Although the majority of the band's songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, most Beatles albums from 1965 onwards contained at least two Harrison compositions. His songs for the group included "Taxman", "Within You Without You", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something".

➦In 1995... at a private party for 1,200 invited guests on the closing night of the Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament in Palm Springs, Frank Sinatra sang before a live audience for the very last time, at Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort. His closing song was ‘The Best is Yet to Come.’  He died on May 14, 1998.

➦In 2004...The controversy surrounding the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show (Nipple-Gate), aired live on February 1, 2004 and led to the government's crackdown on indecency in radio and television following a surge in audience complaints.

The situation prompted tighter control over content by station managers which made Stern feel "dead" creatively.

On this date, Clear Channel dropped The Howard Stern Show from its station after it and Viacom were fined for content the FCC deemed indecent.

 The situation culminated on October 6, 2004, when Stern announced the signing of a five-year deal with Sirius Satellite Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service exempt from the FCC's broadcast regulations, starting in 2006. It is a move that has been regarded as the start of "a new era of radio." Stern's final live show on terrestrial airwaves aired on December 16, 2005.

➦In 2004...Bertram Lebhar Jr., a retired radio and television station operator, who formerly broad cast sports here under the name of Bert Lee and who was long a leading tournament bridge player, died at age 65.

Bert Lee
He gave up a law career to go into radio advertising sales. He got his initial training with the Columbia Broadcasting System, switched to WOR for four and a half years, and for four years was vice president of WMCA. In 1939, he became director of sales for WHN.

Bert Lee, sportscaster, broke into sports announcing while at WMCA, when he had to pinch hit for an announcer who was ill. He did one of the earliest New York Rangers hockey broadcasts.

At WHN, doubling as sales director and sportscaster, he did the shows “Warm‐Up Time” and “Sports Extra” before and after the Brooklyn Dodgers’ baseball games.

On his WHN sports program “Today's Baseball,” with Marty Glickman, he gave listeners a play‐by‐play description of the best games of the day—all crowded into a quarter of an hour with sound effects.

He sold the idea of this specially compressed baseball game to a sponsor, not expecting to take part in it himself. But when the sponsor was not satisfied with the work of several announcers who auditioned for the job, he stepped up to the mike to show them how it should be done.

In his enthusiastic play‐by play description of a game he hadn't seen, Bert Lee would draw with such enthusiasm on his vivid imagination that he sometimes ran over his allotted time. When listeners, not interested in sports, sent in letters of complaint, Bertram Lebhar, executive, wrote hack apologies for Bert Lee, sportscaster.

From 1957 to 1964 he was a partner in and general manager of WEAT radio and television station in West Palm Beach. He continued as a part owner until 1966. From 1968 to 1970 he operated radio station WXVI in Riviera Beach, Fla.

➦In 2014…Radio, TV personality Jim Lange died of an apparent heart attack at age 81 (born: August 15, 1932).

He was an American game show host and disc jockey. He was known to listeners in the San Francisco and Los Angeles radio markets with stints at several stations in both markets, racking up over 45 years on the air. Lange was also known to television viewers as the host of several game shows, including The Dating Game.

Lange began his radio broadcasting career in the Twin Cities after winning an audition as a teenager.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota and serving in the Marines, Lange moved to San Francisco. After making his Bay Area broadcast debut as "The All-Night Mayor" on KGO, he moved to afternoons on KSFO in 1960.

Lange's network television career began in San Francisco with The Ford Show in 1962, where he was the announcer for, and sidekick to, host Tennessee Ernie Ford. Three years later he would sign on to host The Dating Game (1965–1980). While still on-air at KSFO, he commuted to Los Angeles to tape the TV program.

Lange was introduced to Los Angeles local audiences on KMPC in 1970, in order to limit his commute while taping The Dating Game. He returned to Gene Autry/Golden West-owned KSFO by 1971 and remained there until the station was sold in 1983. He then returned to KMPC, where he did mornings and afternoons (at different times) until the end of the decade.

In the early 1990s, Lange returned to full-time radio in the Bay Area. During that period he initially worked afternoons on 610/KFRC. He eventually accepted an offer to broadcast weekday mornings on "Magic 61," by then owned by real estate magnate Peter Bedford (Bedford Broadcasting). Magic 61 was formatted as "American pop standards" (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Harry Connick, Jr., Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, et al.). After the sale of KFRC AM and FM (99.7) FM (the new owners decided to simulcast the FM "oldies" format on 610 AM), Jim and the show decamped for a run on KKSJ, San Jose.

In 1997, Lange became morning host of The Lange Gang on KABL in San Francisco. Lange retired in 2005 after KABL went off the air.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Xperi Gets $1.2B Takeover Proposal From Former CEO

Xperi Corp. said it has received an unsolicited takeover proposal from a consortium led by its former chief executive officer, posing a potential challenge to its merger with TiVo Corp.

Bloomberg reports Metis Ventures LLC, where former Xperi CEO Tom Lacey is a managing member, proposed an all-cash bid of $23.30 a share for all outstanding Xperi shares, according to a statement on Sunday. The offer represents a 20% premium over Xperi’s closing price on Friday and values the company at almost $1.2 billion.

Xperi said it will not be engaging in discussions with Metis Ventures and reiterates its “continued support and enthusiasm” for the pending transaction with TiVo.

Tom Lacey
“Based on the current non-binding terms and conditions, as well as lack of information, it is unable to conclude at this time that Metis Ventures’ non-binding proposal is reasonably likely to lead to a superior proposal under the terms of Xperi’s merger agreement with TiVo,” Xperi said in the statement.

Metis has obtained a commitment letter for $1.5 billion in debt financing from an entity in Luxembourg owned by London-based Method Investments & Advisory Ltd.

The proposal is intended to break up the merger between Xperi and TiVo, the inventor of the digital video recorder, which would give TiVo shareholders a controlling stake in the combined company. That deal is slated to close in the second quarter, according to a statement this month.

Xperi and TiVo agreed to an all-stock merger in December in a deal that would give the combined company an equity value of $2.4 billion. The combined company would be run by Xperi Chief Executive Officer Jon Kirchner, who assumed the top job after Lacey retired in 2017.

Xperi, based in San Jose, California, licenses software that is used for playing back high-definition sounds on consumer electronics, as well as imaging software that enables mobile-phone cameras to recognize faces, according to its website. Its customers include SK Hynix Inc. and Intel Corp. which accounted for about 28% of its revenue in 2019, its annual report shows.