Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Townsquare Media Parts With 65 Employees

Townsquare Media late Monday announced a reduction in force that saw 65 employees let go.

The staffers included 26 corporate employees with the others from acorss the company’s 67 local markets. Among those let go are account execs, on-air personnel, digital employees, directors of sales, engineers and other positions.

“The decision to let these employees go was based on a number of factors, the most important being my belief that reducing our overall workforce was necessary to protect our business and the remaining team moving forward,” CEO Bill Wilson stated in a companywide memo.

In addition to the layoffs, nearly 20 senior executives have volunteered to take a 10% temporary pay reduction. Executives taking the pay cut include CEO Bill Wilson, CFO Stu Rosenstein, COO Erik Hellum, Senior VP of Human Resources Alyssa Goldberg, Executive VP of Finance Operations & Technology Scott Schatz, Executive VP of Investor Relations & Corporate Communications Claire Yenicay among others.

In addition, Townsquare has suspended its 401K company match, effective April 1.

Like other companies, Townsquare is feeling the brunt of advertiser cancellations due to parts of the U.S. economy virtually shutting down from government restrictions to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. April in particular is expected to especially troublesome.

Wilson also hinted that the company may need to make other expense reductions, depending on how the economic situation plays out, but that his goal is not to do another workforce reduction.

SBS Delivers 'Outstanding' 15% Q4 Revenue Increase

Spanish Broadcasting System, Inc. today reported financial results for the quarter- and year- ended December 31, 2019 .

"As our release demonstrates, we delivered outstanding Q4 results which, in turn, contributed to our best annual financial showing in over 15 years," commented Raúl Alarcón, Chairman and CEO. "All business units including radio, television, experiential and interactive exhibited sustained increases with our core radio operation ranked among the leaders in the industry in ratings, revenue, SOI and margin growth."

"In addition, fiscal 2020 started off exceptionally well and, as a result, we're confident of a strong rebound later in the year as our industry, our nation and the world eventually recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, we are adapting operationally, financially and strategically at all levels and in all markets during this interim period so as to protect our personnel while continuing to inform, entertain and serve audiences and advertisers in anticipation of a surging demand for ad inventory and rescheduled live events as the year progresses."

"In the meantime, we're adopting an old motto that has served American businesses extremely well since the beginning of the 19th century:  'We're Open for Business.' "

Quarter Ended Results

For the quarter-ended December 31, 2019 , consolidated net revenue totaled $46.1 million compared to $39.6 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 16%.  Our radio segment net revenue increased 15% due to increases in local, special events, network, and digital which were partially offset by a decrease in national sales.  Our television segment net revenue increased 31%, due to the increase in local sales which were partially offset by decreases in national sales. Consolidated net revenue excluding political, a non-GAAP measure, totaled $45.8 million compared to $36.9 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 24%.

For the year-ended December 31, 2019 , consolidated net revenue totaled $156.7 million compared to $142.4 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 10%.  Our radio segment net revenue increased $14.0 million or 11% due to increases in local, network, and digital sales which were offset by a decrease in national sales. Our special events revenue increased primarily in our Los Angeles , New York and San Francisco markets.  Our television segment net revenue increased $0.3 million or 2%, due to increases in local sales offset by a decrease in special event and subscriber based revenue. Consolidated net revenue excluding political, a non-GAAP measure, totaled $156.0 million compared to $137.5 million for the same prior year period, resulting in an increase of 13%.

Pandemic Forces Pay Cuts, 90-Day Furloughs At iHM

iHeartMedia has joined the growing list of companies implementing sizable pay cuts for senior executives amid the upheaval caused by the coronavirus crisis, Variety reports.

Bob Pittman, chairman and chief executive of broadcast giant iHeartRadio, which counts more than 800 stations as well as a formidable digital radio presence, will forego his salary for the remainder of the year and give up his annual incentive bonus, according to a memo first obtained by radio trade tipsheet RAMP and confirmed by Variety. In 2017, Pittman earned a salary of $14 million with bonuses of $9 million, according to the company’s SEC filings.

CFO and COO Rich Bressler as well as members of the senior management team will take reductions in the range of 30% to 70% of their total compensation for the remainder of 2020. A 90-day furlough without pay has been mandated for an additional unknown number of employees.

Additional cutbacks include “strict limitations on — or complete elimination of — travel and entertainment expenses; temporary suspension of 401(k) match and new raises; and no overtime without pre-approval.

Of the furloughs, the executive emphasize: “This is not a layoff or a reduction in force. With a furlough, while it is an unpaid leave of absence, the affected employees stay in our employ, allowing us to continue offering these employees full health benefits, and we want to make sure we take care of them as best we can during this time.  And with state unemployment benefits, supplemented by the added special benefits that are part of the new federal stimulus legislation, hopefully these employees will not feel any significant financial impact during this limited period of time.”

iHM announced it latest moves in an eMail to employees:

Last week we wrote to you about the economic downturn our country is facing as the result of the pandemic and the need to respond to it to preserve the health of our company.  During this unsettled time, we also know the biggest economic concern among our employees is understandably about preserving jobs – and we want you to know that it’s our main concern as well. 
Although we have had to make hard decisions to address the economic impact of the downturn, our management team has found ways to reduce our company’s expenses without resorting to permanent layoffs.
As the CEO of the company, Bob will voluntarily take no salary for the remainder of the year and has given up his annual incentive bonus, and Rich and our senior management team will take reductions ranging from 30% to over 70% of their total compensation for the remainder of the year.
          In addition, we have implemented:
  • Reduction of all expenses that can be postponed without impacting our service and commitment to our communities;
  • Temporary suspension of the 401(k) match;
  • No overtime without pre-approval;
  • Temporary suspension of new raises; and
  • Strict limitations on – or complete elimination of – Travel and Entertainment (T&E) expenses.
We believe all of these reductions give us more room to protect jobs. 
Given our pullback from live events and our shift to a work-from-home model, there are a few jobs that are not essential until our business operations revert back to usual.  This week we are taking the difficult step of implementing a 90-day furlough, or temporary unpaid leave of absence, for jobs affected by these changes.  To be clear, while this will involve a small total number of employees, they are valued colleagues and we did not take this step lightly.  We look forward to welcoming them back as soon as we can.  
This is not a layoff or a reduction in force (RIF). With a furlough, while it is an unpaid leave of absence, the affected employees stay in our employ, allowing us to continue offering these employees full health benefits, and we want to make sure we take care of them as best we can during this time.  And with state unemployment benefits, supplemented by the added special benefits that are part of the new federal stimulus legislation, hopefully these employees will not feel any significant financial impact during this limited period of time. 
We’ve never lived through anything like this and, as managers, we’ve never had to make more difficult decisions. However, please know we are listening, studying and considering all options before we make the important decisions that affect you and the company.  We may miss on some of these decisions – and we will pivot when we find better ones – but throughout it all, we truly appreciate your support for us, for your colleagues and for the company. 
Please be safe and take care of your health and your families.
 Bob and Rich

Living Room Concert Raises $8M For U.S. Charities

FOX and iHeart Media’s “Living Room Concert for America” raised nearly $8 million and counting for coronavirus relief, and attracted some 8.7 million viewers across FOX, Fox News Channel, Fox Business, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and FOX Deportes on Sunday night, according to early Nielsen ratings.

Fox Business reports the donations to Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation included $500,000 from corporate partner Procter & Gamble, which Fox Corporation matched.

The Sunday night show, hosted by Elton John from his kitchen, featured Billie Eilish, the Backstreet Boys, Lizzo, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga and Tim McGraw - all appearing by way of smartphones, home cameras or online platforms.

The Fox broadcast network carried the hour-long show, dubbed the “iHeart Living Room Concert for America,” live without commercial interruption, drawing 8.7 million television viewers, Fox said.

The concert, also broadcast on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide. YouTube, which also made a donation in support of the cause, will continue streaming the benefit show through Wednesday on iHeart Radio’s YouTube channel.

Disney’s Iger To Give Up Salary, Other Execs Get Pay Cut

Bob Iger
Disney’s executive chairman Bob Iger said Monday he will give up his salary amid the coronavirus outbreak, although the sacrifice will make a relatively small dent in his total compensation, The NY Post reports.

One of media’s highest-paid execs, Iger is taking his pay cut just days after Disney said it would shutter Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., until “further notice.”

For fiscal 2019, Iger banked a whopping $47.5 million in total compensation as CEO, of which his salary accounted for just $3 million.

News of the pay cut was delivered by Iger’s successor as CEO, Bob Chapek, who also said his $2.5 million base salary — which doesn’t include other compensation of up to $22.5 million in bonuses — will get chopped in half.

Starting April 5, all vice presidents at the company also will have their salaries trimmed by 20 percent, while senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents will see their pay slashed by 25 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

“In a matter of weeks, we’ve experienced widespread disruption across our company, with our domestic parks and hotels closed indefinitely, our cruise line suspended, our film and TV production halted and theatrical distribution delayed both domestically and internationally, and our retail stores shut down,” Chapek wrote in a Monday email to staffers.

Iger’s massive pay package has attracted critics over the years, partly because of the huge number of Disney shares amassed by the exec during his 15-year tenure at the top. Last year, the bulk of Iger’s $47.5 million payday, which was down from an eye-popping $65.6 million in fiscal 2018, was linked to performance-based rewards.

Facebook Pledges $100M for News Outlets

Facebook Inc. is pledging $100 million in grant money and promised ad spending to help struggling news outlets weather the financial blow of the coronavirus outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reports.

News outlets—particularly smaller, local newspapers—face substantial advertising revenue declines as shuttered or disrupted businesses pull back spending. While readership has spiked and some media companies have enjoyed increases in online subscriptions, the advertising drop is already forcing many outlets to reduce pay or lay off workers.

The tech giant said it wanted to help news outlets avoid such cuts. “This is a time when we need this reporting the most,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, said in an interview. “Advertising money is shrinking fast and even though news consumption is up, it is not making up for those losses, so we are trying to help bridge that gap.”

Facebook’s offering falls into two categories: $25 million in emergency grant funding to help smaller news outlets with immediate needs related to coronavirus coverage, and $75 million in ad spending to help news outlets of all sizes—both in the U.S. and abroad—make up for the expected revenue shortfall.

“Every business is suffering right now, but the news industry has really been struggling, and we are in a privileged position to be able to help,” Ms. Brown said. She said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg “feels that getting accurate news about the virus is vital and that he has a real responsibility here.”

The aid from Facebook likely would still leave the industry with an enormous gap in advertising money. Gordon Borrell, an advertising market analyst, estimates that local advertising will drop by 25% this year, amounting to a decline of roughly $30 billion.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced a separate program to offer $100 million in cash grants and advertising credits to up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

Gannett To Furlough Journalists

Gannett announced Monday it is cutting pay and furloughing journalists at its newspapers across the country as ad revenue plunges during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hill reports the publisher of more than 100 newspapers, including USA Today, the Detroit Free Press, The Columbus Dispatch and The Arizona Republic, is reportedly furloughing workers who make more than $38,000. Those employees will be subject to furloughs of one week per month in April, May and June, according to a tweet from investigative reporter Gregory Holman of the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri, a Gannett-owned paper.

In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, Gannett CEO Paul Bascobert wrote that while subscriptions and online traffic are up, the company forecasts that ad revenue will “decline considerably” in the second quarter, which runs from April 1 to June 30.

“Direct sold advertising has already slowed and many businesses have paused their scheduled marketing campaigns,” Bascobert wrote.

The move this week comes as local newspapers are already struggling in the digital age.

Gannett was acquired in August 2019 by GateHouse Media for $1.4 billion.

Wilmington Radio: Layoffs Hit WDEL, Forever Media

Allan Loudell
Forever Media has laid off several workers, including Allan Loudell and Robin Bryson at WDEL 1150 AM / 101.7 FM.

The layoffs come as revenue drastically drops for many news organizations because local businesses are being closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"It was a real punch to the gut," said Bryson, one of more than 10 people let go by Forever Media. "I was blindsided. I had no idea this was going to happen to me or any of the other 10 people."

The layoffs occurred at other Forever-owned stations as well.

Forever Media finalized its purchase of WDEL and nine other radio stations in May for $18.5 million.

Bryson said he'd been working from home for the last week and a half when he was told to call Forever Media's corporate office on Thursday. When he did, the 40-year radio veteran was told his job had been terminated.

"The reasons he gave was the company has lost a lot of revenue because of all the businesses shutting down," Bryson told Delaware Online/The News Journal.

Bryson said he'd noticed the number of commercials the station was running were down over the last two or three weeks.

"And it's accelerated a bit when all the nonessential businesses were told that they had to close down," he said. "That's a good portion of who our advertisers are.

Insights: Radio Is Crucial During Pandemic

In light of current events, this week's Westwood One blog looks at multiple studies that have recently been fielded and released that shed light on how Americans are relying on AM/FM radio.

  • Nielsen: Concern over the Coronavirus is high and Americans are altering their regular activities with varying degrees by region. Nielsen finds that Americans are extremely concerned about the Coronavirus with variations by region. Data also shows that the degree to which Americans have altered their regular activities follows a similar regional pattern. The Northeast and West are most concerned and have altered their activities the most.
  • Nielsen: Audio listening is up. 83% of Americans say they are listening to AM/FM radio more or the same amount because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • Nielsen: Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, listeners are seeking out new ways of listening to AM/FM radio. 30%-40% of persons 18-54 say they have searched online to find their favorite AM/FM radio stations, programs or personalities. The same proportion say they have looked for new ways to listen to favorite stations and on-air talent.
  • Nielsen: AM/FM radio is the trusted source of Coronavirus information. Nielsen finds a majority of Americans say AM/FM radio provides timely and accurate information about the virus outbreak.
  • Nielsen: AM/FM radio hosts and personalities connect during Coronavirus crisis. Listeners tell Nielsen that on-air personalities make them feel connected, less stressed, and less alone during this time of social isolation.
  • Edison Research/Triton Digital: According to the Infinite Dial, 96% of homes can listen to AM/FM radio. Among the total U.S. population, 68% of American homes own a radio. Another 8% own a smart speaker but no radio. Lastly, 20% of Americans own a smartphone device but no radio or smart speaker.
  • Edison Research: At home, 86% of time spent with AM/FM radio occurs “over the air” and 14% occurs via stream. According to Edison’s just-released Q4 2019 “Share of Ear” study, despite 27% of American homes having a smart speaker, and 85% of Americans having a smartphone, the vast majority of at-home AM/FM radio listening occurs “over the air.”

18% of Adults Say They’re Listening More to Podcasts

The coronavirus pandemic has tested podcasts’ reliance on a commuting audience, but new polling from Morning Consult shows the public is actually tuning in more over the past few weeks, with larger growth among younger people, as many consumers adjust to a new work-from-home normal.

“We had a hunch that, while all of our lives have been disrupted in crazy ways, podcast listening might actually increase as people are looking for more content to fill their time,” Conal Byrne, iHeartMedia Inc. podcast network president, said.

About a week ago, iHeartMedia, one of the largest publishers of podcasts, saw a slight uptick in their network of about 350 shows compared to the prior week, Byrne said.

Eighteen percent of U.S. adults said they are listening to podcasts more than they did before they started social distancing and self-isolating, per a March 24-26 poll conducted by Morning Consult, while 10 percent said they’re listening less, creating a net increase of 8 percentage points.

Acast, a global podcast company that offers hosting, analytics and monetization services to creators, found similar growth figures. The weekend of March 21-22 was the biggest ever for its network of more than 10,000 shows, with listens up 7 percent globally compared to the weekend prior, and up 10 percent in the United States alone.

Podcast networks are not holding back launches of new shows, and some have even pushed up launch dates to meet demands for content. Podcast company Cadence13 launched a new show and introduced the beginning of the second season of its “Gangster Capitalism” podcast last week. Both shows brought in new listeners for the network, said Chris Corcoran, chief content officer.

Podcast analytics site Podtrac, on the other hand, reported a dip in downloads — which differ from raw hits or listens to a show — after March 9 through March 22 for the thousands of podcasts it tracks. Downloads in the United States dropped 1 percent during the week of March 9 and 2 percent during the week of March 16, according to Podtrac.

New Podcast Listeners Are Coming From Radio, Not Music

The Infinite Dial from Edison Research and Triton Digital is an annual survey that has been published for over 20 years. It is highly respected because of its methodological rigor and its year-to-year consistency over a long period of time. The 2020 edition of the Infinite Dial was released last week.

Edison Research also produces the Spoken Word Audio Report in partnership with NPR. The report, first published last November, is a new piece of research based on a national survey of over three thousand adults who consume some sort of spoken word audio—podcasts, news, sports, audiobooks—on a monthly basis.

Forbes reports The Infinite Dial shows that podcasting has been steadily increasing since 2013. Monthly podcast listenership increased 16% over last year and is now 37% of all Americans ages 12 and up. The increase has been consistent across all age groups.

Yet the amount of time that people spend per week listening to podcasts hasn’t changed—it’s remained flat at around six and a half hours per week since 2018. The Spoken Word Audio Report says that “share of ear”—the percent of audio listening to spoken word content as opposed to music—jumped from 20% to 24% since 2014. However, only a small portion of that 20-24% is podcasts; most of it is AM/FM radio or “Other” (meaning satellite radio, audiobooks, etc.). Podcasts more than doubled since 2014 but they are currently only 17% of all spoken word audio listening. In other words, only 4% of current audio listening is to podcasts.

The data suggests that podcast listening is mostly time taken from AM/FM radio, not digital music. The changes in listening time derive from the sharp rise in the use of smartphones for spoken word audio listening: The Spoken Word Audio Report says that it has doubled over the past five years.

The rise of smart speakers is also playing a role in the increasing popularity of podcasts. Data about smart speaker ownership confirms that much of it is at the expense of AM/FM radio. The Infinite Dial also tracks device ownership; one of the most remarkable statistics from the latest survey is that while smartphone ownership has topped out, smart speaker ownership is rising fast while radio ownership is dropping. Over the past two years, smart speaker ownership has risen 50% while radio ownership has dropped slightly.

Yet listening to radio stations has dropped only slightly over the past few years. Radio still has a huge audience: The Infinite Dial says that AM/FM radio is still the No. 1 audio source in cars by a very wide margin: It’s dropped only from the mid-80% range to the low-80% range over the past several years. And an increasing (if still small) number of people listen to AM/FM stations not on traditional radios but on smartphones or smart speakers to Internet simulcast streams of the stations. Edison Research publishes another study called Share of Ear, which says that simulcast streams currently amount to 8% of overall AM/FM listening; Edison Research President Larry Rosin says that this number has doubled from 4% in 2014.

SriusXM Radio: Sports Talker Tony Bruno to Launch New Show

SiriusXM and JAKIB Media Partners announced Monday that, nearly five years after his retirement from terrestrial radio, Tony Bruno, one of the most popular voices in sports talk radio over his four-decade career, is re-launching The Tony Bruno Show on SiriusXM. SiriusXM will be the exclusive radio home of the show.

Back by popular demand, the new Tony Bruno Show, which Bruno will co-host with Harry Mayes, will debut April 6 and air every weekday (3:00-6:00 pm ET) on SiriusXM’s exclusive Dan Patrick Radio channel. Dan Patrick Radio is available to listeners nationwide on SiriusXM radios (channel 211), online at SiriusXM.com and on the SiriusXM app for connected devices and speakers.

Tony Bruno
“I want to thank all of my fans who have followed and supported me through the years,” said Bruno. “I am grateful to everyone who has encouraged me to return and who still wants to hear my daily fun approach to sports and current affairs, which has been my forte’ for over four decades in broadcasting. I can’t think of a better platform than SiriusXM and reuniting with my former ESPN colleague on the Dan Patrick Radio channel, and I am thrilled to be able to return to the airwaves with my good friend and co-host Harry Mayes. There is no doubt that we will provide an exciting, fun, sports talk radio program that joins a sea of great content on SiriusXM.”

Through his four decades on the air, Bruno has been a prominent sports talk voice on nearly every national radio platform. He was the first voice heard on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio and the only radio host to have ever been featured in the EA Sports Madden game. After retiring from terrestrial radio, Bruno began hosting a once-a-week podcast, which expanded to a daily stream on Twitch.tv. He also hosted Countdown 2 Kickoff on ESPN Radio during the 2019 NFL season.

“Tony has always been one of the best and most popular sports talk personalities in America. Listeners are drawn to him,” said Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of Sports Programming. “We are excited to have Tony and Harry on SiriusXM, and we’re proud to be the exclusive radio platform that enables them to reach sports fans across the country.”

Harry Mayes is an 18-year sports talk radio veteran, 15 of which were spent on the air in Philadelphia, where he became one of the best-known and most relatable personalities in a market known for its die-hard sports fans. Bruno and Mayes hosted together for five years on Philadelphia radio.

Supreme Courts Sends Allen-Charter Case Back To Lower Court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered a lower court to reconsider its decision to let comedian-turned-media executive Byron Allen’s $10 billion lawsuit accusing cable television operator Charter Communications Inc of discriminating against black-owned channels move forward.

Reuters reports the justices sent the case back to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to take a second look at it after the Supreme Court ruled on March 23 in a similar lawsuit by Allen against Comcast Corp that the appeals court assessed the claims of racial bias using the wrong test.

Comcast and Charter had refused to carry channels operated by Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks. Allen is black.

The cases centered on whether under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, a post-Civil War law that forbids racial discrimination in business contracts, lawsuits like Allen’s must show early on in the litigation that a failed deal was solely the result of discrimination. The 9th Circuit ruled in 2018 that discriminatory intent could be merely one factor among others.

The justices in the Comcast case unanimously found that to prevail “a plaintiff must initially plead and ultimately prove that, but for race, it would not have suffered.”

The cable operators said their business decisions were based on capacity constraints, not race, and that Allen’s channels, including Justice Central.TV and Cars.TV, did not show sufficient promise or customer demand to merit distribution.

Entertainment Studios Networks, which sued Charter in Los Angeles federal court in 2016, attributed the rejections primarily to racial discrimination. Comcast and Charter called the lawsuits a “scam” and sought to have them dismissed.

Forecast: Double-Digit Growth in the Smart Home Market


The global market for smart home devices is expected to grow 26.9% year over year in 2019 to 832.7 million shipments, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Smart Home Device Tracker. Sustained growth is expected to continue with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.9% over the 2019-2023 forecast period and nearly 1.6 billion devices shipped in 2023 as consumers adopt multiple devices within their homes and as global availability of products and services increases.

"2018 was all about getting products into consumers' homes and both Amazon and Google excelled at this through low-cost smart speakers and multiple bundles across device categories," said Jitesh Ubrani research manager for IDC Mobile Device Trackers. "However, 2019 will be more about tying the various devices together to form a more cohesive experience and more importantly, layering in additional services."

Though the smart home market will essentially be dominated by two companies, Amazon and Google, Apple is also expected to gain traction in the coming years. The existing popularity of iOS and macOS devices combined with the availability of Apple apps/services on non-Apple products will help the company slowly entice more consumers into their ecosystem while also attracting third parties to build compatible devices. Beyond Apple, Samsung is another company that is worth watching as its products extend into every category and the company continues to invest in Bixby and Tizen.

"One important trend to watch is how smart assistants become integrated throughout the home," said Ramon T. Llamas, research director for IDC's Consumer IoT Program. "Smart assistants will act as the point of contact with multiple smart home devices and essentially become the cornerstone of the smart home experience. Already we've been seeing that with smart speakers and this will eventually move on to appliances, thermostats, and all sorts of video entertainment."

March 31 Radio History

➦In 1908...Lester Joseph "Les" Damon born in Providence, RI (Died at age 54 from an apparent heart attack – July 21, 1962). He was a character actor best known for his nearly 30 years performing on radio. Out of all his appearances on radio, Damon was best remembered for his roles as Nick Charles on The Adventures of the Thin Man from 1941-1943 and again from 1946-1950 on NBC then CBS and as Michael Waring on The Falcon from 1950-1953 on Mutual.

➦In 1915...Henry Morgan born as Henry Lerner Van Ost Jr. (Died at age 79 – May 19, 1994).

He first became familiar to radio audiences in the 1930s and 1940s as a barbed but often self-deprecating satirist; in the 1950s and later, he was a regular and cantankerous panelist on the game show I've Got a Secret as well as other game and talk shows. Morgan was a second cousin of Broadway lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner.

Henry Morgan
He began his radio career as a page at New York City station WMCA in 1932, after which he held a number of obscure radio jobs, including announcing.  In 1940, he was offered a daily 15-minute series on Mutual Broadcasting System's flagship station, WOR. This show was a 15-minute comedy, which he opened almost invariably with "Good evening, anybody; here's Morgan."

In his memoir, Here's Morgan (1994), he wrote that he devised that introduction as a dig at popular singer Kate Smith, who "...started her show with a condescending, 'Hello, everybody.' I, on the other hand, was happy if anybody listened in." He mixed barbed ad libs, satirizing daily life's foibles, with novelty records, including those of Spike Jones. Morgan stated that Jones sent him his newest records in advance of market dates because he played them so often.

Morgan appeared in the December 1944 CBS Radio original broadcast of Norman Corwin's play, The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, taking several minor roles including the narrator, Ivan the Terrible and Simon Legree. He repeated his performance in the December 1944 production of the play.

Later, he moved to ABC in a half-hour weekly format that allowed Morgan more room to develop and expand his topical, often ad-libbed satires, hitting popular magazines, soap operas, schools, the BBC, baseball, summer resorts, government snooping, and landlords. His usual signoff was, "Morgan'll be here on the same corner in front of the cigar store next week."

Life Savers candy, an early Morgan sponsor, dropped him after he accused them of fraud for what amounted to hiding the holes in the famous life saver ring-shaped sweets. "I claimed that if the manufacturer would give me all those centers," Morgan remembered later, "I would market them as Morgan's Mint Middles and say no more about it."

Earle C. Anthony
➦In 1922...KFI-AM, Los Angeles signed-on.

In 1922 Earle C. Anthony was the founder and owner of what eventually became 50,000 watt KFI 640 AM, a station he controlled until his death in 1961.

From 1929 to 1944, he also owned KECA 790 AM, now KABC. The E.C.A. in KECA stood, of course, for Earle C. Anthony.

He was an early president of the National Association of Broadcasters and, during his term, oversaw the establishment of the organization's first paid staff.

He was also a founder of one of the earliest television stations in Los Angeles, KFI-TV, channel 9, and KFI-FM, both of which were disposed of in 1951.

The original KFI station used a 50-watt transmitter and was made out of a crank telephone. Early on, Anthony operated the station from his garage, and later from atop his Packard automobile dealership. In its early days, it was typically on the air for only four and a half hours a day.

This is the original KFI 50 kW transmitter, an RCA 50B. Installed in 1931, it served as the main until a Continental 317B was installed in 1959. 

From the time of its inception in 1926, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) operated two networks, the Red Network and the Blue Network. The Red Network carried the commercial programs, while the Blue Network carried the sustaining ones (those without commercial sponsors). The red and blue designations came from the colors of the U.S. flag.

Being an NBC affiliate, Anthony operated two radio stations to carry both networks. KFI-AM, 640 kHz, carried the Red Network, and KECA-AM, 790 kHz, carried the Blue.

KFI helped to keep the calm during the dark days of World War II by airing President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Fireside Chats." Later, it carried "Monitor (NBC Radio)," the network's very successful weekend radio service.

As a side note to KFI's participation in World War II, there is a bullet hole in the ceiling of the transmitter building, located in La Mirada, California, where a National Guardsman accidentally discharged his rifle on December 10, 1941, three days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The bullet hole is still there to this day, preserved as a monument to KFI's wartime service.

The "FI" segment of its call sign was an abbreviation of "farmer's information." Every winter evening between 1924 and 1956, KFI would deliver a frost report at 8 pm that would tell citrus farmers whether to turn on wind machines or light "smudge pots" to keep their orange and lemon groves from freezing. The frost warnings moved to 7 pm until the late 1970s when they were removed from the schedule.

After the end of radio’s golden age, KFI-AM moved toward a full-service format of music, sports and local news.  Cox Broadcasting purchased the station in 1973.

It moved KFI into a Top 40 format in the mid 1970s. That playlist softened in the early 1980s as KFI moved toward a more adult contemporary format.

By the mid 1980s, KFI had slipped in the ratings.  By 1988, KFI dropped music and focused on issue-oriented talk radio.  Chancellor Media acquired the station in 1999.  Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) assumed control in 2000. KFI continues to broadcast a news/talk format.

➦In 1925...WOWO-AM, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, signed-on.

Established in 1925, WOWO began broadcasting at 500 watts of power on 1320 kHz on March 31, 1925 and was owned by Chester Keen of Main Auto Supply Company; the station was originally located upstairs of the Main Auto. The station's callsign was chosen to start with the letter "W" as required by the FCC for all stations in the United States at the time.

During the 1920s, the FCC permitted either three- or four-letter callsigns, with three-letter call signs being preferred for brevity. By choosing WOWO for easy pronunciation as a two-syllable word, in some measure WOWO had a call sign that exhibited even more brevity than even the three-letter callsigns.

Despite this, disk jockeys on WOWO were prohibited from calling the station "woe-woe" on the air until the late 1960s, when a contest was introduced to identify songs in which the "woe" sound appeared. The WOWO callsign was later backfilled as a tongue-in-cheek acronym: "Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities". In 1927, WOWO was made a pioneer station of CBS radio network and remained a CBS affiliate until 1956.

In 1928, Keen sold WOWO to Fred Zieg. In 1929, Zieg received FCC approval to move WOWO to 1190 kHz with a power of 10,000 watts and establish WGL on WOWO's former 1320 kHz. Until WOWO's purchase by Westinghouse Broadcasting in 1936, Zieg managed the advertising sales of both WOWO and WGL through WOWO-WGL Sales Service, Inc.

On July 4, 1929, the station's studio building caught fire. No casualties were reported, and operations were moved to a nearby location.

During August 1936, WOWO was acquired by Westinghouse Broadcasting as its first owned and operated radio station. Westinghouse built new studios for WOWO at 925 South Harrison Street in Fort Wayne, which were completed on May 1, 1937. On that same date WOWO joined the NBC Blue radio network, while maintaining its CBS network affiliation, as multiple network affiliations were common for NBC-Blue affiliates. On March 29, 1941 Westinghouse completed the FCC licensing of WOWO's famous clear-channel broadcasting on 1190 kHz. During and after World War II, these clear-channel broadcasts made WOWO a popular radio super-station of sorts throughout the eastern United States.  WOWO's clear-channel license and resulting large audience permitted various owners over the years to consider WOWO their flagship station.

On April 30, 1952, WOWO's studio and offices were relocated to the upper floors of 128 West Washington Blvd. It was here that the station began its famous "fire-escape" weather forecasts, involving obtaining weather conditions from the fire escape ledge. In 1977, WOWO's studios moved to the fourth floor of the Central Building at 203 West Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, where it would remain for the next fifteen years. When the station relocated to the Central Building, the old fire escape was cut into small pieces, encapsulated in lucite and distributed as a promotional paper weight.

Programming for the station changed several times. After dropping its network affiliations in 1956, the station played modern (for the time) music. During its heyday, WOWO was one of North America's most listened-to Top 40 music stations. WOWO continued playing the hits until 1988, when the station resumed playing oldies. In 1992 the format changed to adult contemporary, and then in 1996, the station switched to a news-talk format which remains to this day.

From 1941 to 1995 WOWO was well-known, in both Indiana and areas to the east, as one of the clear-channel AM stations. This was due to the station broadcasting continuously at 50,000 watts of power both during daylight and nighttime hours. From sunset to sunrise, WOWO's directional antenna was configured to protect only KEX, Portland, Oregon. The nighttime broadcasts were branded as WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service, the "voice of a thousand Main Streets". During the 1970s, the station's hourly ID (required by the FCC) stated: "50,000 watts on 1190, WOWO, Fort Wayne, Group W, Westinghouse Broadcasting." Listen to WOWO Top Of the Hour Station IDs: Click Here.

WOWO's clear-channel license permitted WOWO's radio personalities to gain some degree of fame throughout the eastern United States. Announcer Bob Sievers, Farm Director, commentator and folk-philosopher Jay Gould, News Director Dugan Fry, meteorologist Earl Finckle, the "In a Little Red Barn (on a farm down in Indiana)" de facto theme song of WOWO, the Penny Pitch charity fund raisers, sports director Bob Chase's Komet Hockey broadcasts, the weather reports from WOWO's personnel taking a smoking break out on its studio's "world-famous fire escape", and husband-wife hosts of The Little Red Barn Show, music director Sam DeVincent and wife Nancy of "Nancy Lee and the Hilltoppers", all were listened to by a total of millions of people from the Great Lakes to the United States' East Coast over the years from the 1940s to the 1990s. Other memorable on-air personalities include Ron Gregory, Chris Roberts, Jack Underwood and Carol Ford.

Because WOWO's Nighttime Skywave Service caused WLIB, also 1190 kHz, in New York City to cease broadcasting at sunset each day and resume broadcasting at sunrise, Inner City Broadcasting bought WOWO in 1994 so that they could reduce WOWO's Class A clear-channel license to Class B, and WLIB, owned by Inner City Broadcasting could thereby increase its class from Class D to Class B.

This reduced WOWO's potential audience—referred to as WOWOland—from much of the eastern United States to a much smaller local region in northern Indiana, northwestern Ohio, and south-central Michigan. Before the power reduction, when WLIB signed off at night, WOWO's air signal came booming through the speakers into the WLIB air studio.

➦In 1949…RCA Victor records introduced the 7-inch 45 rpm micro-grooved vinylite record, marketed simply as a "45". The new format, which had been under development for several years, was RCA Victor's belatedly unveiled alternative to the 12-inch and 10-inch 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl "LP" (Long Play) discs introduced by arch-rival Columbia Records in the early summer of 1948.

The first 45 rpm released was "Texarkana Baby" by country & western singer Eddy Arnold. The disc was made of green vinyl, part of an early plan to color-code singles according to the genre of music they featured. Others included yellow for children's songs and red for classical music.

➦In 1953...Cavalcade of America first aired on radio.  It was an anthology drama series that was sponsored by the DuPont Company, although it occasionally presented musicals, such as an adaptation of Show Boat, and condensed biographies of popular composers. It was initially broadcast on radio from 1935 to 1953, and later on television from 1952 to 1957. Originally on CBS (and late on NBC), the series pioneered the use of anthology drama for company audio advertising.

Cavalcade of America documented historical events using stories of individual courage, initiative and achievement, often with feel-good dramatizations of the human spirit's triumph against all odds. The series was intended to improve DuPont's public image after World War I. The company's motto, "Maker of better things for better living through chemistry," was read at the beginning of each program, and the dramas emphasized humanitarian progress, particularly improvements in the lives of women, often through technological innovation.

➦In 2004...Air America first aired.  It was a radio network specializing in progressive talk radio. It was on the air from March 2004 to January 2010.

The network featured programs with monologues by on-air personalities, guest interviews, call-ins from listeners, and news reports. Several shows had million plus audiences, and multiple weekday presenters continued on in radio, television, or politics after their time on Air America. For example, in 2008, The Thom Hartmann Program had 1.5–2 million unique listeners a week and The Lionel Show had 1.5–1.75 million unique listeners a week.  Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Mike Malloy later had shows on other radio networks. Marc Maron started his "WTF podcast" by trespassing in Air America's studios after the network's demise, before moving to Los Angeles. Al Franken went from his show to the United States Senate, and Rachel Maddow moved her show to television on the MSNBC network.

The network was financially troubled, however. A scandal involving nearly $1 million in loans from a Boys & Girls Club in New York secretly transacted by Evan Cohen came out in 2005 and was a source of negative publicity. The loans were repaid, but in October 2006, mounting debts forced Air America Radio to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company was bought by New York real estate investor Stephen L. Green and his brother Mark J. Green, who purchased the network in March 2007 for US$4.25 million.

The company eventually changed its name from Air America Radio to Air America Media and lastly to just Air America, an effort to establish itself as a broadcaster on multiple media sources including television and the Internet, and one not merely relegated to radio. Always primarily a radio network, on January 21, 2010, Air America went off the air citing difficulties with the current economic environment. It filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidated itself. Bennett Zier was the company's last CEO including through the bankruptcy and liquidation.

Alistair Cooke
➦In 2004...Radio, TV personality Alistair Cooke died, aged 95. He voiced on 'Letter from America' on the BBC Home Service

➦In 2017…Longtime Country WYCD 99.5 FM Detroit broadcaster Linda Lee Young died at age 55 after a seven-month battle with cancer. Young, known on the station as Linda Lee, worked for WYCD for 20 years. She and co-host Chuck Edwards steered the afternoon radio show "Edwards & Lee" for 16 years.

  • Al Gore (former Vice President, environmental activist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize) (72)
  • Angus Young (lead guitarist, AC/DC) (65)
  • Herb Alpert (jazz trumpeter) (85)
  • Richard Chamberlain (actor, Dr. Kildare, The Towering Inferno, The Thorn Birds, Shogun) (86)
  • William Daniels (actor, St. Elsewhere) (93)
  • Shirley Jones (actress, The Partridge Family's Shirley Partridge) (86)
  • Gabe Kaplan (actor, Welcome Back Kotter's Mr. Kotter) (75, disputed)
  • Ewan McGregor (Scottish actor, Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III, Big Fish, Moulin Rouge) (49)
  • Rhea Perlman (actress, Cheers's Carla Tortelli and Danny DeVito's wife) (72)
  • Christopher Walken (actor, Pulp Fiction, The Deer Hunter, True Romance) (77)
  • Mick Ralphs (guitarist, Mott The Hoople, Bad Company) (76)
  • Jessica Szohr (actress, Gossip Girl) (35)
  • Jack Antonoff (guitarist, Fun) (36)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Outbreak Drives Increases in Radio Listening

NuVoodoo Media Services, a data-driven media marketing, programming and content intelligence provider, announces that in the face of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, its ongoing nationwide study to track concern about the spread of the virus and media usage surrounding the concern reveals net increases to radio listening this week in all major dayparts. This week in a study of over 5,000 16-54-year-olds across the U.S., NuVoodoo also shows strong momentum for time spent listening to music, talk and news radio stations.

The data shows only 19% are still going to jobs outside their homes, while a 36% plurality is working from home and nearly a quarter are laid-off at home. And radio is there for all groups – especially the work-from-home force – where 38% are listening more to radio than they did before the outbreak.

NuVoodoo continues with its commitment to supply the radio industry with regularly updated information concerning the pandemic, having conducted over 50,000 interviews tracking attitudes about concern about the pandemic and related media usage. As of Friday, March 27, 2020, fully half the sample say they are extremely concerned and they have significantly altered activities.

Leigh Jacobs, Executive Vice President, Research Insights, NuVoodoo Media Services, said: “Radio is at its best when there’s trouble, supplying vital information and entertainment. These numbers underscore the deep connection radio enjoys with its listeners and its communities.”

Carolyn Gilbert, President and Chief Executive Officer, NuVoodoo Media Services, noted: “Our ongoing nationwide research focused on consumer perceptions and behaviors related to COVID-19, including media behaviors, has uncovered important insights about consumers’ radio usage during a time when people are extremely concerned about the effects of COVID-19. It is clear that people are still turning to radio during times of uncertainty and concern. Radio remains a vital source of news and information to Americans from coast-to-coast, with listening increases this week across all major dayparts. This is a significant opportunity for radio stations and their sponsors to be there in meaningful ways for their listeners and communities that depend on them for news, information, talk and entertainment.”

The information is updated regularly and available at: https://nuvoodoo.com/covid-19-media-data/.

The Tampa Bay Times Cuts Print To Twice Weekly

The Tampa Bay Times will temporarily produce print editions only on Sundays and Wednesdays due to a steep drop in advertising because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those are the days when circulation is biggest. The change starts Monday, April 6, according to a Times story.

The Times will continue to publish an electronic replica of the newspaper every day at tampabaytimes.com, and the company said it would add pages to the replica edition as it suspends days in print.

The Times also is beefing up its Sunday print edition. Beginning this Sunday, the newspaper will print a tabloid section called Game Times that bundles a week’s worth of puzzles and games. And the Times will bring back the Perspective section featuring opinions, columns and analysis starting Sunday, April 12.

The company reported a surge in traffic to its website — tampabay.com — and growth in digital subscriptions over the last few weeks, but those gains are not strong enough to make up for advertising losses.

During the pandemic, the Times will place some staff on furlough for eight weeks and reduce working hours for others. Those changes most affect the Times’ production and delivery operations but extend to other business departments.

“These extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” said Paul Tash, the Times’ chairman and chief executive. “What doesn’t change is our commitment to our readers and our community.”

“For the time being, we have to change how we deliver the news, but readers can still get every bit of coverage online at tampabay.com and in our electronic edition. Readers can count on us for honest, thorough and up-to-date coverage of the pandemic and the crisis it is creating.”

The company hopes to restore normal operations as the crisis ends and revenue starts to rise, Tash said. “Everybody at the Times looks forward to the day when our country and community have weathered this storm.”

TWH Extends Social-Distancing Guidelines Until End of April

President Trump on Sunday said he was extending the administration’s social-distancing guidelines for another 30 days through the end of April, after saying for days that he was hoping to open up the country in the coming weeks.

The Wall Street Journal reports Trump, speaking at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, said the peak of the death rate from the new coronavirus was expected to hit in two weeks. Mr. Trump predicted the country would be on its way to recovery by June 1.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won,” he said. “It’s very important that everybody strongly follow the guidelines.”

The administration earlier had announced a 15-day program that instructed all Americans to avoid nonessential travel, sit-down restaurants and gatherings of more than 10 people, among other steps. Governors and mayors nationwide have rolled out their own restrictions, shutting schools and many retail businesses.

Monday marks the 15th day of the program. The president said his earlier comments that he hoped to reopen the U.S. by Easter on April 12 were “just an aspiration.”

USAToday graphic
Trump extended the guidelines as coronavirus patients besieged hospitals in New York and other cities and the U.S. death toll from the Covid-19 disease caused by the virus surged past 2,400 over the weekend, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 800 of the deaths were in New York City, the American epicenter of the pandemic, and New York state’s total death toll surpassed 1,000 on Sunday, according to city and state figures.

The global death toll quintupled over the past two weeks to 33,881 on Sunday, with more than two-thirds of the fatalities in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins. Deaths reached nearly 10,800 in Italy, which has suffered the most fatalities.

Living Room Concert: Music Stars Hold Concert Fundraiser

Billie Eilish sang on her sofa, Elton John played a keyboard belonging to his children, and the Backstreet Boys sang in harmony from five locations as dozens of musicians put on a fundraiser for the warriors against a coronavirus.

Reuters reports those who performed from their homes for the “iHeart Living Room Concert for America” also included Mariah Carey, Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith.

  • Mariah Carey, celebrating her 50th birthday, which was Friday, sang "Be My Baby," dedicating the song to her two children, "for staying with me at home, and not complaining too much." "I'm going to put my gloves on, even in my house," Carey said, ending the song.
  • Billie Eilish sat on her living room couch in Los Angeles with her brother, Finneas, on the one-year anniversary of her Grammy-dominating album, "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" The duo performed an acoustic version of "Bad Guy."
  • Demi Lovato appeared from her New York City home, playing the piano and singing a soulful version of "Skyscraper."
  • A plaid-flannel-shirt-wearing David Grohl strummed an acoustic version of "My Hero" dedicated to first responders. "And if you sing that last chorus every time you wash your hands, I think you'll be in good shape," Grohl said.
  • Camila Cabello, quarantined in Miami with Shawn Mendes, let her boyfriend play guitar ("He's taking over and just killing it") while she sang "My Oh My," peeking at her iPhone for the complicated lyrics.
  • Tim McGraw performing "Something Like That" while sitting on the end of his home pool's diving board. Despite the wind in the background, and a cameo by his dog, McGraw was impressed. "We could do a whole concert like this," he said.
  • Sam Smith, in his bedroom in London, sang an a capella version of "How Do You Sleep" 
The one-hour show, broadcast on Fox television without commercials, was the biggest joint effort in the pandemic to lift spirits, raise money for those in the frontlines, and remind Americans to wash their hands and keep their distance.

“There’s doctors, nurses and scientists on the frontlines. They’re living proof that most superheroes don’t wear capes,” said John, who hosted the show from his kitchen.

“We hope this bit of entertainment can feed and fuel your souls.”

All the performances and appearances by celebrities ranging from comedian Ellen DeGeneres to R&B artist Lizzo and country singer Tim McGraw were filmed on phones, home cameras or online platforms.

The songs were interspersed with short personal stories from nurses, doctors, truckers, grocery staff, and other essential workers as millions of Americans entered a third week subjected to orders to stay home.

The concert, also broadcast on iHM radio stations nationwide, urged listeners to donate to charities Feeding America, and First Responders Children’s Foundation.

The amount raised was not immediately known, but more than $1 million was donated in the first 10 minutes, courtesy of $500,000 from household goods giant Procter & Gamble and a matching sum from Fox Television.

Report: Ad-Spending Collapse Will Be Worse Than Financial Crisis

Advertising budgets will likely fall even more in the current coronavirus-driven economic slowdown than they did in the crisis of 2008-09, according to Barron's citing a new survey.

The survey, released Friday by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, asked 390 media buyers, media planners, and brand executives about their U.S. advertising plans for the rest of 2020. The group represents 650 companies that work in digital advertising and marketing.

The research found that nearly a quarter have paused all advertising spending through the second quarter. Another 46% are reducing their budgets. The impact on the second half of the year is expected to be more modest, although most say that it is too early to know.

Of the survey group, 44% say the impact of the current slowdown will be “substantially” worse than in the 2008-09 crisis, and another 30% say it will be “somewhat” worse.

The survey found that for the March-June period, digital ad spending is down 33% compared with original plans, with outlays on traditional media down 39%. The first two months of the period are expected to show even deeper declines, with spending off 38% on digital media and 43% for traditional media. For May and June, the survey group expects a 28% cut to digital media spending, and a 35% reduction in traditional media.

The survey group expects steep spending reductions in every category, including digital display, video and audio, linear TV, terrestrial radio, print, out-of-home, and direct mail. Least affected will be paid search, but even there spending is expected to fall 30% in the March-April period from previous plans. Outlays for May and June are seen falling 21%.

Taking the biggest hit is traditional out-of-home advertising—billboards and the like—projected to fall 51% in the first two months, and 41% in May and June.

Declines of that depth would be terrible news for newspapers, magazines, TV and radio station operators, billboard owners, and ad-supported web services.

Magna Slashes U.S. Ad-Spending Forecast

Ad-buying giant Magna Global is slashing its U.S. advertising forecast as economic conditions continue to worsen because of the coronavirus pandemic, which it says will have an unprecedented impact on supply, demand, and media consumption.

The Wall Street Journal reports Magna now expects ad spending in the U.S. to decline 2.8% this year to $217 billion, as industries such as travel, restaurants, movie studios and retailers are expected to severely pull back on ad expenditures. Political spending and a possible rebound in the second half of the year are expected to help mitigate some of the decline, it said.

As recently as December, Magna, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos IPG -8.59% ., previously forecast U.S. ad spending to grow 6.6%.

Advertising is often among some of the first things cut by companies looking to reserve cash in times of crisis, because it is seen as discretionary spending within many corporations, some marketers said.

“Many CEOs and [chief financial officers] see ad spending as the honey pot that can be raided by the hungry bear,” said Joe Tripodi, the former chief marketing officer of the Subway sandwich chain and Coca-Cola Co. “I expect most brands will pull back somewhat on advertising.”

Magna is also cutting its TV ad forecast, due in part to the lack of sports programming. The National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball suspended operations because of the coronavirus, while the NCAA canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

Ten Key Takeaways:
  1. In the unprecedented situation created by the coronavirus outbreak and the economic downturn, MAGNA is revising its media owners net advertising revenue (NAR) forecasts for 2020 and 2021.
  2. MAGNA now expects media suppliers’ total linear ad sales to decline by -12% (-20% in the first half, -2.5% in the second half) while digital ad sales will be more resilient at +4% (-2% in the first half, +10% in the second half).
  3. Overall, all-media full year ad sales may decrease by -2.8% this year as the spending cut from most industry verticals will be mitigated by the incremental political spend ($4.9 billion, up +26% vs 2016), and a v-shaped rebound in the second half.
  4. For 2021, MAGNA increases its normalized (non-cyclical) advertising spending forecast (from +3.7% to +4.0%) and, due to the low comp, delayed consumption effects, and postponement of summer Olympics, the actual ad dollar growth will be higher than what we previously forecasted: +2.5% vs +1.4%.
  5. This new market scenario is based on MAGNA’s statistical model fueled by 40 years of data, and by the latest forecasts from macro-economists, who anticipate real GDP shrinking by -1% to -4% this year, compared to a forecast of +2% pre-coronavirus.
  6. At this stage, the total market decline anticipated (-3% or -$6.2bn vs 2019) remains less severe than the decline experienced in 2008-2009 (-20% or -$33bn vs 2007), mostly because of the weight and resilience of digital advertising today. However, at this stage, both the macro-economic outlook and the corresponding advertising forecast present a high degree of uncertainty and significant downside risk for 2020.
  7. The impact on business and marketing activity will vary across industries, depending on how much demand and investment will be delayed as opposed to destroyed during this crisis. MAGNA expects the impact to be severe for the travel, restaurant, and the theatrical movie industry, significant for retail, finance and automotive, moderate for packaged food, drinks, personal care, insurance and pharma, and potentially positive for ecommerce and home entertainment.
  8. Digital media ad sales will grow by +4% this year and re-accelerate to +7% next year. Search will slow down to +4.5% while social and digital video will continue to grow by high-single digits.
  9. Media vendors’ linear ad sales will shrink by -12% (incl. political) this year compared to approx. -4% per year in recent years. The decrease in advertising sales will reach -13% for national TV, -12% for OOH, -25% for print and -14% for radio. The outlook will be slightly more positive for broadcasters and publishers when including digital ad sales. Local TV’s non-political ad sales will also decline massively but political spending (almost $5bn, +26% vs 2016) will stabilize full year revenues (+1%).
  10. MAGNA analysis of brand performance in previous downturns (2001, 2008-2009) suggests that brands that were able to maintain advertising activity, or increase their share of voice during the crisis, outperformed the ones that “went dark” during the recovery.