Monday, April 7, 2008

Radio: The more things change....

I take a week off and what happens?

Not much.

We have the Mays family calling in chits and making threats to get the Clear Channel/ BainCapital-Thomas H. Lee buyout deal done.

So far, the only ones getting rich off this deal are those that wrote it and the lawyers trying to save it. My guess is that the lawyers will have everyone’s money by the time this dumb deal dies.

The banks that stand to lose billions if forced to complete the deal are getting a quick lesson on the Mays family’s rock-solid connections with decision makers in the legal system – and beyond.

On the other hand, no one ever went broke underestimating the ability of Clear Channel to screw up. When betting the over – under on how many days it’ll take for Clear Channel to dead end another deal, take the under.

There are two problems with this Clear Channel-Bain/Lee deal. The first problem is that they could lose. The second is, they could win.

From what I hear Clear Channel did luck out on one thing. No one at their 200 E. Basse Rd., San Antonio headquarters got trampled to death by - and you knew this was coming - the mass exodus of the former Jacor boys bailing from that sinking ship to rejoin their lord and master Randy Michaels at Tribune Corp. in Chicago.

The Clear Channel expatriates plan to do to television and newspapers what they did to radio.
Then there was the HD Digitial Radio Alliance's Idea Summit in Orlando at the end of last month.

My invitation must’ve gotten lost in the mail.

One – ahem – research study had consumer awareness of HD Radio at 77 percent.

That one’s courtesy of Critical Mass Media, a division of Clear Channel, which is located at 200 E. Basse Rd. in San Antonio.

Come to think of it, the HD Radio Alliance headquarters are housed at 200 E. Basse Rd. in San Antonio, too.

That’s like a study conducted by the Mafia claiming there's no such thing as organized crime.

HD Alliance head crony Peter “Sgt. Bilk-o” Ferrara called for “fresh thinking and innovative strategies for growing and converting consumer awareness into sales.”

He claimed that the “broadcasting in HD” announcements lead the “average listeners” to believe they’re already getting stations in HD.

Of course that doesn’t explain the millions of dollars spent in previous campaigns, which played on the fact that HD Radio has side channels. Maybe the "average listeners" weren’t looking for them? Maybe the "average listeners" just don’t care?

They even have a new campaign: HD Radio: It’s time to upgrade! Upgrade from what?

The $100 million – plus already spent by radio chains for upgrading stations for a digital signal no one's listening to?

The $600 million – plus in air time participating radio stations contributed to promote and market HD Radio?

The fact that no one is buying HD Radios because retailers aren’t stocking them?

Or that the one chain that did went bankrupt?

The slogan the HD Radio Alliance should use is: Full speed behind.
It was also announced at the Idea Summit that CBS was launching a new HD Radio station in a number of markets called Psychic OnAir.
I'll say it again. You can't make these things up.
If this is truly for real, it will feature a 24 hour line-up of name-brand psychics. I’m not sure if Miss Cleo is among them. Is she out of jail?
Whatever the case, it's doubtful that CBS Radio will employ real psychics – because those who truly can see into the future already know that HD Radio doesn’t have one.
Another classic Buzzard TV spot here


Anonymous said...

While I agree with everything you wrote, Critical Mass Media is in Cincinnati, Not San Antonio. Just want to make sure you're accurate!

Anonymous said...


Right about Texas justice. The Mays family have never been shy about their connections all the way to the White House nor have they been shy to use those connections when needed. Lowry Mays was a ruthless bastard and although the kids lack his charisma they do know where the bodies are buried.

It should be an interesting day in Bexar today. Who will blink?

Anonymous said...

I think the Psychic on Air was planned as an APril Fool's Joke that some at CBS took seriously and actually promoted as such. Or maybe you are right. When they hired the psychics they said HD radio wouldn't fly.

Anonymous said...

The banks will win, they have more money to buy politicians, judges, etc. then the Mays family does. Just wanna see which one will be the last to wipe the fingerprints off the many knives stuck in the Mays boy's backs once the money starts flying.

Anonymous said...

I go with the banks, too. The Mays family may have power in Texas and there was the Texaco-Penzoil decision the Mays family likes to brag about but this is a different world and the rosy days of the economy are long gone thanks to deals similar to this one. Clear Channel is a manipulative company that managed to break laws without concequence. Thsir actions between 1996-2007 may come back to torture them now. Randy Michaels who I blame for much of Clear Channel's fall has to be laughing his ass off. He and Zell were the ultimate scoundrels as the Tribune Corporation will soon find out.

Anonymous said...

The banks face two relatively simple questions. First, can they afford to write the deal? And can they afford the eventual damages they’ll have to pay when they lose this thing.

Every legal analyst who’s looked at the case gives them about a 10% chance of prevailing, so it’s pay now or pay later. It may well be that they can’t afford to pay now. Or, it may well be that they estimate the eventual damages that will have to be paid in four to seven years is a better risk. After all, a good many of those at the banks will be long gone by then. It’s very appealing to hand this off to your successor, who can settle it without accepting blame.

The unfortunate bottom line for the banks is they couldn’t get the buyers to go along with the plan to strangle the deal in the crib. For whatever reason, Bain/Lee still want CCU at the $39.20 price. And barring that, they want the big money that the settlement will bring them.

Meanwhile, someone please explain the sense of moving from CC (as crappy as it is) to the Tribune companies? That company is within 18 months of defaulting. Does anyone really believe that ship will be righted?

Maybe they were consulting Miss Cleo for career advice.

Anonymous said...

What a load of crap - as if, all of those hundreds-of-millions spent in unsold air-time were to just promote consumer awareness of HD Radio, and had nothing to do with driving sales. And now, the new "It's Time to Upgrade" slogan is an obvious attempt to confuse consumers with the mandated 2009 digital TV changeover, which digital radio does not have.

Anonymous said...

In reference to the question about the Tribune Corp. Sam Zell pulled the same stunt when he built up the nearly dead Jacor and sold it to Clear Channel - and got the staff that ruined Jacor (but made money on it) to take over managing Clear Channel. Zell and Randy and his penguins will strip Tribune TV bare, get their money out of Tribune, cook the books on just this side of legal and sell it some sucker who will later realize it was a shell of a company. Zell has made a career of identifying and selling to suckers.

Anonymous said...

Okay so the product sucks. There are a lot of sucky products that made it to market and did better than they should have. HD radio has the worst creative I have ever seen bar none. Time to upgrade? What does this alliance do? Go to a strip club in Orlando for the evening and write that off as the five minutes they spent coming up with a new slogan? Loooooosers!

Anonymous said...

CBS is so desperate that they may ask Miss Cleo to replace Katy Couric on the evening news.

Seventy 8 said...

I believe that Clear Channel in whatever incarnation they end up in will put their stations up for sale. With them will carry a long term commitment to Ibiquity licensing. Can anyone spell k-i-c-k-b-a-c-k to current owners Clear Channel?

If there was ever a media scam worthy of a federal investigation it is HD radio. This one stinks.

Anonymous said...

It must be said that fewer young people are listening to radio and those listening listen less often with diminshed time spent listening.

Radio is not a media you invest in for your future.

This is a real dilemma because whoever wins this foolish battle loses.

Country Heysyus said...

I think you underestimate Ibiquity. They have a hold over these chains. Somehow they hooked them in like hungry fish and no one has protested its failure. I think Sgt. Bilko is just the puppet. The puppeteer is Ibiquity. The big chains get a license fee kickback to insure their support so they can con the smaller chains into their web of deception and lies about HD radio. Is there a Ibiquity paper trail to follow.

Anonymous said...

please please understand. i work for clear channel. in fact all of us peons who work for clear channel that don't know from one week to the next whether or not we have a job are sick of hearing "the latest news" about clear channel. whatever happens i hope it happens soon. i dont care who finally owns us as long as we still have jobs. if you had to work for this hellhole of a company you would be sick of hearing all "the latest news' blurbs about clear channel. whoever thought up deregulation in the first place should be strung up by his gonads and beaten like a pinata.

Anonymous said...

I work for Clear Channel too. I witnessed damn good radio people who built our stations to the shining properties they became given the boot! They were probably making too much money. Replaced by lower wage clueless employees who don't even live in the market!

At first I felt bad for those who were terminated, now I kind of envy them. Coming to work at Clear Channel is worse than working the monotonous assembly line at a factory.

CCurious said...

Could someone please explain this? Why would Bain Capital and Thomas Lee want to take this loser of a company private and at such a high price? They are not buying a company with potential nor are their buying a company with attractive properties. Owning trophy markets like New York and L.A. no longer translates into revenue. The larger the market the worse the local business is. This is also a company that has stripped its staff down to bare minimum. There is no where left to cut. Please explain to me why anyone would want to buy Clear Channel - all or part of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the six people on the planet that actually bought an HD home receiver (Sangean, I think?), about a year ago. I figured I would just report that it completely quit working on Sunday. And during that time, I was never once able to receive an AM HD broadcast with the thing. That is all.

Cleopatra's Cat said...

I think the Psychic format turned out to be their (ha ha) April Fool's Joke. Even then they screw up. A format like this would do far better than some of the ones CBS has tried to pawn off on us in the past like Jack and Free FM and KRock (pronounced the same) in New York. You DON'T have to be psychic to know that HD radio will NEVER make it.

Ex-HD radiouser said...

My HD radio died too. I bought mine at Radio Shack. It is the Accurian table top. Here is my story. Radio Shack had to order it because they did not have it in stock. The first one I got could not pick up the HD side channels. The second one worked slightly better but I still could not pick up the HD2 + channels on most stations. I tried external antennae without luck. Some stations were either off the air for days or I just could not pick them up on a regular basis. I returned my HD radio to Radio Shack and they were very nice about taking it back. They told me I was not the first. Of the two they had sold both had now been returned. Since then I bought a unit I found in a flea market of all places that allows me to transmit audio from my PC to other radios in my house. I have been listening to internet radio ever since and love it. I actually had to go up to my crawl space and get two spare radios since I stopped using them and stored them away. The only drawback is to change the station I have to go to the PC. That is still better than having an HD radio that could not pick up its customized radio stations. My next purchase will be a stand alone internet radio. My experience with HD radio turned me off of terrestrial radio entirely and on to internet radio. What a relief. I thought you would like to know. Maybe your Sarge Bilko reads this blog too. If not he should.

Doug said...

No take on the fact that Lee Abrams is going to Tribune also?

Anonymous said...

Abrams? Another quack who parlayed a risibly inflated résumé into a powerful consulting business in the '70s that arguably helped the foundation for radio's decline by over-researching and failing to respond to new developments on the pop-culture landscape.

Anonymous said...

I think you're distracted by this HD Alliance stuff. They're just an organization. Sure they get free office space at CC, but it doesn't matter. The real power for HD Radio is iBiquity, which is located in Maryland.

Anonymous said...

I bought a Polk i-Sonic unit with XM as well as HD Radio, thinking I'd have an entire entertainment center in a small space in my living room (cost: $700 ouch!). The HD part of it was disappointing to say the least. I'm sandwiched between two top 20 markets in reasonably close proximity to each (in the MSA of one and TSA of the other), but I could only get 2 digital main channels and 2 side channels on FM and 1 digital main channel on AM, the AM only sometimes. This is after installing the dipole antenna behind the drapes, also (!) Buyer beware.

By the way, the reason I say it "was" disappointing is because the entire unit died a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

"Time to upgrade"? Isn't that denigrating the existing analog stations that millions still listen to, attempting to replace it with more listener pie-slicing that's bound to reduce station revenue? And stations are forced to run this?

Anonymous said...

John, this will be the headline re. Psychic OnAir this time next year: "Closed due to unforseen circumstances."