Come on, admit it.
You can’t help but chuckle every time someone from Clear Channel opens his or her mouth.
Ever since Thomas H. Lee co-president Scott Sperling sputtered, stuttered and fell all over himself a few weeks back on CNBC when asked the question, “Is the Clear Channel deal going to blow up?” it’s been one misstep after another at the Double C Ranch.
Another one? John Hogan. Forget about the swine flu crossing the border. Hogan’s showing severe symptoms of foot and mouth disease. He’s been planting his foot in his mouth every time he opens it.
Local? Live? Is he for real?
Back to Hogie in a moment.
Let’s start with silver spoon CFO Randall Mays and his just-released memo to his employees.
“We’ve had some questions relating to speculation about the health of our business,” he wrote. “Any such speculation is just that.”
Master Randy was countering a New York Times article on Clear Channel in their business section a few weeks back. It didn’t speculate on whether Clear Channel was in financial breakdown. It did speculate on the time frame of when the company will collapse.
So Randy, inquiring minds want to know if they do math differently in San Antonio. You’re saying that total revenues are down 23 percent in the first quarter – and you projected that in your Q1 forecast? That’s a question, Randy, because I don’t recall Clear Channel issuing such a statement.
What we have here is the sibling adaptation of good cop, bad cop. CFO Master Randy plays good brother while CEO Mark is the bad-ass.
Master Randy thanked his employees in his memo, adding, “The most important thing we can all do is turn our full attention to improving our competitive position and continuing to generate revenues. The entire management team is doing the same.”
Come on down, silver spoon CEO Mark Mays. What say you?
“Our companies (radio and outdoor) performed well on a relative basis in a difficult economic environment and weakened ad market,” sayeth the Markster. “We commend our employees for their ongoing efforts to engage their audiences, customers and communities through our strong brands, high-impact mediums, and great portfolio of properties.”
I know, I know. Call for the hip boots.
True, Markie didn’t identify what his strong brands, high-impact mediums, and great portfolio of properties are. Do any of us have a clue? No.
Strong brands? Does he mean Rush? Does he mean Ryan?
High impact mediums? HD Radio? Their soft-core porn rock radio web sites?
Great portfolio of properties? You mean your 70-odd radio stations in cash-strapped Ohio?
We do know that when Markie thanked his employees, he was thanking close to 2,500 fewer of them this year over last.
I’d like to tell the silver spoon brothers that every time they downsize Clear Channel they’re firing their listeners.
Now, put your hands together and let’s give a big Texas style welcome to Mr. Live and Local – our voice is Premium Choice – Clear Channel’s radio CEO John Hogan.
And what has Hogie been up to for the last couple of weeks?
Since introducing his vocal-not-local programming initiative for Clear Channel’s radio group, John Hogan, man of slogan, has increased the spot load at his radio stations to a minimum 22 units per hour, which must run in two spot breaks, twice per hour. Not three. Two.
Not counted in those 22 units per hour are station promos, contesting, unpaid HD Radio promos, unpaid “Radio Heard Here” announcements, and those twelve “local – Clear Channel cares about the community (fill in market name here)” public service announcements that Hogan promised Capitol Hill he’d carry.
It also doesn’t include sponsored news, weather, traffic reports, or studio sponsorships (You know – the “Joe’s Hardware and Tackle” studio mentions) commitments.
That means Clear Channel’s music format stations will not be playing music for over one-third of every hour.
Let me put it another way. Hogie’s swapped less is more for more is less.
Imagine being the client whose spot is the eighth, ninth, tenth, or eleventh in the cluster? If a spot runs and no one hears it, should you really get charged for it?
Like everything else at Clear Channel, Hogie would have you believe that the decision to run 22 spots an hour in two breaks is up to the “local” manager and program directors. That may be true. Just don’t expect managers and PDs to continue under the employ of Clear Channel if they dare to disagree with Hogie.
There’s another provision. Say, Hogie calls and tells managers to drop their draws and take whatever dollars they can to fill avails– and they get enough clients take ‘em up on a dollar-a-holler offer that stations end up with too many spots and not enough inventory.
What does a good local manager decide to do if he wants to stay employed?
Run them. See, it’s a minimum 22 spots per hour. There is no maximum.
That also adds up to more savings with Clear Channel voice-track talent. Fewer live breaks means it shouldn’t take as long to voice-track dayparts.
Or maybe this is Hogie’s way to save more money? If over a third of every hour is dedicated to non-music elements on his music format stations that means the station will be playing fewer songs per hour, which translates to lower-than-expected performance royalty fee payments to the labels.
Or maybe not.
You see, Radio & Records unceremoniously dropped seventeen Clear Channel stations from reporting status since their music is no longer programmed locally. Expect more to follow as R&R and other trades identify even more stations, which are programmed from San Antonio –not their city of license. That means labels will no longer service or call on those radio stations. As far as the labels are concerned, except for paying their performance royalty fees, those stations do not exist.
The same holds true for those that used to listen to those stations.
William Burroughs wrote in Naked Lunch of a frozen moment – a flash in time when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork. John Hogan, you are so close to yours.