Inside Radio News

Franken FMs Are Seeking A New Lease On Life. But The FCC Remains Undecided.

At the far left end of the FM dial sits a conundrum for the Federal Communications Commission. In more than two dozen markets, low-power television stations on analog channel 6 are using their overlap with the radio dial at 87.7 FM to target radio listeners, not TV viewers. As the FCC works to bring low-power television stations into the digital age, it’s once again seeking public comment on these FM dial anomalies.

They’ve been dubbed “Franken FMs” for what many have assumed would be their inevitable repacking to new digital TV channels—a move that would mean they’d no longer be able to reach FM radio listeners. But those 28 stations have been anything but dead. The FCC scrapped a Sept. 1, 2015 deadline for LPTV stations to terminate analog operations and transition to digital until the repack of full-power stations is completed. As Inside Radio reported more than four years ago, that timeline would likely stretch into the 2020s—a prediction that will prove accurate in a matter of weeks. The new deadline for all LPTVs and TV translators to terminate their analog operations is July 13, 2021 or one year after the repack of the full-power TV stations is scheduled to be completed.

In a public notice released Wednesday, the Media Bureau announced it is looking to “refresh the record” in the proceeding (MB Docket No. 03-185) with about a year and a half to go before “Franken FMs” are forced to stop programming for radio rather than TV. Since 2014 the Commission has been considering whether it should allow the low-power stations to continue to operate secondary analog signals in order to maintain the FM radio-type of service. It not only needed to determine whether such a move would be allowed under federal law but also if it would cause interference complications for the digital LPTV signals. There was also the unanswered question of whether operators of those stations should pay a 5% fee on any revenue generated by the secondary service.

There is also now more for the Media Bureau to chew over as it weighs these stations’ future. In recent months some owners have suggested that allowing them to maintain an FM-type of service should be allowed to make “the most efficient use of spectrum.” In July, Venture Technologies Group, Weigel Broadcasting, La Nueva/Signal Above, Prism TV, and Murray Hill Broadcasting met with FCC officials to make their case for why their LPTVs should be allowed to keep on competing for FM-tuned listeners. They argued that more than two million Americans listen to 87.7 FM stations each week, often times because those stations are offering programming for certain ethnic and minority communities that the big FMs rarely offer. They also conceded a willingness to pay the 5% fee on revenue in order to have an ancillary service. But the broadcasters’ main point to the FCC was that an unwillingness to make a final decision about Franken FMs for more than five years has raised uncertainty about the future of these stations. “The Commission must act quickly or else this vital service will be lost once Channel 6 stations end analog operations,” they pleaded.

The group – which calls itself the Preserve Community Programming Coalition – later said in a filing that it believed the only barrier to keeping those operations going was the FCC’s rule dictating low-power TV stations pull their analog signals down by July 13, 2021. “To address concerns about interference with FM stations, the Commission should clarify that LPTV is a secondary service not only to primary television stations, but also to all authorized FM broadcast stations,” the Coalition added.

The Media Bureau is responding by once again seeking comments on whether LPTV stations should be allowed to operate FM-type of service and if there should be some limits on station eligibility. It is also looking for guidance from broadcasters on how they think the FCC should square such a move with a pending proposal to sunset the existing requirement that LPFM stations and other broadcast stations operating on the FM reserved band (88.1-90.9 FM) protect television stations operating on television channel 6.

The latest comment period will include the standard 30-day comment window followed by a 15-day reply comment period. The exact due dates will be set once the public notice appears in the Federal Register.

Inside Radio News

Bernie Weiss, Steve DeLusant Take New Roles At iHeart New York.

iHeartMedia New York announced two significant promotions Thursday. Bernie Weiss has been named Market President, and Steve DeLusant has been elevated to Region Senior VP of Sales.

As Market President, Weiss, who first joined the company in 2004 and most recently served as Regional Senior VP of Sales, will work closely with the programming, business and sales teams for the company’s six-station New York cluster. He will also be responsible for overseeing the stations’ on-air and digital programming as well as creating new revenue opportunities. Weiss replaces Scott Hopeck, who remains Division President for iHeartMedia Market Groups. Weiss will continue to report to Hopeck.

Under Weiss’ leadership, the iHeart New York sales team held the No. 1 revenue position for five consecutive years in the market from 2015 to 2019. During a decade-plus stretch with the company, he held various sales positions including VP of Sales, General Sales Manager, Local Sales Manager and Account Manager.

In a press release, Weiss said of his new role, “Listeners continue to crave companionship and advertisers continue to demand ROI, and broadcast radio delivers on both fronts. iHeartMedia continues to be one of the most innovative media players – offering the best content and programming for hundreds of millions of listeners – and I am looking forward to working with the New York team to build on our already strong connection with listeners, advertisers and in the community.”

Succeeding Weiss as Region Senior VP of Sales, DeLusant will be responsible for fielding and leading a team of sales managers, salespeople and client support specialists in order to forge long term relationships with client partners and their agencies. DeLusant will report to Weiss. DeLusant has played multiple roles during his time with the company, most recently serving as Director of Sales, where he oversaw sales and strategy for the New York cluster. Under DeLusant’s oversight, in February of 2019, “Power 105.1” WWPR became the first urban station to ever dominate the market in total revenue. DeLusant earlier served as Senior Account Executive for Emmis Communications and worked in promotions for Cumulus Media.

“It’s especially rewarding to find the best candidates for key leadership roles in your own building,” Hopeck said. “They’re extremely knowledgeable about our ever-evolving business and have built their personal brands by accelerating the growth of our iconic stations. I’m confident that they will continue to elevate our New York operation to even greater heights.”

After 30 Years With KCFX, Kansas City Chiefs Move to WDAF.

A 30-year partnership between Cumulus Media classic rocker “101.1 The Fox” KCFX and the Kansas City Chiefs will come to an end with the conclusion of the current NFL season. Under a multiyear agreement, Entercom country “106.5 The Wolf” WDAF-FM will become the new home of Chiefs play-by-play and the flagship of its 70-station Chiefs Radio Network, starting with the 2020-2021 season.

The deal also makes WDAF sister “610 Sports Radio” KCSP the official broadcast partner of the Chiefs, with exclusive rights to Chiefs programming.

The deal with Entercom begins February 16, 2020, following the end of the current season, adding adds another NFL franchise to Entercom’s growing live sport portfolio. “We are extremely pleased to enter into this new partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs, one of the NFL’s most well respected and prestigious organizations,” said Dave Alpert, Regional President and Market Manager, Entercom Kansas City. “Entercom’s eight station cluster of music, news and sports talk stations hosted by Kansas City’s leading personalities align with vast digital and podcast opportunities, and will deliver the premium and comprehensive coverage Chiefs Kingdom desires seven days a week, all season long.”

As part of the agreement, KCSP will have exclusive rights to Chiefs programming, including the live radio broadcast rights to the Chiefs weekly in-season press conference with the club’s head coach and a weekly one-on-one interview with the starting quarterback. In addition, KCSP will broadcast the “Chiefs Kingdom Radio Show,” Mondays from 6-7pm, hosted by Chiefs play-by-play announcer Mitch Holthus. The show includes call-ins from the head coach and live on-site guest interviews with key players.

Throughout the season, Chiefs players will turn up on regularly scheduled KCSP programming. The AM station will also deliver live reports from an exclusive tent and broadcast live post-practice interviews at Chiefs training camp.

After three decades as partners, the team and KCFX were unable to agree on a new broadcast agreement. “Our 30-year partnership with 101 The Fox and the Chiefs has a long history of which we are very proud. We love our team, the leadership and the fans,” Cumulus Regional VP/Market Manager Donna Baker said in a staff memo obtained by Inside Radio. That history includes the distinction of being one of the first FM stations to carry NFL play-by-play.

In the memo, Baker explained how the station negotiated “in good faith” with the team to keep the partnership going, “but ultimately chose to step away from negotiations as what was proposed was beyond unreasonable. Accordingly, we will not be renewing the broadcast rights starting with the 2020 season.”

Baker said the classic rocker will continue to provide game day programming “and fully support Chiefs Kingdom, including updates on all stations during the season as we do today.”

Cumulus has the top two stations in the market, according to Nielsen. KCFX ranked first with a 9.9 (6+) in the November 2019 PPMs, classic hits sister KCMO followed with an 8.6. With the Chiefs no longer part of the broadcast schedule as of next year, Baker said, “we will now have the added benefit of additional flexibility to invest in the stations and continue to soar.”

This isn’t the first time Cumulus has extricated itself from a major league play-by-play deal. During its 2018 Chapter 11 financial restructuring, the company ended long-running contracts with the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox.

Under the new multi-year deal with Entercom, “Voice of the Chiefs” Mitch Holthus will return for his 27th season as the play-by-play personality for the Chiefs Radio Network. Owning more years of service than any other “Voice of the Chiefs” in team history, Holthus has called a franchise record 426 regular and postseason contests for Kansas City.

“We look forward to partnering with 106.5 The Wolf and the powerful Entercom family of stations,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said. “The ability to bring our game broadcasts and existing weekly radio shows under one roof is a large part of this change, but we are equally excited about creating new content and developing new opportunities for Chiefs fans to engage with their favorite team.”

Galaxy Media, Syracuse University Launch 24/7 Video Streaming Channel.

Upstate New York radio operator Galaxy Media and Syracuse University have launched a new Twitch channel, “Cuse Sports Talk,” taking local programming heard on the company’s ESPN Radio outlets to a national, and international level.

The 24/7 video streaming network is found at Twitch.TV/CuseSportsTalk and initially “will consist of cameras in all of our ESPN radio studios,” President/CEO Ed Levine said in a release. Those studios include “ESPN Utica-Rome,” consisting of WIXT (1230), WRNY (1350) and WTLB (1310) and “ESPN Syracuse,” which is simulcast on WSGO (1440) and WTLA (1200) Syracuse. Galaxy Media will also create customized programming specifically for the new video streaming network.

“The first example will be with the Dec. 14 Georgetown basketball game,” Levine continues. “Twitch.TV/CuseSportsTalk viewers will be able to witness three of the greatest players in SU history in Lawrence Moten, Roosevelt Bouie and Eric Devendorf, watch and react to the game, just like viewers from all over the nation, while also interacting via chat with Syracuse fans. This is truly interactive streaming and is a chance for SU fans to stay on top of Syracuse Athletics no matter where they are located.”

The Twitch platform is best known for the live streaming of video games and adjacent content, such as talk shows and produced videos. By placing its local programming content on the platform, Galaxy expands its reach to a number of devices, including smartphones, PlayStation 4, FireSticks and Amazon Prime, which offers Twitch Prime to its Amazon Prime members.

“To partner with Galaxy Media and develop an interactive platform for which Syracuse fans worldwide can listen to, chat about and stay connected to Orange Athletics underscores our continued effort to use the most technologically sophisticated efforts to reach our fans and enhance their experience,” Syracuse University Director of Athletics John Wildhack added.

Local and ‘Cuse-focused programming currently heard on “ESPN Utica-Rome” and “ESPN Syracuse,” some of which is carried on both stations, includes “One the Block with Brent Axe,” “In The Booth with Matt Park” and “Orange Nation.”

ESPN Expands ‘First Take’ To ESPN Radio.

A replacement has been named for the Stephen A. Smith national ESPN Radio Show with “First Take, Your Take with Jason Fitz” set to debut Jan. 20 at 1pm. As the “First Take” name implies, the show will continue the conversation from ESPN TV’s marque 10am-noon debate show with Smith and Max Kellerman. Smith will regularly join Fitz on the show.

“Sports fans are passionate, they love spirited debate and they know First Take is the must-watch show every morning to learn what Stephen A. and Max think,” Norby Williamson, ESPN Executive VP and Executive Editor, Production said in a release. “Weaving the best of First Take into this show will set the table for freewheeling discussion. Jason will be joined daily by a lineup of experts and sports fans who call in to further the debate and deliver their strong opinions.”

With Smith hosting, the 1-3pm daypart experienced a 21% year-over-year increase in November on broadcast radio with men 25-54, according to ESPN. The timeslot also saw an increase of five percent across all platforms in the target demo.

The continuity of regular appearances by Smith will help Fitz transition into the new daypart. The former member of country act The Band Perry has most recently been one-half of “Spain and Fitz” on ESPN Radio and is a regular contributor to “Golic and Wingo.”

“I’m excited to host a show aligned with one of the biggest franchises at ESPN that will let me continue to push the First Take topics forward and keep building my relationship with ESPN Radio listeners that means so much to me,” Fitz added.

“First Take, Your Take with Jason Fitz” will simulcast on ESPNEWS. The final edition of “The Stephen A. Smith Show” on ESPN Radio will air Friday, Jan. 17. Under a reported $8 million contract, Smith will focus more on his TV work for the network, while still having a presence on ESPN Radio.

The new radio show will feature a replay of the top arguments from that morning’s “First Take,” introed by Fitz, the New York Post reports. “I always thought that ‘First Take’ would be a great radio show,” Williamson told the newspaper. “There was a time there where I just wanted to simulcast it.” Adding that the way the radio show will be programmed, ESPN is “not simulcasting the whole thing. You are actually enhancing it.”

The Post continues to say that “ESPN New York 98.7” WEPN-FM will air a newly-created local show with Bart Scott, who is said to be leaving Entercom crosstown sports WFAN and Alan Hahn, who currently hosts nights at WEPN-FM.

LPFM Tip Leads To Fine For Raleigh Station.

In a move that could serve as a warning for any broadcaster with an FM translator, the Federal Communications Commission has hit Curtis Media Group with a $2,000 fine after it failed to simulcast the designated station on a Raleigh, NC-licensed translator. The Media Bureau said the translator at 92.9 FM was relaying what at the time was classic country WPLW (570) rather than the HD3 channel of country WQDR-FM (94.7), as had been specified as the translator’s primary station between May 1 and June 4. The situation was rectified when Curtis began simulcasting WPLW on the HD3 channel.

The FCC was alerted to the situation by crosstown operator Triangle Access Broadcasting, which operates the low-power station “Oak 93.5” WRLY-LP. The Media Bureau however rejected Triangle’s petition that argued there was no “technical need” for the translator. Audio Division chief Albert Shuldiner said the Commission’s “technical need” rule comes into play only when the same company owns more than one translator simulcasting the same primary station in the same area. “Triangle’s argument does not concern common ownership of ‘more than one translator.’ Thus, it was (and is) inapposite,” he wrote in the order released Thursday.

Even without the translator, WPLW would have still have had an FM outlet. That’s because since early July the AM has simulcast CHR “Pulse FM” WWPL/WPLW (96.9/102.5).

49ers Radio Color Analyst Tim Ryan Suspended For Comments About Ravens Quarterback.

Tim Ryan, color analyst for San Francisco 49ers games on Cumulus Media sports KNBR-AM/FM San Francisco (680/104.5), has been suspended for one game after comments he made on the “Murph & Mac” morning show.

During his weekly appearance on the program on Monday, Dec. 2, Ryan and the hosts were talking about the recent 49ers’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens. When speaking about Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who rushed for more than 100 yards, Ryan said, “He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing.”

Ryan, a former NFL player himself, has been suspended and will not appear in the booth this weekend when the 49ers take on the New Orleans Saints.

“We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words,” the team said in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Tim has expressed remorse in a public statement and has also done so with us privately. We know Tim as a man of high integrity and are confident he will grow and learn from this experience.”

Ryan’s statement reads: “I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game. Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly. I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended.”

News Bites: Coldplay, Tom Joyner, Julie Ertz, Fox News Radio.

News Bites for December 5...

...Those who already have tickets to the sold out iHeartRadio “ALTer EGO” concert will be among the few to see Coldplay perform their new music live. The band has been added to the lineup for the star-studded event happening at the Forum in Los Angeles Jan. 17, 2020, hosted by “Alt 98.7” KYSR. It’s an extra-special addition, as Coldplay announced they would not tour behind the new album “Everyday Life” due to environmental concerns. The 2020 “ALTer EGO” lineup also includes, Billie Eilish, The Black Keys, blink-182, The Lumineers, Rex Orange County and SHAED.

...Tom Joyner will be honored at the “World Largest Day Party,” hosted by Chicago affiliate “95.1 FM Clubsteppin’” Saturday, Dec. 7. Joyner, who is retiring from his Reach Media-syndicated morning show this month, got his major market start in Chicago in the late 70s. Known as the “Fly Jock,” Joyner famously hosted afternoons at WGCI Chicago, while also doing mornings at KDKA Dallas, commuting between the two cities each day during the 80s and early 90s. According to Chicago media reporter Robert Feder, Joyner said, “There’s no way I was going to retire and not come back to the city that gave me all of the love and support over the years . . . and for the food.” “95.1 FM Clubsteppin’” airs on the Chicago-licensed W236CF and the Bolingbrook-licensed W236CG both at 95.1.

...Julie Ertz, midfielder for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion U.S. Women's National Soccer team will be honored as the “Remarkable Woman of the Year” by Entercom classic hits WOGL Philadelphia (98.1). Ertz, who is married to Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, will be recognized at the annual Remarkable Women Luncheon Dec. 10. The event will be emceed by WOGL morning co-host Marilyn Russell, who also hosts the weekly public affairs program “Marilyn Russell’s Remarkable Women,” on WOGL and sister stations hot AC WTDY-FM (96.5) and AC WBEB (101.1). “Julie Ertz is the embodiment of a remarkable woman,” Russell said in a release. “We’re thrilled to celebrate her accomplishments on and off the field and to honor her at this year’s Remarkable Women Luncheon.”

...Fox News Radio’s podcasts and live-streamed content will now be available on one more platform. Entercom says its app will feature Fox News Radio. “ continues to build its library of premium live and on-demand audio news, entertainment, music and sports content and we are proud to have Fox News Radio included among our roster of industry leading streaming and on-demand content providers,” said Entercom VP Corey Podolsky in the announcement. The digital partnership is an extension of the existing broadcast agreement which includes Fox News Radio content airing on Entercom radio stations in the Charlotte; St. Louis; Gainesville-Ocala, FL: Greenville, SC; and Wichita, KS markets.

...With the closing of its $25,000 purchase of KWRZ Canyonville, OR (92.3) from the University of Oregon, Brooke Communications places a simulcast of sports “The Score” KSKR Rosenburg, OR (1490) on the signal. “I’m excited to have sports on an FM station,” General Manager Rachelle Carter told The News-Review. “Douglas County has a lot of avid sports fans that haven’t been able to listen to our programming until now. I like that we’re able to better serve the sports community with a signal that will reach more than just Roseburg.” The station carries CBS Sports Radio programming, along with Fox Sports Radio’s “Dan Patrick Show” and airs play-by-play of Oregon State University sports, the Portland Trail Blazers, Roseburg High School sports and also carries Westwood One’s NFL programming.

GroupM Sees $9.8 Billion in 2020 Political Ad Spending.

Next year the U.S. advertising market will surpass a quarter-trillion dollars after reaching $244 billion this year — an increase of 6.2% over 2018 — according to a new forecast from GroupM. But the firm’s annual media outlook says 2020 political spending could end up in record territory in 2020, exceeding $9.8 billion.

GroupM cited continued digital ad growth, partially offset by lower TV spending, and a normalizing economy.

U.S. political advertising is projected to end up at $2.1 billion this year (an off-year) after reaching $8.4 billion in 2018.

GroupM says 2020 political advertising trends indicate that “fundraising through the end of 2020 will exceed $10 billion and could approach $12 billion for federal races, of which somewhere between 60% and 70% ($7 billion–$8 billion) would likely be disbursed during 2020.

“Local, non-federal races are tracked separately... data from indicates that in 2018, there was a total of $8.7 billion in fundraising during that calendar year alone. Assuming that number rises next year, we could expect $16 billion–$20 billion in total political spending on all activities in the U.S. in 2020.”

How much of that money will turn into media spending? GroupM says in a typical campaign, 60% of the money raised could be spent on media. That would translate to $9.6 billion to $12 billion in total 2020 activity — putting GroupM’s $9.8 billion on the low range of estimates.

The radio industry is looking for a boost in political next year after Twitter and Google imposed new policies on political advertising. Twitter is refusing the business altogether, while Google has taken steps to limit targeted ads.

How much money is ultimately spent on political, however, could be dramatically altered by unprecedented political spending by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Democratic presidential hopeful, who has an estimated net worth of $54 billion, between Nov. 23 and Dec. 1 ran two television ads more than 19,000 times at an estimated cost of $23.7 million, according to Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group.

During that same period, according to, all other Democratic presidential candidates’ ads aired a combined 10,337 times, costing an estimated $7.6 million.

Bloomberg’s ad purchase, while not the largest of all time, is still probably the most money anyone has ever spent on television in a single week during primary season, according to CMAG. And it represents by far the biggest week of political in the entire 2020 cycle.

Aflac Sponsorship Of Jingle Ball Tour Is Much More Than Radio Spots.

Expanding beyond just airing commercials on radio, supplemental insurance provider Aflac has partnered with the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour for a number of events surrounding the holiday concert series.

Working with Musicians on Call and artists on the Jingle Ball Tour, Aflac brought the music to pediatric cancer patients in Atlanta and Washington. The DC event featured country artists Dan + Shay performing at Children’s National Hospital, while boy band Why Don’t We performed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“It's important for us to take time out of our schedules to help others, especially during the holidays. We were excited to provide a one-of-a-kind performance with Musicians On Call and Aflac for young patients at Children's National Hospital,” Dan + Shay said in a release. “The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour is a must-see holiday tradition, so we were grateful to give that joyful experience to incredibly brave children facing cancer and create a beautiful memory for everyone involved.”

Throughout the Jingle Ball Tour, Aflac is hosting the “Level Up Lounge” for parents and chaperones at stops in Dallas (Dec. 3), Minneapolis (Dec 9), New York (Dec. 13) and Washington (Dec 16). The “Level Up Lounge” features free food and beverages, charging stations, comfortable seating and a live stream of the concert. In some markets, parents will also be able to spin the “Supplemental Spinner” wheel to win prizes, including an instant upgrade for their family’s Jingle Ball experience.

Aflac is also co-branding a series of iHeartRadio Jingle Ball episodes of the “For The Record” series, which will air as a radio broadcast on iHeartMedia radio stations and the iHeartRadio streaming platform. Aflac will also create iHeartRadio playlists and curate a Holiday Pop Tour 2019 video playlist, featuring some of the Jingle Ball artists.

“Partnering with the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour is a wonderful opportunity to drive our message home while offering some brave families an unforgettable experience this holiday season,” Aflac VP of Brand and Creative Services Shannon Watkins said.

What Will Impact Radio In Washington This Year

By Frank Saxe

    The clock is ticking on the 115th Congress and if its first half accomplishments are any indication, legislation that would impact radio may struggle to gain traction in the coming months. No issue looms larger for radio than a performance royalty and music copyright reform. But unlike in years past, today the radio and record industries are talking.

      There’s more than just a potential performance royalty keeping radio’s lobbyists busy. Washington insiders say that although conventional wisdom says not much gets done in an election year, the best chance of a legislative action impacting radio is passage of a bill that would allow stations to tap into the fund paying for the TV spectrum repack.

        The elevation of Ajit Pai to chairman of the Federal Communications Commission a year ago has delivered a number of regulatory changes that have long been sought by broadcasters as he’s followed through with his pledge to “take a weed whacker” to FCC regulations. Washington insiders think it’s a course Pai will continue down in 2018.


        • Updated

        PD Chris “Hoss” Neupert exits Hubbard sports “101 ESPN” WXOS St. Louis. Neupert has been with the station since 2009, joining when it was owned by Bonneville and serving as APD and Executive Producer of the St. Louis Ram’ radio network before rising to his current role in 2013, Barrett Sports Media reports.

        Kaylan Moody, MD/morning host at MARC Radio Group modern rock “100.5 The Buzz” WHHZ Gainesville, is exiting the station Dec. 20 to pursue a record industry career in Nashville.

        • Updated

        iHeartMedia Kentucky-Indiana names Jason Fulmino Regional Vice President of Automotive Sales. Fulmino comes to the cluster from iHeartMedia Tampa, where he served as General Sales Manager.

        Entercom National Production Director Matt Haeger exits the industry to join DISH Network as Internal Communications Manager. Haeger joined Entercom Denver in 2009 as Production Assistant, rising to Creative Services Director and eventually his current role.

        The Inside Story On Nielsen’s New Podcast Listener Buying Service.

        Nielsen last month unveiled its Podcast Listener Buying Power Service, a qualitative measurement service that shows insights into podcast listeners’ buying habits. Nielsen says the new service will leverage Nielsen Scarborough’s nearly 30,000-person database to connect specific types of listeners with particular advertisers and specific program-level insights. It also matches podcast listeners with their buying behavior.

        Six months after the project was hatched inside Nielsen, five podcast companies that have signed on as charter clients—iHeartMedia, Cadence13, Stitcher, Westwood One and cabana—are just weeks away from getting their hands on the first data. Podcast News Daily caught up with Bruce Supovitz, Nielsen’s Senior VP of National Audio Services, to get an inside look at the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service and what may be next for Nielsen in the podcast business. An edited transcript follows.

        A good place to start is probably a description of how the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service works?

        We start with Scarborough USA, the very well-known and accepted qualitative database that’s been used to plan and buy various media for years. People have used it to buy and sell radio, television, cable, newspapers, internet, and sports. The challenge was there wasn’t a lot about podcasting in there. So from that large database we do ask a question about whether someone was a podcast listener in the past 30 days. So we use that pool of people, which is rather robust, to re-contact and complete an online survey that we have developed that focuses strictly on podcast listening habits and preferences.

        The Scarborough sample is quite large.

        Scarborough USA is a 200,000-person sample and we know from that there is a pool of people, probably 15-20%, that we know have said they listened to at least one podcast in the last 30 days. So that’s our starting pool and from that we can re-contact those people who have already filled out a rather in depth booklet that talks about whether they are planning to buy a car, change insurance, do home improvement. And even deeper than that, it asks about some specific brands and categories, for instance, which big box home improvement store they shop in or which insurance company they use. So it’s not just intent to purchase, which is very valuable, it does drill down to brand-specific names. Planners and buyers have been using this for radio, television and cable for a long time but there was never anything specific tying back to podcasts. So that’s what this service is going to do.

        What sort of questions will you ask people who listen to podcasts?

        We created a questionnaire of about a dozen questions of things that you would normally think about, such as do you listen to podcasts? How often do you listen? How much time do you listen? How many podcasts do you listen to in an average week? What’s the typical length of a podcast? What devices do you listen to podcasts on? How did you hear about or discover podcasts? What kind of apps do you use to listen? We ask a question in there as a nod to radio stations, asking if they listen to a podcast from a local radio station. We even ask a question if they’ve purchased something after they’ve listened to an ad in a podcast. We ask a lot of questions that paint a very good picture about the type of person, whether they’re a light, medium or heavy user of podcasting. And then we top it off using the 18 Apple Podcast categories and ask them to identify their favorite formats and genres.

        So what does that get you?

        If a planner is given instructions to make a buy for a large brand, the brand has told them what the demographic target is and other qualitative criteria. And then they’re presented with 700,000 podcasts to choose from. Now they can go into this and say they want to reach Women 18-49 who listen to five or more podcasts a month, use the following apps and are fans of true crime and then tie that exactly back to a brand and a competitor’s brand to see what the indexes are and the coverage composition. From a pre-buy attribution point of view, that’s really very powerful stuff.

        Will you get to program-level data?

        We are going to allow subscribers to have the ability to submit a limited number of program titles to us for inclusion in the survey. That way, when the data comes out, they will see their own programs—they won’t see the other program titles—and walk in to the buyer and show their downloads and a direct profile of their program and the people who say they listen to the show and the places they shop. That’s very powerful.

        The Podcast Listener Buying Power Service is a twice a year product, correct?

        The first release will be coming out later this month for the very first time. It’s going to be available to clients through our Prime Lingo, a very user-friendly web-based piece of software. We will probably be targeting our next release in December and then in 2020 we’ll look to have a two times-a-year release schedule.

        How did this service come together?

        We’ve been in this space for a couple of years talking to podcasters about what they need and solutions. We are doing a very large business with media analytics for our podcast clients, which are the brand lift and ad effectiveness studies. We’re engaged with a large number of podcast sellers, where we do these studies focused on an advertiser and what their ad recall, resonance and reaction was from listeners to that spot on the podcast. Those are very campaign-focused. What we like about that is it helps people on both sides. The agencies and the advertiser get to see how their campaign resonated. The podcaster can use it to generate revenue and ad sales. We see the Podcast Listener Buying Power Service as the next step. What else can we do to help podcasters drive sales, specifically brand dollars? We heard from podcasters and agencies that they need analytics about podcast listeners. And here we are sitting with this fantastic database that’s been used for years and is widely accepted. So we linked that to podcasting.

        How will this compare to some of the other research that we see on podcasting?

        Anyone can do a questionnaire or a study on podcast listening, but how many can link that data back to the same people who said that they bought or planned to buy the following products. That’s what we feel is the Nielsen advantage of having a big dataset and why some very large podcasters have signed-up for this service before the first data even came out.

        You’re launching with some big names. Have you heard from any other podcasters considering it?

        We are definitely going to add clients. Some were talking a wait-and-see and weren’t as familiar with Scarborough as others that have taken comfort in the big companies supporting this. But we’ve been getting inbound inquiries from as far away as the U.K. and Australia from podcasters who want us to offer the service in their countries. As well as podcast divisions within larger media companies that are just beginning to explore podcasting and, when they saw this announcement, they’ve been reaching out to Nielsen to find out more.

        What do you make of that?

        I think it’s the natural evolution that people want data and they want it tied to the brands and they want attribution. This once again gets them closer to that. If you’re an average CMO or an ad agency and you’ve been presented with the challenge to purchase “new ears” and podcasting is red-hot. So how do they begin? It’s a pretty big universe out there. This helps them.

        So this is part of the bigger effort to bring more ad dollars to podcasting?

        Yes, and surround podcasting with tried-and-true data analytics that have been acceptable and advertisers know that works.

        What feedback have you had from the ad community?

        They’re excited. There’s a lot of interest and they say there’s a ton of podcasts out there and they need help to narrow that down to the type of listener and that this is going to be a big help for them.

        Can you give us a sense of how big a focus podcasting is within Nielsen?

        In the Nielsen Audio division, it’s one of the fastest-growing segments for us in terms of year-over-year work with clients. It’s also a natural extension of working with our audio clients because not only are podcasters big in this space, but radio groups have taken positions in podcasting companies, have created podcast divisions, and it’s important to them to reach as many ears in as many distribution points as possible. So it’s a strategically important thing for Nielsen Audio and the work we’re doing is growing rapidly.

        So is this new service a step toward eventually having Nielsen podcast ratings?

        The two are distinct and definitely different. We have a technology that could measure podcasting and we tested it years ago. That approach requires that each mobile app put our code on it and then you collect the consumption through that code. In order for that to be successful, you need all the apps to participate to have a good collection of data. And if you don’t have all the apps, and specifically if you don’t have some of the major podcast apps, then you have an incomplete picture. You don’t get the whole environment and I think people want to get everything they can, that’s what they’re used to in the digital world. The habits and behaviors of people using two different apps aren’t the same so we can’t just model this out. So we decided that while the industry was deciding amongst itself what measurement means, instead we’ve turned our focus and resources to helping people generate dollars from advertising campaigns using our insights. But just because we’re not doing it today doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it tomorrow.

        Editor’s Note: Bruce Supovitz will be among the panelists on the Evolution of Podcast Advertising panel at the Podcast Movement conference in Orlando today (Aug. 1) at 9am.