Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, November 19, 2006
By: Art Vuolo
For many years, the majority of commercial broadcasters have expressed doubts that the two satellite radio companies would ever reach the cashflow break-even point, but XM is poised to perhaps prove them wrong. Reaching break-even on operations is still a long way from showing a bottom-line profit, but it is an important milestone for a new company. Both XM and Sirius, however, now face the problem that subscriber additions may be reaching a plateau phase many years earlier than projected.
This upcoming holiday sales season will be key. Howard Stern is old news, so Sirius has to come up with a new pitch to get people to buy its service. XM has to find a way to reclaim new receiver sales and market share from Sirius. To put things in perspective, satellite radio will have achieved 4 1/2 percent penetration of the U.S. population. And this is the new competitor that is supposed to wipe out AM and FM radio? Terrestrial radio broadcasters have nothing to worry about in the immediate future.
As I’ve stated in the past, I use both XM and Sirius to fulfill programming needs not available on free over-the-air radio. I enjoy pre-Beatles oldies, beautiful music, standards and classic country, and those are clearly not available on any local AM and FM stations. HD Radio needs to start providing more of these formats that cater to older audiences who are neglected, even though most of them have the money for the new HD radios and still listen to the medium.
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Last week my colleague, Mike Austerman, related the sad news about WNIC-FM (100.3) letting the station’s longtime early-afternoon host Gene Maxwell go. My feeling is that local management likely did everything in their power to prevent reductions of additional personnel scheduled to be cut in a nationwide effort by megapower Clear Channel Radio, which owns more than a half-dozen stations in our area. In fact the Detroit market was largely spared extensive layoffs when compared to other Clear Channel cities.
This past week, Clear Channel accepted a bid for the company at just over 26 billion dollars and the company is selling off nearly 500 stations in smaller markets several here in Michigan, but not in Detroit.
Maxwell couldn’t opt for less money and/or a longer shift because he is exclusively an on-air talent, and most of the big radio companies insist that employees multitask; for example, Theresa Lucas, the other WNIC mid-day host, doubles as assistant program director and music director at WNIC. My only hope is that Gene received a financial severance that will get him through the holidays. We all know that it’s a bad time to be unemployed.
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If you’re already looking for stocking stuffers for the upcoming Christmas holiday, drop by your nearest Borders and pick up the new Mojo in the Morning “Phone Scams Volume 9” CD. It’s only $11.95 and it’s guaranteed to provide lots of laughs. Mojo and his Channel 955 crew — Spike, Sara, Kyra and Chad — truly offer one of the best morning shows on local radio. Check it out on hits WKQI-FM (95.5).
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Popular smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7) will be well represented in the coming weeks via morning host Alexander Zonjic, who will present several upcoming concerts on both sides of the boarder. One U.S. concert is Dec. 9 at Dearborn’s Community and Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25 and $100; latter price includes preferred seating and an afterglow. Learn more at (313) 943-2354 or visit www.dearbornfordcenter.com.
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Specs Howard grad Glenda Lewis and her TV legend mom, Diana Lewis, were recognized this past week as the only mother/daughter news anchors in the United States. The testimonial resolution was presented to them by Martha Reeves and the Detroit City Council. They also are being recognized by the Museum of TV & Radio in New York City.
The duo first co-anchored Channel 7 “Action News” on Mother’s Day 2004. I spoke with Diana, who made an appearance in the first “Rocky” movie in 1976, and she is rightfully proud of Glenda, who says she will keep the historic team of “Lewis and (Stephen) Clark” around for years to come.
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West Coast Theatre organist John Seng, besides playing concerts around the world, had an unusual avocation. He wrote many radio jingles we’ve all heard. McDonald’s, United Air and Greyhound were some of his customers. John died in 2002, but some of those long lost tapes will be featured at 6 p.m. Sunday on “Somewhere in Time” on WMUZ-FM (103.5). Additionally there will be music from “The Nutcracker Suite,” just in time for the holiday season.
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And if you watched the game — UM vs. OSU — yesterday, I hope it was, as we suggested, with radio audio, as the TV commentators sounded like Homers for the Buckeyes. Check the sports section for all the details.
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Oh, and happy Thanksgiving to all.
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Art Vuolo has published the Radio Guide for more than 30 years and runs Vuolovideo.com.