A War on Talent

When iHeartMedia wooed away Kurt Alexander aka “Big Boy” from Emmis’ Power106 to their Real92.3 it was a big deal in more ways than one.

The top performing radio station for Emmis was their one station in Los Angeles, KPWR. That is until Alexander departed for KRRL-FM across the street. His leaving impacts both ratings and revenue.

It reminds me of the walking across the street of Scott Shannon in New York City. Shannon left WPLJ where he had been a morning fixture at the station for 23 years to take over mornings at WCBS-FM. Unlike Alexander in LA, Shannon didn’t go head-to-head with his former radio station but to a different format than the one he had just left. However his impact on both stations is much the same. WPLJ went down and WCBS-FM captured the #1 position beating WLTW for the first time.

At a time when the major radio companies are saying things like “flat is the new up” the only way for a company to grow its revenues when the revenue pie isn’t growing is to re-divide how the existing pie is being cut up. To do that means to raid another company’s talent in an effort to increase their ratings while decreasing market competition.

If we look at how talent gets created we find it’s not a quick process. In the case of Alexander, Emmis spent 20 years and millions of dollars turning him into a morning radio star. Shannon has been at the radio game since his army days, tenaciously practicing his craft to become the hall of fame legend he is today.

Radio is not about transmitters, buildings, music etc. it’s about people. People make the radio business fun; personalities behind the microphone and personalities on the street selling the ads. Strong personalities on both sides of the mic are what make for a winning radio station. Neither can be taken for granted.

Emmis didn’t think they were taking Alexander for granted. Heck they were paying this former body guard $1.45 million along with some sweeteners, but iHeartMedia was willing to up the ante to $3.5 million (which Emmis reportedly was willing to match). But what evidently Emmis couldn’t match were the other perks that a company the size of iHeartMedia could create that a company the size of Emmis could not.

The BBC has also been subjected to a talent raid. Apple enticed presenter Zane Lowe to join their iTunes Radio division which led to several more following Lowe to the Cupertino based company. The BBC has a worldwide reputation for great programming, programming talent and the discovery of new music.

The audio entertainment world is like the animal kingdom where the small animals get eaten by the bigger animals in the food chain of life.

Competition for talent that has proven it draws a big audience, not just on-the-air but also online and through social media has never been more sought after. Competition for talent that can package, present and close advertising sales also has never been in more demand.

It’s a war on talent. Good for talent, but an Excedrin headache for small operators battling the big boys; made all the more difficult in a lackluster advertising environment for many radio operators and an ever increasing amount of radio signals vying for that shrinking advertising pie.

The radio dial – including online streamers – may have become infinite, but the revenues that support it have not.

Radio Darwinism has escalated to the global village.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

3 responses to “A War on Talent

  1. Very true. And sadly, we raid top stations for their talent, but make no efforts to cultivate and groom new talent.

    There is no doubt that Scott Shannon is sell derseredly top rated master of his craft, but the “younger” generation of talent like Big Boy, Ryan Seacrest are in their 40s. Where are the 20 somethings who will carry the torch? Who will hire them and better yet, who will help groom them and let them make mistakes, so they can grow and learn?

    This is the real issue at hand. Keep and cherish those like Shannon, Seacrest, Big Boy et at, but it is time to take some chances on people, rather than canning them for no reason (other than being an over-leveraged) and chasing away our future.


  2. Robert Taylor

    Hi Dick

    Much of this can also be applied to education in so many ways.





  3. Here’s the latest LA Ratings report card (July 2015 PPM), as reported in Tom Taylor’s NOW: “Now let’s update the market’s current soap opera, which is iHeart’s attack on urban “Power 106” KPWR. Remember that one beneficiary of the listener churn appears to have been CBS-owned urban AC “Wave” KTWV, and it’s in the #6 spot, 4.4-4.2-3.7. Further down, iHeart’s urban “Real 92.3” KRRL (with former Power 106 morning personality Big Boy) may have plateaued (3.3-3.1-3.2). Power 106 gains a head of steam, 2.8-2.7-3.1. (In morning drive, Power and Real are now tied.)”


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