Emmis Chief, Intent on L.A. Growth, Eyes Infinity Assets

Media
by Claudia Peschiutta

The chairman and chief executive of Emmis Communications Corp. was in town recently and making it quite clear that the Indianapolis-based company is likely to become a far bigger player in the L.A. radio market.

Jeffrey Smulyan said that Emmis is looking to own five FM radio stations locally. "Los Angeles is our absolutely top market," he said.

Emmis currently owns two L.A. stations: KPWR-FM (105.9) and KZLA-FM (93.9). Overall, it has 21 radio stations, 15 television stations and seven city magazines (including Los Angeles magazine) nationwide. The company also owns two stations in Argentina and a few radio networks.

It may have an opening locally since Viacom Inc. now owns KCBS-TV (Channel 2) and KCAL-TV (Channel 9), and its Infinity Broadcasting Corp. subsidiary may have to give up one of its seven local radio stations in order to be in compliance with Federal Communications Commission rules. Smulyan said he would be glad to buy any of Infinity's local FM stations.

Asked if he had presented Infinity with an offer, Smulyan said people in the radio industry "talk every day."

The company's results in L.A. have been mixed. While hip-hop station KPWR is top-rated, country music outlet KZLA continues to struggle.

"KZLA has always been a challenge," Smulyan said. However, the station recently has shown some signs of promise and Smulyan plans to give the format another year or two to prove itself.

While the company's stock took a plunge after Sept. 11, it has been climbing in recent months and was trading at about $30 a share last week. Emmis has estimated revenues for the first quarter ended May 31 to be $131 million and expects that Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) will be about $41.8 million.

Smulyan said Emmis would spin off its TV group off later this year in order to appease its investors who want to focus on radio, an industry with higher cash-flow ratios.

"Right now, Wall Street loves radio and hates television," he said. Yet Smulyan noted that advertising revenues have been rebounding more quickly in the TV group, which is made up of network affiliates in smaller markets.

LA Weekly Publisher

The LA Weekly is getting a new publisher, five months after parent company Village Voice Media bumped Michael Sigman, an 18-year veteran of the publication.

Beth Sestanovich, a former advertising director for the Los Angeles Times, will become publisher of the LA Weekly and the OC Weekly this week, David Schneiderman, chief executive of VVM, announced last week. Her most recent post was vice president of operations and customer service for online automobile dealer CarsDirect.com.

Sigman made a sudden departure from the weeklies in January. Schneiderman said at the time that Sigman had done well but it was time for a "pair of fresh eyes."

KPCC Changes Line-Up

KPCC-FM (89.3) plans to stop recycling programs on weeknights and introduce new shows to its nighttime line-up this week.

The Pasadena-based public radio station will drop repeat broadcasts of two of its own shows, Larry Mantle's "Airtalk" and Kitty Felde's "Talk of the City," in the 7 to 10 p.m. slot.

"While it's kind of nice to give them a second ride, they didn't perform very well," said Bill Davis, president and chief executive of Southern California Public Radio.

"Fresh Air," a National Public Radio show hosted by Terry Gross, will fill in from 7 to 8 p.m., moving down from its current 10 to 11 p.m. slot. Another NPR program, "The Tavis Smiley Show," will air from 8 to 9 p.m. and "The World Today," a newsmagazine produced by the BBC, will follow from 9 to 10 p.m.

"As It Happens," a news and interview show from Canada, will move up an hour to 10 p.m. and be replaced at 11 p.m. by an extra hour of the "BBC World Service," which now airs from midnight to 2 a.m.

The current weeknight line-up has yielded few listeners for KPCC. The station averaged 12,000 listeners in the 7 to 8 p.m. slot in the winter ratings period. The number fell to 7,500 after 8 p.m.

New Offices for Ms.

Ms. magazine will be moving into new offices on June 17, even though there isn't much of a staff to fill them.

Most of the employees were laid off last year, soon after Liberty Media for Women LLC, an investors' group led by Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem, decided to transfer ownership of the New York-based magazine to the Feminist Majority Foundation in L.A.

While the search for a new editor-in-chief closed April 16, no one had been named to the post as of last week. Nonetheless, the foundation and the magazine are moving this month to 433 S. Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills.

Ms. is being published on a quarterly basis and the June issue will have a guest editor.

Man Sues Univision

Teodoro Decoud, who describes himself as a "spiritual healer," is seeking "millions of dollars" in damages from Univision Communications Inc. stemming from the use of an interview he did for KMEX-TV (Channel 34) in 1994.

Decoud is suing the L.A.-based company for slander and breach of contract for using excerpts from the 1994 interview in a segment about witchcraft that aired in January. The suit alleges Univision had agreed to use the interview only once during a 1994 segment about spiritual healers.

"They made a promise to him and they didn't keep it," said Alan Cyrlin, an attorney with Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Pearson LLP who is representing Decoud. "They destroyed his business. They destroyed his reputation that he had been building up for 20 years."

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 7. Univision officials declined to comment.

Morning Man

It's been hard for KRTH-FM (101.1) to find someone to replace the late Robert W. Morgan, who died four years ago. But the oldies station finally may have found its man.

Veteran radio personality Gary Bryan will take over the morning shift starting June 3. Two members of the current morning team, Frazer Smith and Joni Caryl, may share the 6 to 10 a.m. slot with Bryan, while Jim Carson will move into afternoons, said Pat Duffy, vice president and general manager of KRTH.

"We've been looking for a professional morning guy for a long time," he said. "This is a guy who has a lot of experience."

Bryan has been an on-air personality and program director at several stations, including KJR-FM and KUBE-FM in Seattle and WHTZ-FM and WPLJ-FM in New York.



Staff reporter Claudia Peschiutta can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 229, or at cpeschiutta@labusinessjournal.com.

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