Already this year, DirecTV Inc. has feuded with Tribune Co. and Viacom Inc. over fees paid to carry their programming. As a result, L.A. subscribers of the satellite service were deprived of KTLA-TV (5), Nickelodeon and other channels.
In both cases, large public outcries and marketing campaigns helped restore the channels to the lineup.
Now, there’s a similar fight being waged. CRN Digital Talk Radio, a tiny Sunland network, is hoping it can restore its channels to Time Warner Cable, an arm of Time Warner Inc. CRN, which airs talk radio programming from the likes of Dennis Prager and Dennis Miller, was dropped in August by Time Warner with no explanation.
CRN Chief Executive Michael Horn has corralled support from listeners, celebrities and elected officials that want to restore carriage, but said none has received a response or explanation from Time Warner.
“We’ve heard nothing from Time Warner,” Horn said. “Nobody is getting any response.”
Included in that group are Los Angeles City Council members Tom LaBonge and Bill Rosendahl, who have written letters on behalf of the talk radio network. Actor William Shatner also put in his 140 characters of support in August. “Saddened to hear @TWCABLE_LA has canceled all CRN Digital Talk radio channels. Talk radio is a lost art. I’m asking @TWC to reconsider MBB,” he tweeted.
The talk radio network’s programming has been carried on L.A. cable providers for about 30 years and was carried on six channels from 971 through 976 on Time Warner’s program guide. Part of its niche appeal is to visually impaired people.
Horn said his carriage agreement with Time Warner in Los Angeles extended through 2016. The channels were also dropped in Orange County and the Coachella Valley.
Time Warner Cable did not respond to a request for comment.
Horn said the decreased distribution will likely hurt his national advertising sales. He’s also unsure whether Time Warner will continue to make carriage payments now that the programming has been pulled. He wouldn’t comment on the size of those fees, but said they’re pennies compared with carriage fees paid to the major networks.
CRN’s channels also are carried in Los Angeles by Cox Communications, which has a smaller reach in the area. Horn said he’s in talks with other pay TV providers to expand distribution.
Just the Hits
Accessible pop hits such as Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” helped KIIS-FM (102.7) and KBIG-FM (104.1) top the charts for Los Angeles and Orange county radio station ratings in September.
The stations tied for a 5.2 percentage share of surveyed listeners over 6 years old, according to data released last week by Washington, D.C., consumer research company Arbitron. KIIS-FM had been atop the local ratings in recent months, while KBIG, known locally as My FM, had been a close second.
Both stations have formats that benefit from the current popularity of mainstream sounds, which includes songs from artists such as Gotye and Maroon 5, said Pat Welsh, senior vice president at media consultancy Pollack Media Group.
“The big hits that are out now, a lot are very straight-ahead pop. They’re not extreme hip hop or rock,” he said. “It’s perfect for a station like My FM. When you’re in that kind of a format, you ride the wave.”
The stations target slightly different audiences though. My FM plays a so-called Hot Adult Contemporary format, while KIIS-FM plays mainly top 40 hits. As a result, My FM plays hits dating back to the 1990s and favors slightly older listeners. Both stations are owned by radio giant Clear Channel Communications of San Antonio.
Talk radio station KFI-AM (640) finished in third place last month with a 4.8 percent share of listeners. The station had been atop the Arbitron charts from January through March.
Welsh said such talk stations could benefit as the election cycle heats up.
“Talk stations tend to pick up more in an election cycle,” he said.
Movies such as “Kung Fu Panda” and action film “Act of Valor” will be available on a new app called M-Go when the service launches – expected to happen later this year.
The app is a joint venture of Glendale animation studio DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. and postproduction company Technicolor.
M-Go announced last week that it will license content from DreamWorks Animation, as well as titles from Relativity Media.
M-Go also has licensing deals with major studios including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros Entertainment.
The idea with M-Go is to create an app that will manage digital media for consumers, from movie catalogs to other apps. For the studios, such licensing deals are an effort to replace lost DVD revenues with digital sales and rentals.
Staff reporter Jonathan Polakoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.
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