Art Bell ‘Sirius’ about return to radio; satellite makes sense

It was only a few short months ago I wrote that Art Bell needs to stop steering his fans on a bumpy ride. His semi-frequent vague teases (via Facebook) always led to nowhere, leaving his many fans disappointed.

That all changed today with the announcement via that the legendary overnight talk show host is launching a new radio show this September on SiriusXM,

Some of his fans will surely be disappointed that he is on satellite, which for at least $15 per month is not exactly cheap . At the end of the day however, satellite is more likely to give Bell everything he wants. He’s certainly entitled.

Bell has previously noted that the high amount of commercial content on the current “Coast to Coast AM” bothered him. On SiriusXM, commercials are limited.

Bell can be uncensored and seemingly no topic would be barred from discussion. Not sure how important that is to him, but such parameters mean Bell should have little restraints, if any. The minimal restraints, I’m guessing, is important to him. He will have a lot of freedom.

Even though Bell made a lot of money in his prime radio days, he’s going to make plenty more, further ensuring the long-term financial security of his family.

The limited commercials and the added freedom are two parameters Bell could have gotten if he had gone the podcast route. However, the guaranteed income would likely be less than what SiriusXM can offer. At the end of the day, Bell has every right to make as much money as he can.

And SiriusXM will still receive a hefty handful of new subscribers because of it.

Hiring back Keith Olbermann, ESPN attempts to one-up Fox Sports 1 network launch

While I won’t say ESPN is necessarily losing sleep over next month’s launch of Fox Sports 1, I think it’s safe to say the network isn’t taking any chance.

ESPN’s hiring of Keith Olbermann should be a strong indicator of that. Two other aspects further clarify that ESPN may, in fact, actually be sweating (if only just a little).

1. ESPN is allowing Olbermann time of in October so that he can anchor MLB post-season coverage for TBS. This, I find the most surprising. After one month on the air (and hopefully after viewers have developed a new habit of watching), the new show and host go on hiatus so he can bring attention to another network outside the Disney/ESPN corporate family.

Why doesn’t ESPN just wait until after the MLB post-season to debut him and avoid the awkward hiatus?

2. ESPN doesn’t normally hire back former on air talents. ESPN President John Skipper in March even backed that up when saying “… this is not an easy place to get back into. There are not that many successful examples of people who have come back, in part because it’s like water filling a vacuum. When somebody leaves, somebody else fills their place.”

I do hope this works. I find Olbermann to be a fascinating on air talent, and I’m looking forward to hopefully having another television option for 10 p.m. (even though I don’t normally watch television at 10 p.m. — but just in case I ever decide to).

And when news hits of the first Olbermann blowup a few weeks or months after returning to ESPN, you can look forward to an interesting story. And a few months later, an interesting story on why he’s no longer there.

Just being realistic.

Related Reading: Jeff Bercovici wrote a piece at on how Olbermann needs to take advantage of this opportunity by not being… Olbermann. I could have read this same column last year just before he made his debut at Current TV.

Observation on the ‘Fox Box’ score bug

While watching the MLB All-Star game last night on Fox, I was reminded of something that I had not thought of since the NFC Championship Game on Fox. As minute as it is, I wonder why Fox Sports removed team logos from the “Fox Box” score bug (graphic) and replaced them with the team’s city or state abbreviation. The change was made at the start of last year’s NFL season and they also did the same for this year’s MLB broadcasts (click on each individual image to view larger size).

The change is only one tiny detail and it makes no impact on how viewers watch the game. I simply think the design of the graphic was better polished and cooler looking when it showed the team’s logos.

With the NFL season not far around the corner and the Aug. 17 launch of the Fox Sports 1 Network, it wouldn’t surprise me if Fox unveils a new set of graphics for their sports broadcasts. In the past, Fox has updated their sports graphic package, usually at the start of football, after three or four years. The current package has been in use on various Fox Sports broadcasts (i.e. the Fox Network, FX, and each individual Fox Sports regional channel) for at least three years, if not four.

ABC’s shortsighted ‘View’ demonstrates reckless disregard to science and public health

In normal circumstances, I wouldn’t think twice about who ABC hires to co-host “The View.” Unfortunately, when they hire the outspoken anti-vaxxer  Jenny McCarthy, that becomes a problem.

Despite scientific evidence proving otherwise, McCarthy continues to spew her erroneous claims that autism is caused by vaccinations. In a culture where people are prone to believing their favorite celebrities at face value when pushing a specific message or cause, McCarthy’s medical misinformation is not only a huge public disservice, but also dangerous.

Even if ABC hired her under the condition that she not speak of vaccines, it’s a horrible move because when she is spewing her nonsense elsewhere, she will still be known as a daytime television star. For some people, that will be all the validation they need to accept her as credible.

Phil Plait writes about this subject far better then I can. An astronomer, skeptic and blogger, Plait has written extensively about McCarthy’s anti-vaccine movement, while also providing the necessary proof on how the benefits of vaccinations largely outweigh any potential risk.

Plait has already written a new blog about today’s news. It’s a great read, and once again, includes a handful of links for anyone interested in learning more about the subject.

James Poniewozik wrote an exceptional column for TIME, further detailing how children who are not vaccinated are not only endangering themselves, but also their classmates and to a greater extent, the general public.

A non-soccer fan’s observations while semi-watching the World Cup

Can’t say I’ve made much attempts in my life to watch soccer, but I did pay half attention to the “extra time” World Cup quarterfinal game on ESPNU between sets at the gym this morning.

A few observations…

  • I wonder if the playing field was narrower and/or shorter, more goals might be scored and that perhaps might draw more viewers from the U.S. An indoor soccer game I watched a few years back very intense and goals were more frequent. The action was intense and dare I say exciting. The field was much narrower and shorter.
  • At one point when one of the Korean players was nearing the net, ESPN at that moment displayed a large graphic which ended up covering him and anyone else hovering around the ball.
  • Further evidence of just how important this game was to ESPN… it was on ESPNU.
  • Why do goalies wear completely different colors than the rest of their teammates? If hockey goalies can wear the same colors (just sayin’)…
  • I may have watched more World Cup then I have White Sox games this year.

Politico’s paywall experiment poses a valuable question – at which point does the paywall model become saturated?

Following Politico’s announcement last week that the publication would begin testing a metered paywall system in a handful of states, their media writer Dylan Byers tweeted the following:

I don’t care so much about the question as I do about the idea that most websites producing original content would charge for access. Even if Byers’ tweet was tongue-and-cheek, I do wonder if such an idea could be realistic in the near future.

What kind of websites would be worth charging access for? Any journalistic entity would be an absolute must due to its high cost. Many prominent newspapers have already established a paywall system on their websites, while others such as the Washington Times soon will be.

Would it be out of line for other niche publications to charge for access, such as TMZ, the Verge of SportsbyBrooks? Or how about narrower niche sites like the Daily Kos or Android Central? At some point, the paywall system has to become saturated. I’m not sure there are enough people with disposable incomes willing to pay for all the content they now get for free.

It was much easier for publications, general and niche, to make money in the pre-Internet era. Back then, people relied on the local paper in their city or region for a mix of local, national and world news. Anyone wanting more reading content  subscribed to weekly or monthly magazines.

I’m a semi frequent visitor to Politico, primarily for Dylan Byer’s media content. Depending on what pricing structure and the amount of free access they allow, I doubt I’d consider paying for their content — I already am a New York Times digital subscriber. Not that I don’t think Politico’s content is worth paying for, but after spending $100 each month on my Droid Razr Maxx, $70 towards Dish, the New York Times, Amazon Prime and several podcasts, I would have a hard time adding a CNET, the Verge, SportsbyBrooks, Grandland, or Politico to that list — regardless of how much I enjoy those websites.

Huckabee uncertain about future of radio show, never stood a chance against Limbaugh

Mike Huckabee

On Thursday, Cumulus Media’s syndicated host Mike Huckabee celebrates the one year anniversary of his radio show. By this time next month, he may have already decided to quit.

Huckabee tells Arkansas Business he’s unsure whether he wants to continue doing his radio show, expressing concern about the amount of work required each day versus the potential for long-term profitability. Huckabee said he will decide in the next 30 days whether he wants to continue or not.

This certainly can’t be news Cumulus is pleased to hear, considering the amount of time and money invested in him. As I wrote yesterday, Huckabee has been reportedly penciled in to replace Premiere Radio’s syndicated host Rush Limbaugh on many of their news/talk stations throughout the country, including WLS-AM 890 in Chicago.  When anyone with a considerable amount of money and reach that Cumulus has hires someone with the intention of competing against Limbaugh, that requires a significant investment.  As tensions rise between Limbaugh and Cumulus, further hinting that Huckabee’s show is likely to gain many of Limbaugh’s remaining Cumulus affiliates — in markets that also include New York and Dallas — the timing of Huckabee’s limbo couldn’t be worse.

Stick a fork in him… he’s done. You don’t go on record of being non-commital towards such a project that is so incumbent on advertiser support, unless you already know that you are walking away. At this point, why would any news/talk station not owned by Cumulus ever consider adding his show to their lineup, especially when there are other alternatives out there?

Now, I doubt Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey is waking up this morning and finding out for the first time that his star radio host is non-committal. While I have grown to despise Dickey and his company, I don’t think they are that stupid. If they don’t already have a Huckabee backup plan in place, they are in the process of creating one at this moment.

In retrospect, I thought the hiring of Huckabee in that spot was an odd choice to begin with. At the time, Cumulus promoted him as being an alternative, less polarized choice for conservative talk radio. While I like the idea, Huckabee was a bad choice due to his bland personality. While he may barely cut it as a weekend cable television personality, the art of long-form talk radio quickly exposes that weakness.

From the get-go I wondered how much Hucakbee truly appreciated such an opportunity. While it’s not unheard of for someone in a completely different profession to embrace a career in talk radio, it certainly isn’t a given. Still, too many media companies fail to learn that more times than not, giving a radio show to a non-radio guy eventually backfires.

You can’t prepare and perform at the high level necessary for a sucessful talk radio show day after day without absolutely loving it — which is why so many college graduates take any opportunity they can while working for peanuts. And while Huckabee talks about the hope long-term profitability (again… support of the advertisers and increasing affiliates), it’s not like Cumulus wasn’t already paying him a pretty penny.

If the idea is to compete against Limbaugh, less partisan isn’t a bad idea, but you’ll still  need a larger than life personality.  If Bill O’Reilly couldn’t do it, Huckabee never stood a chance.

For Art Bell fans hoping for a return to radio, it’s been a long and bumpy ride

Art BellThe bumper music for “Coast to Coast AM” often asks the question “Wanna take a ride?” Art Bell’s fans have been on a ride for some time now, with many anxiously holding out hope that the former “Coast to Coast AM” host will one day return to radio.

Yesterday, many of those fans were disappointed when Bell posted the following message on Facebook:

I guess it is time to end any further speculation that I will return to the air anytime soon. I have given (2) very solid offers a lot of thought and have turned them down. My reasons are many, though I am profoundly sad at the current state of the show, both offers would have been direct competition with Coast and anger is the wrong reason to proceed. Also I really do not want to destroy what I built despite it’s current state. Asia will be in first grade in the Fall and getting up very early, I would be up late and sleeping late, I would not see much of her or Airyn. Life is short and I want to spend what I have left with my Family. I hope my friends understand…

This is the second time this year Bell announced he has turned down an offer(s) after previously hinting at the chance of a return. On both occasions, Bell stated it would not be right for him to take such offers with anger towards “Coast to Coast AM” as his main motivation.

Bell, known for his repeated retirements and returns has surprisingly been consistent since his last “Coast to Coast AM” broadcast on Oct. 31, 2010. He hasn’t been on the air.

There never was an official announcement by Bell or the program. When fan’s later questioned why Bell wasn’t filling in during any of the winter holiday shows that year, regular host George Noory made quick mention to the fact that Art was wanting to spend more time with his family and that he has probably retired for good.

Things got interesting after Bell joined Facebook in 2011. At first, Bell was mostly coy, insisting that even though he was now retired, to never rule anything out. It was last summer when Bell finally began to air his grievances against the show.

The first surprise post was Bell declaring “I wish my name was no longer associated with what Coast has become!”

Bell later clarified his wish for Premiere Radio (the Clear Channel owned syndicator of “Coast to Coast AM”) to no longer air the classic “Art Bell – Somewhere in Time” programs. Bell hinted that he would soon exercise his right to free speech if Premiere didn’t cease airing those shows. Since then, those programs continue to air and despite Bell talking about no longer being under contract with Premiere and some talk about turning down other offers, he hasn’t really exercised that free speech.

At best, I was more or less a casual fan of Bell as a young teen, listening to “Coast” when up late on summer vacation or when listening to his Sunday evening “Dreamland” shows. At that age, I had a sense that most of the callers and guests were likely making it all up, but it still made excellent “theater” — something that is completely lost when when listening to Noory’s modern day “Coast” shows.

With each time Bell announces that he has turned down an offer, one would have to think the chances of a return become less likely. It’s been interesting to observe Bell’s fans on either the Coast Gab forum or the People who Miss Art Bell Facebook group. Many of his fans have slowly realized the day he returns to the air will never come. Some have speculated that Bell is deliberately steering his fans in a roundabout direction simply to generate buzz. Many, however, still hold out hope for a return, in any capacity — full-time or part-time; terrestrial, satellite or podcast.

While Bell has always been somewhat of an odd individual, I tend to doubt he is deliberately steering his fans towards a dead end. If anything, I would guess he would love to return to the air full time, at age 40, as opposed to near 70.

Intentional or not, Bell is steering his fans on a ride all right. And for those holding out hope, there’s no end in sight.

Luntz’s criticism of conservative talk radio echoes broader truth about today’s political coverage

Republican consultant Frank Luntz is about to find himself in hot water within the conservative circle. Yesterday, Mother Jones posted the full narrative (written and video) of Luntz criticizing today’s mainstream conservative talk radio hosts while speaking to Republican students at the University of Pittsburgh on Monday. Luntz made his off the record comments after assurance he would not be recorded. In today’s world, he should have known better.

In line with what Luntz has said or written in the past, he believes much of the polarizing talk by conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin are “problematic” for the party’s long-term success. Luntz realizes that conservatives are on the losing battle of specific issues, such as immigration reform or birth control. Conservative talkers opposing such issues is counterproductive if independents or anyone else in the middle vote against Republicans in the future.

Unfortunately, conservative talk radio is no different than prime time cable news on the Fox News Channel — same thing on the opposite end of the spectrum with MSNBC and the abundance of progressive content. It’s all about making money. Political news and discussion is practically entertainment. The people who watch or listen to such polarizing coverage seemingly enjoy getting riled up. So the media companies and their hosts tell them exactly what they want to hear.

Luntz of course will be vilified by the conservative media as a traitor, I’m sure under the premise that he is willing to compromise conservative principles in order to achieve his own individual agenda (whatever that may be — I’m sure they’ll think of something).

As long as there is money to be made in the political news entertainment field, people like Limbaugh or Levin have no reason to change their dialogue.

CNN interested in resurrecting ‘Crossfire’ – Maturity of political news audience in question

Dylan Byers reports in his Politico “On Media” column that CNN is looking to resurrect “Crossfire,” the popular debate show from their past where a Democrat pundit goes head-to-head with a Republican pundit.  According to Myers, CNN has been in talks with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter as potential hosts.

Great… Absolutely great! Just when political television can’t get any more immature…

I typically don’t like television debate shows because it is so hard to house an effective debate in either a 30 or 60 minute block that will also include periodic commercial breaks. Assuming that such a show is a half-hour, with 12 minutes of commercials, that leaves 18 minutes for debate time on what will likely be no less than three topics, but possibly as many as six or seven topics .  There just isn’t any time for an effective debate. Instead, you’ll have typical talking points with a lot of (Newt) screaming that leads absolutely nowhere. Talk about an absolute waste of time!

CNN is seemingly willing to try anything in hopes of jump starting their day-to-day ratings. While the Fox News Channel and MSNBC feature more partisan programming, CNN has more or less remained neutral in hopes of attracting an audience interested in news “down the middle.”

Unfortunately, people seem to think that style of news is boring. For that reason, the partisan blend of news and opinion shows you see on Fox News and MSNBC continue to do well. Just more living proof that too many people are perfectly okay having their political news spoon fed to them as long as they generally agree with the ideology of whoever is doing the feeding.