(Will Norm get credit in tomorrow's grammar books for being the first public figure to use "damn" to modify verbs?)
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The prairie is ablaze, and Your Plainsman's on fire.
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May I call you Lew? No?
So Lew, I know you need to save money, but, based on no evidence, I'm going to assume for purposes of this open letter that you do care about The Ticket and you want to see it thrive for as long as possible. I know that you know it is a jewel in a very tarnished crown and that you are very fortunate to have acquired it in the Susquehanna deal. It not only dominates DFW radio in the prize demo, it is one of the most famous radio stations in the United States. In fact, based on podcast downloads and online listening, it is it one of the most famous and popular radio stations in the world. You've done your best to starve it of resources -- those allowing it to be heard in its home city, for example -- but it continues to thrash all comers.
I'm not going to beat you down about the short run, except to say:
(1) They are amazing talents -- yes, both of them -- and you should keep them in your stable. An obvious point, but perhaps lost in the money talk.
(2) Bob and Dan's departure would have effects at the station well beyond having to fill in the noon-to-three slot. Letting Bob and Dan go would expose the essential fragility of The Ticket's success. Bob and Dan going says -- hey, if they can go, anyone can go. I'm not talking about the other hosts, who are very unlikely to go anywhere, I'm talking about the long-suffering group that we here at My Ticket Confession call the Junior Varsity. The JV contains quite a number of extremely talented people who are frequently discussed in these pages as Ticket-worthy successors to the current hosts. Dime a dozen? Not the good ones, and the Ticket's are not only good, they are a critical element of the success of the shows bearing the names of others. The good ones are there because it is The Ticket and that's where the good talent wants to be around here. If they perceive that The Ticket has been dealt a blow, and that they can make even a little more money elsewhere -- why not CBS? -- because to them, a little more money is probably a large percentage of what you're paying them -- they'll start to trickle out, too, and while you can replace them, you'll replace them only to lose the next batch as The Ticket declines (see below). Whoever would have thought Kevin Turner would blaze that trail?
(3) Morale will suffer among on-air talent. Hosts will not feel the same about The Ticket. They will say that they do, but they will not. You think the CTO -- that's "Cumulo-Ticket Overlords" in these parts -- are disrespected on the air now? I can see Mike Rhyner starting to call the place "The Littler Ticket." The Ticket against the World? Don't look now, but the World just turned a quarter of your army against you. Failure to make a creative deal with Bob and Dan will say to them, "Cumulus just put Brett Blankenship in charge of corporate strategic planning." They will understand what until recently has only been guessed at, which is that nothing will ever get better at The Ticket -- things will only get worse because Cumulus will not do what it must do on any front to keep the thing solid and growing.
So, as I say, I assume you can see all the obvious things about the short run.
No, I'm going to beat you down about the medium run.
Lew, you look like a pretty smart guy to me.
Don't think about two years from now.
Think about four, five years from now.
(1) Musers: According to this site's readers, based on some fairly well-sourced information, Junior Miller is already loose in the socket. I don't know how long you have him tied up, but surely not much past 2017-18. (I'll call you Shirley if I want; it's my blog.) He's gone, and George will have no one to Muse with, assuming he even wants to. (That's George Dunham, another of your most valuable employees.) That show is mortally wounded even if George and Gordon -- yes, Gordon Keith, the one who got into it with Nasty Nestor, but that's not important now -- would presume to carry on without the Fred Astaire of Dallas radio. Fred Ast -- never mind.
(2) Norm: Surely not past five years.
(3) The Hardline: Nope, Mike will almost certainly be done by age 67 and maybe sooner, maybe by New Years 2015. He'll have created and given public face to The Ticket and done The Hardline for over two decades, with plenty of dough, side projects, and the thanks of a grateful DFW, or that portion of it reached by the incredibly crappy signal you've continued to stick them with. (That's another open letter.)
If you make a deal today, you'll still have Bob and Dan, perhaps already killing it in PM drive, you'll have indicated possession of the foresight that will encourage talent to stay or to come to The Ticket as the legacy shows serially reach the end of their runs, and with BaD Radio as the foundation to sustain the miracle that is The Ticket.
Lew, I know you can do this. I've read the CBA (local inside joke; ask Bob) and you do not have to let this talent nip off to the Goliath rival who, so far, has spent its days picking your rocks out of its forehead. Creative business leaders would find a way to make this happen. You not only need to give Bob and Dan a deal, you need to give them a real, real long deal. Seven years, at least.
Cumulus didn't get where it is by divesting stuff.
So, in the medium run:
If you don't make a deal with Bob and Dan in the next few hours, you won't have dick.
You'll only have Dickey.
Yr mst hmb'l & ob't sv't,
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