Sirius Thoughts … And A FOX Block, From Key West


In a RBR+TVBR Observation, our editor-in-chief shares just a little bit of his bachelor party weekend experience in Key West, Fla.

Really? Well … he’s got some things to say about what a carful of guys listened to on a four-hour car ride, both ways, and about Dish Network.

By Adam R Jacobson

If there’s anyone who could perhaps best say they’ve got “a case of the Mondays,” it is perhaps me.

Slightly exhausted, with a little tummy ache, I sit here present and accounted for, having survived my bachelor party weekend with three close friends in Key West, Fla.

I will not go into details. There is little photographic evidence of our weekend sojourn aside from the Sloppy Joe’s photo shown here, and a picture shared on personal social media of the amazing view from the Courtyard by Marriott Key West Waterfront suite we stayed in just days after a complete refresh and remodel of the property.

The hotel of choice is pertinent to this column. So is the famed Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

Why? It involves audio and visual media.

The fun began Saturday morning, with a caravan of two friends and I driving an hour to meet a fourth friend near Miami International Airport. We then drove three hours to Key West.

For the entire time, minus a 20-minute drive I took to meet my first group of friends, Sirius XM Satellite Radio was consumed.

Yeah, we hopscotched across various channels. Howard Stern was a part of the journey, as were a few comedy channels. We tuned to a smattering of music channels, all arguably milquetoast and downright boring at times. A “Big 80s” countdown from December 1980? Eww. A tribute to late Roxette lead singer Marie Fredriksson? Meh. Even tuning to the rock channels was a short-duration listening experience.

But … here’s the rub: We listened to not one radio station on the drive down.

On the drive back Sunday afternoon, I put on the FM dial and scanned up a couple of local stations. One, “Party 105.7,” was playing high-energy dance music. The other, “Island 106.9,” was playing a reggae tune. This quickly stopped as one of my friends reminded me that we have Sirius XM.

Was my stomach queasy from that unnecessary final beer in town, or the fact that we had a consensus of people that didn’t even want to find out what was on the FM dial?

On that subject, what exactly was on the FM dial? If you don’t scan the dial, and who really does, how would you know what’s on the dial in Key West if you didn’t live there? From Key Largo to Key West, we saw no outdoor advertising or any other form of promotion for any local radio station. The lone sign that radio stations were even present was way north of Key West as we drove past the tiny studios and offices for largely automated 100kw “playing whatever” WKLG-FM 102.1 in Rock Harbor, which could be a Miami station given its signal.

This is a problem. And, it is an opportunity.

How easy would it be to have some sort of outdoor advertising welcoming drivers from the north to the Conch Republic by literally telling them, “If you’re Sirius-ly in need of a local vibe, try us.” Or, “U.S. 1 is a better drive with U.S. 1 Radio?” How about, “Our Pirate welcomes you to The Conch Republic. Tune to 101.7 FM for more.”?

The idea of capturing car travelers as a way to build radio revenue was attempted several years ago at a group of properties in the Barstow, Calif., area dubbed “The Highway Stations” as a way to capitalize on all of the drivers between Los Angeles and Las Vegas taking I-15. Then came Sirius and XM. So much for that idea.

But, there’s a difference between courting car travelers on their journey and pitching them on things to do at their destination, and that’s where Key West’s radio stations could fight back at Sirius XM. Get out to Mallory Square. Engage on Duval Street. Hell, even do a sponsored day at Sloppy Joe’s, where the audio in-between live sets was … Sirius XM Channel 57, No Shoes Radio.

If the radio industry’s mantra of today is that radio is “local,” then where the heck in Key West was it?

Worse yet, where the heck is it in the communities where tourists permanently reside?

While the lack of radio consumption was noteworthy, the other observation from our weekend in Key West involved the Miami-based FOX affiliate and DISH Network. With NFL football at 1pm and CBS showing a match-up between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants, FOX was guaranteed to give us a game we’d actually want to watch out at the waterfront bar of the Courtyard by Marriott.

There was just one problem: We couldn’t get Sunbeam Television‘s WSVN-7 at the hotel because it does not have a retransmission consent agreement in place with Dish.

Ugh …

We ended up finding a business that had WSVN-7. But, for the Courtyard, there were lost dollars in play.

Retrans battles harm everyday people, and local businesses. And, there seem to be more and more instances where hotels are adversely impacted: A stay at the Hilton Naples in the middle of summer also involved a Dish blackout, with CBS affiliate WINK-11 unavailable.

For the hotel bar, that’s devastating — unless a workaround is found. Key West is pretty far from the WSVN tower; good luck getting a broadcast signal.

That’s what Congress is actively working to fix, with the just-passed Television Viewer Protection Act likely to get rolled in to a separate bill dealing with copyrights, offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, as part of an omnibus spending package set for vote by year’s end.

For “do nothing Washington,” an end to a retrans blame game is necessary and welcomed. While Joe Viewer has been portrayed as the victim, perhaps the bigger penalized party are local businesses. If Nadler is the Saviour of Signal Sustenance, hooray. At the very least, it will stop the finger-pointing and bring some “good faith” back — and hopefully bring WSVN-7 back to Dish.

As the final words of this column were written, I was back in my home, gearing up for a great week of covering the broadcast media industry. I told my fiancee of my column idea.

Alpha Media‘s KINK-FM 101.9 from Portland, Ore., was playing on Alexa. It’s a habit she picked up from me after I showed her how to stream more than Pandora channels.

With a radio station on the background, she approved of the column topic.

“Oh,” she added, “I was listening to WRMF over the weekend.”

All it takes is a little effort, Radio, to get your non-listeners to know you exist.


Adam R Jacobson has been the Editor-of-Chief of Streamline Publishing’s Radio + Television Business Report since August 2016. He is based in the company’s Boca Raton, Fla., headquarters. 

Adam can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @adamrjacobson1