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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Time Warner Drops CRN Digital Talk Radio Network

CRN Digital Talk Radio has lost one of its main outlets in Southern California following a decision by Time Warner Cable to drop its programming. The live simulcast of six channels of shows provided by the Sunland-based radio network ended last month and CRN management was never given an explanation for the decision, President and CEO Mike Horn said. The network has provided political, entertainment, music, and lifestyle programming through Time Warner and its predecessors in the market for nearly 30 years. Cable has been the lifeblood of CRN – Cable Radio Network – since Horn started the network in 1983. Today, however, the network syndicates some of its shows and makes them available online through its website following the live broadcasts. The cable operator said it decided to put its programming dollars elsewhere. “Since most of CRN’s programming is available free online, we believe our customers’ money will be better spent on other programming,” said Dennis Johnson, a spokesman for Time Warner. Time Warner’s decision cuts CRN out of the Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Palm Springs markets. While the network’s shows are still heard via Cox Communications and Comcast neither has the reach of Time Warner in Southern California. Cox, for example, has some coverage in Orange County and San Diego. Comcast does not serve the region. CRN averaged about 500,000 listeners a month on its Time Warner channels, Horn said. The cable operator has two million subscribers in the Pacific West region. Horn said the move has upset some CRN listeners. “What makes it puzzling is that we have the most original talk programs out there,” he said in an interview at his office, which is decorated with antique radios and industry awards. Music channels have long been an offering on cable, but apart from CRN there have not been many talk networks that aggressively pursued listeners on television and put their personalities in front of that audience, said Don Barrett, a historian of Los Angeles radio and author of three books on the subject. “It was forefront listening instead of background listening,” Barrett said of CRN’s programming strategy. Multi-channel distribution The network was in discussions with local Time Warner programming executives when the parent company severed the ties between the companies, Horn said. To drum up support, and perhaps change some minds, the network created a “We Want CRN” page on Facebook and an online petition. So far, neither has gained much traction. As of Sept. 11, the Facebook page had 84 likes and the petition received 1,265 signatures out of a goal of 5,000. The network’s on-air personalities have fielded comments from dissatisfied listeners. Larry Manetti, who hosts a talk show with his wife, Nancy, did not mince words when discussing the decision: Time Warner made a mistake. “Entertainment should never be taken away,” said Manetti, a Woodland Hills resident who starred alongside Tom Selleck in “Magnum P.I.” and Robert Conrad in “Black Sheep Squadron” in the 1970s. Conrad also hosts a show on CRN that aired over Time Warner. CRN excels at offering multiple forms of distribution, which likely will offset the negative impact of losing Time Warner, said Bob Moore, president of Courtside Entertainment Group, a Beverly Hills distributor of radio programming. “There are so many platforms today you are not dependent on one stream of distribution — that is the good part,” Moore said. Even with other methods of listening, cable still remains an important outlet for radio stations. CRN benefitted because it was one of the few talk networks to get that distribution. In return, the network provides programming not offered by terrestrial broadcasters. “If you are looking for talk (shows), what a wonderful way to listen to the radio on your television set,” Barrett said. He and other industry experts agree that the more outlets a radio station has, the better it is for its on-air talent. “When you get a personality without an affiliate it is a way to hear some of these talk shows,” said Mike Kinosian, managing editor and West Coast bureau chief with online industry publication RadioInfo. Horn said he enjoys picking up talk show hosts that have been dropped by other stations. That’s how progressive host Thom Hartmann landed at the station after being dismissed by a KTLK AM1150 in March. Charles Karel Bouley, host of “The Karel Show,” which airs on weekday afternoons, followed the same path and drew a big following in the Palm Springs area. Apart from airing shows on both sides of the political spectrum, CRN has created niches with shows for senior citizens, women, Hispanics, auto enthusiast, and polka music fans. Horn hosts a morning show focusing on wine, food and travel. Kinosian said CRN’s programming mix and Horn’s long-standing reputation likely has helped in keeping the network going during the recession while competitors struggled or went out of business. “It is not a super big one like (Clear Channel subsidiary) Premiere Networks that has Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and people like that, but he does have a good combination of programs and personalities with which he has done well,” Kinosian said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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