Thursday, August 28, 2014

Media Watch: The New Face of Lotus; McNamara New Host of "Arizona Illustrated"

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 10:00 AM

[Editor's note: We didn't have room in the print edition for Media Watch this week, so here's John's column for your digital enjoyment.]


Tucson’s radio clusters are made up of three behemoth media conglomerates. Clear Channel and Cumulus probably get the most press, but comparisons between the rivals go further. They have more in common than just general proximity along the Oracle corridor. Both organizations (Clear Channel operates seven Tucson frequencies, Cumulus five) have managed to do an impressive job creating vacant hallways in buildings once occupied by dozens of employees.

Meanwhile, Scripps is the new player in the market. It recently announced a deal to purchase the Journal Broadcast Group’s electronic media holdings. Unlike Clear Channel and Cumulus, Scripps (still technically Journal until the deal gets finalized next year) has been in the midst of a hiring uptick and continues to add personnel for its television (KGUN TV 9, KWBA TV 58) and radio operations.

But there’s another privately operated outlet that has done pretty well in the market for some time. Three of its radio stations (KFMA 102.1 FM, KLPX 96.1 FM and KCMT 92.1 FM) consistently rank in the top 10 in market share, yet the company, Lotus Communications, has largely maintained a low profile.

That could change.

“I think we need to be in the community more. We need to tell our story more,” said Ken Kwilosz, the new GM of Lotus Tucson. “We’ve always been an under the radar company, kind of quiet. We’re on the west side of the freeway and we let all the guys on the east side of the freeway battle it out. I think we need to let people know we’re there, and get the word out that we have great products, great concerts, great reasons to tune in and listen to us.”

Generally speaking, that awareness was there, even if Lotus kept things in-house. Folks on the radio landscape are aware of KLPX, long the market’s leading (and as a result for many years the market’s only) classic rock station, so-called new rocker KFMA and KCMT, Tucson’s the top-rated Spanish language frequency.

It’s been a relatively stable operation. That was even apparent at the top, where Steve Groesbeck handled GM responsibilities for the better part of the last 13 years. But that changed a couple months ago, and when Groesbeck and Lotus parted ways, the company promoted Kwilosz, who for the last three years was the organization’s sales manager.

From that chair he became well aware of the dramatic advertising downturn in the Tucson market, and hopes he knows what needs to be done to turn a difficult tide amidst a slagging economy.

“It seems to me the market is starting to turn a little bit,” Kwilosz said. “Business seems to pick up in August, and this year there’s also political. What happens in radio is a lot of money is spent on television during the political window and other advertisers are sensitive of that, so instead of being bunched with political ads they might say let’s go with radio because it’s too expensive and there’s nothing left. The politicians have gobbled it all up. So I think that’s one of the reasons the third and fourth quarter will be better.”
Kwilosz has noticed better numbers in the auto industry as well.

“The biggest advertiser is the car business and the car business is through the roof,” Kwilosz said. “Their sales overall nationally and in Tucson is much better than last year, and last year was a huge improvement. That’s always the biggest category of business for broadcasting. If they’re healthy, that’s good for us because they’re spending more money.”

Still, Kwilosz has to achieve the bottom line, and there are a lot of issues that make that difficult in a market like Tucson. The aforementioned economic sluggishness naturally plays a significant role, as does the dwindling impact of terrestrial radio in light of other entertainment options. In that regard, Kwilosz hopes he can improve the perception of Lotus as a beneficial outlet with a small business local appeal that understands and appreciates the struggles of staying afloat when times are tough.

“There are a lot of family owned businesses still in Tucson, which is great because that’s what we are, and our dictate is when we help somebody it has to work, and if it doesn’t work we have to figure out how to make it work, not just have someone try it and say it didn’t work and go away,” Kwilosz said. “Our whole existence is to help a business grow and make more money. That’s why they advertise with us. They don’t advertise with us because they want to advertise on radio. They advertise with us because they want more business to come through the door. If we’re not doing that, we have to figure out how to make it happen.”


A new version of an established program returns with a familiar name at the helm. KVOA news anchor Tom McNamara has been pegged by Arizona Public Media to handle anchor responsibilities for the revamped Arizona Illustrated, which launches a new look and a variety of time slots September 7.

“I was honored to be asked to host Arizona Illustrated,” said McNamara via Facebook message, “and I'm grateful to KVOA for allowing me to jump on this opportunity. This program returns me to my roots in local television. I started out hosting and reporting in the magazine format with the P.M. Magazine show, which was wildly popular around the country back in the 1980s."

McNamara has spent nearly half of his 36-year broadcast career behind the desk at KVOA. One of the market’s most recognizable news personalities, McNamara started with Tucson’s NBC affiliate in 1997. He has contributed numerous hours over the years to assist with KUAT fundraising endeavors.

The new Arizona Illustrated debuts Sunday, Sept. 7 at 6:30 pm.

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