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97.1 The Ticket, WWJ 950 getting hit with layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Ad dollars are drying up across the media industry.

Entercom, the radio giant that owns popular local sports talk station 97.1 The Ticket and news station WWJ-AM (950), announced this week in a company-wide memo that it is planning immediate layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs amid the coronavirus crisis.

97.1 The Ticket is bracing for cost cuts amid the coronavirus crisis.

Among the early layoffs at 97.1 were on-air personalities Dennis Fithian and Ryan Wooley, each of them announced on Twitter.

Entercom employees who earn more than $50,000 a year will be forced to take a 10% to 20% pay cut, David Field, Entercom CEO, said in the memo.

Bonuses also are suspended, as is the company's 401(k) match, and Field is taking a 30% pay cut.

"Unfortunately, the severity of the situation necessitates us making significant cost reductions in order to cope with the realities at hand," Field said in the memo. "Our nation is facing unprecedented disruption that has shut down countless businesses and entire industries, including many of our customers.

"This is having a very large impact on advertising revenues. We must take hard but necessary actions to ensure that we endure the crisis and emerge as a strong, healthy and competitive company.

"I am deeply saddened that we need to make these painful moves at this time, but they are necessary under the circumstances. We are doing everything in our power to minimize the number of layoffs through shared sacrifice across the organization."

Entercom owns more than 200 radio stations across the nation, including six in Detroit. 97.1, headline by Mike Valenti's afternoon show, is joined by WOMC-FM (104.3), WYCD-FM (99.5), WDZH-FM (98.7) and WXYT-AM (1270).

97.1 The Ticket is the flagship station for three of Detroit's major pro sports teams, the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, and all three of those seasons are suspended indefinitely. The Tigers, in particular, are a significant source of ad revenue for the station.

97.1 The Ticket already had started cutting back the hours of several late-night and overnight hosts.

"We will get through this crisis and put this all behind us," Field said. "Better days lie ahead. With the tough but necessary actions we are now taking, we are doing what is required for us to preserve the health of the company and ensure that we are strong when we get to the other side. Our future is further protected by our strong financial position with substantial cash reserves and virtually no debt due before 2024.

"And when the crisis abates, we look forward to resuming our growth and building on our strong strategic position as a leader in the audio business."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984