Anna Pekerman is founder and owner of New York-based RUSA Radio, with main studios in south Brooklyn. It describes itself as the only Russian-speaking HD Radio station in the United States. The format airs on the HD-2 multicast of New York iHeartRadio FM station WWPR, “Power 105.1.” RUSA transitioned to that signal in 2014 from its former home on the 87.7 analog audio subcarrier of local TV Channel 6.It is also heard on the iHeartRadio app and via online audio stream.
This interview is one of several that appear in the Radio World eBook “HD Radio & the Case for ROI.” Read it at http://tinyurl.com/rw-hdroi.
Radio World: Are you looking to expand to other markets? What cities might be strong for Russian listening?
Pekerman: Absolutely. Chicago, Boston, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Ohio … there are a lot of Russian-speaking residents in the United States.
RW: How would that relationship work?
Pekerman: We’re flexible. Our number one thing is that we are Russian-language programmers. We have 24/7 programming with a full staff, the best hosts that our community has to offer, and we take a huge pride in everything that we do.
Anna Pekerman, right, celebrated the service’s birthday with a U.S. theme (the station’s name is pronounced “R-U-S-A”). She is shown with evening drive host Andrei Laskatelev and host Tatyana Rodos.
RW: Is it expensive to lease the capacity from iHeart?
Pekerman: iHeart is a fancy company. It’s a high-end company, so yeah. Not cheap.
RW: Do you sell commercials to the local community?
Pekerman: Yes. We are commercial radio, we sell commercial time and we think we are very [effective] in partnering with local businesses to bring them success. We have an 80 percent rate of recurring clients.
RW: Do you have a way of quantifying how many listeners you have?
Pekerman: That’s a challenge. The only thing we see is the stream. … I keep on top of Nielsen, but nothing is happening that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
RW: Do you have full-time staff, or are these volunteers or part-timers?
Pekerman: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We have full-time staff, very serious staff, very professional. It’s not inexpensive, but I certainly personally believe a lot in professionalism and a professional approach to business.
RW: Is it self-sustaining or do you have other businesses in addition to the radio income stream?
Pekerman: It’s self-sustaining, but also we do bring in Russian entertainers. We have concerts that we produce and there are different projects that we do throughout the year.
RW: I imagine most of your HD listeners are in the car?
Pekerman: Well I would not suggest for anyone to buy a HD Radio receiver for home — I think that’s a device that’s going to become obsolete. What we recommend for our listeners is just to buy a very inexpensive speaker that you can get now on Amazon between $7 and $10 which connects to your smartphone and everybody owns a smartphone these days … even though maybe not everybody has HD Radio in their cars, which is a little bit upsetting. It should be there already.
But I think a smartphone is definitely the radio of today, and the same thing even in the car — iHeartRadio allows you to listen to radio through Bluetooth. You just connect it, then you have phenomenal sound, digital sound coming from all your speakers, and super good stereo, crystal clear format, and no range [limit]. I mean, you can drive from here to California and not lose us if there’s decent internet somewhere, even in your phone. Most providers don’t charge much for the use anymore, so it’s pretty much almost free.
RW: Do you perceive that iHeart benefits from having you on that multicast, other than the revenue you bring them?
Pekerman: I think it’s pretty exciting for them to be able to offer Russian on one of their platforms. We are more than just an LMA. We do have a certain partnership that I don’t want to go deeply into, it’s not a straightforward LMA, it’s more than that. I do have access to the Russian community of New York, which is over a million in the tri-state area, which I think is pretty exciting for everybody. They have a professional partner. I’ve been in the radio business for almost 20 years and I know it inside and out, from the technical aspect, the legal aspect, the production aspect, the creative aspect. Our partnership is over three years already and there’s trust there and there’s loyalty there.
Summertime event at RUSA Radio.
RW: What else should we know on the topic of HD Radio?
Pekerman: I think it takes a village here too; if everybody wants HD to blossom further and bring them revenue, I think there is revenue there for everybody.
The only thing I think would be very important is that — HD changed hands, they [iBiquity Digital] were bought out, there is new ownership there. Since then it’s not as active in getting into more and more new vehicles. That [seemed like] the mission before and was pretty successful; I feel like there’s a little bit of a stop here.
I think the most important thing is for HD to be accessible in cars, for as long as radios are not going to become obsolete in cars. I am following the industry, and it’s very possible that eventually we’re not going to have the FM/AM dial in there; but at this point it’s not a definite; and we still believe in the radio.
I certainly believe in the radio. Just like it was for TV when TV became digital, it’s inevitable for radio to become digital, just because of the quality of the sound and what it has to offer. I think that the better HD is going to do in penetrating cars, the better everybody in the industry is going to do with HD.
RW: If a broadcaster in another city is interested, how would they contact you?
Pekerman: They are absolutely welcome to email me at [email protected] or (718) 339-0003.
RW: Anything else I should include on this topic?
Pekerman: Russians rule!