SBS Assails Apollo, Cox Media For ‘Outdated’ Alexa Skill


Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) President/COO Albert Rodriguez has condemned Cox Media Group and its controlling equity interest holder, Apollo Global Management, for what he believes is a deliberate attempt to prevent audiences seeking to stream its recently acquired radio stations in Orlando and Tampa from accessing the respective FMs on a smart speaker.

There is no doubt that an “out of date” voice command was in place on Amazon Alexa devices. But, was this an act of malice or forgetfulness?

“Cox continues to screw around with our ratings,” Rodriguez told RBR+TVBR on Wednesday. “Nielsen flagged the book again in both markets.”

What exactly did Nielsen Audio do in Orlando, where SBS owns WPYO-FM “El Nuevo Zol 95.3” and in Tampa, where SBS owns WSUN-FM “El Nuevo Zol 97.1”?

Notices appear in the just-released October 2022 ratings reports for each of the Central Florida markets that confirm Cox Media Group never adjusted the respective Alexa commands for WPYO and WSUN.

If an Alexa user were to say, “Play El Zol 97.1,” it would have quickly and easily accessed the station’s streaming audio via TuneIn.

However, if one said “WSUN,” they would have been directed to the station’s former programming, now on Cox Media Group’s WPOI-FM 101.5 HD2 and an FM translator at 97.5 MHz, Alternative “97X.”

Similarly, requests to Alexa for “WPYO” would have yielded Cox Media Group’s WCFB-FM 94.5 HD2, the new home of WPYO’s former Rhythmic Top 40 “Power” presentation.

Asked by RBR+TVBR how significant this was for SBS, and how many listeners would ask Alexa to listen to its Orlando or Tampa stations by noting their call sign, Rodriguez said, “El Zol has a huge streaming number that Nielsen measures. This has been going on since we purchased the stations back in April, and Nielsen should have flagged the books since April. Cox just disactivated the skill set about 10 days ago.”

A source close to the matter tells RBR+TVBR that the Nielsen Audio reports for November 2022 in both Tampa and Orlando will be flagged once again with the smart speaker notice.

In an official statement, Rodriguez directed his ire not at Nielsen but at CMG and Apollo. “SBS is outraged and insulted by the flagrantly discriminatory bias being directed against it by media giant Apollo/CMG, as confirmed for a third time by Nielsen in its official findings of the streaming ratings distortion uncovered recently in Tampa and Orlando,” he said. “These latest infractions join a list of other improprieties calculated to undermine SBS since it first offered to acquire WPYO-FM in Orlando and WSUN-FM in Tampa from Apollo/CMG in August 2021. Apollo/CMG’s continued lip-service to the standards of diversity, equity and inclusion, while in actual practice hindering SBS’ operations, is an insult not only to SBS as a respected, four-decade Hispanic owner/operator and FCC licensee in good standing, but to all Hispanics everywhere — and it will not stand.” 

Rodriguez concluded that SBS will “vigorously prosecute, to the extent possible and in all appropriate venues, any attempt to subvert, divert, demean or otherwise interfere with its service to the diverse audiences of Central Florida.”

Asked for comment, Cox Media Group issued a statement late Thursday (11/3) pointing fingers at SBS.

“The SBS claims are categorically false and designed to distract from their negligence as owners of WSUN-FM and WYPO-FM,” the company said. “SBS failed to regularly update Alexa voice command, as is the customary procedure for a station owner, including after a purchase (SBS purchased WYPO-FM from CMG earlier this year). In fact, Amazon confirmed that SBS is the accountable party.”