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April 24, 2014

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Lotus Broadcasting, Vegas stations focus on community

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Steve Marcus

Steph MacKenzie, left, and Chris Foxx are shown July 24 during their morning broadcast on KXPT 91.7-FM in a studio at Lotus Broadcasting. The company owns six radio stations in Las Vegas and another 20 in Tucson, Reno, Fresno and Bakersfield, Calif.

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Lotus leader: Tony Bonnici is vice president and general manager of Lotus Broadcasting.

Beyond the Sun

Advertising revenue is down and profits have tumbled, but Las Vegas radio powerhouse Lotus Broadcasting isn’t hitting the panic button. Not by a long shot.

General Manager Tony Bonnici, who runs the privately held company’s six Las Vegas stations as well as 20 others in Reno, Tucson, Fresno and Bakersfield, Calif., says the company’s long-term strategic focus allows Lotus to do what it does best: connect with customers.

“We have a different philosophy,” Bonnici said. “We’re not in the advertising-sales business. We’re in the customer business.”

And Bonnici isn’t just referring to his advertisers as customers. He includes those who listen to Lotus programming, the folks who the advertisers are hoping to attract.

“Without our listeners, we’re nothing,” Bonnici said.

Lotus’ six local stations include rock stations KOMP 92.3-FM, KXPT 97.1-FM, Spanish-language music station KWID “La Buena” 101.9-FM, sports-talk stations KWWN ESPN Radio 1100-AM and KBAD Fox Sports Radio 920-AM and Spanish-language sports-talk KENO ESPN Deportes 1460-AM.

The stations broadcast from studios on West Flamingo Road, a complex that recently expanded to add three studios, office space and a conference room, reflecting the company’s growth in the market.

Bonnici said the economy has been the No. 1 challenge for radio stations, significantly reducing spending on advertising. For Lotus, ad revenue was down 30 percent in 2008 and that followed a weak 2007 when revenue dropped 11 percent from 2006.

“If I bought a radio station a couple of years ago, I’d be wondering what I have done,” he said. “When times were better, we didn’t have to be that great. Now, results matter.”

Big advertisers like auto dealers and casinos have traditionally been the revenue drivers, but Lotus has always focused on smaller, longtime advertisers such as Carter Motorsports and Mr. Bill’s Pipe and Tobacco Co., a focus that has paid off as the auto market has suffered.

Lotus’ competition isn’t just radio, Bonnici said, as TV and the Internet compete for the same ad budgets, but he says radio’s customer connection guarantees its viability despite the growth of online media.

“Everyone says that the Internet is the new golden child, that it is going to take all the business,” he said. “Well, it’s not going to happen.”

Bonnici has been general manager of Lotus’ stations in Las Vegas for 22 years, and he says his philosophy has been to manage so that people would hate to lose their jobs. And Lotus has avoided many cutbacks because of the recession, employing 400 people overall with 80 in Las Vegas.

Bonnici is most proud of the community-oriented efforts Lotus makes in Las Vegas and its other markets. Its radio stations regularly help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and a host of other charities.

“As an individual you can only do so much, but with the power and influence we have, we can make things happen, and that makes us feel good,” he said.

Bonnici is being honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Nevada Broadcasters Association at its Hall of Fame Dinner at 8 p.m. Saturday at Red Rock Resort.

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