In this week's issue... Springfield TVs rebrand - Sale in the far north - LMA on the Seacoast - What's a Fitchburg AM worth? - WTIC takes a spin on sports
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*How many markets are there where a single broadcast license is probably worth more than every other broadcaster - or even print media - in the market, combined? Last week's $10.25 million sale of WAGM (Channel 8) in Presque Isle, MAINE reminded us that New England's northernmost market is one of those rare places - and that WAGM's longtime ownership group is a pretty interesting company, too.
Gray Television's purchase of WAGM marks the exit of "NEPSK, Inc." from the scene, which means the end of an ownership history that goes back to 1984, when Diversified Communications sold channel 8 to what was then simply called "NEP Communications." NEP derived its name from its flagship property, WNEP-TV (Channel 16) in Scranton, but soon afterward it sold off WNEP and turned its attention to other lines of business, starting with the WNEP mobile TV production truck that it kept (under the "NEP Productions" name) after selling channel 16.
In the years that followed, NEP Productions became one of the biggest TV companies you've probably never heard of. Its fleet of production trucks now operates nationwide at pretty much every major sporting event and at even bigger productions like the Oscars. It owns multiple studios in Europe, Australia and all over New York City ("The Daily Show," for instance, is produced at an NEP-owned facility.) And for the first few years of NEP's growth, that whole production business remained co-owned with one of the smallest TV stations in New England, way up there in Aroostook County.
In 1991, Peter Kozloski bought out his partners in what had by then become "NEPSK" ("S" was for WNEP heir Tom Shelburne, the driving force behind NEP's production business, "K" was for Kozloski), and it's been Kozloski and his family running WAGM ever since. (Kozloski also owns Polaris Cable, a small cable/internet/phone company in Houlton, Maine.)
Along the way, WAGM has been through some big changes for such a small station. Originally a three-network affiliate (primary CBS, secondary ABC and NBC), channel 8 added some Fox content in the 1990s and then gradually dropped its remaining ABC and NBC shows. With the advent of DTV, WAGM became a two-network outlet, and despite its long relationship with CBS, it's now Fox on WAGM's standard-def 8.1 channel and CBS in HD on 8.2.
For Georgia-based Gray, WAGM will be its first station in the northeast. Aside from geography, though, WAGM is a good fit with Gray's business model: the company specializes in small markets, some even tinier than Presque Isle. In many of those markets, Gray is in a similar position to northern Maine: it's the only operator of network affiliates, carrying multiple networks on DTV subchannels and low-power stations. Could NBC or ABC (now provided on cable or satellite from Bangor) be in the future for WAGM?
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*An addendum to our ongoing Baseball on the Radio coverage: how about Baseball on Broadcast TV? This past weekend brought an interesting situation for New York baseball fans, because it wasn't just a Mets-Yankees interleague Subway Series - it was a Subway Series in which two of the three games were seen on broadcast TV, but in an odd way. As we'd noted earlier, both the Mets (via SNY) and, this year, the Yankees (via YES) are placing a package of games on New York's WPIX (Channel 11). While they're both at the same spot on the dial for New York City-market viewers, they were very separate broadcasts; at no point on Friday's SNY-produced coverage was there any mention that the YES-produced Saturday game would also air on channel 11, for instance.
And for those of us upstate, it was hit-and-miss at best as to where the games would show up. On the Mets side, the broadcast package appears this year on Time Warner Cable Sports in the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Watertown, Utica and Watertown markets and on Sinclair's WCWN in the Albany market. Viewers in Plattsburgh/Burlington, Binghamton and Elmira were out of luck. Out of state, it was Tribune's WCCT (Channel 20) for Hartford-market viewers and WQMY (Channel 53) in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.
The Yankees/YES package? At least on Saturday, it aired on Sinclair's WRGB (Channel 6) in the Albany market, WPNY (Channel 53/11) in Utica, WSTQ (Channel 14/6) in Syracuse, "CW16" (WHAM-TV 13.2) in Rochester, WNYO (Channel 49) in Buffalo, WETM's 18.2 subchannel in Elmira, WBPN (Channel 8/WICZ 40.2) in Binghamton - and not at all in Watertown or Plattsburgh/Burlington. Connecticut viewers saw the game on WCTX (Channel 59), and it didn't get picked up in Scranton.