NERW Update: Cumulus Buys WFME

*Here’s the one and only financial tip you’ll probably ever get from this column: invest in the footwear industry. Why? Because they’re going to be busy indeed selling replacements for all the shoes that keep dropping in one of the busiest years NEW YORK radio has ever seen.

No sooner did CBS announce its purchase of Merlin’s WRXP (101.9), prompting some heavy-duty speculation here in Monday’s column about the remaining would-be buyers and sellers in the nation’s biggest radio market, than Cumulus made some news of its own with Tuesday morning’s announcement that it’s acquiring WFME (94.7 Newark) from Family Stations for a

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price yet to be disclosed.

The deal answers two lingering questions that had been keeping market observers hopping for the better part of a year now: first, how would Cumulus grow its New York holdings to better compete with the market’s biggest guns – and second, did Family’s conversion of WFME from non-commercial to commercial status last year really mean a sale was in the offing? Adding WFME’s class B FM signal to its existing holdings – talker WABC (770), hot AC WPLJ (95.5) and the Westchester County-based pairing of WFAS-FM (103.9 Bronxville) and WFAS (1230 White Plains) – still doesn’t bring Cumulus anywhere near the 3 AM/4 FM cluster CBS is assembling, or the 1 AM/5 FM cluster Clear Channel will have in its fold when its pending purchase of WOR (710) from Buckley is complete. But it gives Cumulus some breathing room for more format offerings, and we’ll explore what some of those holes might look

like in next week’s full NERW.

The sale is already getting the message boards and mailing lists humming with talk of a WFME signal move, but that’s a tricky task indeed. In addition to co-channel WMAS-FM (94.7 Enfield CT/Springfield MA), which is short-spaced and, intriguingly, another Cumulus-by-way-of-Citadel property, there’s an even tougher spacing issue to Connoisseur’s WWSK (94.3 Smithtown) out on Long Island. We’ll look at the engineering implications and at WFME’s current signal in next week’s column, too.

And we’ll explore Family’s future: after going through 2011 spending as though there was no tomorrow on a publicity campaign warning that there was “no tomorrow,” the venerable religious network discovered the world didn’t end after all – and the cost of all those billboards and bus cards led Family to sell its Baltimore/Washington and Philadelphia stations and now WFME as well. (Family also announced Tuesday it’s selling its noncommercial FM in St. Petersburg, Florida.) In Baltimore, Family already had an AM outlet, and it’s acquiring WPEN (950) in Philadelphia from Greater Media. Will there be a WFME(AM) in New York’s future, and if so, who’s selling? That, too, will be a topic explored in depth in next week’s column, along with the future of Family’s WFME-TV in New Jersey.

(As always, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds for immediate updates if there’s breaking news on any of these matters; due to the hospitalization of Mrs. NERW, we’re not quite as plugged-in this week as we’d like to be, but she’s healing up nicely from surgery earlier this week and we should be back to full social-media strength soon – even faster if the nice folks at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital get together with Time Warner Cable to do something about the pokier-than-molasses Net bandwidth here…but we digress.)

*WFME’s sale isn’t the only big headline we’re already tracking for next week’s issue. From NEW HAMPSHIRE, there’s the sudden departure of WGIR-FM (101.1 Manchester)/WHEB (100.3 Portsmouth) PD Doc Garrett, a 30-year fixture in Granite State rock radio. Up the coast in MAINE, there’s a brand-new AM station launching – and a morning-drive shuffle in Bangor, where “Mike and Mike” are ending a 15-year run at “Kiss” (WKSQ 94.5 Ellsworth), with Mike Dow heading to WBAK (104.7 Belfast) and sister station WABK (104.3 Gardiner) and Mike Elliott joining Katrina Walls on WBFB (97.1 Bangor) and its “Bear” country sisters in Rockland and Bar Harbor.

And then there’s some sad AM news in PENNSYLVANIA, where WKGE (850 Johnstown) has fallen silent after the end of Mike McKendree’s lease. Owner Birach Broadcasting has put the nine-tower, 10-kilowatt signal up for sale through Pittsburgh broker Ray Rosenblum. Is there a future for the former WJAC(AM)? More on that, too, in next week’s NERW…

.

*Good news, everybody! The 2013 Tower Site Calendar is finally back from the printer this week, and on its way out to YOU! (With a slight delay this week, until Mrs. NERW is up and about and on her way back out to the post office – thanks for your patience!)

This is the 12th edition of our annual calendar, which features photos of broadcast towers taken by Scott Fybush on his travels.

The 12-month wall calendar boasts a full-color photo each month of a well-known broadcast transmitter site.

This year’s edition includes sites in Florida, Wisconsin, Kentucky, California, Iowa, Idaho, Las Vegas, Colorado, Boston, Cleveland, Albuquerque, upstate New York and western Massachusetts. We’ve also redesigned the calendar to make it more colorful (don’t worry; the pictures are still pristine) and make the spiral binding our standard binding — your calendar will hang even better on your wall now! And of course, we still have the convenient hole for hanging.

Order 20 or more for a 10% discount! And while you’re at the Fybush.com store, check out the new National Radio Club AM Log and the final stash of FM Atlas editions.

Comments

  1. laurenceglavin says

    A new AM in Maine? I pulled up a list of AM stations in Maine at fcc.gov, and noticed a CP for station at 750 in Brewer. Is that it?

  2. danstrassberg says

    I doubt whether Scott is referring to the CP for an AM 750 in the Bangor suburb of (IIRC) Hampden. If that station is ever built, it will be–at least on paper–Maine’s biggest AM signal. But hasn’t the CP lapsed? I’ve heard nothing about its having been tolled

    My guess is 900 in Brunswick, which Bob Bittner owned briefly. If it is 900, it took longer than I (and I imagine others) expected for it to get back on the air–even given that the new owner had to find and get (local and FCC) approval to use a new transmitter site and construct a new tower. There were overlap issues with 900 in Nashua NH, which restrict the power to something a good bit less than the former 1 kW-D, which, IIRC, was, in fact, a little less than 1 kW. I think it’s now going to be something like 600W from a tower that is considerably shorter than the old tower, which was quite a bit north of the new tower.

  3. laurenceglavin says

    According to allaccess.com, the station in quesstion is WCME. I wonder if it could have worked out so Bob Bittner switches WJTO to 900 with higher nighttije power and less interference?

  4. danstrassberg says

    Had 900 operated from the WJTO site, it would have been allowed substantially LESS power than it was granted from its new site, which I believe to be south of Brunswick. The problem is that, from the WJTO site, the path to Nashua contains much more salt water than there is in the path to Nashua from the new WCME site. And I’m also not so sure that, had it moved to 900, WJTO would have suffered less nighttime interference than it does on 730. The 900 station in Hamilton ON sends a bigger signal to the southeast than does CKAC. However, I’m not sure where Brunswick is located with respect to Hamilton’s night pattern. The Hamilton pattern has very strong albeit very narrow lobes.