In this week’s issue… Disney exits NERW-land for good – Confers grow in the Susq Valley – Glynn Walden retires at CBS/KYW – Another Ontario AM-to-FM move – Tower Site Calendar 2016: Get Yours Now!
By SCOTT FYBUSH
(Editor’s note: It’s an abbreviated NERW this week due to some heavy-duty summer travel. Back with Tower Site of the Week on Friday and a full NERW issue next Monday…)
*Almost exactly one year after announcing it was putting all but one of its broadcast signals on the market, Radio Disney has completed the selloff of its last NERW-land signal. After unloading its New York station to Family Stations and its Boston and Pittsburgh signals to Salem, Disney announced last week that its Philadelphia-market station, WWJZ (640 Mount Holly, NEW JERSEY), is going to the Starboard Media Foundation to become a “Relevant Radio” outlet.
Disney paid $14 million for the station back in 1999, a generous price for a signal whose 50,000 watts do pretty well by day, but disappear from most of the market after dropping to 950 watts at sunset. Starboard will pay $3.5 million for the station, linking it to its existing signals in the region (WNSW 1430 Newark/New York City and WSJW 550 Pawtucket/Providence) as the midwestern Catholic chain extends its eastern reach. The move brings some (presumably friendly) competition to the region’s other Catholic stations, WFJS (1260) in Trenton and WISP (1570) in Doylestown, PA.
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From the NERW Archives
Yup, we’ve been doing this a long time now, and so we’re digging back into the vaults for a look at what NERW was covering one, five, ten, fifteen and – where available – twenty years ago this week, or thereabouts.
Note that the column appeared on an erratic schedule in its earliest years as “New England Radio Watch,” and didn’t go to a regular weekly schedule until 1997.
One Year Ago: August 18, 2014
*If you have kids, as we do, you almost surely have a shelf somewhere full of Disney videos. And if you had kids more than a decade ago, as we did, you probably lived through the transition from those oversized plastic Disney VHS boxes to Disney DVDs, then Blu-Ray and now to downloads.
But somewhere between the VHS of “Lion King” and the Blu-Ray of “Frozen,” do you recall any outcry that Disney was somehow “dooming the VHS industry” in the process? You don’t, of course; technology was moving on, and Disney, a content producer at heart, just kept migrating its content as platforms shifted.
It was fascinating, then, to see the range of opinions that surfaced after Disney’s big announcement last week that it’s about to pull its Radio Disney programming off the AM radio stations that were the core of the distribution platform when the network launched almost two decades ago. In 1996, of course, there were no smartphones, tablets, satellite radio or really any other economical way to put Disney radio content in front of millions of pre-teens (and their parents) in markets from coast to coast – and so Disney did what it needed to do to build distribution, buying dozens of mostly second-tier AM facilities, leasing others and affiliating with a few more.
Over the last few years, Disney had clearly been leading up to this week’s development. In 2010 and again in 2013, it pared back the AM piece of its distribution network by selling off stations in smaller markets; in NERW-land, that included station sales in Providence, Hartford and Albany and the end of affiliation deals in Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
By this year, Disney’s research found that fully 82% of its Radio Disney audience was connecting with the network through platforms other than broadcast radio, and so the only real question left when the announcement of the remaining station sales came down on Wednesday was, “What took so long?”
Let’s be clear here, though: Radio Disney was never “in the AM business,” any more than Disney in general was “in the VHS business.” AM was a means to an end for Disney in the 1990s, and when the platform ceased to work for them, they moved their programming elsewhere. Unless you’re trying to sell your own AM station in a market where a Disney sale will now be competing for buyers’ money, there’s really no larger effect that Disney’s platform shift will have on the industry…because Radio Disney wasn’t ever really part of “the industry.” (That said, we’re sorry for the engineers, promotions teams and managers at the Disney local stations who will be out of work with the sales, of course.)
Five Years Ago: August 17, 2010
Elvis Duran, who began his broadcast career in Syracuse, NEW YORK at WJPZ (89.1), the Syracuse University station, is returning to the market beginning today – but only in syndicated form.
WWHT (Hot 107.9), Clear Channel’s top-40 station, is displacing its own “Marty and Shannon” local morning show to pick up Duran’s New York-based “Morning Zoo.” The morning staff stays with the station on new shifts: Marty “the One-Man Party” returns to the afternoon shift, while Shannon Wells will be doing middays and “Deaf Geoff” will do weekends and fill-ins. Former afternoon jock “Jus’ Mic” will move over to sister station WPHR (106.9), reports CNYRadio.com.
Some other morning show shifts around the state: in New York City, D.L. Hughley departed the morning show at WRKS (Kiss 98.7) last week, saying on Monday that it was his last day with the station. No replacement has been named yet for the comedian; WRKS says he’s simply away doing a movie, but it doesn’t appear he’s coming back. Also missing in action is Lilly Hisenaj, who’s gone from the website for the Brother Wease morning show at Rochester’s WFXF (95.1 the Fox) after under two years at the station.
In Buffalo, “Swing 1270” is the new slogan for the standards format Citadel has installed at WHLD (1270 Niagara Falls).
Ten Years Ago: August 22, 2005
In MASSACHUSETTS, WRKO (680 Boston) GM Tom Baker is out of a job as Entercom eliminates his position; cluster manager Julie Kahn assumes his responsibilities. (WRKO also had a guest appearance by ousted WBZ reporter Flo Jonic last week; she filled in on the station’s morning show.) Over in Worcester, the WSRS (96.1) morning team of Austin Davis and Kerry Mathieson is out as well, with Jackie Brush and WTAG’s Greg Byrne filling in.
In NEW HAMPSHIRE, WEVS (88.3 Nashua) signed on Tuesday (Aug. 9) just before 11 AM, improving New Hampshire Public Radio’s service to the southern end of the state. The station’s transmitter sits atop St. Joseph’s Hospital, with 5 kilowatts of power aimed mostly north-northwest. Over in Keene, Jay Stevens is back on the air at WKNE (103.7), replacing Adam Weinreich in mid-mornings. Stevens was on WOQL (then at 98.7) until 2004, when he went to work at Disney World as a sound engineer.
And the new management at WNDS (Channel 50, soon to be WZMY) in Derry made some waves last week by cancelling the station’s venerable “Candlepin Bowling” show.
From PENNSYLVANIA comes word of the sale of WEEO (1480 Shippensburg), as Cary Simpson’s Allegheny Mountain Network transfers the station to Eric Swidler, son of WIOO (1000 Carlisle) owner Harold Swidler. Ray Rosenblum was the broker, and the sale price was $65,000.
Outside Philadelphia, we’re delighted to report that the FCC has granted WHHS (107.9 Havertown) a construction permit to move to 99.9. The station needed waivers from WJBR (99.5 Wilmington DE) and WPHI (100.3 Media) to make the move, which allows it to stay on the air after the class D high school station (the oldest in the nation) was displaced from 107.9 by the sign-on of WPHI sister station WRNB (107.9 Pennsauken NJ). WHHS still has to be back on the air by December 18 to avoid losing its license for being silent more than a year, but in the capable hands of engineer Mark Humphrey and several other friends of high school radio in the area, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Fifteen Years Ago: August 21, 2000
In honor of our first stop on this August’s travels, we’ll start in CANADA, where two new FM signals now grace the dial in southern Ontario. First up was 102.3 in London, the new CHUM Group FM. No calls have been heard yet, but it’s running a test loop and wiping out whatever reception of Erie’s co-channel WJET might have been left in the area. We’re hoping for an actual format on this one any day now.
Over in Hamilton, Doug Kirk and Rae Roe have started testing their new 1880 watt outlet on 94.7, and this one *does* have calls and a format. CIWV will program smooth jazz when it takes the air for real in a few weeks.
Just across the border, TV duopoly is once again coming to upstate NEW YORK — and just maybe it’ll stick this time. You’ll recall that Granite Broadcasting intended to add UPN affiliate WNGS (Channel 67) to its ABC powerhouse WKBW-TV (Channel 7) in Buffalo, but pulled out of the deal in May. Now Sinclair is making Buffalo another of its many duopoly markets with the purchase of Grant Broadcasting, which owns WB affiliate WNYO-TV (Channel 49). Adding WNYO to its own Fox affiliate, WUTV (Channel 29), seems to make more sense for Sinclair than its original plan from last year, which involved buying public TV WNEQ (Channel 23) from the Western New York Public Broadcasting Authority. (That sale collapsed during Sinclair’s financial problems, which have apparently now been resolved). NERW wonders what will happen now to the rumors that WNYO was planning to partner with one of Buffalo’s big three network affiliates for a 10PM newscast, something Sinclair still isn’t offering on WUTV. (We believe that makes Buffalo the largest Fox market still lacking local news.) Sinclair will also likely need an FCC waiver for the overlap between the WNYO signal and that of Rochester’s Fox affiliate, WUHF (Channel 31). (WUHF and WUTV have a long-standing co-ownership waiver that predates duopoly, so we don’t really expect any problems on that account.)
Speaking of TV duopoly, it’s about to happen in a big way in New York City — that is, if Fox can overcome the regulatory hurdles that will no doubt accompany its proposed purchase of the Chris-Craft/United Television stations. If the deal goes through, Rupert Murdoch will add WWOR (Channel 9 Secaucus) to his WNYW (Channel 5) in the Big Apple, as well as creating a 2-VHF duopoly (KTTV 11 and KCOP 13) in Los Angeles. [As an aside, those are about the only markets where V/V duopolies are possible; almost anywhere else, they’re ruled out by the FCC’s requirement that only one of the TV stations in a duopoly can be one of the four highest-rated stations in the market.] What might happen to UPN (make that the Paramount Network) if it loses its affiliates in the two largest markets? We’ll know in a few months, since the Paramount/United affiliation contracts expire in January 2001.
Twenty Years Ago: August 15, 1995
92.5 in Haverhill MA (30 miles north of Boston) has new calls. They started using them Monday August 14…and in keeping with the station’s new non-ID “The River,” they’re WXRV. The former calls, WLYT, had been buried very quietly and quickly at the top of the hour only, ever since the format change August 1. The format is still evolving — it had started as almost a straight AAA, but it now incorporates a lot of 80s pop as well. Fun to listen to, and more lively than AAA rival WBOS 92.9.
Jerry Garcia’s death was marked here with daylong special programming Wednesday on classic rocker WZLX, frequent Dead tunes on AAA WBOS, a rerun of an old “Rockline” show featuring Garcia on New Hampshire’s WGIR-FM and Providence’s WHJY, and almost nothing from heritage rocker WBCN, now that it’s leaning more modern. BOS followed up with 5 hours of special programming Saturday night, and WZLX did a couple of hours that night as well.