In this week’s issue… WRNN, WBIN cash out in repack – No sales for CBS – Post-repack, Maine station sells – Dankwa to Erie – Tower down in Rockland
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*How much is a TV station worth?
That question may have just become much harder to answer after a very busy week in which we’ve learned how much the FCC’s spectrum incentive auction is paying several independent stations to go dark – and how much a fast-growing group owner is paying for one of the stations that isn’t taking part in the auction.
The week’s biggest headlines included the news from NEW HAMPSHIRE that Bill Binnie’s WBIN-TV (Channel 50) will go dark eventually – and has shuttered its news operation immediately; the news from NEW YORK‘s Hudson Valley that WRNN (Channel 48) may have the auction’s biggest payout; word from MASSACHUSETTS that Ed Ansin will take WLVI (Channel 56) dark in the auction; CBS and Scripps’ decision not to unload any of their spectrum… oh, and then the surprise announcement that MAINE‘s oldest TV station will be getting a new owner.
It’s the sort of game that needs a comprehensive scorecard, and that’s just what we’ve put together to start your week:
The 2020 Tower Site Calendar will soon be off the press, but orders are already coming in, and we want to keep them coming.
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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: February 22, 2016
The Durst Organization, which manages the new 1WTC, announced on Wednesday that it’s signed deals with four New York TV stations to move their main transmitters from the Empire State Building to the new tower. CBS’ WCBS-TV (Channel 2/RF 33), NBC/Telemundo’s WNBC (Channel 4/RF 28) and WNJU (Channel 47/RF 36) and public TV WNET (Channel 13) are the first stations to sign deals with Durst – but, the developer hopes, not the last.
“We look forward to working with other potential broadcasters and telecommunications companies and introducing them to our facility at One World Trade Center,” said Durst VP John Lyons in the release announcing the deals.
That’s an understatement, to say the least. As broadcasters try to figure out what their future looks like amidst the upcoming spectrum auction, repack and ATSC 3.0 conversion, Durst and its rival, the Empire State Building, have been engaged in a quiet but intense battle for the millions of dollars that are at stake from leasing Manhattan’s highest points to the small number of broadcast companies that depend on them.
*At Cumulus, most of what’s left of local programming at low-rated WNBM (103.9 Bronxville) is gone. Budget cuts at “Radio 103.9” last week ousted middayer Sharon “La Loca” Montero, mixer Mister Cee, several part-timers and off-air personnel. It doesn’t appear that there’s a format change coming to the station, though; WNBM’s syndicated morning and afternoon shows, Tom Joyner and D.L. Hughley, stay in place, as does night jock Marc Clarke.
*In TV news from MASSACHUSETTS, Sunbeam’s WHDH-TV (Channel 7) is getting ready for its own loss of NBC affiliation at year’s end by bolstering its already-substantial local news output. WHDH announced last week that it will start the market’s second 7 PM weeknight newscast starting March 7. Kim Khazei and Adam Williams will anchor the newscast, which goes up against the just-launched 7 PM show on ABC affiliate WCVB (Channel 5).
Five Years Ago: February 22, 2012
Cannon, who made a name for himself as a comedian, actor, rapper and host of “America’s Got Talent” before marrying Mariah Carey, has been battling health problems for his last few months as Now’s morning man. Cannon was hospitalized in California in early January with kidney issues, and last week he went back to the hospital, reportedly to treat blood clots in his lungs.
*WXBR (1460) in Brockton, MASSACHUSETTS is indeed being sold. As we first reported a month ago, the buyer is indeed a Haitian broadcaster: Azure Media, LLC, which is paying Michael Metter’s Business Talk Radio $250,000, is owned by Florida-based Jhonson Napoleon and his wife Betsy. (He’s a US citizen; she’s a citizen of Haiti.)
*There’s a new signal on the air on the east side of the Springfield market: WWQZ (89.5 Baptist Village) signed on for the first time on Saturday afternoon, the first New England outlet for the Greenville, S.C.-based “The Life FM” network. The new 33-watt facility in the hills between Hampden and Wilbraham was built by Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us tower-photo fame, and it will soon be joined by simulcaster WWQA (89.9 North Granby CT).
*Unless you vacation in a high-end hotspot such as Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket or the Hamptons, you’ve probably never heard of “Plum TV.” But the denizens of the fancy restaurants and expensive boutiques in those resort areas (not to mention Sun Valley, Vail, Telluride and Aspen) have been tuning into the lifestyle-oriented cable channel for several years, though apparently not in sufficient numbers to save the network from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Plum TV founder Tom Scott (you might know him better as the co-founder of Nantucket Nectars juices) has found a savior for the network; “stalking horse” bidder PMG Media will kick off the bidding at $15 million when the auction takes place March 1.
Ten Years Ago: February 19, 2007
*In other news from around the Bay State, it’s just over a week until moving day for CBS Radio’s WZLX (100.7 Boston), which is leaving the Prudential Tower after 13 years on the 24th floor for new digs in the former WSBK (Channel 38) building in Brighton, already home to sister stations WODS (103.3) and WBCN (104.1). When WZLX moves on March 2, it will leave the Pru with no radio studios for the first time since the early seventies, when CBS moved WEEI (590) and WEEI-FM (103.3) into the building. Over the years, the Pru has also been home to studios for WBCN and WVBF/WKLB/WROR, and of course its rooftop tower remains an important FM transmitter site.
More remarkably, WZLX’s move will leave Boston’s Back Bay with no commercial radio stations for the first time since the thirties; just as New York’s radio stations have decamped from midtown Manhattan for the cheaper rents downtown and in New Jersey, Dorchester and Brighton have now become the hotbeds of broadcast activity in the Hub.
*We’ll start our NEW YORK report this week in Albany, where EMF Broadcasting is putting both of its national religious networks on the air at once with a two-station LMA (eventually to become a purchase) from Ed Levine’s Galaxy Broadcasting. As of Friday, rocker “The Bone” is gone – and its simulcast signals have been replaced by contemporary Christian “K-Love” (on WBOE 94.5 Ravena) and Christian rock “Air One” (on WOOB 93.7 Scotia).
Fifteen Years Ago: February 18, 2002
One of NEW YORK’s biggest AM stations will soon be on the move again, for the second time in just over three decades, thanks to a planned golf course that would claim its transmitter site in the New Jersey Meadowlands. WOR (710) has been at its Valley Brook Avenue site in Lyndhurst, N.J. only since 1968, when it moved out of its prior location in Carteret, where it had been since the early thirties. Within a few months, though, WOR will have to tear down these three towers and its transmitter building, thanks to a “notice to vacate” issued by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.
EnCAP Golf Holdings will end up with the current WOR transmitter site, but it will have to pay for WOR’s relocation. It won’t be a long move this time; the new WOR site will be just 700 meters northeast from the current site, on a swampy spit of land along Fish Creek within sight of Exit 16W of the New Jersey Turnpike. To make it work, WOR has applied to the FCC to maintain its current 50 kW day and night, with a slightly different pattern that throws deeper nulls to the northwest and southwest, but otherwise leaves WOR’s coverage essentially unchanged. The new pattern will come from three 204-meter towers. We’ll keep you updated on the first move of a New York 50-kilowatter in decades as it progresses; stay tuned!
Up in VERMONT, Vox is engineering another big allocations move that would put a new signal into Burlington. WWOD (104.3 Hartford) would see its 104.3C3 allocation moved way across the state – and indeed, across Lake Champlain – to Keeseville, N.Y., where it would put a decent signal into Burlington. The all-important local service to Hartford would be provided by WSSH (95.3 White River Junction), which would see its 95.3A allocation changed to Hartford, with a power boost to 6 kW.
Twenty Years Ago: February 15, 1997
The folks at WHYN AM/FM in Springfield MA are mourning their late general manager. Mike Marder died early Monday morning, less than two months after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Marder had been at WHYN since early 1995, capping a career that started at Westinghouse’s KYW-TV in Philadelphia, continuing through several other Westinghouse stations, and then as general manager at several stations in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Marder was 53 years old. PD Gary James is serving as interim GM for the time being.
Connecticut TV Fun: Hartford’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18) is back on the air to beat the FCC deadline, but the station’s ownership is still up in the air. Two If By Sea Broadcasting filed a request for emergency relief last week, asking the FCC to hurry up and grant its purchase of the station from a bankruptcy trustee – and the answer from the folks in Washington was a resounding “no.”
Meantime, WHCT owner-to-be Lowell Paxson has sold his other Connecticut TV property. WTWS (Channel 26) in New London, which runs the InfoMall service, is being sold to Roberts Broadcasting. In another bit of TV fun to come, the Boston Globe reports Meredith Broadcasting is getting closer to a deal to buy WABU (Channel 68) in Boston and its satellite stations in New Hampshire and on Cape Cod…we’ll see what comes of that.
From our new home base in Upstate New York: Radio listeners in Rochester are hearing a familiar voice with a not-so-familiar name. To mark his 20th anniversary on the Flower City’s airwaves, Tony Matthews of WRMM-FM (101.3) has returned to his real name, Tony Infantino. Matthews says he never wanted to use an air name, but the programmers who were running WMJQ (92.5, now WBEE-FM) when he started in radio insisted. By whatever name he uses, his morning show with Dee Alexander is one of Rochester’s highest-rated radio shows.
Up in Watertown, radio listeners are getting used to a new FM lineup. Gone is hit radio WTNY-FM “T93.5,” and new to the air is “Froggy Country 97.5,” WFRY. Rocker WCIZ, which used to occupy the 97.5 frequency, is now at WTNY-FM’s old 93.5 spot, with a much weaker signal.