In this week’s issue… Binnie’s WBIN leaves the air (sort of) – FM shuffle in Toronto? Carton out at WFAN – Coffey heats up WTHT – “Mod” in New Haven – WGHT’s fate remains unclear
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*The TV spectrum auction is beginning to claim its first signals, and it’s starting in NEW HAMPSHIRE, where Bill Binnie’s WBIN-TV (Channel 50) disappeared last week from the RF 35 digital perch it’s occupied since the DTV transition.
WBIN has been slowly fading away ever since the February announcement that Binnie would get $68 million in auction proceeds for its spectrum. Binnie immediately pulled the plug on his ambitious NH1 News operation, which had been programming evening newscasts on WBIN for the past year and change, leaving WBIN as a repository for syndicated reruns, an over-the-air home for several diginets including Antenna TV, and whatever value remained in its must-carry rights on cable and satellite across the sprawling Boston TV market.
Binnie unlocked that value in June with the announcement that he was selling WBIN’s license to Univision’s WUTF (Channel 66), which is paying just under $10 million, net, for the license. For viewers who can get WUTF’s RF 27 signal from its tower in Hudson, Massachusetts (and that’s a lot more viewers than could get the anemic WBIN signal from New Hampshire!), a rescan starting on Friday yielded up an SD “WBIN 50.1” over the WUTF transmitter, with at least one of WBIN’s subchannels moving to WUTF’s 66.5.
What does it all mean, and what happens next? More, for subscribers, over the fold…
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*First things first: the current incarnation of WBIN over the WUTF transmitter is only temporary. Once Univision completes its acquisition of the WBIN license, one of the provisions of the deal is that the callsign will change – and there’s probably not much value in the current syndicated lineup there, either.
What’s worth $10 million to Univision is the cable and satellite must-carry that goes with that license (once the various Boston-area providers reacquire the WBIN signal from the WUTF transmitter, which was taking some time over the weekend), and that value is likely to be unlocked by turning around and reselling the license. Who’s buying right now? Chicago’s Weigel Broadcasting, for one, which just last week picked up Azteca’s KAZA in Los Angeles and St. Louis religious station KNLC. Would Weigel want to add Boston to that lineup with the zombie remains of the old WBIN? Its MeTV network has a solid market-wide home on Hearst’s WCVB and WMUR, but it’s also pushing hard for better national distribution of its Heroes & Icons network, which would get prominent Boston cable play via the WBIN license.
And then there’s NBC Boston, which continues to struggle for viewers as it tries to figure out its post-repack OTA plans. It’s currently best seen by most viewers on “60.5,” a subchannel it leases from WMFP (Channel 62/RF 18), but WMFP sold its UHF spectrum and will go to a channel-share with WWDP (Channel 46) on RF 10 south of Boston, a signal few OTA viewers in the market can actually see. Could NBC pick up what’s now Entravision-owned WUNI (Channel 27/RF 29)? If it did, having two “stations” on WUTF’s signal would let Univision continue to serve Boston with both its main Univision network (now on WUNI) and the UniMas network (now on WUTF).
One more Binnie note: at least for now, the VHF low-power signals that carried WBIN in New Hampshire (including RF 3 in Nashua) continue on the air with the former WBIN multiplex programming.
*Connoisseur Media launched a new signal in New Haven, CONNECTICUT at 10:23 this morning: “Mod 102.3” is translator W272DO, which Connoisseur bought from Best Media for $275,000, and which it’s feeding from the HD2 of WPLR (99.1 New Haven). It’s doing alternative rock, programmed by none other than Connoisseur OM Keith Dakin, who was PD at the old WFNX in Boston.
*In MAINE, JC Coffey has landed on his feet: three weeks after leaving Townsquare’s WOKQ/WPKQ/”Shark” on the Seacoast, he’s been hired as PD/MD and afternoon jock on Binnie’s “Wolf” country in Portland, WTHT (99.9 Auburn). At WTHT, Coffey replaces Chris Clare, who’s now with Cumulus’ NASH in Cincinnati.
*We’re still waiting to see what sort of legal obstacles may get tossed up against the big RHODE ISLAND deal in which student/alumni-run Brown Broadcast Services sold the license for what was WBRU (95.5 Providence, now WLVO) to EMF Broadcasting for $6.3 million. In the meantime, Rhode Island Public Radio’s John Bender spent some time at WBRU in its last days and put together a nice audio piece, which you can hear here.
*What do you do with a tiny little AM in a big cluster in a big market? In eastern PENNSYLVANIA, the creative marketing folks at iHeart Philadelphia teamed up with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to sponsor “Breakthrough Radio,” which debuted last week on WDAS (1480 Philadelphia) and the HD2 of WDAS-FM (105.3).
The format mixes upbeat pop music with informational segments produced by CHOP, and it replaces the smooth jazz “JJZ” format that had been on those signals for the last four years. “JJZ” continues as a stream, on WISX (106.1)’s HD2 and on iHeart’s 104.1 translator in Trenton.
Across town at Radio One’s WRNB (100.3), afternoon jock Lady B and DJ Touchtone are back home safely – they were vacationing on Sint Maarten in the Caribbean when Hurricane Irma hit last week.
*Across the state in Latrobe, Laurel Highland Total Communications is paying Calvary Chapel of Westmoreland County $45,000 for translator W250AU (97.9 Jeannette), which will rebroadcast WCNS (1480 Latrobe). Roger Rafson brokered the deal, which is WCNS’ second stab at a translator after a failed attempt to move a signal into Latrobe in last year’s window.
*It’s no surprise that Craig Carton is out of CBS Radio’s WFAN (660/101.9) in NEW YORK; the only real news that came from his official departure last week is that it came in the form of a resignation letter from his end, saving CBS any of the drama that would have resulted from having to fire the former morning host after the headlines surrounding his arrest on charges of running a Ponzi scheme. (And then there were the subsequent headlines reporting that his charity apparently hadn’t actually made any charitable donations…)
“For 10 years I’ve had the great privilege of showing up to work every day at my dream job,” Carton said in his resignation letter. “I have nothing but love and respect for my co-host, the show and the entire CBS Radio family and I’ve always tried to represent them in the best possible light. Unfortunately, the unfounded legal issues currently plaguing me will only be a distraction to everyone at WFAN and the show I helped build.”
Carton’s departure still leaves plenty of questions about what happens next at WFAN, where Phil Simms continues to serve as his fill-in replacement alongside Boomer Esiason – in particular, will afternoon institution Mike Francesa delay his planned December departure to help stabilize things as CBS tries to close the sale of the radio division to Entercom?
*In Buffalo, Entercom appears to have pulled back from its plans to build a third tall tower at the Grand Island transmitter site of WBEN (930) to become the new home of its WKSE (98.5 Niagara Falls). Instead, Entercom has applied for an STA to put a temporary WKSE antenna on one of the two existing WBEN towers while it demolishes and rebuilds the existing WKSE tower a few miles away. That aging tower sits at what was once the Staley Road studio/transmitter site for 98.5 and its former sister station WHLD (1270); WHLD has long since moved from Grand Island to the WDCZ (970) site south of Buffalo, leaving that Staley Road facility mostly vacant.
*Congratulations are in order to a few veteran New York broadcasters: Galaxy Communications CEO Ed Levine, a 1978 graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, was one of the inductees into the WAER Hall of Fame at SU last week, along with fellow WAER alums Marv Albert (who was at the station from 1960-63) and Scott McFarlane ’93, now with WRC-TV in Washington.
In Chenango County, Commerce Chenango (with longtime broadcaster Steve Craig at the helm) honored Jim Sargent last week for his lifetime achievement in broadcasting. Sargent, who’s now 75, still works both mornings and afternoons doing news for the Norwich cluster that includes WCHN (970), WKXZ (93.9) and WBKT (95.3) – and he has no plans to retire any time soon!
At the Radio Show in Austin, Texas, veteran station broker Dick Kozacko was honored by the National Association of Media Brokers for his 50 years in the business, much of it based in Elmira before he moved down to North Carolina a few years ago.
And at the New York State Broadcasters Association, head honcho David Donovan has had his contract renewed for another three years, which means the state’s radio and TV stations are in good hands in Albany for a while yet to come. Congratulations!
*Evanov is making some big changes to its plans for signal improvement in CANADA‘s biggest market. After making multiple stabs at getting more power into Toronto from CIDC (103.5 Orangeville), including a plan the CRTC rejected for a new tall 103.5 tower at the site of sister station CIAO (530 Brampton), Evanov now tells the CRTC it’s regrouping and focusing instead on improving the signal of its low-power central Toronto station, CIRR (103.9).
When it was licensed as “Proud Radio” in 2007, CIRR was just 50 watts, eventually jumping to 225 watts from the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. But as Evanov explained last week to the CRTC, while CIRR “can’t get out” of downtown, CIDC “can’t get in” to the core of the urban area and is losing money as a result.
Evanov’s new plan is to move CIRR from 103.9 down the dial to 103.7, where it would run 3.3 kW average/10 kW max DA/325 m from the roof of First Canadian Place, one of the city’s two big FM facilities. To make room for CIRR’s expansion on 103.7 in Toronto, CIDC would pull back significantly, moving its transmitter site back into Orangeville and returning its focus to the northern suburbs instead of trying to serve Toronto. (Its new 48 kW average/100 kW max DA/137 m signal would still be no slouch, putting listenable coverage all the way from Barrie to Kitchener/Waterloo).
As for programming, Evanov is a little coy, not openly saying it will move CIDC’s present “Z103.5” top-40 over to the new CIRR on 103.7. Will that in fact be what happens? We’d bet on it; Evanov is also saying it will launch HD Radio on 103.7 to provide a dedicated HD4 service to the GLBT audience for which the “Proud” format on 103.9 was originally intended. That HD4 would partially simulcast the main 103.7, breaking away 5 hours daily for specific GLBT programming. (HD2 and 3 would be simulcasts of CIDC and CIAO, respectively.)
*Where are they now? Longtime Toronto morning man Gene Valaitis signed on today as the new morning man out in Vancouver at “Roundhouse Radio 98.3,” CIRH, a low-power local talk outlet.
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