In this week’s issue… Forever’s next PA move – iHeart’s Philly “gamble” – Rochester TV veteran leaves – “Rewound” returns
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*As summer winds down, is the radio deal market heating up? Aside from EMF Broadcasting and its buying spree, the Confer family has been perhaps the next largest buyer in the region – and now Kerby Confer’s Forever Media group is taking another chunk out of PENNSYLVANIA with the impending purchase of WLBR (1270) and WQIC (100.1) in Lebanon.
The sale will end more than 70 years of family ownership by the Lebanon Broadcasting Company, whose Etter family connections go all the way back to the 1946 founding of WLBR and the addition two years later of WUFM, the FM predecessor of WQIC.
“Since my sons have independent careers, I made the decision to sell to Forever Media,” said Lebanon president Robert Etter in the release announcing the sale. Under Etter and his family, WLBR and WQIC have been something of a throwback to an earlier era of radio, relatively slow to develop a digital presence (they still don’t stream) or to broadcast a 24-hour day.
When the sale closes (purchase terms haven’t been disclosed yet), Forever’s addition of the Lebanon signals will give the company another puzzle piece on the eastern side of the state, joining the two FMs and two AMs in Gettysburg, York and Hanover it bought in 2015, plus the Delmarva Broadcasting signals it bought last year, which reach over the state line from Wilmington into suburban Philadelphia.
Monday morning update: The filing with the FCC released early Monday morning shows the purchase price as $1,225,000.
The release doesn’t include any of the “no changes are planned” boilerplate, and we wouldn’t have believed it if it did; in Gettysburg and York, Forever installed its “Froggy” country format at WGTY (107.7) and its “Rocky” classic rock at WYCR (98.5), then used translators to put its “Happy” classic hits on the two AMs, WHVR and WGET. (But then, the company hasn’t made big changes yet in Delaware.)
The bigger question, perhaps, is where Forever will be looking next. The bulk of the Harrisburg market sits neatly between Lebanon and York, for instance, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market to the north could well be an appealing target, too. (Seven Mountains/Southern Belle, the independent companies owned by Confer’s wife and daughter, have also been expanding eastward, most recently with the impending acquisition of WSBG/WVPO in the Poconos.)
All of which is to say – as a slow summer heads for the exit, we’ll be watching this and other deals very closely heading into the autumn months.
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*There’s a format change coming this afternoon in Philadelphia, where iHeart has programmed WDAS (1480), WDAS-FM (105.3)’s HD2 and translator W273DO (102.5) for the last couple of years as “Breakthrough Radio,” a variety hits format operated in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. At 3 this afternoon, those signals will flip to Fox Sports Radio as “The Gambler,” launching with a live 3-6 PM show hosted by Sean Brace.
The local show will focus on sports betting, hence the new station nickname. (And RadioInsight reports that the new Gambler format won’t air on the 104.1 translator in Trenton, NEW JERSEY that was carrying Breakthrough Radio, since it would overlap existing Fox Sports affiliate WNJE 920 there.)
Will WDAS have any impact in a sports radio scene dominated by two big FMs, WIP (94.1) and WPEN (97.5), plus WPEN’s Beasley sister station WTEL (610)? Unlikely, of course – but it will at least give iHeart a toehold to pick up a little of the sports advertising market in town, plus a Philadelphia market clearance for Premiere’s Fox Sports network.
Elsewhere at iHeart Philadelphia, Eliott King joins WIOQ (102.1) for a new night show, “Q102 Tonight,” that will debut September 9. King moves east from afternoons at WNOU (Radio Now 100.9) in Indianapolis; at Q102, he’s replacing Raph (Raphael Opida), who’s headed west to KIIS in Los Angeles.
*In Pittsburgh, there are probably a few puzzled listeners driving around wondering why their HD radios have suddenly taken them to Kansas City. The answer has to do with Steel City Media, which owns a cluster of Kansas City stations alongside WLTJ (92.9) and WRRK (96.9) in Pittsburgh – and which has apparently decided to share its Kansas City programming over the HD subchannels on those Pittsburgh stations.
So for the moment, at least, KC’s “Mix” KMXV (93.3) replaces “Lite Rock” on 92.9-2, with country KBEQ (104.3) replacing “Disco on the 4” on 92.9-4. (“We Will Rock Q” stays put on 92.9-3, we’re told.) And on 96.9, “Bob’s B-Sides” remains on HD2, but “Bob’s Malt Shop” oldies on HD3 have given way to country KFKF (94.1) from Kansas City.
*Two months after NEW YORK‘s WPLJ (95.5) changed hands to K-Love, its longtime morning man is getting ready to return to… well, not “radio” exactly, but at least streaming. Todd Pettengill will launch his new paywalled webcast at HeyTodd.com on September 5, priced at $9.55 a month – and he’s quite insistent that the 9/5 date and the price have nothing whatsoever to do with his former radio home. His new show will run at least an hour a day “and probably two,” he tells LoHud.com.
*Here in Rochester, where veteran WBEE (92.5) morning man Steve Hausmann is heading into his final week, the TV side of the market unexpectedly lost one of its veterans last week. Norma Holland started at WOKR (Channel 13, now WHAM-TV) 23 years ago and became its morning co-anchor in 2002. After a tearful goodbye Friday morning (including guest appearances from several of her favorite musicians, in town for a weekend concert), Holland is off to digital marketing firm Digital Hyve – and we wish her all the best as she makes her career change.
*In Portland, MAINE, Saga has moved the FM home for its news-talk WGAN (560). WGAN’s new FM signal, W253DA (98.5), operates from the AM station’s Lane Avenue transmitter site, just like its old translator W288CU (105.5). But W253DA is permanently linked to WGAN, while W288CU is free to move to a different primary – and soon, Saga will launch another format on 105.5, fed from an HD subchannel.
*And yes, that’s about the extent of the news this week, especially as we get caught up after some family disruptions earlier in the month. But never fear – we’re back later this week with the return of Tower Site of the Week, plus the launch of Tower Site Calendar 2020, a new season of the Top of the Tower Podcast, and more. Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned.