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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