In this week’s issue… Andrulonis exits Bradford with WXMT sale – Community sells in the North Country – Coal country combo gets new owner – Morning show change in Philadelphia – Christmas battle in Boston?
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*When you’ve done a column like this as long as I have – 25 years and counting! – you see a lot of broadcast groups come and go and change direction. It’s been a long time since we wrote about, or even thought about, names like Granum, Cook Inlet, Pyramid or other players who were such important pieces of the ownership landscape back when we were starting out with “New England Radio Watcher” in the mid-1990s.
What we haven’t been very good about over all those years is pointing out some of those trend lines in real time, which is why we’re starting this week’s column in the hills of northern PENNSYLVANIA by paying attention to the impending exit of an owner whose stations have prompted a lot of coverage in this space over the last decade or so.
That would be Jeff Andrulonis, who built his Colonial Media + Entertainment group from a foundation in the Twin Tiers, where over time he put together a group that included three full power FMs and multiple translators and boosters spanning turf from Olean, N.Y. down past Bradford to Smethport.
In the last few years, though, Jeff and his wife Christy (“Sweet Tea,” on the air) have turned their focus sharply to their new home base down in South Carolina, where they’ve assembled a new cluster of stations around Myrtle Beach and Georgetown.
Colonial attempted to sell its entire Twin Tiers cluster a year and a half ago, in a $615,000 deal that would have been paid in cryptocurrency, but while that transaction drew wide attention, it never reached the finish line. Instead, Andrulonis sold one signal, WAGL (103.9 Eldred), to Family Life Ministry (it became WCGH earlier this year) and for a time took his other signals silent.
Now he’s found a buyer for one of those two remaining signals, WXMT (106.3 Smethport) – and here’s where we also get to note the real-time rise of a new player in the region. Bob Lowe’s Twilight Broadcasting started one year ago this week with the purchase of WKQW (1120) and WKQW-FM (96.3) in Oil City, then got more attention a few months ago by stepping in to save WEEU (830) in Reading out of the wreckage of the Reading Eagle Co. bankruptcy.
And now Twilight is coming to Bradford and Smethport, paying just $90,000 for WXMT. Lowe wasted no time last week bringing some changes to the station under its immediate LMA, ditching the “Mountain” classic rock format Colonial had run for more than a decade and flipping the 106.3 signal to classic hits as “106.3 XMT.”
The sale of WXMT leaves Andrulonis with just one remaining signal in the region, the 96.7 in Portville/Olean that (last we heard) was doing country as WAGL. And we’re not at all sure what became of the translators and boosters around the region – perhaps it’s time for us to head down that way for a road trip soon?
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*More sales in Pennsylvania? Yes indeed – in coal country, WMGH (105.5 Tamaqua) and WLSH (1410 Lansford) have been on the market for a while now, and it appears they’ve finally found a buyer. J-Systems Franchising Corp. filed last week to sell the stations to Ronald and Christopher Crumliss’ CC Broadcasting LLC for $175,000. WMGH does adult contemporary as “Magic 105.5,” serving a swath of the mountains between Hazleton and Reading, while WLSH does standards. The Crumlisses also own WGPA (1100 Bethlehem) in the nearby Lehigh Valley.
*In Philadelphia, Urban One has dropped its local morning show at WRNB (100.3). Quincy Harris joined “100.3 RNB” at the start of 2018, teaming up with K Foxx to replace Tom Joyner. Now Harris is out, while Foxx remains with WRNB for middays, while the station goes jockless for the moment in mornings. (As Lance Venta explored over on Radio Insight, Urban One’s Philadelphia cluster strategy has shifted in the last year or so, as its newer “Classix” R&B throwback on 107.9 pulled ahead of the bigger-signalled WRNB 100.3.)
*In Erie, we’re wondering whether the “Happi” top-40 format on WEHP (92.7 Lawrence Park) will survive the impending sale from the ERIE Radio Company to Lilly Broadcasting. Lilly has applied to the FCC to change the calls on 92.7 to WICU-FM, tying it closer to its future sister station, Lilly’s WICU-TV (Channel 12). When 92.7 changes hands and changes calls, it will return the WICU calls to the Erie radio dial for the first time in decades, going back to 1967 when WICU-TV sold its AM outlet, WICU (1330), which changed calls to WRIE and is today iHeart’s WFNN.
*Up in NEW YORK‘s North Country, Community Broadcasters is exiting Ogdensburg, applying to sell its three stations there to a new company called Score Advertising. That’s a new venture from Bruce Sermonis, who was sales manager in Elmira for Community until Jim Leven and Bruce Mittman sold those stations to Seven Mountains Media.
In Ogdensburg, Sermonis will pay $350,000 for two class A FMs, country “Wolf” WLFK (95.3 Gouverneur) and news-talk WQTK (92.7 Ogdensburg), plus ESPN affiliate WSLB (1400 Ogdensburg), separating that cluster from the Watertown stations down the road that will remain with Community.
*When we had Galaxy Media head honcho Ed Levine on our Top of the Tower Podcast a few weeks back, he hinted that there were more announcements on the way from his fast-moving radio and events company, and sure enough, last week he announced a new chief revenue officer for his Utica stations. Cosmina Schulman grew up in Utica but had most recently been working in sales management at NESN in Boston. She starts at Galaxy Utica today.
And while we’re in Utica, we note that Dan Falinski’s “UP Music Radio” group has signed on new translator W231DZ (94.1), with a big Smith Hill signal that rebroadcasts WRCK (1480 Remsen). UP leases that AM from Utica’s Phoenix group, and it’s running a Christian AC format there.
(Fybush Media was pleased to assist Phoenix and UP Music Radio with that translator filing and site selection.)
In Syracuse, Jack Morse was a sports staple for years, covering the local scene for WHEN-TV/WTVH (Channel 5), WIXT (Channel 9), NewChannels cable and WHEN (620), as well as serving as the voice of the Syracuse Chiefs. The Whitney Point native started doing radio in high school at WINR in Binghamton and WOLF in Syracuse before joining WHEN radio in the early 1960s. (Among his distinctions was having done the last WHEN radio broadcast from the Loew Building downtown in 1963, then turning around the very next morning and doing the first show from the new 980 James Street studios.)
Morse moved over to WHEN-TV in 1966, rising to the post of sports director, where he stayed until 1983. The next year, he joined WIXT, where he worked for 16 years. Morse’s last regular broadcast gig started in 1997, doing sports for Phil Markert’s WTLA morning show. He died Thursday at his Manlius home, at age 84.
*A veteran RHODE ISLAND programmer will get to spend his winter in the sunshine. Bob Walker, Hall Communications’ VP of programming, announced last week he’ll be moving his base of operations to Hall’s Lakeland, Florida cluster (shown at right) sometime in early 2020.
Walker has also been PD of WCTK (Cat Country 98.1) in Providence, and no replacement has been named there yet; in Lakeland, Walker will take over the OM role for the local “Big 4” cluster and PD duties for country WPCV (97.5) from the retiring Mike James.
(Want to see where Bob will be working? Lucky you – Mike gave us a tour of the Lakeland facility last year and we shared it with you recently on Site of the Week!)
*While we were in MASSACHUSETTS (briefly!) over the weekend, we noted the format change at WWDJ (1150 Boston), which flipped from Spanish religious “Radio Luz” to Catholic “Relevant Radio” two weeks ago. Relevant closed last week on a big batch of purchases from Salem, which brought the Wisconsin-based network’s programming to former Salem signals in several other big markets as well, including Denver, St. Louis, Miami, Tampa, Dallas and San Antonio.
*Where are they now? Phil Zachary, who managed the Boston cluster for Entercom for years, then was shifted down to Hartford after Entercom bought CBS Radio, has exited as senior VP/market manager for Entercom’s stations in Washington, DC. Zachary’s exit (to an unspecified corporate “special projects” role, presumably until his contract ends) comes amidst continued scattered cutbacks around Entercom clusters nationwide.
On a happier note, JJ Kincaid has landed as the new morning co-host at Cumulus’ WKHX (101.5) in Atlanta, where he’s now just “Kincaid” on the newly-rebranded “New Country 101.5.” JJ’s career included a long stint at night on New York’s Z100 before moving west to do mornings for several years at iHeart’s KPTT (95.7 the Party) in Denver.
*In CANADA, Leclerc Communications is trying again to buy a Montreal FM station – but instead of CKLX (91.9), as it tried to do last year, it’s CJPX (99.5), the French-language station that’s been doing classical music as “Radio Classique.”
In a CRTC application, Leclerc said it intends to pay C$4.9 million for the station, contingent on approval to drop the classical specialty format, which it would replace with a French-language AAA format. It’s not clear what would become of CJPX’s Quebec City sister station, CJSQ (92.7), which has also been doing a “Radio Classique” format in a partial simulcast with its big sister n Montreal.