In this week’s issue… Seven Mountains shuffles again in Elmira – New PD in Buffalo – Public radio cuts back local, regional shows – Rogers rebrands AMs – Veteran NYC newser retires – Remembering Harry “Bud” Nelson, PA owner Carver
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Radio listeners in NEW YORK‘s Southern Tier went through a lot of confusion almost a year ago, when regional powerhouse Seven Mountains took over three FM signals and a slew of translators from Equinox Broadcasting, triggering an Independence Day format flip that relocated several formats and brands in Elmira, Corning and Hornell all at once.
That consolidation left the Elmira-Corning market with three commercial radio clusters – at least until Seven Mountains also bought out another competitor, Corning-based Sound Communications, in a $1.8 million deal that closed last week. That’s leading to another big round of format moves – but this time, it won’t all happen at once, and we don’t even know yet exactly where every piece in this big puzzle will land when it’s all over later this summer.
Here’s what we do know so far: Seven Mountains will end up keeping three of Sound’s four FMs and both its AMs in the market, spinning off one former Sound-owned FM and two FMs and an AM out of the existing Seven Mountains portfolio. But it’s retaining most of its existing brands, and that’s already led to two moves completed late last week.
“Magic” had been one of Sound’s three FM brands, playing hot AC over WENI-FM (92.7 South Waverly PA/Elmira) and WENY-FM (97.7 Big Flats/Corning). As of Friday, it’s begun migrating to a new home on AM and translators, originating from WENY (1230 Elmira) but reaching most listeners on FM via translators at 106.9 in Elmira and 106.7 in Corning. The 106.7 had been relaying Sound’s country station, WKPQ (105.3 Hornell); the 106.9 was already tied to 1230 and carrying a talk format. (“The Patriot” survives for now on WENI 1450 in Corning and a 103.3 translator.)
Also gone in the first wave of the Sound/Seven Mountains changes is the quirky 80s-based classic pop on “Gem,” WGMM (98.7 Corning), which has flipped to a simulcast of the more mainstream classic hits of Seven Mountains’ “Cool” network, which originates for now on WPHD (104.9 Montour Falls). Cool had been heard in Corning on a 107.9 translator that’s being repurposed as a relay of “Jamz” classic hip-hop, which originates on an HD/translator pair in Elmira.
What’s next? In order to stay under the market ownership caps, Seven Mountains has to complete its spinoff of those FM and AM signals to Family Life Ministries, the noncommercial Christian network that’s in the process of building out a new headquarters in Corning. Family Life will soon put its programming on the WENY-FM 97.7 signal in Corning, as well as on what’s now 104.9 serving Elmira; it will also relocate WMTT-FM (100.9 Horseheads) from the Elmira market over to Ithaca on 101.1, as well as further spinning another Seven Mountains AM, WMTT (820 Horseheads), to a yet-to-be-named new owner.
If you’ve correctly moved all the chess pieces in your head so far, you’ll see what then remains to be sorted out over the next few weeks: when WMTT-FM goes religious, that will leave classic rock “Met” without an Elmira flagship, but not for long: we hear 92.7 will flip from “Magic” to “Met” soon. And that will leave just one more big question as Seven Mountains makes what’s hopefully the last big shuffle in a very turbulent market: at the Steuben County end of the market, country WKPQ (105.3) was the biggest prize in the Sound purchase, since it’s been the big competitor to Seven Mountains’ flagship country format, “Bigfoot Country,” heard on three full-power FMs across the market. Will WKPQ’s signal become a “Bigfoot” this summer? And what then becomes of the current Bigfoot signal in Hornell, WZBF (97.1 Canaseraga), as well as the substantial overlap to Corning’s Bigfoot signal, WOBF (94.7 Tioga PA)?
We’ll continue following these moves closely, as well as what appear likely to be more subtle changes to the west in the Olean market, where Seven Mountains can now get to work absorbing several Sound brands alongside its existing small cluster. It appears for now that the hot AC on “Mix” (WMXO 101.5 Olean) and rock on “Rock 98” (WQRS 98.3 Salamanca) will survive as companions to Seven Mountains’ giant country “Pig” (WPIG 95.7) and classic hits “Big Oly” (WOLY 1450/107.1), with some translator adjustments as Seven Mountains lights up some of the frequencies it acquired from Colonial last year but which have remained silent.
The Olean FM that was at the center of that Colonial deal, WUDE (96.7), got swapped off to Family Life, which will put it back on the air across the state line in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Family Life also takes over a former Sound FM in eastern Allegany County, WZKZ (101.9 Alfred), which had been simulcasting a country format with WOEN (1360) in Olean; we don’t know yet what will show up on that AM under Seven Mountains. And finally, there’s WGGO (1590) in Salamanca, which went from Sound to Seven Mountains to Family Life as a spinoff but will be spun again at some point.
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