In this week’s issue… Western PA AMs sell – KDKA vet steps back – New FM on the Rock – Changes coming at ESPN NY, Townsquare Buffalo – Remembering WPLJ’s Banks, PA’s “Banana Joe,” NYC jazz legend Schaap, Binghamton’s Fionte
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*In an era when station values are largely headed downward, there’s a transaction in western PENNSYLVANIA that’s moving very much in the opposite direction.
The St. Barnabas Health System, the senior home operator that bought Pittsburgh’s WJAS (1320) last year, is now expanding into nearby Beaver County with the purchase of WBVP (1230 Beaver Falls) and WMBA (1460 Ambridge) from Sound Ideas Media. Back in 2014, Sound Ideas bought the two AM stations from Iorio Broadcasting for $750,000, adding one translator at 99.3 to the stations’ full-service “Beaver County Radio” simulcast and obtaining a construction permit for a second translator.
The deal with St. Barnabas includes both AM signals and translators, as well as most (but not quite all) of the land at both AM transmitter sites, and it excludes the current studio site (right) in downtown Beaver Falls, which also doubles as a broadcast museum.
So what’s it worth to St. Barnabas? Would you believe $2.33 million?
Why so much? We can only speculate, of course – but Beaver is one of the three counties where St. Barnabas operates, it’s largely outside of the coverage area for WJAS itself, and its population tends to skew older, which makes the WBVP/WMBA audience attractive for a senior care system that wants to use its own talk radio stations to market itself.
We don’t know much yet about St. Barnabas’ plans for the Beaver County stations, though we’d expect them to eventually pick up much of the same syndicated lineup as WJAS, perhaps retaining some of their local morning talk and high school sports. Will the deal be worth it to St. Barnabas? If there’s any buyer who could justify paying so much for two signals serving a county of 160,000 people, St. Barnabas is probably that buyer – and only its internal marketing numbers will bear out whether the investment will generate enough of a new customer base to pay for itself. Whatever the case, it’s a reminder that non-traditional buyers like St. Barnabas or the LECOM medical school up the road in Erie are key to the future of small-town radio.
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