In this week’s issue… Univision sells NYC FM – Wahl fights the FCC – Barnett to Buffalo – Midday swap at WFAN – New Toronto morning team announced – Maritimes, Syracuse TV talent sign off
By SCOTT FYBUSH
Jump to: ME – NH – VT – MA – RI – CT – NY – NJ – PA – Canada
*When radio station values were soaring in the early 2000s, there were a handful of sales that turned out in retrospect to be benchmarks for the peak of the market. Spanish Broadcasting System paid $250 million in 2000 for 96.3 in Los Angeles, a record price for a full-market signal. And then, at the end of 2003, Univision paid $60 million for what was then WLIR (92.7) in Garden City, a little class A signal that covered only a fraction of the larger NEW YORK market.
It was an eye-popping price at a time when values were still climbing. In the years that followed, it’s looked like an even more remarkable figure, especially after the 2008 recession brought station values back to earth. For Univision, the 92.7 signal never really repaid that huge investment. Even after adding two low-powered booster signals in Manhattan and near JFK Airport, the station (now renamed WQBU) struggled to be heard in parts of the city and was completely unlistenable in most of New Jersey. It cycled through formats without ever really finding ratings success.
And now, 18 years after making that big-ticket purchase, Univision is selling WQBU for a tiny fraction of what it paid. On Friday, Family Stations announced it’s buying the 92.7 signal for $9 million, returning its religious programming to the New York FM dial nine years after it sold off what had been its own full-market signal, WFME (94.7 Newark).
Time for some math? Family sold that class B 94.7 signal to Cumulus for $40 million, paid $13 million two years later to buy a New York AM signal, WQEW (1560), from Disney, and then netted $51 million earlier this year to sell off the land under the AM site in Queens. Subtract the $9 million it’s spending now on the 92.7 signal, and by our calculations, Family has ended up trading that class B FM and the land under the AM site for a net gain of $71 million – plus the 92.7 signal and the 1560 license.
For Family, the result will be patchwork coverage of most of the market: when it takes over 92.7, that FM signal will reach most of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Nassau County on Long Island, plus at least parts of Manhattan. Eastern Long Island has a separate Family signal, WFRS (88.9 Smithtown), and the Cumulus deal for 94.7 gave Family a northern Westchester County signal that’s now WFME-FM (106.3 Mount Kisco). That leaves New Jersey as the big hole in Family’s coverage, which we assume is where the 1560 signal will come in once Family finds a site where it can diplex at something closer to its original 50 kW power (as compared to the present 1000-watt STA that’s barely audible in most areas.)
As for Univision, it’s left with two signals after unloading 92.7: its lone full-market FM, Spanish rhythmic WXNY (96.3) and Spanish-language sports WADO (1280). That’s not a very large cluster for market number one – will Univision stick with radio long-term in the market, or will its other stations be in play while the company focuses more on its top-rated WXTV (Channel 41) and sister station WFUT (Channel 68)? We’ll be watching…
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