The Year in Sales

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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It’s that time again: at long last, we’ve arrived at the end of a challenging year, both for the industry as a whole and for your editor personally. And that means we take a break from our weekly roundup of industry news for our 21st annual Year in Review edition. Year in Review installments will appear daily beginning today, all week long through our wrap-up on Friday, January 2, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 5, 2015, and Tower Site of the Week is back Friday, January 9, 2015. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)

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We start, as we always do, with sales: for a long time now, this has been the only place that collects a full year’s worth of station sale data for the region in one convenient spot, and we continue that tradition as we look back on 2014, month by month.

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JANUARY

The story of the month, sales-wise, was all about defaults and debts. George Kimble’s bankruptcy proceedings forced the $715,000 sale of his ROI Broadcasting’s WFIZ in Ithaca to the market’s dominant operator, Saga. Down Route 13 in Elmira, Robert Pfuntner’s lingering bankruptcy proceedings resulted in the $k sale of his Olean and Salamanca stations to Sound Broadcasting and the attempted sale of the Elmira/Corning cluster to a spousally-related group, Great Radio, though objections from competing broadcasters quashed that half of the sale.

wplb-closedUp north, RadioActive took back WPLB (100.7 Plattsburgh West) for debts owed; in northern Maine, Decelles-Smith reclaimed WEGP (1390 Presque Isle) after buyer Northern Maine Broadcasting defaulted.

In western Pennsylvania, Iorio Broadcasting sold WBVP (1230 Beaver Falls)/WMBA (1460 Ambridge) to Sound Ideas Media for $750,000, though the company would be back before long. And in the noncommercial world, Bud Williamson picked up WNYX (88.1 Montgomery) and its translators for a total of $40,000, launching a new “Hudson Valley Public Radio” operation.

FEBRUARY

A pair of big TV sales dominated the month’s headlines, both from Granite: for $110 million, Scripps-Howard picked up Buffalo’s WKBW-TV (Channel 7) along with WMYD (Channel 20) in Detroit; in Binghamton, WBNG (Channel 12) was part of a $45 million sale of Granite assets to Quincy Newspapers that has yet to be consummated at year’s end.

Out on Cape Cod, WBUR paid just $7500 to Home Improvement Ministries for the construction permit to 89.1 in Brewster, albeit with just a few weeks to run before the CP for the powerful new signal was to expire. In the Wilkes-Barre market, Good News for Life picked up WRGN (88.1 Sweet Valley) from Gospel Media Institute for no consideration, and in Lewiston, Maine, Dick Gleason’s WEZR (1240) added translator W288CW for $35,000 from Edgewater, relaunching in March as “Z105.5.”

MARCH

connoisseur-logo-lgConnoisseur Media’s purchase of Buckley’s WDRC cluster in Hartford was the big radio deal of the month, while Media General’s $1.6 billion merger with LIN was by far the big TV deal, creating an ownership-cap conflict in Providence that put Media General’s WJAR (Channel 10) on the market.

WJVM (90.3 Bellefonte PA) changed hands from KC Club Inc. to Voice of Divine Mercy for $1000. The month’s other radio sales in the region were all translators: W252CT (98.3 Bangor) from David Stout to its AM parent station, Stephen King’s WZON (620), for $80,000; W276AS (103.1 Martinsburg PA) to its AM parent, WJSM (1110), for $27,000; and a $10 sale of W250AB (97.9 Manchester NH) from Cumulus to Townsquare to clear up some paperwork confusion in which the translator failed to change hands along with parent WOKQ (97.5 Dover) a few months earlier.

APRIL

The big surprise of the month – and maybe even the year – was the $10.1 million Arthur Liu’s Multicultural Radio pocketed for the sale of WNSW (1430 Newark NJ) to Catholic broadcaster Starboard Media, which probably wished it had waited a few more months to go after the much bigger signal of WQEW (1560 New York) instead for just a few million dollars more.

Dan Savadove’s Main Line group exited the region, and radio entirely, with a $37 million deal that made it part of Larry Wilson’s growing Alpha group. And in New Hampshire, Capitol Broadcasting finally unloaded WWHK (102.3 Concord) after years of LMAs and interim formats, selling to Steve Silberberg for $425,000 as the newest link in his Haverhill-based “River” AAA format.

MAY

Frank Iorio returned to the Pittsburgh market in a bigger way, as his Pittsburgh Radio Partners picked up WJAS (1320) from Renda, leaving that group as a standalone operator of WSHH (99.7).

In New York’s Mohawk Valley, Dr. Thomas Kuettel sold WIZR (930 Johnstown) and its translator to Amsterdam’s Cranesville Block for $150,000.

The FCC’s AM auction yields a $409,000 bid from Alexander Communications to move its WRCR (1300) in Rockland County up the dial to 1700. Ted Schober gets 850 in Enola, near Harrisburg, with a $5,000 bid, and Austin R. Kennedy’s $9500 bid wins 1450 in Montoursville, near Williamsport.

JUNE

wggb-fox6Two TV deals led the news: in Harrisburg, Sinclair wormed out of an ownership-cap challenge by selling Allbritton’s WHTM (Channel 27) to Media General for $85.3 million, allowing Sinclair to move forward on the purchase of the Allbritton assets it really coveted, Washington’s WJLA (Channel 7) and its “NewsChannel 8” cable partner. And in Springfield, Bruce Gormally made a surprise exit from his career as a TV owner, selling ABC affiliate WGGB (Channel 40) and its “Fox 6” subchannel sister to Meredith for $53.8 million to partner with CBS LPTV WSHM (Channel 21). The Fox affiliate in Boston then upped the ante as WFXT (Channel 25) became part of a swap between Fox Television Stations and Cox Media Group, which handed Fox its KTVU (Channel 2) in San Francisco in exchange for WFXT and the Fox O&O in Memphis.

On the radio side of things, Emmanuel Communications paid $250,000 for Money Matters Radio’s WESO (970 Southbridge MA), while New Hampshire Public Radio paid Highland Public Radio $75,000 for classical WCNH (91.5 Bow), which Harry Kozlowski had been operating from NHPR’s studios and on an NHPR FM HD subchannel for a while anyway.

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JULY

Longo Media Group exits the Latrobe, Pennsylvania market with a $450,000 sale of WCNS (1480) to Laurel Highlands Total Communications. In central New Hampshire, Colby-Sawyer College sells silent WSCS (90.9 New London) to the Vinikoor Family Foundation for $4,000.

AUGUST

Greater Media finds a buyer for its spinoff of WJAR (Channel 10) in Providence, though the sale to Sinclair has yet to close at year’s end.

In New York’s Finger Lakes, a bankruptcy auction for the Finger Lakes Radio Group finds a group led by New England’s Bruce Danziger outbidding current manager Alan Bishop’s bid of just over $3 million. Down the road in Elmira, the Pfuntner stations finally get a buyer, we think, though the $1.13 million sale to Gordon Ichikawa’s Tower Broadcasting also hasn’t closed at year’s end.

In Pennsylvania, a transfer within Crawford family ownership values WDAC (94.5 Lancaster) and WBYN-FM (107.5 Boyertown) at $8.4 million.

In northeast Pennsylvania, WWCB (1370 Corry) goes from Corry Communications to Greater Corry Area Broadcasting for $60,000; up the road in Erie, WLEP-LD goes to spectrum speculator LocusPoint for a whopping $ million.

Speaking of TV, Buffalo’s right in the crosshairs of two spinoff deals announced this month: Scripps-Howard’s plan to merge its broadcast operations with Journal Broadcast Group and then spin off the Scripps and Journal newspapers into a separate company affects WKBW (Channel 7), while Gannett announces future plans to split its newspapers away from its TV holdings, including WGRZ (Channel 2) in Buffalo and WCSH/WLBZ in Maine.

SEPTEMBER

It’s a busy autumn for the Confer family: while patriarch Kerby Confer consolidates his Forever and Keymarket holdings under a new umbrella, FM Media, his daughter Kristin Cantrell buys into western Pennsylvania with her Seven Mountains Media group. In its first purchase, Seven Mountains pays $2.075 million for First Media’s State College and Lewistown signals, followed by a $2.75 million purchase of 2510’s State College stations. (The complex deals actually sent the license assets of all seven stations to Southern Belle LLC, owned by Cantrell’s mother, Judith Confer, with the real property and operational assets of the stations going to Seven Mountains.)

In Olean and Salamanca, Pembrook Pines finally closes its $275,000 sale to Sound Broadcasting.

North of the border, PAM (formerly CPAM Radio Union, owner of CJWI 1410) picks up a sister station in the Montreal market, CJMS (1040), for just C$15,000.

OCTOBER

wsnrAM is far from dead in New York City, even if prices have declined: Disney paid $40 million for WQEW (1560), but ended up with just $12.95 million from its (yet-to-be-closed) sale of the 50,000-watt signal to Family Stations. Down the dial, Davidzon Broadcasting paid $12 million to acquire WSNR (620 Newark NJ) from Blackstrap, which had been leasing the station to Davidzon for several years.

Upstate, Long Point Communications was the winning bidder, at $3.375 million, for the Finger Lakes Radio Group in Geneva and vicinity. Sound picked up another Pfuntner station, WZKZ (101.9 Alfred), for $130,000.

NOVEMBER

The month’s biggest sale was north of the border, where the Stanczykowski family made a C$1.125 million deal to sell its longtime multicultural station, CFMB (1280 Montreal), to Evanov.

In Pennsylvania, Kristin Cantrell’s Seven Mountains group added two more stations, Starview Media’s WLZS (106.1 Beaver Springs)/WJUN-FM (92.5 Mexico), for $650,000, while Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications (and its noncommercial spinoff, Broadcast Educational Communications) paid $350,000 for WRIJ (106.9 Masontown) and $25,000 for WKJL (88.1 Clarksburg WV), respectively, from He’s Alive.

DECEMBER

Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern added a new Burlington-market signal, WECM (104.3 Keeseville NY), for 6.4% equity to previous owner Electromagnetic Company.

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> > > Continue to part two: The Year in Formats, People and Calls

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