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The Year in Sales

By SCOTT FYBUSH

It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 24th time we’ve gathered up our headlines from the previous 12 months and tried to sum it all up for you. Year in Review installments will appear daily beginning today through our wrap-up on Friday, December 29, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Tuesday, January 3, 2018. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and RadioInsight will be here with any breaking news!)


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 2017, month by month.

There was, of course, one deal that far overshadowed everything else this year, and you know what it was: the deal that sent CBS Radio’s stations in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh and Hartford to Entercom and the ownership-cap fallout that reshuffled the Boston market in a rather dramatic fashion.

Just about everything else in radio paled by comparison. EMF Broadcasting remained the biggest buyer, striking a high-publicity deal to buy the former WBRU in Providence and some lower-key deals to get Entercom’s spinoffs and a few other smaller signals. North of the border, a few more local owners succumbed to the consolidation trend, selling to Bell and Newcap.

Over in the TV world, it was a busy and often confusing year: the last of the old-line local owners in New England both sold to the same company, Gray Television, while some newer (and lesser-known) stations became “zombies,” their licenses passing to other owners while their spectrum was sold away at FCC auction.

Add to that the as-yet-unconsummated Tribune/Sinclair deal and the spinoffs that could follow, and it sets the stage for an interesting and exciting 2018 ahead.

(As always, Fybush Media is available and eager to help station owners and would-be owners navigate their way through those complex minefields…)

JANUARY

Was this year going to be all about Boston? Its first sale came early in January, as Rob Rudnick’s Colt Communications sold the license of WNTN (1550 Newton) to Delta Communications, LLC for $175,000. (The valuable land under the station’s studio and tower was sold separately, with WNTN moving to Newton studios and a new transmitter site shared with WJIB in Cambridge.) Across the state line, Rhode Island Public Radio struck a $1.5 million deal to buy WUMD (89.3) from UMass Dartmouth, with plans to move it to a bigger signal licensed to Newport. In Pennsylvania, EMF started the year quietly with a $160,000 purchase of its “K-Love” affiliate WPTC (88.1 Williamsport) from the Williamsport Lycoming Broadcast Foundation.

And then the month ended with the bombshell announcement of Entercom’s deal with CBS Radio.

FEBRUARY

A big TV deal highlighted the month, as Gray Television paid the Hildreth family’s Diversified Communications $85 million for WABI-TV (Channel 5) in Bangor, under the same local ownership since 1953, as well as WCJB in Gainesville, Florida.

In northern Pennsylvania, Denny Heindl’s Laurel Media files for a $1 million purchase of Frank Iorio’s three-station Warren cluster (WNAE 1310, WRRN 92.3, WKNB 104.3), though it won’t be consummated.

MARCH

Veteran Buffalo sales manager Buddy Shula (known to the FCC as William Ostrander) forms “Radio One Buffalo LLC” and pays Dick Greene $655,000 for WECK (1230 Cheektowaga) and its 102.9 translator downtown.

APRIL

As broadcasters watched the huge payouts from the FCC’s TV spectrum auction, Maranatha Broadcasting played out the final chapters of a long-pending deal to acquire KJWP (Channel 2) in Philadelphia from PMCM, providing a replacement for its WFMZ (Channel 69) in Allentown, which brought $140 million at auction.

In western Pennsylvania, Stanley Wall’s widow Sharon sold WLSW (103.9 Scottdale) and AM simulcast WQTW (1570 Latrobe) to Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications III, Inc. for $605,000. Up north, Ed and Carol Niewinski’s J.M.J. Radio paid Telikoja Educational Broadcasting $45,000 for WCOZ (91.7 New Albany).

Syracuse’s silent WFBL (1390) passed from Leatherstocking to Craig Fox for $275,000; a few weeks later, Fox sold the license of WOSW (1300 Fulton) to Sinan Mimaroglu’s Highlands Community Radio for $20,000.

MAY

The disappearance of locally-owned TV in New England continued with the Martin family’s $29 million sale of Burlington’s WCAX-TV (Channel 3) to Gray Television, ending 63 years of family ownership there. It was quickly dwarfed by Sinclair’s announcement of a $4 billion deal to buy Tribune’s TV stations, including WPIX in New York, WTIC-TV/WCCT in Hartford, WPHL in Philadelphia and WPMT in York, but that deal was quickly hung up in the regulatory process and was still awaiting completion at year’s end.

Jeff Shapiro’s Great Eastern Radio sold three New Hampshire FMs to Dirk Nadon’s Lake Radio LLC, which paid $2.6 million for sports WZEI (101.5 Meredith), classic rock WLKZ (104.9 Wolfeboro) and news-talk WTPL (107.7 Hillsboro) – then turned around and sold WTPL to Bill Binnie in August for $1.3 million.

“Major Keystone LLC” (northern New England radio owner Lee L’Heureux and Texas programmer/jock Pat “Grooves” Cerullo) paid Spanish American Civic Association for Equality $15,000 for translator W257DI in Reading, Pennsylvania, using it to relay a new HD subchannel hosted at Cumulus’ WLEV (100.7 Allentown).

On Long Island, Vincent Trapiani went from 49% ownership of WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) to full ownership as his VMT Media took over the remaining 51% of the station from Livingstone Broadcasting. No cash changed hands in this deal, but Trapiani assumed WLIR’s debt and agreed to change the station’s format from the “Hope Radio” religious programming it had been carrying.

JUNE

Epic Light Network paid St. Joseph’s Radio Station, Inc. a single dollar for the CP of WSJQ (91.5 Pascoag RI), still unbuilt at year’s end.


JULY

After two previous deals collapsed, the third time was the charm for Vox/Gamma, which sold its Berkshire County cluster – top-40 on WBEC-FM (“Live 95.9”), classic hits on “Whoopie” (WUPE-FM, WUPE and translator W277CJ 103.3 in Pittsfield), talk on WBEC and full-service/AC on WSBS (and translator W231AK 94.1 in Great Barrington) and WNAW – to Townsquare for $3.535 million.

The sad story of New Jersey‘s WMGM-TV (Channel 40) turned another page with the announcement that spectrum speculator LocusPoint Networks would selling the station to Univision for $6 million; it eventually became a spectrum-sharing host for TBN’s WGTW (Channel 48), which sold its own spectrum.

In Canada, the CRTC approved the C$4,162,000 deal in which Rogers picked up locally-owned CKOT (Easy 101.3) and CJDL (Country 107.3) from the Tillsonburg Broadcasting Company.

In Utica, Phoenix Radio, Inc. paid $125,000 for Good Guys Broadcasting’s silent WUSP (1550)/W238CA (95.5) and sister station WRCK (1480) up in Remsen. Down the Thruway, Robert and Letitia English’s Towercast Media LLC picked up Leatherstocking Media’s silent WMCR (1600 Oneida) for $40,000.

In western Pennsylvania, Loran Mann’s Pentecostal Temple Development Corp. sold silent WMNY (1150 New Kensington) to Bhavna Gupta’s Radio 1150 LLC for $180,000.

Plenty of translator sales marked the middle of summer: EMF paid Holding Out Hope Church $250,000 for translators W235BB (94.9 Hauppauge) and W283BA (104.5 Selden), switching them from “Hope Radio” (WLIR 107.1 Hampton Bays) to relaying EMF’s WKLV-FM (96.7 Port Chester). Here in Rochester, Blue Light Communications paid Russ Kimble $650,000 for translator W288CS (105.5), which relaunched not long afterward with an urban format as “The Beat,” while in south Jersey Rowan College sold translator W264BH (100.7 Mount Holly) to Spectrum Development Group for $125,000.

AUGUST

One of the most prominent sales of the year was Brown Broadcasting Service’s long-anticipated transfer of the 95.5 license in Providence, ex-WBRU, to EMF for $5.63 million. Down the road, Rhode Island Public Radio struck a $400,000 deal to sell WRNI (1290 Providence) to longtime lease tenant Latino Public Radio.

Bloomberg’s New England expansion continued with the $1,000,000 purchase of WNBP (1450 Newburyport) and its 106.1 translator from Port Broadcasting.

In Kingston, Buffett family money helped form Radio Kingston Corp., which paid Townsquare $500,000 for WKNY (1490) with big plans to make the station a more prominent local voice.

In Maine, James Talbott’s Katahdin Communications paid Clearwater Communications $525,000 for WKTJ-FM (99.3 Farmington), adding it to Katahdin’s WSYY AM-FM in Millinocket.

The DTV repack meant the selloff of the remains of WLWC (Channel 28) in Providence in two parts: the non-license assets (essentially the CW affiliation and some syndicated programming) to Nexstar for $4.1 million and the “zombie license” to Ion Media for

In Canada, Bell filed to buy four stations from Larche – “KICX Country” outlets CICX (105.9 Orillia) and CICS (91.7 Sudbury) and classic hits “Dock” outlets CJOS (92.3 Owen Sound) and CICZ (104.1 Midland). And Byrnes Communications filed a C$800,000 for Vista’s CJED (105.1 2dayFM) and CFLZ (101.1 Juice FM) in Niagara Falls.

SEPTEMBER

Just two deals in an otherwise quiet month – three of Entercom’s forced spinoffs went to EMF, including “Froggy” simulcast WGGI 95.9 in Benton, Pennsylvania, which fetched $275,000 on its way to “K-Love” alongside much bigger sister stations in LA and San Diego.

And the borough of Pompton Lakes, N.J., agreed to accept a donation (tax-deductible, of course) from John Silliman of his WGHT (1500).

OCTOBER

Repack-related TV sales dominated the month: in central Pennsylvania, OTA Broadcasting sold what was left of independent WGCB-TV (Channel 49) in Red Lion – its “zombie” license and physical tower assets – to Red Lion 49 Media, LLC and Rocket Dog Media, LLC, respectively, for a total of $2.25 million.

Up in Boston, OTA took in just $225,000 for the “zombie” license of little WYCN-CD (Channel 13) from Nashua, but the real news was the identity of the buyer. Comcast bought the low-power station and struck a deal to make it a channel-share on public broadcaster WGBX (Channel 44), bridging a Boston signal gap for its “NBC Boston,” which will lose its “60.5” full-power signal on WMFP (RF 18) in the new year but won’t be able to make its final move, relocating flagship station WNEU from New Hampshire, for a few more years yet.


NOVEMBER

EMF was both seller and buyer this month: in Rhode Island, it took in $360,000 from iHeart for translator W284BA (104.7 Warwick), which it no longer needed after buying WLVO (95.5) in the Providence market. In central Pennsylvania, EMF boosted its K-Love coverage into Harrisburg and Lancaster with the $700,000 pickup of WTPA (92.1 Palmyra) from Pat Sickafus. And in upstate New York, EMF made a surprise purchase at the northern end of the Albany market, paying Empire Broadcasting $550,000 for WJKE (101.3 Stillwater).

in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Newcap bought out one more local owner, picking up CKEC (94.1 East Coast FM) and CKEZ (Classic Rock 97.9) from Hector Broadcasting.

DECEMBER

After weeks of anticipation, the auction for Boston’s WMEX (1510) didn’t draw the $300,000 minimum bid – but the silent AM still found its way to a new owner, as WATD’s Ed Perry paid a reported $125,000 to Daly XXL for the station’s license, but not its expensive tower lease. Another venerable AM, Pittsburgh’s KQV, also ended the year looking for a buyer to save it from silence.

Up north, the remains of Ted Morgan’s Saranac Lake Radio, LLC found their way to new owners: Jonathan Becker’s North Country Radio paid $6,000 for WNBZ (1240)’s license, but not its calls or its transmitter site (which was on the town’s tax-sale rolls and may be headed to the adjoining community college). The WNBZ calls stay with WNBZ-FM (106.3 Saranac), which is headed to new owners Amanda Dagley and Bill Dickerson, late of Plattsburgh’s WIRY (1340/100.7).

More “zombie” DTV licenses changed hands: public broadcaster WGBH in Boston accepted the donation of WFXZ-CD (Channel 24), while WNET in New York ended up with both WEBR-CD (Channel 49) and WMBQ-CD (Channel 46).

> > > Coming Wednesday, Dec. 27: The Year in Formats, People and Calls

The Fybush Media podcast is back!

Season two of “Top of the Tower” offered you several preview editions during the NAB Show last month in Las Vegas – and now we’re back to regular weekly editions. Join host Scott Fybush and a wide variety of industry insiders every Wednesday for interesting conversation about what’s happening in the business of radio and TV, not to mention programming, engineering and the newsroom.

Find “Top of the Tower” on all your favorite podcast platforms or right here at fybush.com – and check out our Season 1 Archives, too!

2 COMMENTS

    • Thanks for mentioning it, Al – it will show up later in the Year in Review as we get to the year’s biggest stories. But it didn’t show here because it actually hasn’t happened. In fact, nothing at all has been filed with the FCC yet about this transaction! As best I can tell, Steve is operating the stations under an LMA…but beyond that, there’s little that we know, including a price, because that all shows up whenever (and if) something gets filed with the Commission.

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