The Year in Sales

By SCOTT FYBUSH

It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 25th 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 Monday, December 31, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report with a holiday update on Wednesday, January 2, followed by our usual Monday column on January 7. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and of course Lance Venta at 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 2018, month by month.

Before we get to the month-by-month recap of all of the year’s sales across the region, we always look at the largest deals and the trends of the year.

This wasn’t a year for many big-market deals; nothing national on the radio scene came even close to rivaling 2017’s CBS Radio-Entercom announcement, and in fact the only huge FM deal in the region’s biggest markets was an aftershock from that same deal, as Entercom swapped Philadelphia’s WXTU back to Beasley and bought Jerry Lee’s WBEB, improving its market position for a net $20 million.

Connoisseur Media downsized dramatically in 2018, shedding its Hartford cluster to John Fuller’s Full Power and its WPST in Trenton to Townsquare; Townsquare was also a buyer in Utica, adding Galaxy’s WOUR to its existing cluster there in an unusual deal that gave Galaxy the cash it needed to restructure with all-local ownership.

Utica wasn’t the only market where clusters realigned – in Burlington, Vermont, the Goldman family’s exit allowed Ken Barlow’s Vox AMFM group to grow.

In smaller markets, the marketplace continued to wrestle with valuing the AM/translator combinations that have become common. WXMC in north Jersey sold for over $700,000; other AM/translator combos went for as little as $50,000 in smaller areas. (And then there was WLNG on Long Island, an outlier as always, selling for $3.9 million in a deal mostly made up of the outsize value of its studio real estate.)

The TV landscape stayed oddly stable, save for the Tribune sale that didn’t happen with Sinclair and might yet happen with Nexstar.

North of the border, Newcap’s half-billion-dollar sale to Stingray was by far the big headline, though the ownership situation in Quebec stayed very fluid as RNC and Attraction Media sold, while Cogeco, LeClerc and former Attraction head Sylvain Chamberland were buyers.

What will 2019 bring?

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

JANUARY

John Fuller kicked off the year with an $8 million deal, taking most of Connoisseur’s Hartford-market cluster – WDRC-FM (102.9) and three of the four “Talk of Connecticut” simulcasts, WDRC (1360 Hartford), WMMW (1470 Meriden) and WSNG (610 Torrington), as well as a New Haven translator (W272DO) for Full Power Radio’s “Bomba” network. The odd AM out, WWCO (1240 Waterbury)? It goes to David Webster’s Trignition Media for $260,000, including a new translator at 106.3.

Boston’s WBIX (1260) went from Salem to International Church of the Grace of God, which had been leasing the signal for its “Radio Nossa” Portuguese-language programming. The church paid $685,000 for the station, and is buying the transmitter site in a separate deal. That site will also be the diplexed home of WMEX (1510 Boston), for which Ed Perry paid $125,000 to Daly XXL.

In New York, NY Metro Radio Korea paid $1.75 million for WNYZ-LP (Channel 6), the host license for its 87.7 MHz “Franken-FM” signal, which it had been leasing from Island Broadcasting.

Up in Portland, Maine, Ion Media paid Ironwood Communications $900,000 for WPME (Channel 35), moving Ion from 35.2 to 35.1 and replacing MyNetwork TV.

FEBRUARY

A big surprise in Utica hit mid-month, when Ed Levine’s Galaxy Broadcasting announced a $3.95 million deal to sell rocker WOUR (96.9) to crosstown Townsquare, adding a fourth big FM to that cluster and leaving Galaxy with two FMs, an AM sports trio and an adult hits HD2/translator. Why do it? Because that cash helped Levine buy out his downstate investors and refinance his station group with local partners.

Just $55,000 for legendary KQV (1410 Pittsburgh)? Yes – because buyer Bob Stevens’ Broadcast Communications Inc. was buying only the license for the silent station from Calvary, Inc.

After selling its own RF spectrum in the Hudson Valley, TBN paid $13 million to LocusPoint for WDVB-CD (Channel 23) in New York, the channel-sharing host for TBN’s “zombie” license, WTBY (Channel 54).

It wasn’t a radio station, per se, but New York Public Radio made a big acquisition by picking up the shuttered Gothamist website from former owner Joe Ricketts.

MARCH

Connoisseur was selling again, this time in New Jersey, where Townsquare solidified its Trenton-market dominance with a $17 million deal adding top-40 WPST (94.5), plus smaller AMers WNJE (920) and WCHR (1040), to its big “New Jersey 101.5,” WKXW.

APRIL

In Pennsylvania, Aztec Capital Partners paid New World Media $375,000 for silent WNWR (1540 Philadelphia), while Seven Mountains paid GEOS Communications $335,000 for WVYS (96.9 Ridgebury), plus a booster and a translator. Down the road to the west, On Air Inc. struck an unusual $615,000 to buy Colonial Media’s cluster in Smethport and nearby Olean, NY, paying with cryptocurrency instead of cash, but an LMA never led to closing there.

In non-license sales, the Globe’s Boston.com sold its streaming RadioBDC operation to managers Paul Driscoll and John LaVasseur, who keep the indie rocker alive as Indie617.com. And in New York City, Disney struck a billion-dollar deal to sell its properties along West 66th Street to Silverstein Properties, which will eventually move ABC and local WABC-TV downtown to Hudson Square.

Across the border, Cogeco paid C$18.5 million for 10 FM stations in smaller Quebec markets from RNC Media.

MAY

The deal-making continued in Canada, where Stingray Digital Group announced a C$506 billion deal to buy Newcap Radio’s stations from Newfoundland Capital.

Those Newcap outlets stretched from coast to coast, including the Steele family’s original holdings in Newfoundland (the St. John’s-based VOCM stations), a strong base in the Maritimes (where the radio division was headquartered in Dartmouth, N.S.), CILV (Live 88.5) and CIHT (Hot 89.9) in Ottawa, and the big stations Newcap acquired out of the spinoffs from the Bell/Astral merger in 2014, CFXJ (93.5 the Move) and CHBM (Boom 97.3) in Toronto.

Across the border, Vox AM/FM brought WVTK (92.1 Port Henry NY) into its cluster, repurchasing it from Vox principal Ken Barlow for $600,000.

Out on Long Island, Cantico Nuevo Ministries paid Polnet $135,000 for the license of WLIM (1580 Patchogue); in Boston, Real Media Group paid Universal Stations $425,000 and $450,000, respectively, for WESX (1230 Nahant) and WJDA (1300 Quincy) – and in western Pennsylvania, Matt Lightner paid Colonial Radio Group of Williamsport $50,000 for WWGE (1400 Loretto) and a translator CP.

JUNE

An otherwise quiet month for sales brought the news of Galaxy’s restructuring, selling a fifth of the company to seven minority investors, including Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim.

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JULY

Another of the biggest deals of the year went down in Philadelphia, where Entercom kept the size of its cluster stable but swapped out some of the signals in that stable, paying Jerry Lee Broadcasting $57.5 million for AC behemoth WBEB (101.1) and selling country WXTU (92.5) back to Beasley for $38 million.

In Providence, Diaz Holdings paid $240,000 to New England Christian Media for WSTL (1220) and its translator at 93.7, a steep drop from the $1.9 million the AM alone fetched back in 2006.

Seven Mountains was busy again, paying $70,000 for WJUN (1220 Mexico) and its translator at 107.5, then $80,000 for translator W260AY (99.9) in Nanticoke.

AUGUST

Hearst added a second station in the Portland market to its existing WMTW (Channel 8), paying Ironwood Communications $3.35 million for CW affiliate WPXT (Channel 51).

Michael Schaus’ Think Tank Media paid $390,000 to Whitney Radio Broadcasting for WENT (1340 Gloversville NY) and its 105.1 translator, allowing longtime owner Jack Scott to retire after 32 years running that quintessential small-town station.

Out in western New York, Media One Group solidified its hold on Jamestown with the $300,000 purchase of Cross Country Communications’ WKZA (106.9) and WLKW-FM (95.3 Celoron), the only serious commercial competitors to its own three FMs and two AMs. Media One kept hot AC “Kiss” WKZA, but donated 95.3 to EMF Broadcasting.

More non-license sales: Beasley’s studio building on Morrissey Boulevard in Boston’s fast-growing Dorchester neighborhood was part of a $56 million deal that will see the stations moving again sometime soon.

SEPTEMBER

Universal Broadcasting sold one of its two remaining signals, north Jersey’s WVNJ (1160 Oakland), which went to Immaculate Heart for $750,000.

In the Adirondacks, Ricki Lee and his wife Hanna Kaleta finally received their long-awaited FCC permission to buy WRGR (102.1 Tupper Lake), one of the first tests of the Commission’s new foreign ownership policy.

OCTOBER

A long local ownership tradition came to an end in Burlington, Vermont, where the Goldman family’s Sison Broadcasting struck a deal to sell WVMT (620) and WXXX (95.5) to crosstown Vox AM/FM, joining that group’s existing four FMs and two AMs, making it a more dominant player against Hall Communications and several smaller clusters.

Another north Jersey AM deal found WXMC (1310 Parsippany-Troy Hills) selling for $781,000 to Cantico Nuevo Ministry, setting a benchmark high value for smaller AMs for the year.

Back in New England, Saga Communications paid $210,000 to Northeast Broadcasting for WFAT (700 Orange-Athol MA) and, more valuably, its Greenfield 92.3 translator. Another big translator deal happened across the state line in the Albany area, where WMHT Public Broadcasting paid Empire Broadcasting $275,000 for W291BY (106.1 Troy), a substantial translator signal that had been repeating silent WAIX (1160).

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NOVEMBER

WLNG (92.1 Sag Harbor), the famously quirky oldies voice on Long Island’s East End, found a buyer, seven years after the death of longtime owner Robert O. King. Sandra Foschi’s Bark Out Loud Dogs Media paid $3.9 million for the station, $3.2 million of it for the incredibly valuable land under WLNG’s waterfront studio and former AM tower.

In Quebec, Leclerc Communications proposed a C$19 million pickup of RNC Media’s CHOI (98.1) in Quebec City and CKLX (91.9) in Montreal, contingent on yet-to-be-granted CRTC approval of a format change from sports at CKLX and of the addition of CHOI as a third FM alongside Leclerc’s existing CJEC and CFEL in Quebec City.

In northwestern Pennsylvania, Oil City’s WKQW-FM (96.3), WKQW (1120) and a construction permit for translator W281CA (104.1) are all going from Clarion County Broadcasting to Twilight Broadcasting, headed by Robert Lowe, for $265,000.

In Connecticut, Veritas Catholic Network filed for a $300,000 purchase of WNLK (1350 Norwalk) and a translator CP from Sacred Heart University.

DECEMBER

The year ended much as it began, with Tribune Broadcasting’s TV stations once again awaiting FCC approval of a potential suitor. After Sinclair’s regulatory issues and market-concentration issues doomed the $3.9 billion deal that would have sent New York’s WPIX, Philadelphia’s WPHL and other big Tribune stations to that controversial operator, Nexstar emerged with a $4.1 billion proposal that looks likely to win easier FCC approval.

A rather smaller TV deal in New York found Press Communications paying $300,000 for BuenaVision’s WBQM-LD (Channel 51), which can’t keep its RF 50 spectrum after the repack next year.

And in the scenic Finger Lakes, Jeff Pearce’s MB Communications sells WYLF (850 Penn Yan), plus its new 93.9 translator, to Arizona lawyer Timothy Stratton, for $285,000.

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

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