The Year in Sales
By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 27th 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, January 1, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 4. (And in the meantime, our own Twitter and Facebook feeds and of course Lance Venta at 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 2020, 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.
It was a big year, yet again, for EMF Broadcasting, which checked Boston off its short list of missing major markets when it acquired the former WAAF from Entercom for $10.75 million – then filled in around the fringes with a bunch of deals to acquire stations in central Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont from Steve Silberberg.
Stations serving ethnic and minority communities were in high demand, too: one Long Island AM was flipped twice, for a healthy profit; iHeart’s Black Information Network became a new buyer in big markets; and one of Philadelphia’s smaller AM signals still made it into the million-dollar club.
It was a good year, pandemic notwithstanding, for smaller broadcasters with the resources to buy: whether it was Bob Lowe’s Twilight or the Schlesinger family in Pennsylvania, Dave Radigan along the New York state line, Chris DiPaolo in Rhode Island or new entrant Bennett Media in Maine, there were opportunities to pick up stations at bargain prices for those who were able to take advantage of them.
And it was a very good year for land values: the biggest radio deal of the year in the region was one that didn’t even include an actual radio station, the $51 million sale of the WFME (1560) site in Queens. That price tag may have been an outlier, but the balance of land value and station value is something we’ll be watching very closely for lots of struggling AM stations as we head deeper into the 2020s.
(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…)
It was a quiet start to a turbulent year, with just a few smaller deals. In central Pennsylvania, Bob Lowe’s Twilight Broadcasting paid Magnum Broadcasting $95,000 for WPHB (1260 Philipsburg, plus a 104.1 translator), adding to his growing Keystone State holdings.
Saga gave its “Outlaw Country” format a signal boost in New Hampshire after it closed on the $200,000 purchase of W295BL (106.9 Manchester) from Basic Holdings.
In increasingly consolidated Canada, CFVD (Horizon 95.5) in Dégelis, Quebec was sold to Arsenal Media for C$400,000.
It was all EMF in February – one of the year’s biggest deals was the $10.75 million sale of WAAF (107.3) just outside Boston from Entercom to K-Love, accompanied to the west by a $250,000 purchase of WFNX (99.9 Athol) from Steve Silberberg.
Buffalo taxi company owner William Yuhnke ventured into broadcasting with the $60,000 purchase of WJJL (1440 Niagara Falls) from M.J. Phillips Communications, leading to a relaunch with standards as WEBR later in the year.
In Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, Roger Wahl attempted to transfer WQZS (93.3) to his daughter, Wendy Sipple, for $10, in a bid to evade his legal trouble as he faced charges soliciting a man to rape a female friend of his. At year’s end, the fate of WQZS remained unclear, as the deal to move the station into Sipple’s hands didn’t go through.
Just outside Philadelphia, Fred Weinberg’s Far West Radio LLC filed a $1 million deal to buy translator W264BH (100.7 Mount Holly NJ) from Spectrum Development Group.
On Long Island, Universal Broadcasting’s successful defense of its WTHE (1520 Mineola) license against a rival ethnic broadcaster led to a $200,000 sale of the silent station’s license to Multicultural Broadcasting. Having lost its old site and moved to a diplex on the nearby WHLI (1100) site, WTHE soon filed to relocate to 1530 with more power, a move made possible by the surrender of Multicultural’s license for WJDM in Elizabeth, NJ.
In Quebec, Bell picked up the French-language V television network and its five owned-and-operated stations in Quebec, including CFJP (Channel 35) in Montreal and CFAP (Channel 2) in Quebec City. And Leclerc Broadcasting paid C$4.9 million purchase to buy CJPX (99.5) from Radio Classique, flipping the station from French-language classical music to a pop format based on Leclerc’s CJEC (91.9 Quebec City), which brands as “WKND 91.9.”
Hope Christian Church of Marlton added to its “Hope FM” network with the $100,000 acquisition of WXGN (90.5 Somers Point-Ocean City) from Joy Broadcasting, which continued its own programming on two LPFMs. Advantage Ministries, Inc. acquired WPOV-LP (107.7 Vineland) from Calvary Chapel of Vineland, in lieu of repaying a $6411.35 loan.
Seven Mountains Media made a move into the Williamsport market with a $100,000 purchase of translator W234AQ (94.7 Muncy) from Family Life Ministries, which had duplicate coverage in the market from another translator at 103.3.
WNYV (94.1 Whitehall NY) and WVNR (1340 Pulteney VT) got a little “loud”-er with a sale to an active pair of broadcast owners nearby. Aaron Ishmael and Ricki Lee paid $150,000 to Pine Tree Broadcasting for WVNR, WNYV and WVNR’s translator CP, W242DF (96.3 Poulteney), under the new operating name “Loud Media.”(The transaction included $30,000 for the licenses, $1000 for the WNYV site and $120,000 for the real estate in Vermont.)
Magnum Broadcasting sold an entire cluster of Pennsylvania stations to Schlesinger Communications, which has its own AM/FM pair, WSQV (92.1)/WBPZ (1230). Schlesinger paid $25,000 and the remainder of a promissory note for WQKK (106.9 Renovo) and its booster, WQKK-1; it wasted no time flipping that signal from 80s pop (“Q106.9”) to a simulcast of WSQV’s rock format. It also paid $350,000 for WQCK (Qwik Rock 105.9) in Philipsburg (plus a State College booster, WQCK-1) and news-talk WBLF (970 Bellefonte)/W292EZ (106.3), at least temporarily flipping both those stations to simulcasts of WBPZ.
Up in Tidioute, Calvary Chapel Russell sold WGIP (89.1) to Family Life Ministries for $10,000 and the forgiveness of a loan.
Former Binnie Media programming VP Stan Bennett jumped into ownership, as his Bennett Media Group paid $300,000 for the former Gleason Media licenses, along with their transmitter sites and a studio in Norway, Maine. The signals he got – and returned to the air – were the former country “WOXO” on 92.7 and simulcast WRMO (100.7 Mexico), the former hot AC “Maine’s Big Z” on WEZR (1240 Lewiston)/WPNO (1450 South Paris) plus translators on 105.5 and 96.9, and the former sports WTME (780 Rumford).
In Pennsylvania, WHAT (1340 Philadelphia) and its 99.9 translator changed hands again. Matt Braccili and Victor Martinez’ VM Broadcasting took over; VM owns Spanish tropical “Mega 99.5” (WEST/WHOL and translators) in Allentown-Easton. VM paid $1.5 million for the Philadelphia signals. And Seven Mountains added to its Williamsport holdings with a $100,000 deal to buy WEJS (1600 Jersey Shore), WLYC (1050 Williamsport) and three translators from the receiver handling Colonial Radio Group’s bankruptcy.
For supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, $900,000 is probably pocket change – but it was enough to buy WLIR (107.1 Hampton Bays) from VMT Media, providing an outlet on Long Island’s East End to simulcast the talk (and weekend music) programming of his recently-acquired WABC in New York, with a little local talk for Suffolk County included.
In western New York, Amherst-based Holy Family Communications paid $15,000 for Spirit Communications’ W203AW (88.5 Fredonia), flipping the station to a relay of WLGU (90.7 Lancaster), carrying Holy Family’s secondary “iCatholicMusic” network.
Three months after it went dark, WNPV (1440 Lansdale PA) sold its 13-acre property for $2.3 million to the North Penn School Board, to be used to expand the adjoining North Penn High School. The price was likely several orders of magnitude more than the value of the licenses of WNPV and translator W253CA (98.5), which remain licensed but silent with the clock ticking to return to the air by April 30, 2021 or lose their licenses for good. (In October, the licenses were donated to Four Rivers Broadcasting.)
EMF added again in New England, with a pair of deals to add four stations in New Hampshire and Vermont from two of Steve Silberberg’s companies: for $395,000, “River” simulcasts WXRG (102.3 Concord) and WLKC (105.7 Campton), plus variety hits WNYN (99.1 Whitefield), from Devon Broadcasting; and for another $360,000, “Point” WRJT (103.1 Royalton VT) from Lisbon Communications.
Another bargain price for a Boston AM – but only because its transmitter site wasn’t included. WILD (1090) shared the site of WXKS (1430), which is being sold, and that explained why it took just $80,000 for Bill Blount’s Blount Masscom group to pick up the license from John and Greg Douglas and James Su.
No sale: as rumors swirled, the sons of the late Ed Ansin made it clear they didn’t plan to sell his Sunbeam Television group, including WHDH and WLVI in Boston and WSVN in Miami.
A big AM deal in the big city: iHeart’s Black Information Network initiative prompted the company to step back in as a buyer for the first time in a few years, paying NJ Broadcasting $8.5 million for New York’s WWRL (1600) and an unbuilt translator CP W280GA (103.9 Edison NJ).
Another big deal, on a national level, was the one E.W. Scripps struck to buy Ion Media’s footprint of owned-and-operated stations across the country. At year’s end, Scripps was still tweaking the $2.65 billion deal to meet market-cap rules, which will require some of Ion’s 62 markets to be spun off to a new shell company.
In central Rhode Island, Hall’s WPVD (1450 West Warwick) changed hands to Chris DiPaola’s DiPonti group, which paid $110,000 for WPVD and its 105.5 translator, using it as the new home for the WWRI “I-95” rock format it had been running on a nearby LPFM, which was taken silent.
In Worcester County, Massachusetts, Epic Light Network added to its holdings by buying the other signal on 90.1 at the opposite end of the county from its flagship, WYQQ (90.1 Charlton). Epic Light paid just $1 for silent WJXP (90.1 Fitchburg), which had been part of Horizon Christian Fellowship’s “Renew Radio” network.
Lots of action on Long Island: WBWD (540 Islip) changed hands from Universal Stations to Luis Morales’ Metro Mex LLC group, which used the $700,000 deal to flip the station from South Asian “Radio Zindagi” to a Spanish-language Christian format – but not for long.
To the east, Michael Celenza’s Commercial Assets, Inc. paid Cantico Nuevo Ministry $20,000 for WLIM (1440 Medford), the parent signal to his “93.3 the Breeze” translator, W227CL.
Across Long Island Sound, Clark Smidt’s Clark Media, LLC picked up silent WATX (1220 Hamden CT), the former WQUN, for just the cost of the legal fees to transfer the license from Quinnipiac University.
In Canada, Neeti Ray won the bankruptcy bidding for CKFG (G98.7) in Toronto, whose parent company Intercity Broadcasting Network struggled after the death of founder Fitzroy Gordon. Ray promised to retain CKFG’s focus on Caribbean and African communities, a point of concern for a station that had been one of the few Black-owned signals in Canada.
And Jeff Andrulonis’ Colonial Radio Group found an exit from the Olean, NY market with a $200,000 deal to sell WUDE (96.7 Portville) and three translators to Seven Mountains/Southern Belle, which owns WPIG/WOLY in the market.
One of the year’s biggest deals didn’t even include a license: Family Stations sold the five-acre landlocked Maspeth, Queens transmitter site for WFME (1560 New York) to the logistics company Prologis for an eye-popping $51 million, a stunning reflection of the increased value of the land under some urban AM facilities that are worth exponentially more for their land than for their broadcast operations. At year’s end, it wasn’t yet clear what would become of the 1560 signal, which will be silenced at the Queens site in early 2021.
In Pennsylvania, Chuck Carver struck a $450,000 deal to sell WATS (960 Sayre) and WAVR (102.1 Waverly PA) to Dave Radigan’s WATS Up, LLC, combining the stations with nearby WEBO in Owego.
In Pittsburgh, the St. Barnabas nursing home chain formed St. Barnabas Broadcasting, paying Frank Iorio’s Pittsburgh Radio Partners LLC $2.05 million for the license (no studio or transmitter assets) of talker WJAS (1320) and its translator W256DE (99.1).
In southern New Jersey, Bridge of Hope paid Equity Communications $65,000 for WAIV (105.5 Cape May Court House), which will join its “Bridge” religious network in 2021.
And in the Upper Valley, Costa-Eagle paid Steve Silberberg’s Lisbon Communications $75,000 for translator W299AM (107.7).
WBWD (540 Islip) changed hands again, as Metro Mex USA took a quick $600,000 profit, reselling the station to Om Sai Broadcasting for $1.3 million, returning it to “Radio Zindagi” South Asian programming.
In New Jersey, SRN Communications struck a deal with Best Media that will move SRN’s oldies programming: SRN will surrender its WOLD-LP (107.9 Woodbridge) license, while Best will donate translator W236CT (95.1 Edison) to SRN along with $50,000.
St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire donated its WSPS (90.5 Concord) to New Hampshire Public Radio.
And Ritmo Broadcasting filed to convert its LMA of WIFI (1460 Florence NJ) and its translator W225DJ (92.9) to a $275,000 purchase from Real Life Broadcasting, as well as to buy translator W281CL (104.1 Cherry Hill) from Priority Broadcasting for $75,000.
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