The Year in Sales
By SCOTT FYBUSH
It’s time once again for our Year in Review, the 28th 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 31, so check back every day for a new installment. We’ll resume our regular NorthEast Radio Watch report on Monday, January 3. (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 2021, 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 has become the go-to buyer for standalone signals that don’t fit well in cluster deals. EMF grew its presence in New York’s North Country and in central Pennsylvania in big deals with Tim Martz and Hall Communications, while making smaller purchases in Oil City, PA and in the FCC’s FM auction.
Other religious broadcasters were big players in 2021 as well: the fast-growing Family Life Ministries group made big expansions in New York’s Southern Tier and into Pennsylvania, while the unrelated Family Stations was both a seller (in western Pennsylvania) and a buyer in New York City. Montrose Broadcasting made some purchases beyond its northeast Pennsylvania base, expanding into the Williamsport and Elmira-Corning markets, and Holy Family Communications out of Buffalo expanded its reach into Olean and central Massachusetts.
It was a good year for some growing small and medium groups – Seven Mountains made a big expansion in Elmira-Corning, Olean and into Scranton, too, for instance; Dave Radigan took firm control of a big swath of radio territory between Elmira and Binghamton; Matt Lightner found some bargains and St. Barnabas shelled out bigger sums to expand their reach in western Pennsylvania; Major Keystone grew significantly on the eastern side of the state – and new entrants such as Coxswain Communications and Gary Hanna on Cape Cod found deals to get them into radio ownership. (Even Bob Bittner found a station to buy after several years of selling, as he added a Cape signal in a busy year out that way.)
We saw some exits, too, including John Garabedian’s sale of his Codcomm group to Coxswain, Hall Communications’ departure from the Lancaster market, Randy Michaels’ exit from his RadioActive holdings in Plattsburgh, and the slimming down of Bob Lowe’s Twilight group to just a single station. And at year’s end, Disney shed most of what remained of its owned-and-operated ESPN Radio signals, including New York’s WEPN and WEPN-FM, in a deal handing them off to Good Karma Broadcasting.
Public broadcasters sought expansion, mostly through the FCC’s application window in the fall, but also through acquisitions, as Albany’s WAMC and Rhode Island’s The Public’s Radio purchased new signals.
North of the border, the usual story of consolidation took a bit of a pause in some smaller markets, where My Broadcasting spun off several signals on the outskirts of Toronto to new owners.
And on TV, national groups kept growing, as Gray Television swallowed the smaller Quincy and Meredith groups, while Weigel expanded the reach of its MeTV and sister networks and the smaller Standard and Vision groups found new owners.
(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…)
There were no big deals to kick off the year, just a series of smaller deals that put stations in the hands of smaller broadcasters at reasonable prices.
Matt Lightner’s Lightner Communications expanded again, paying $70,000 for FamilyLife MediaCom’s WTYM (1380 Kittanning PA) and its translator. Bob Bittner added on Cape Cod, paying Alex Langer $100,000 for WBAS (1240 West Yarmouth MA). Out on the Outer Cape, Gary Hanna’s GCJH Inc. paid Ron Robin’s Dunes 102FM LLC $180,000 (plus a $20,000 ad credit) for WGTX (102.3 Truro). In New Jersey, Ritmo Broadcasting paid Real Life Broadcasting $275,000 for WIFI (1460 Florence) and its translator, then paid Radio Sharon $300,000 for W236AF (95.1 Burlington).
The month’s largest deal involved Family Life Ministries, which paid Family Stations $725,000 for WFRJ (88.9 Johnstown), WKDN-FM (88.3 State College) and W280CV (103.9 Scranton), expanding its Pennsylvania reach.
Regionally, the big news came from New York’s Southern Tier, where Seven Mountains was growing again with a $1.8 million purchase of all of Sound Communications’ stations in the Elmira-Corning and Olean markets – followed immediately by a deal with Family Life Ministries in which the regional Christian broadcaster took a package of signals Seven Mountains couldn’t keep (three FMs and an AM in Elmira-Corning and two FMs and an AM in the Olean market) while swapping WCIG (107.7 Dallas PA) in the Scranton market to Seven Mountains.
Nationally, Gray Television had the biggest deal of the month, paying $925 million for Quincy Newspapers’ TV holdings; regionally, that included WBNG in Binghamton. Another smaller TV deal was Standard Media’s sale to Soo Kim’s Paducah Television Operations LLC, a $55 million deal that included WLNE in the Providence market.
Up north, RadioActive began exiting the Plattsburgh-Burlington market with a $75,000 sale of WWFK (107.1 Plattsburgh West) to Great Eastern.
And in central Vermont, Goddard College donated WGDR (91.1)/WGDH (91.7) to the community group that has been operating them, Central Vermont Community Radio.
Family Life Ministries kept buying, this time reinforcing its presence in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton market with a $200,000 purchase of W223CC (92.5 Wilkes-Barre) from GEOS Communications.
The rest of the month’s action was up north, as My Broadcasting sold two clusters of stations: CIMA (92.1 Alliston), CJML (101.3 Milton) and CKMO (101.5 Orangeville) to Local Radio Lab for C$2.75 million, and CIYN (95.5 Kincardine) plus two rebroadcasters to Greg Hetherington and Ray Stanton for C$400,000.
Just one transaction made news this month: in central Maine, J. Hanson bought WSKW (1160 Skowhegan), WCTB (93.5 Fairfield) and WFMX (107.9 Skowhegan) from Mountain Wireless for $1.8 million.
Gray made national TV headlines again, this time with a $2.7 billion deal for Meredith’s TV stations, including WFSB in Hartford and WGGB/WSHM in Hartford.
Veteran broadcasters Jim Leven and Bruce Mittman struck a deal to buy out the investors in their Community Broadcasters group, paying $2.66 million for the 82.5% of the company they didn’t already own, including clusters in Watertown and Ogdensburg, New York.
In south Jersey, The Voice Radio paid Ritmo Broadcasting $250,000 for translator W281CM in Millville.
Two smaller deals in western Pennsylvania expanded the reach of regional groups: Erie’s LECOM paid $70,000 for WWCB (1370 Corry) and its translator, while Matt Lightner paid Twilight Communications $77,500 for WPHB (1260 Philipsburg) and its translator.
In Quebec, Arsenal Broadcasting and Cogeco arranged a station swap: Arsenal’s CILM Saguenay for Cogeco’s CJGO and CHOA in the Rouyn-Noranda area, with Arsenal paying a net C$1.3 million in the deal.
RadioActive continued its exit from Plattsburgh, selling WSLP (100.7 Ray Brook, moved from Plattsburgh West) to North Country Radio Corp. for $45,000.
North Country completed its swap of signals with Loud Media, swapping WPLA (moving from 93.3 Saranac Lake to 93.5 in Lake George) for WRGR (102.1 Tupper Lake).
In New Jersey, Gail Lee Burke sells translator W222AL (92.3) in Cape May to Perdomo Radio Group for $60,000.
This was EMF’s big month in the region, with two major purchases: in the North Country, a $2.5 million deal with Tim Martz for WYUL (94.7) and WVNV (96.5) to bring K-Love and Air 1 into the Montreal market, and a $1.725 million purchase of WROZ (101.3 Lancaster PA) from Hall Communications.
Hall then followed up by selling WLPA (1490) and WONN-FM (92.7) to Forever, which took the company out of the central Pennsylvania market after several decades.
A big translator sale in New York City found Auricle Communications (New Jersey’s eclectic WFMU) paying Living Way Ministries $374,000 for W220EJ (91.9), the Manhattan translator that had been relaying WFMU for several years.
In Boston, WMEX (1510) went from Ed Perry to Larry Justice’s L&J Broadcasting for $125,000. To the west, Phil Drumheller’s P&M Broadcasting sold WIZZ (1520 Greenfield) to Saga for $61,800, while Twilight Broadcasting sold WXMT (106.3 Smethport PA) to XMT Entertainment LLC for $95,000.
Vision Communications exited the Southern Tier after several decades with the $9.5 million sale of the entire company (including WYDC and WJKP-LP in Corning) to Coastal Television Broadcasting.
Family Life Network sold its AM in the Elmira market, getting $50,000 from Montrose Broadcasting (WPEL across the state line in Pennsylvania) for WPGO (820 Horseheads).
In Toronto, the sale of CKFG (G 98.7) to a non-Black-owned broadcaster stirred up controversy, but the CRTC said no other qualified buyer emerged in the bankruptcy sale, so it approved a C$6.25 million sale to Neeti P. Ray, who vowed to maintain a focus on Toronto’s Caribbean community.
A surprisingly large purchase topped the month’s news, as the St. Barnabas nursing home chain paid $2.33 million for WMBA (1460)/WBVP (1230) and their two translators in Beaver County, outside Pittsburgh.
Family Life Ministries was busy, too, signing a $150,000 deal to buy WUFR (91.1 Bedford PA) from Family Stations and a $30,000 purchase of Cazenovia College’s WITC (88.9) in central New York, as well as a $100,000 sale of WGGO (1590 Salamanca) and an Olean translator to Holy Family Communications.
The Seneca Nation found a buyer for its silent WGWE (105.9 Little Valley NY), selling its license to Paul Izard Communications for just $25,000.
In Pennsylvania, Cumulus signed a $179,000 deal to sell Scranton’s WARM (590), Allentown’s WTKZ (1320), WGLD (1440) in the York market and WIOV (1240) in Reading, plus translators, to Major Keystone LLC, which operates the “Loud” hip-hop network.
In New England, Woodchuck Radio took back WEXP (101.5) in the Rutland market to settle a $302,000 default from buyer Music Guild International, while Costa-Eagle paid WGBH $80,000 for Cambridge translator W242AA and Rhode Island Public Radio paid Portsmouth Abbey School $75,000 for WJHD (90.7 Portsmouth).
Veteran broadcaster John Garabedian sold his Codcomm stations on Cape Cod (WPXC, WKFY, WHYA and WFRQ) to a new group, Coxswain Communications, for $3.2 million.
Elsewhere in New England, Dartmouth College exited radio ownership by selling its WFRD (99.3 Hanover) to the regional Sugar River group for $225,000, while Dennis Jackson’s Ridgefield Broadcasting found a buyer for WQQQ (103.3 Sharon CT), which joined the regional WAMC public radio group for $500,000. Talking Information Center sold WRRS-FM (88.5 Middleborough Center MA) to a co-channel broadcaster, Academy of the Immaculate, which paid $85,000.
Twilight Broadcasting slimmed down to just a single station, WEEU in Reading, with the $192,000 sale of its WKQW and WKQW-FM in Oil City, PA to EMF.
In upstate New York, THNK Tank Broadcasting (WENT Gloversville) added a second station, paying the Roser Communications Group $150,000 for WVTL (1570 Amsterdam) and its translator.
And the biggest deal of the month was a pair of Weigel Broadcasting TV purchases in the New York market: $62.5 million to PMCM for WJLP (Channel 3) and $35 million to NRJ for Bridgeport, Connecticut-licensed WZME (Channel 43).
Just one sale this month: Covenant Broadcasting sold its religious WJSA-FM (96.3 Jersey Shore PA) and a Williamsport translator to fellow Christian broadcaster Montrose Broadcasting for $475,000.
It was a far cry from the $60 million it had paid for the Class A signal at the height of the market more than a dozen years ago – but Univision found a buyer for its WQBU (92.7 Garden City) on the edge of New York City, selling the station to Family Stations for $9 million to give the WFME (1560) owner a toehold back on the FM dial in market #1.
Good Karma Broadcasting’s $15 million deal with Disney gave it New York’s WEPN (1050) and the LMA for Emmis-owned WEPN-FM (98.7), as well as licenses to two more of Disney’s ESPN AMs in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Dave Radigan expanded his regional reach again with a $250,000 deal for WTTC-FM (95.3) and WTTC (1550, plus a translator) in Towanda, Pennsylvania.
The regional Holy Family Communications Catholic network expanded its reach into central New England with a deal for WNEB (1230 Worcester) and WESO (970 Southbridge) from Emmanuel Communications, not yet filed with the FCC.
And Word Radio Educational Fellowship struck a $25,000 deal to sell WMTP in Conway to New Hampshire Gospel Radio.