It hasn't been officially announced by either company yet, but we're hearing that $24 million is the price Clear Channel will pay to add Straus Media Group's ten stations in the region. Included in the deal are:
The Straus stations fill in a gap between CC's existing clusters in Albany (including WPYX 106.5, which has a translator in the northern Hudson Valley), Utica, Binghamton, New York City, and Connecticut.
If this deal comes to fruition, it will be the first time one of the big national groups has set foot in the Hudson Valley, and certainly the possibility of moving many of the stations' operations to the existing CC clusters nearby can't be ruled out. We'll keep watching this one for developments...
One that Clear Channel has confirmed: The company will pay $5 million to Cram Communications for that company's Syracuse-market WVOA (105.1 DeRuyter). WVOA currently programs religion, simulcast on WVOQ (103.9 Mexico) in Oswego County to the north, as well as on translators W243AB (96.5 Westvale) and W237AY (95.3 DeWitt) in the Syracuse area. Those stations, along with WVOA's sister AM station, WSIV (1540 East Syracuse) don't go to Clear Channel, which leads us to think that the WVOA format will continue on WVOQ and the translators.
So why would Clear Channel want a signal that's never done especially well in the populated parts of the market? NERW's guess: The reason WVOA doesn't do well in Syracuse itself is because of top-rated second-adjacent station WBBS (104.7 Fulton), which is itself part of the CC/Syracuse cluster (along with news-talk WSYR 570, sports WHEN 620, AC WYYY 94.5, and CHR WWHT 107.9). With a simulcast on 105.1, WBBS would be able to reach the areas south and east of the city that it currently has trouble serving. Another possibility being floated in the newsgroups: Could CC plan an east-side simulcast of its most recent addition to the cluster, WHCD (106.9 Auburn), which rimshots Syracuse from the west? We'll see...
(One more note on WVOA: Like WNUC near Buffalo, whose history we recounted last week, 105.1 was a longtime part of the QXR/Rural/Ivy/CBN chain, under the calls WVCN, WRRA, and WOIV.)
And while we're thinking about Clear Channel, the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times reports the company will have to pay an $80,000 fine to settle complaints about its nationwide contests. The deal with Florida's attorney general also requires Clear Channel to air announcements during prime listening hours (instead of overnight) explaining the real chances of winning the contests, and bars the company's local stations from recutting interviews with contest winners to make them sound local when they're not.
We probably can't get away without mentioning the fight between ABC/Disney and Time Warner that removed WABC-TV (Channel 7) from Time Warner systems in the area for a little more than a day Monday and Tuesday, but to avoid digging ourselves a big conflict-of-interest hole (your editor's day job is with a subsidiary of Time Warner), we'll limit ourselves to these observations: first, that this is neither the first nor the last retransmission-consent battle, and if it had happened anywhere other than New York City, it would have passed with nowhere near this much attention; and second, that given all the anti-Time Warner noises being made in Washington and on the editorial pages, it's important to remember that Disney had the option some months ago to choose must-carry status for WABC-TV, which would have compelled TWC to keep carrying Channel 7 no matter what. Our sympathies for the Mouse, therefore, are limited indeed. (This reminder, too, that opinions expressed in NERW are solely those of the author...)
Back to radio, then: Newark, New Jersey's WBGO (88.3) is apparently getting tired of all the applications for stations nearby on 88.1, so it's joining the fray: WBGO has applied for a translator on 88.1 in New York City.
The Baltimore Orioles have a new radio affiliate far to the north of Camden Yards. WYSL (1040 Avon) in the Rochester market is carrying O's games this year. It's no big mystery: the Orioles are the parent team of Rochester's AAA Red Wings, and since the Wings are on the competition (Clear Channel's WHTK and WHAM), the big-league club is better than nothing come baseball season. (NERW notes that Orioles fans in Rochester -- and there aren't as many as there used to be, given how shabbily the parent club has treated its longtime farm team lately -- have always been able to tune in night games on WBAL and WTOP...)
A correction of sorts from last week: It was a Saturday-night jock, not a weekday one, that WBBF (98.9 Rochester) was seeking -- but put away those tapes and resumes: the job's been filled by Utica and Rochester veteran Jeff Moulton (who spent some time at 98.9 in days gone by when it was WKLX).
Speaking of Entercom/Rochester, it looks as though that company's WEZO (950) is yielding the standards battle to Crawford's WLGZ (Legends 990). WEZO was already breaking away from the satellite "AM Only" format to lease two hours nightly to Spanish-language broadcasters; now they've also leased out morning drive. Broadcaster Bob Scott is buying the time for a business-talk show that's done live from the Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown. We're sure WLGZ doesn't mind the disappearance of format competition from 6-9 each morning...
One opening that is for real: morning co-host at Albany's "Fly 92" (WFLY 92.3 Troy), where Whitney left the Reno and Whitney morning show this week.
More on the sale of WNUC (107.7 Wethersfield) to Adelphia: the station's new emphasis on sports will include the Buffalo Sabres. The hockey team moves from WHTT (104.1 Buffalo) next season to WNUC, which will by then be co-owned with the team's TV rights-holder, Empire Sports Network.
A few more TV notes before leaving the Empire State: Syracuse Fox affiliate WSYT (Channel 68) is changing providers for its news programming next month. Beginning June 12, the station's 10 PM news will come from Granite's CBS affiliate, WTVH (Channel 5), instead of from Raycom's NBC station, WSTM (Channel 3). Those familiar with Syracuse TV geography will note that WSYT's own studios sit right between those of WTVH and WSTM along James Street.
And a visit to Binghamton (which explains the one-day delay in this NERW) helped us clear up some confusion about the effects of Ackerley's purchase of Elmira NBC affiliate WETM (Channel 18) and its Binghamton LPTV counterpart, WBGH-LP (Channel 8). Where WBGH used to be an almost-total relay of WETM (to fill the gap left a few years back by the affiliation change at Binghamton's WICZ Channel 40 from NBC to Fox), the station now simulcasts the 5:30, 6, and 11 PM news from Ackerley's Binghamton ABC affiliate, WIVT (Channel 34). One more bit of weirdness: the billboard we spotted in downtown Johnson City promoting the stations as "ABC 4" and "NBC 5" (their spots on cable in the area). Most of the other WIVT billboards around town, as well as the station's on-air promotions, call it "News Channel 34." Go figure...
While we're in the vicinity of Talcott Mountain, we're able to clear up some of the confusion that followed last week's report of the Entravision/WHCT deal. First off, it now looks as though Entravision is about to follow through on its purchase of Channel 18, in a complicated deal that will cost the company $26 million. Only $1 million will go to WHCT's current owner, the bankrupt Astroline firm that's been fighting to hang on to the license since 1984. The rest will go to two other companies that had been hoping to buy WHCT but were caught up in bankruptcy problems and in a lawsuit over minority-buyer preferences.
That, amazingly, is the easy part. The rest of the proposed Entravision purchases in the region (including WNDS in Derry NH) don't look like they'll become reality. It seems the stations were recommended to Entravision as possible acquisitions by Barbara Laurence (who was the principal some years back in Cuchifritos Communications, the almost-buyer of Channel 43 in Bridgeport), but amidst a lawsuit between Laurence and Entravision, the chances of any of those stations actually being sold seems slim. Clear as mud?
What is clear, at least, is how Hartford's WTIC (1080, also on Talcott Mountain!) will fill the overnight slot being vacated by Art Bell. Joey Reynolds' WOR Network show gets the nod for WTIC's overnight, we're told.
"Light of Life Ministries" is applying for a new station on 88.5 in Bowdoin, which would be about halfway between Portland and Augusta, and seems awfully close to WYAR on 88.3 in Yarmouth.
We'll know in a few weeks how many would-be LPFMers are in the Pine Tree State. Maine and Rhode Island are the only two states in the NERW coverage area included in the first LPFM application window, which opens May 30 and closes June 5. We still don't know how the FCC plans to report the applications ("not well" would be our guess, based on how bad the database updates have been going), but we'll put whatever we know in NERW as soon as we know it.
The folks at WPNH-FM (100.1 Plymouth) checked in to report they're on the air with their new facilities, moving up from 111 meters AAT with 2350 watts to 388 meters with 390 watts. Despite the drop in power, the extra height gives the station the equivalent of a 6 kilowatt signal, and we hear the station now puts a very listenable signal over Concord to the south, and north to Franconia Notch.
The Nashua Pride have ended up on WSMN (1590) after all; the team struck a deal to broadcast its home games on the station, with the possiblity of adding road games if they can find a way to do so cheaply. WSMN's John Collins will handle play-by-play.
The FCC's approval of the CBS/Viacom merger this week creates the first TV duopoly in Boston, as CBS's WBZ-TV (Channel 4) and Viacom's WSBK (Channel 38) join forces. Boston isn't one of the markets where the FCC is ordering divestitures; the cross-ownership cap now allows 2 TVs and up to 6 radios in the largest markets, and CBS's 1 AM and 4 FMs stay under the cap. Viacom is adding one more Massachusetts station, too: WLWC (Channel 28) in New Bedford is being transferred from LMA partner "C-28 FCC License Subsidiary Inc." to Viacom. (WLWC doesn't count against duopoly, of course, because it's a Providence-market station).
Finally this week, a very quick scan through the Winter 2000 12+ Arbitrons (you can see them in full at several other industry sites, such as All Access, if you're curious)...
Working our way across the region, we'll start in BUFFALO, where news-talk WBEN successfully consolidated the audience, shooting to number one in the first book since Entercom flipped sister WGR to all-sports. Perennial leaders WYRK and WKSE followed. WMJQ was flat in its last book before becoming "Star 102," while WNUC continued to slide in its last book before being sold.
Here in ROCHESTER, the top slots looked much as they always do: WHAM in first, WBEE-FM in second, and a nice strong third place for locally-owned urban WDKX. WPXY is still winning the CHR war, with WKGS closing in slowly. WEZO's numbers dropped substantially, with most of the lost listenership ending up at new competitor WLGZ, which cracked a 1.0 for the first time with its new format.
SYRACUSE's WBBS stayed in first place, followed by news-talk WSYR and a strong WNTQ (holding its lead in the Salt City CHR wars). It was also a very good book for rocker WKRL/WKRH.
Country also dominated in ALBANY, with WGNA staying in first place despite a slight ratings drop. WFLY was strong in second. Further down the book, the reshuffling of Albany's rock lineup found WQBK/WQBJ edging closer to soon to be ex-sister station WPYX. Switching to smooth jazz boosted ratings at WZMR, while the temporary switch to holiday music seemed to hurt WKLI. Our interest, though, was in Albany's AM standards battle, which found the revived WPTR shooting from nowhere to a 1.5 in one book, followed very closely by competitor WUAM/WVKZ (and this with a signal that doesn't even cover Albany itself very well!)
Downstate in NASSAU/SUFFOLK, it was more of the same for AC WALK-FM, which was followed by New York's WXRK and WHTZ, then by CHR WBLI, and in fifth place, the standards simulcast of WHLI and WGSM.
HARTFORD's WTIC(AM) led the pack, followed by perennial leaders WRCH, WKSS, and WWYZ.
PROVIDENCE's book found WPRO-FM and WWLI tied for first, followed by WSNE, WHJY, and WCTK. In its last book before being sold to Boston's WFNX, WWRX finished far out of the top 10. Also sliding precipitously were talker WLKW, which lost two-thirds of its audience in the year since dropping standards (although we suspect the demographics are better now), and rocker WHKK/WHCK in its last book before that format change to "Z100".
SPRINGFIELD was led again by WPKX's country format, followed by WHYN-FM, WMAS-FM, WAQY, and Hartford-market WKSS (ironically doing far better than Clear Channel sister WHMP-FM in WHMP's own market!)
More next week...see you then!