As of this afternoon, the rumors are over. David Field's Entercom is paying $65 million to buy the stations from CBS, which was required to sell the stations as part of the antitrust settlement of its purchase of ARS. CBS also gets two Entercom stations in Tampa, WYUU (92.5 Safety Harbor FL) and WLLD (98.7 Holmes Beach FL).
Although it's based in Philadelphia, Entercom's first entry into the Northeast radio market came just last year with its purchase of the former Heritage Media group in Rochester. The Boston (and Worcester) stations are the company's first entries in New England.
What happens now? Let's put NERW in analysis mode here and take a look at Entercom's new prizes:
WRKO (680) tops the list in both ratings and prestige. With nearly two decades under its belt as a talker (after those 14 glorious years as a top-40 rocker), the 50 kilowatt giant remains a solid ratings performer, despite some recent turbulence in morning drive. Entercom's background is more on the FM side than AM, but recent acquisitions of AM giants like Seattle's KIRO and Kansas City's KMBZ and KCMO suggest that the company is getting more comfortable on the other side of the dial. With solid performers like Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh, and locally, Howie Carr in the afternoons, changes at WRKO seem unlikely.
WEEI (850) and mostly-simulcast WWTM (1440 Worcester) have carved out a solid niche in the sports arena, fending off competition from the now-defunct sports weekend at WBZ (1030), as well as the mostly-syndicated fare on WNRB (1510). Along with WAAF, they'll give Entercom a solid footing among younger male listeners. On the other side of the equation, neither of WEEI's major sports franchises (the Red Sox and Celtics) has been performing well of late, and despite WEEI's 1994 move from 590 to the former WHDH at 850, it's still saddled with a directional signal that misses many western suburbs at night. WWTM helps by day, but is no more effective at reaching Framingham or Natick after dark. Entercom's only other sports outlet is KFXX in Portland, Oregon.
On the FM side, Entercom gets two rimshotters. The better of the two signals, at least in greater Boston, is WEGQ (93.7 Lawrence). The erstwhile WCGY moved its transmitter to Middleton a few years back, improving reception around Boston, but it's still hampered by second-adjacent stations in Taunton and Providence to the south. As for format, classic rock is one thing Entercom knows how to handle. Will the company's solid grasp of the format help the "Eagle" differentiate itself from CBS' WZLX (100.7)? It had better, if only to pull WEGQ out of the 17th place spot where it landed in the Spring book...
Last on the list, but perhaps the most interesting, is WAAF (107.3 Worcester). For years, WAAF has tried to pretend it's actually located 40 miles east, even though its signal within the city of Boston can most kindly be described as "variable." But with the help of plenty of advertising dollars, along with publicity that can't be bought (like last spring's "Mayor Menino is Dead" April Fools' stunt), WAAF continues to do fairly well in the ratings. What's more, its active rock format is Entercom's specialty. So what happens next? Well, another Entercom specialty is frequency and call shifts. This is the company that traded KCMO's 810 dial spot for WHB's 710 in Kansas City, flip-flopped its sports (KFXX) and nostalgia (KKSN) outlets in Portland, and moved the legendary WBBF calls from AM to FM in Rochester. Could WAAF finally become a legitimate Boston signal on 93.7, with Eagle getting regional reach on 107.3 (a signal which regularly draws ratings as far away as Springfield)? Wouldn't surprise us.
One more note before we move on to the rest of the week's news: Besides keeping hot AC WBMX (98.5), CBS is hanging on to one other ARS station. WNFT (1150) was not included in the Entercom sale, which leads NERW to wonder what CBS has in mind with this often-ignored station that's currently pulling R&B oldies off the satellite. Could WBZ finally get the overflow outlet that it's wanted for years? With the Justice Department satisfied, could 1150 now be flipped to sports? And what of CBS's stated committment to find minority buyers? Is WNFT's current format a clue? We don't know...but we'll keep you posted.
Speaking of unfounded rumors, a followup to last month's observation that a Jacor press release listed Rochester's WVOR (100.5) as "WHMX": We thought Jacor wouldn't tamper with heritage calls, but then we noted that KLYF (100.3) in Des Moines, which became "Mix" the same week WVOR did, is taking the KMXD calls that were last seen in the market on the 106.3 in Ankeny that's now KYSY, "Sunny 106." (Hey, don't we have one of those in Rochester, too?)
A NERW reader passing through the Binghamton market last weekend noted modern rocker WEBO (1330 Owego) off the air. If the "Web" is truly gone, we're gonna miss this unusual AM radio outpost of a traditionally FM-only format.
Moving further downstate on Route 17 (soon to be I-86), we'll make a turnoff to I-84 for a rare mention of the Port Jervis stations, WDLC (1490) and WTSX (96.7), which are being LMA'd by Nassau Broadcasting, the group owner that's been buying everything in sight in New Jersey and adjacent parts of New York and Pennsylvania. Nassau picks up an option to buy the stations from the Port Jervis Broadcasting Company.
Kingston's WBPM (94.3) has reportedly moved from CHR to adult standards. "B94" was notable, at least the last time NERW heard it, for running music with virtually no interruptions of any sort.
Newburgh's WGNY still wants to move off 1220 again. You'll recall that WGNY moved from daytime-only status on 1220 to full-time on 1200 in the late 1980s under special temporary authority, only to be forced back to 1220 when the STA expired last year. In the meantime, WGNY had applied for expanded-band operation at 1620, and despite having its request for a waiver denied and a subsequent petition for reconsideration thrown out, the station is back at it with an application for review of the decision.
And WVIP (1310) is back on the air in Mount Kisco. It returned last Thursday under its new owner, WGCH (1490) from nearby Greenwich, Connecticut. While WVIP is mostly simulcasting WGCH, it's already doing its own local news, with more local programming promised in the future.
In TV news, the big headline concerns non-compete agreements. Albany health reporter Sue Nigra got hers thrown out by a local judge, who ruled that after WTEN allowed her contract to expire in June, the station could not enforce a one-year non-compete to keep her from moving to WRGB (Channel 6). Across the state line, acting Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci has signed a bill sponsored by AFTRA that outlaws non-compete clauses.
Meantime at Boston's NBC affiliate, WHDH-TV (Channel 7), the anchor desk did some serious spinning this week, with husband-and-wife anchor team John Marler and Cathy Marshall out the door at the end of their contracts. In to replace Marler on the 5, 6, and 11 PM newscasts is veteran Boston anchor Randy Price, whose WBZ-TV (Channel 4) career ended after a second drunk-driving incident a few years back. It's been quite a comeback for Price, who also makes no bones about being gay (which, NERW believes, would make him the first openly gay evening anchor in a top-ten TV market). As for the news philosophy WHDH owner Sunbeam espoused back when it bought the station -- you remember, the one that said anchor longevity and familiarity with the market really didn't matter? Well, in a Boston Herald interview, Price noted that the WHDH newsroom isn't just "open-minded," it's also young, and it needs a "graybeard" like himself to balance the news newcomers who, so help us, "don't necessarily know where Worcester is."
Well, we know where Worcester is, and we know who's the latest victim of the Capstar cuts at WTAG (580). Upton Bell's talk show there was cancelled at the beginning of August, following by several months the firings of much of the station's news staff. NERW supposes this is a good thing for Capstar shareholders, but we'd be surprised to find many folks in Worcester who agree.
And as long as we're in Central Massachusetts, we'll note that Marlborough's WHSH (Channel 66) has been granted a DTV CP on channel 23. Also in Marlborough, WSRO (1470) is now running Doug Stephan's "Good Day USA" in morning drive, with former station manager Dave O'Gara doing local news inserts.
One belated Boston note: Congratulations to WXRV (92.5 Haverhill) for the release of their Live from the River Music Hall, Vol. I CD. The "Music Hall" where performers like Ani DiFranco and Barenaked Ladies played for the River's audience was the original performance studio for WHAV (1490) -- and we can't imagine a better use for it!
And up the North Shore, WNSH (1570 Beverly) remains silent, while owner Keating Willcox awaits a new (custom-built) Nautel transmitter from Canada to replace the one that was fried by a lightning bolt.
W11BJ in Hartford is still showing only color bars, the same exciting program that's kept us glued to new W47BM here in Rochester.
Monroe's WMNR (88.1) is fighting a proposed Norwalk translator of KAWZ Twin Falls, Idaho. The KAWZ folks want to put their LPFM, I mean, translator on 88.5.
And a correction: Mike Juliano is the new station manager at WPLR (99.1 New Haven).
W69DG in Burlington has applied to move to Claremont, New Hampshire, with transmitter on Mount Ascutney.
Nashua's WSMN (1590) has a website at http://www.wsmn.com -- but don't go looking for actual content there just yet.
And we understand Clark Smidt's WNNH (99.1 Henniker) is advertising for salespeople, who would also sell under a consulting deal for WHOB (106.3 Nashua).
Ratings: We wrap up the Spring 12+ Arbitrons with some of the smaller markets, and let's start off in the Pine Tree state. Bangor's WQCB remains the country giant, dropping a bit but remaining on top, followed by CHR WBZN, surging rocker WKIT, and (much to our surprise) a three-way tie among nostalgia AM WABI, hot AC WKSQ, and talk WVOM. In Augusta, country also leads the pack with WEBB/WTVL, followed by CHR combo WMME/WEZW and oldies combo WABK/WIGY. Rock is on top in Portland, with WBLM remaining in first place, but country WPOR AM-FM is gaining in second. CHR WJBQ had a strong book, while the biggest drop was posted by modern-rock WCYY/WCYI. And in Lewiston/Auburn, WBLM is also number one, followed by country WTHT and standards WLAM AM/FM. Dropping sharply was AC WMWX.
Over to Vermont, where country continues to top the Burlington book. But while WOKO was a solid first-place, second place was claimed for the first time by classic rock WCPV, thanks in large part to the "Champ"'s acquisition of the "Corm and the Coach" morning show from rock rival WIZN. Despite adding Howard Stern in mornings, WIZN's ratings plummeted.
And among New York's smaller markets, we see some big changes this time out. Country WFRG still leads the Utica market, with WLZW, WOUR, WIBX, and WKLL trailing -- but in Binghamton it's a big comedown for the usual number-one country station, WHWK. "The Hawk" lost more than a third of its 12+ audience, allowing hot AC WMRV to pull ahead into first place. And while new country competitor WBBI debuted in tenth place to account for some of the lost WHWK listenership, the rest seems to have spread out along the dial, with rock WAAL and AC WMXW also gaining.
Then there's Elmira-Corning, which probably shouldn't be a single market -- and here's why: half the "market," Hornell and Bath in western Steuben county, gets no signal at all from the other half, Corning in eastern Steuben and Elmira in Chemung County. And that means that a shift in the way diaries are distributed in Steuben county can really change the numbers. At least, that's the best explanation we can come up with for the sudden massive increase in ratings for country WCKR in Hornell, which shot up from nowhere to more than quintuple its 12+ ratings and land in second place, right behind perennial market leader, CHR WNKI Corning. Also showing big gains was Bath's WVIN, while Elmira-Corning signals like CHR WLVY, country WPGI, AC WENY-FM, and oldies WGMM all dropped. We'd be most interested in hearing from folks in that market about whether our guesses are correct on this one.
And we'll close this issue with a few web notes: The WRKO history site that Shel Swartz works so hard to maintain has settled in at its new address, http://big68.org. Stop by and listen to some of the many great airchecks archived there. And better yet, there's a happy ending to the story of John Kodis' Radio/TV Station Locator Page. It's now in beta mode at the Elliott Broadcast Services site, where it joins Elliott's own search engine for exploring the FCC database. Another new tool for manipulating the FCC data should be available in web form too, thanks to Bob Carpenter down in the Washington, DC area. We'll let you know as soon as we find out!
That's it for this week; see you again next Thursday!