Want To Buy A Cleveland Radio Station?

Full market Cleveland radio stations don’t go on the block every day, but one’s now for sale.

RadioDisneyLogoRadio Disney is all but getting out of the over-air radio business, as it was revealed Wednesday that Disney is selling 23 of its 24 owned-and-operated Radio Disney outlets, including Cleveland’s WWMK/1260.

Broadcasting & Cable had first word. The Wrap has the full memo to staff by the chain’s general manager, Phil Guerini.

The company is keeping Radio Disney flagship KDIS/1110 Los Angeles as the originator of the RD format, and like Tom Taylor in the excellent “Tom Taylor Now” daily newsletter this morning, we speculated on social media Wednesday that there was a reason.

Tom writes:

They’re keeping that as the origination point of Radio Disney programming – and possibly so they can claim the favorable terrestrial-station streaming rate. (Same logic that Pandora’s trying to use in buying an FM in Rapid City, South Dakota).

Tom also reminds us that Disney has been selling off its Radio Disney outlets in smaller markets, and in many cases, at a pretty decent “haircut” from earlier inflated prices.

And the chain, though it has virtually no local programming anywhere, does have employees.

One of those employees in Cleveland has been OMW reader Tony Mazur, who told us on Twitter Wednesday that he’s worked for the company for five years.

He notes:

Tony’s not out of work entirely, he tells us, after WWMK gets sold. He tells us he works “as a support engineer for Cleveland’s own LDR Interactive. It’s still sort of radio!”

So, it’s obviously rather early for any rumor about who may buy WWMK, but let’s run through some history and possible scenarios.

* 1260’s best known incarnation, of course, was as top 40 powerhouse “WIXY”.

The chance of a resurrection of that station over-air, presumably in an oldies format, is about as low as the chance of your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) running for president.

You’d need someone with money to set ablaze, as even a well-presented AM oldies station in 2014 would be a license to incinerate cash.

WIXYLogoIf you’ve got an Itch For WIXY, head down to the excellent web stream at WIXY1260Online, a tribute to the station’s golden age which even features air talent and some live shows…and no fighting with 1260’s directional pattern…

* Could 1260 be snapped up by Good Karma’s Craig Karmazin?

We even speculated about that after the Wisconsin-based sports radio chain owner picked up then-WABQ/1540, a weak-signaled east side AM daytimer that was (at the time) rumored to be paired with an evening time purchase at Radio One’s then-brokered talk then-WERE/1300… in an arrangement similar to Good Karma’s Milwaukee setup at the time (“1540 Days, 1300 Nights”, said one leaked logo).

Good Karma bought WKNR/850 from Salem instead. The company now known as “Good Karma Brands” still owns today’s WWGK/1540, which still airs mostly network programming (including now all three hours of Jim Rome’s CBS Sports Radio show) as “KNR2”.

You’d have to think that Karmazin would consider 1260 as an upgrade for “KNR2″…with a much better signal, and full-time hours.

But it’s 2014, as AM continues its slide towards irrelevancy…with only strong outposts as WKNR and Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 giving the band a seat at the table in Cleveland.

Unlike when he assembled the combo of 1540 and 850 in Cleveland, Karmazin now has a full-throated sports format competitor in CBS Radio’s WKRK/92.3 “The Fan”. Yes, on FM.

Is adding a second-tier AM station, even a marked improvement over Good Karma’s current second station, in the cards?

We think it’s possible, only because remaining Radio Disney stations will likely sell for a significant discount. If Disney is conducting a fire sale just to get 23 AM stations out of its hair quickly, so it can move on to Digital Land, we think Karmazin may bite.

The last time a Cleveland market FM station was on the market, Karmazin didn’t bite.

That was the sale of WNWV/107.3 Elyria by Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting to Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group in 2009. The price tag ($7 million) may have been more than Karmazin was willing to pay.

We’ll assume Good Karma could pick up AM 1260 for a song, oldies or otherwise. But is he, like Disney, more focused on Digital Land in 2014?

UPDATE 10:50 AM 8/14/14: Two of our readers point out in the comments section that 1260 would be a good choice for CBS Radio to run its 24/7 CBS Sports Radio format, currently heard on WKRK/92.3 “The Fan”‘s HD2 channel.

CBS does this in many other markets on AM signals, to complement live/local sports radio stations like “92.3 The Fan”.

However, in all of those cases, CBS Radio owns the AM station in question, like in Washington DC, Baltimore and Charlotte (signals at 1580 AM, 1300 AM and 1660 AM, respectively). We are having trouble envisioning CBS buying AM 1260 from ABC/Disney to do this.

* Then, there are various incarnations of religious broadcasters.

That was 1260’s life before being bought by Disney/ABC, as WMIH. It featured programming aimed at Cleveland’s Catholic community, ranging from Mass broadcasts, talk shows and play-by-play of Catholic sports giant St. Ignatius High School’s games. It was the last radio home of Cleveland broadcaster Bob Tayek, who’s now the spokesman for the Cleveland Catholic Diocese.

Before WMIH, 1260 aired religious programming as WRDZ, after a history of secular formats including big band music and talk under the WBBG call letters.

We don’t know who’s out there, as far as religious broadcasters interested in a 10,000 watt AM signal (5,000 watts at night).

It won’t be the California-based Christian music radio giant Educational Media Foundation, home of the CCM “K-Love” and Christian rock “Air1” formats airing on FM translators all over Northeast Ohio.

EMF, of course, treats AM as if it were a communicable disease…and sells off any AMs that it gets in station deals.

Just over the Ohio-Pennsylvania border in the Youngstown market, EMF inherited WLOA/1470 Farrell PA and WGRP/940 Greenville PA when it picked up Greenville’s WEXC/107.1…the Pennsylvania assets of Beacon Broadcasting, sold off after owner Harold Glunt’s death.

After simulcasting “K-Love” for a while in tandem with 107.1, EMF sold 940 and 1470 to Meadville PA broadcaster Joe Vilkie (owner of WMVL/101.7 “Cool 101.7” in nearby Linesville PA), who operates them as oldies stations today… 1470 actually simulcasting 940 as “1470 ‘FAR”, a nod to the station’s historic WFAR call letters.

EMF later added then-WRBP/101.9 Hubbard to its Youngstown fold.

So no, the religious broadcasting mega chain is not going to pick up any AM signal alone, even in a market such as Cleveland.

* Habla Espanol?

Cleveland now has what’s basically the equivalent of a full-market Spanish-language FM station, assuming those radios can tune down below 88.1.

And the situation facing Cincinnati-based TSJ Media in Cleveland is well-known, as the station it’s leasing, Murray Hill Broadcasting’s WLFM-LP, will have to leave 87.7(5) FM in just over a year…as the FCC will force all analog LPTV stations to go digital next September.

That conversion, even if WLFM stays on Channel 6, will mean the end of the FM radio side-effect linked to the current analog Channel 6.

Is TSJ even interested in AM 1260 as a fall-back?

Well, TSJ’s other two stations in Ohio are rimshot FM stations: WVKO-FM/103.1 Johnstown in the Columbus market, and WOXY/97.7 Mason in the Cincinnati market.

More importantly, in all three markets, TSJ does not actually own the stations it is operating.

WOXY is owned by First Broadcasting, and WVKO-FM is owned by Bernard Ohio…so unless TSJ is willing to move into ownership, someone else would have to buy 1260 and lease it to them.

And we have no indication Radio Disney would be interested in an LMA, as it is selling all 23 stations outright.

And that’s assuming the TSJ folks are even interested in an AM outlet.

If we missed any possibilties, feel free to add your own thoughts to the comments…


  1. How about CBS picking up 1260 to have a home for CBS Sports Radio?

    They also may want an AM in the portfolio as the big 3 sports teams in town may all want AM/FM simulcasts for PBP, and this would give CBS a counter to Clear Channel’s WTAM/WMMS combo.

  2. Another scenario could have CBS picking up the station to run their sports network and to have an AM outlet for Browns broadcasts, thus eliminating sharing the games with Good Karma’s WKNR. If it’s not CBS or Good Karma, then it could be a religious broadcaster, as stated above. Still, it’s an AM signal and unlikely to bring offers from the other big radio companies.

    • Good catch, both of you. CBS does own AM stations that run CBS Sports Radio 24/7 in many markets, from Washington and Baltimore to Charlotte, as a complement to their big local sports talkers. It would also presumably solve their Jim Rome problem in Cleveland, where the sports talker once very popular in Cleveland has been relegated to a horrible signal for all three hours of his show.

      That said, we’re not sure CBS actually would buy an AM station they don’t already own for such a purpose.

      • If CBS wants to nullify the one edge Clear Channel has on them for PBP rights (AM/FM simulcasting), then picking up 1260 at a fire sale price is a no-brainer.

        That’s why 92.3 missed out on the Tribe rights…no AM simulcast.

        • Unlike MLB, NFL teams are usually OK if they move to FM only.

          That said, the Browns presumably like still being on AM after years on WTAM. I’m wondering if WKNR being in the new deal involved, more, its willingness to air the ancillary programs like “Cleveland Browns Daily”.

      • Nathan Obral says:

        CBS doesn’t have to “buy” 1260.

        A shell operator could buy 1260 with CBS turning around and leasing the station via a perpetual LMA. Saves CBS the expense of physically owning an AM station.

        All you need to do is look at ESPN Radio New York, Boston and Dallas. Entercom owns WEEI/850 and Emmis owns WEPN/98.7, but they are completely controlled by The Worldwide Leader®. Conversely, Cumulus controls KEPN/103.3 Dallas, even though ESPN still holds the license. Such arrangements work perfectly for their respective operators.

        And I’m joining the rest of the party who believe that CBS would like to cut WKNR off from the Browns PBP contract whenever the moment arises. A lease or purchase of 1260 would do just that.

        • Two things, Nathan:

          1) Who would be the “shell company” in your scenario for 1260?

          In NYC, both Entercom and Emmis are the established owners of WEEI and WEPN-FM, respectively. In Cleveland, there’s no evidence that Disney would hang onto 1260 and LMA it to CBS. They very much sound like they’re unloading all 23 sticks, and fast. Who else comes in and buys a single stick without any other operations in the Cleveland market? I’m not sure Cumulus even does that.

          2) I suspect that all depends on how much the Browns still want an AM flagship, and how much CBS cares that its two FM stations are being simulcasted during Browns games by one AM station they don’t own.

          • (1) When Radio Disney sells a station, that transmitter goes silent until the sale is completed and the new owners take over. That has been the case every time Radio Disney leaves a particular city.

            (2) CBS Radio does not buy or lease stations just to install a 24/7 satellite format.

            (3) WKRK-FM and WKNR were jointly awarded the Browns radio contract last year. Both stations got into a bidding war, so the NFL club decided to put its broadcasts on both stations.

  3. I’d like to see CBS buy it and then turn it into a full news station like WWJ in Detroit. There are no full news stations in this market. Alternatively, i’d like to see it go back to WIXY.

    • A “full news” station is not happening in market #31, and CBS is not spending the kind of money to do that.

      All-news radio is expensive with a capital E, and is only economically viable in the top 10 markets.

      And see our original item about a return of a “WIXY” style station.

      Some people call you a dreamer, no? 😉


  4. None of the big operators are going to buy WWMK or any of the Radio Disney outlets.

    Likely bidders will include one of the plethora of Catholic groups gobbling up AMs across the country like Starboard Media Foundation, leased time brokers, or in other markets companies like Salem seeking to find an outlet for their formats in a box.

    • Nathan Obral says:

      I have a hard time envisioning Starboard or Immaculate Heart Radio arriving into the market, simply because of the existence of Living Bread Radio, who already operate WILB/1060 Canton (10Kw in the daytime and make efforts to target Cleveland itself) as well as WILB/89.5 Youngstown. I wouldn’t be shocked if there was a gentleman’s agreement for either Starboard or IHR not to enter Cleveland, much like EMF wouldn’t bring K-Love in to town, as that would only seriously harm The Fish.

      Living Bread Radio would be a logical choice for a full-market Cleveland signal. It would clear their programming 24/7. But do they really want it? 1260 is a very directional signal that misses good chunks of the suburbs. That same weakness is what doomed WMIH in the mid-90s (that, and WMIH was run as a commercial operation instead of as a non-comm). You could make a serious case for WILB having the better daytime signal.

      Maybe WCCD/1000 Parma is interested?

      • I’m not sure a Starboard cares about WILB. Good signal upgrade, yes, but it’s still a Canton station. And it’s still very much a daytimer, and always will be.

        1260’s signal is not perfect. It’s still a second-tier AM and still, yes, misses some of the market with its directional pattern. But it’s still a full-time in-market signal.

        WCCD? Heck, the New Spirit folks probably could barely afford AM 1000, let alone 1260, even at a heavily discounted price.

      • WCCD is fine the way it is. And with it’s internet stream now available on Audio now, we can still hear them even if we don’t have computers in our homes.

  5. contour07 says:

    It’s not surprising that Radio Disney decided to sell off it’s stations. How many kids out there have a cheap Chinese boombox that can’t even pick up a clear AM signal? And how many kids complain about the interference and low quality on AM? Back when Radio Disney first launched in 1996, all there was were AM & FM stations. Satellite radio, online streams and phone apps allowed Radio Disney to broadcast in higher quality as well as providing more coverage compared to AM.

    As for WWMK, I HOPE it doesn’t become another talk, sports, religious, country or Spanish station after it’s sold. An oldies format similar to what 1590 WAKR had would be nice and would help fill a niche in the Cleveland market. After all, the station does have HD Radio, so it would be practical to keep the station music oriented.

  6. Eric Ochs says:

    They are not worth much are they willing to work out a deal with me.

  7. I don’t see anyone with money willing to invest in an AM broadcast station anymore – makes no fiscal sense…why do you think Disney wants to drop its AM station lineup to begin with. The sound quality of FM is way better than AM signals – this is why over the last decade or so that most of the AM lower-power stations can be classified as ‘trash stations’ – in other words who really listens to AM stations with exceptions of lets say WTAM 1100 in Cleveland with its 50,000 watt Clear Channel allocation. However, if a strong FM talker were to emerge, even WTAM would be relegated to the AM backstreets. AM radio almost had a resurgence as a broadcast band a few decades ago with the interest in AM Stereo, however the FCC blew it big time by not regulating it by its experimentation of using the open market to decide which technical format would be used by what sold the most. A real problem with that is no station except a handfull around the country would be willing to make the expensive technical change without the concrete regulations set by the FCC specifications. Manufacturers of AM Stereo equipment were far and few for the same reasons – it would have been way to risky and expensive to produce receivers that had to be able to decode the various technical methods being introduced. Reason why various commercial equipment manufacturers were so hot on producing various technical equasions were that they would really clean up on royalties paid by both broadcast equipment and commercial radio manufacturers of consumer-end radio receivers alone. Feasibly-speaking, they didn’t even have to manufacturer either the transmit nor the receivers themselves to make that bundle. If techncal aspects were not regulated by the FCC and other like-minded organizations worldwide, we would not have digital tv today. To put it mildly, in the case of AM, the inability of the FCC to develop a set of FCC regulations concerning AM stereo specifications ruined the possibility of the format ever gaining a foothold. Had FM been invented before AM, there would be no AM in the first place. UHF TV is a good example, before regulations stipulated that tv receivers sold in the United States had to include UHF tuners, most stations picking up UHF licenses went under because very few customers bought tv’s with the UHF option. I know, a little off topic. Here’s the point, the smart money is not investing in AM stations – in the ‘not-too-distance’ future, AM will simply be static! Come on Mike Trivisano, interesting to hear your take on the subject!-)

    • I don’t Triv will say anything. This is because he knows about these things. He’s been in radio for years.

  8. Is 1420 AM Salem irrelevant?

  9. Here’s a possibility. They could become NBC Sports Radio. Although we Here in Cleveland have 3 sports stations, boath on AM, and FM, 1260 shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. In 1996, radio disney was the best. But Kids these days Just aren’t listening to Radio Disney anymore. There listening to the regular top40 stations. Here, its 96.5 Kiss FM. They’re exchanging the FM for the AM. That’s just my oppinion.

  10. Shame the AM stations are declining….. however I’m tired of all sports shows on the AM band when you need news. When you’re in your car and theres threat of bad weather it would be nice to turn to a station thats reporting the news instead of sports. I’ve always wanted a all news station.. too bad NE Ohio is too far down the market size to justify one.

  11. Jim Nuznoff says:

    Speaking as an Akronite, 1260 is irrelevant to me and the hundreds of thousands of Summit, Portage, Medina and Stark County listeners. Like most directional stations in the northern US, 1260 sends its signal north to minimize interference…north into Lake Erie in their case. To us in Akron, 1000, 1260, 1300, 1490 and 1540 are only rumors. (How WIXY had a presence in Akron in its heyday is a mystery to me). A Cleveland-only focused station (such as one serving a minority audience) would most likely succeed. BTW, in the Detroit market, several stations have set up shop well south of Detroit and sent their 50kw signals north, covering the whole market.

  12. MARK ALLEN former WIXY superman says:

    The 1260 frequency has a rich history in Cleveland going way back to the 50,s begining as a simulcast of WDOK FM 102.1 Then came the most successful format on this frequency. When WIXY 1260 tore up the rule book becoming the most exciting, promotion oriented, hot and fun rock and roll station with a peanut signal that I ever worked at!
    I doubt anything can ever even aproach what we did. These days when most folks have dozens or hundreds of entertainment choices in thair hand 24/7 Wouldn’t it be nice to hear that good ol rock and roll one more time in mono with all the late night radio whistle and noise?
    Or how about WIXY 1260 ONELINE A good replay of the old days jingles and all!
    OR Akrons graat oldies outlet The SUNDAYOLDIESJUKEBOX.COM (88.9 FM Sunday only.)
    I have been lucky enough to be in the broadcast business for over 50 years and I bet I haven’t heard it all yet.

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