Full market Cleveland radio stations don’t go on the block every day, but one’s now for sale.
Radio 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.
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.
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.
@ohiomediawatch 1260 was one of the few money makers in the company.
— Tony Mazur (@TonyMazur) August 13, 2014
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.
If 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…