This Is (Still) CBS

The folks at the Halle Building, and at other large-but-not-major market CBS Radio clusters, must feel like they’re on a roller coaster at Cedar Point, and that coaster has taken another sharp dip.

CBS_Radio_logoAfter repeatedly signaling that it wants out of sub-major markets, and wants to concentrate on the biggest markets, CBS Radio took the first big step* in that direction on Thursday.

CBS will flip its significant clusters in Charlotte and Tampa to Florida-based Beasley, which in turn will bolster CBS’ presence in Philadelphia. Beasley will trade its two big Philadelphia FM frequencies to the Eye.

(And no, this isn’t the Media News Footwear we talked about in our previous item. More on that when we can let the feline out of the paper enclosure.)

After all this, speculation now turns to how CBS Radio can pair up with a willing partner to trade other large-but-smaller market clusters, getting major market holdings in return.

Tom Taylor writes this morning in his excellent Tom Taylor Now Email newsletter:

Just to open the door to speculation about possible swaps – Other markets that CBS might see as swappable include San Diego (just two FMs, no TV stations), Riverside (just four radio stations), Sacramento (five radio stations, two TV outlets), Cleveland (four music FMs, no TV stations), Las Vegas (six radio stations, no TV), Orlando (three radio stations, no TV), and Palm Springs (one radio station).

That’s actually three music FMs and sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” at the Halle Building, by the way.

You’ll notice Pittsburgh is not on that list, despite a similar market size as Cleveland. CBS owns its TV station there, KDKA/2, and has news/talk and sports stations (KDKA/1020 and sports KDKA-FM/93.7 “The Fan”). Presumably, the synergy with an O&O TV newsroom would lead CBS to stay put in Pittsburgh radio-wise.

But there’s no such synergy here in Cleveland. Raycom owns CBS affiliate WOIO/19, and there’s very little connection between it and even “92.3 The Fan”. (The presence of “Fan” morning co-host Chuck Booms on WOIO’s “Tailgate 19” doesn’t count in that discussion.)

As we suggested to Halle Building staffers the last time Les Moonves brought up getting out of sub-major markets, not long ago…stand down.

Tom Taylor points out that it’s not exactly easy to put together a multi-station swap between two large broadcasters:

CBS just showed it’s open to an advantageous swap, but don’t hold your breath waiting for more. One dealmaker, watching yesterday’s transaction, tells this NOW Newsletter “These things are just incredibly hard to get done.” Two key phrases – #1, “Willing buyer and willing seller.” And #2, “relative valuation.” The second is probably harder, because even if both sides agree on what they pile on either side of the teeter-totter as stuff they’re willing to trade – they then have to agree on what it’s worth, piece by piece.

Taylor says there “may not be more deals in the pipeline” as a result of that long, laborious process.

Translation: It’s business as usual at the Halle Building, just as it has been in all this time that Moonves has been talking about concentrating on the company’s major markets.

A couple of oddities in the CBS-Beasley swap: for one, it could very well return Philadelphia’s 96.5 FM to a spoken word format.

Beasley killed talk WWDB just before the contentious 2000 presidential election (now, that’s timing!). It had been a pioneer talk format station on FM, launching in 1975…just one year after Kent’s WKNT-FM/100.1 brought talk to the FM dial here by hiring Youngstown’s Howie Chizek.

The Portage County station fully embraced the talk format a few short years later, expanded its focus and its signal to the broader Akron market, and of course, is today’s WNIR “The Talk of Akron”. Chizek ruled the talk radio roost for 38 years until his untimely recent passing.

Beasley tried a succession of music formats on 96.5 FM in Philadelphia…it’s now rhythmic/hip hop WRDW “Wired 96.5”.

The Rumor Mill strongly indicates that when the CBS-Beasley swap is done, CBS will quickly move to shore up signal holes for all-news KYW/1060 by simulcasting it on 96.5.

KYW is a 50,000 watt flamethrower that has no trouble reaching Northeast Ohio AM radios at night (after daytimer WILB/1060 “Living Bread Radio” in Canton signs off), but the need for a directional pattern to protect New York’s ESPN Spanish-language O&O WEPN/1050 “ESPN Deportes” means the KYW signal is actually challenged in some important Philadelphia suburbs.

And to wrap this up, Beasley will hang onto the station that now carries the WWDB calls in Philadelphia, a brokered talk AM at 860. It also gets the original AM home of CBS’ sports WIP at 610 AM, a 24/7 CBS Sports Radio network outlet now that WIP has moved to 94.1.

* We say “first big step” because CBS already exited markets like Columbus, Kansas City and Denver, selling stations to Wilks many years ago…

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