CBS Aquires 101.9 WRXP New York for WFAN

New Rock 101.9 WRXP New York Merlin Media CBS WFAN-FM WFAN Mike Francesa Boomer Carton FMCBS Radio has announced it has purchased Alternative 101.9 WRXP New York from Merlin Media for $75 Million.

Update 11/2: WFAN began its simulcast on 101.9 around 11:57pm as Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” gave way to Suzyn Waldman, the first voice to be heard on WFAN in 1987 kicked off the new format on FM.

The final hour of New Rock 101.9 consisted of:
MGMT – Kids
AWOLNATION – Kill Your Heroes
Linkin Park – Waiting For The End
Dirty Heads W/ Rome – Lay Me Down
Black Keys – Little Black Submarines
Killers – Mr. Brightside
Jack White – Freedom At 21
Florence + The Machine – Dog Days Are Over
Little Huricane – Haunted Heart
Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Follow You Into The Dark
Pearl Jam – Last Kiss
Beastie Boys – No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn
Semisonic – Closing Time
Green Day – Good Riddance
Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye

Update 10/29: WFAN will begin its simulcast on 101.9 on Friday, November 2 at 12:00am.

Update 10/15: The sale’s filing has made its way to the FCC database. The sale will involve Merlin first spinning off WRXP to NYFMEAT LLC for tax purposes, with that holding company then turning the station over to CBS.

CBS has also detailed how it plans to fit WRXP under the ownership limits in New York. The company is petitioning the FCC that the coverage of WLNY-TV does not entirely encompass New York City, while none of the CBS Radio stations in New York put a city grade signal over WLNY’s Riverhead city of license. Scott Fybush explains the maneuver in detail in this week’s Northeast Radio Watch.

Original Report 10/8: The station will flip to a simulcast of Sports 660 WFAN when CBS begins operating the station via LMA in November. The sale currently places CBS one station over the ownership limits in New York as it currently owns two television stations, three AM’s, and three FM’s in the market. The delayed start of the LMA indicates that another move may be pending to resolve that issue.

Merlin Media flipped from News back to Alternative Rock in July. It has since grown in its first two monthlies from a 0.6 to a 2.1 share. WFAN will join ESPN’s 98.7 WEPN on FM once it consummates this move.

The CBS Press Release follows:

CBS RADIO, a division of CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS), today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase 101.9 FM from Merlin Media for $75 million. In late fall, CBS RADIO will begin its operation of the station under a Local Marketing Agreement, launching a simulcast of the company’s premier sports franchise, Sports Radio 66 WFAN.

This move will immediately broaden the audience and reach of WFAN’s award-winning programming, which will continue to be broadcast on-air at 660 AM, online at wfan.com/cbsnewyork.com, and via the Radio.com app for a variety of mobile devices.

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity to expand our radio presence in the nation’s largest market,” said Dan Mason, President and CEO, CBS RADIO. “Sports is a very popular format and a huge growth category for our business. As a result of this new asset, we look forward to The FAN building on its position as the leading sports radio franchise in the country.”

WFAN pioneered the all-sports format when it launched on July 1, 1987, becoming the first radio station where listeners could hear and talk about sports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It has been the most-listened-to station of its kind since it signed on the air. WFAN is home to leading personalities Mike Francesa, Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, Joe Benigno, Evan Roberts and Steve Somers, and is the flagship station for the New York Giants, New York Mets, Brooklyn Nets and New Jersey Devils.

Additionally, WFAN is the recipient of four prestigious Marconi Awards from the National Association of Broadcasters, including most recently Mike Francesa being honored as Major Market Personality of the Year (2012).

The transaction is subject to customary conditions, including regulatory and other approvals.

Comments

  1. says

    People on message boards and the like are predicting that CBS will either spin off 1010 WINS or move the station’s format to the FM dial. Neither move makes any sense.

    WINS does phenomenal in the region its’ signal targets, something that would be lost if it moved to an FM signal. Plus WINS is just as successful as WCBS, outperforming it in certain demos, while WCBS outperforms WINS in others. It’s a perfect one-two punch that Merlin had no chance in with “FM News 101.9,” which is how we wound up at this juncture today.

    My hunch is, CBS will place either WWFS or WXRK in a trust with intent to spin off, or they already have a buyer lined up for either signal already and we don’t know it. Why those two? Because they could afford to continue as-is without the risk of being competitive… something that is impossible to do with WINS.

    • says

      Why in the world would CBS pay $75 Million to buy an FM just to sell off another FM? There’s no way the tax implications of that would make it a likely move. CBS wants more FM’s and less AM’s as do most radio owners.

      WINS is the more successful of the two News stations, something that would be able to be enhanced with a move to FM if that is the next step of whatever is going on.

      • says

        I would have announced that WINS is headed to FM today along with WFAN, obviously putting 1010 on the block.

        Even wilder speculation: what’s the possibility that CBS sells 1010 to Family Radio as the new home for WFME, with 94.7 headed to Pacifica as the new home for WBAI, and 99.5 headed to Cumulus as a new station for them to play around with?

        Not that complicated three-way transactions haven’t occurred before.

        • says

          I can easily see any of those scenarios playing out, however….

          1) CBS will not announce any further programming plans until they have to as it would dilute the value of their properties during any transition period. Note how vague they’ve been today about 660’s future.

          • says

            Considering how the limits are the way they are, could a double-switch of WINS and WFAN to FM take place on the same day? I say this because an LMA of 101.9 counts the same against the ownership cap as owning it outright. Plus WINS can’t just disappear, even for a few seconds. Or does 1010 go into the “trust”, allowing for a WINS temporary simulcast on either 92.3 or 102.7 while whatever deal gets processed through?

            I do take Mike Francesia’s comment about the simulcast with a grain of salt. Perhaps **his show** remains simulcast on both stations (assuming that Boomer and Carton become syndicated via CBS SR), but if 660 didn’t become the new 24/7 flagship for CBS Sports Radio, I’d be shocked beyond belief.

            However you and I slice it, this is **the** biggest game-changer in NY Radio, and radio in itself, since NBC shut down WNBC-AM to make way for WFAN… 24 years and one day ago.

  2. The Fat Man says

    My content for CBS Radio and Sports Talk aside. In order for WFAN to survive this needed to be done. What puzzled me is why pay 75 million for WRXP when they could have killed one of there three existing formats? Let’s be honest, WCBS-FM wouldn’t have been on the chopping block. Final question is this a warning for the Chicago and Philly stations, or was CBS aggressively seeking this opportunity to put WFAN on FM.

    • says

      The way this is going, either Now or Fresh WILL be nuked so WINS can migrate to FM (assuming that 1010 is indeed the station on the block).

      For $75M, CBS has taken not just one, but two of their AM formats to the FM dial, at the expense of one existing musical format of their own. And preserving cash-cow WCBS-FM in the process.

      As for Merlin? I don’t buy Randy’s spin. He was denying that the stations were on the block last week. And now this happens. It’s starting to look like GTCR is trying to save face on an epic money-losing disaster in Merlin by swiftly unloading the stations to the highest bidder.

      • says

        WXRP “the 2nd” was just a temporary format. It and WIQI/WLUP are Dead Stations Walking, and have been since July.

        Back when Merlin’s investors ordered the abortion of “FM News,” I asked out loud the following:

        ——————————–

        “I can’t help but think that WIQI was intended to go as a news/talker right up until yesterday or the day before, and WEMP was probably going to go in a similar direction. But the investors backing Merlin likely forced Randy [Michaels]’s hand and made him cancel both formats outright, not only angered at the low ratings and revenue problems, but also that their FrankenFM – Q87.7 – outdrew WIQI after less than two months on the air with minimal promotion and investment.

        It would explain both the hastiness of the flips AND Randy’s last-minute absence from the combined staff meetings (where the fired news directors had to deliver the bad news instead).

        You have to ask yourself: did Randy REALLY want alternative back on WEMP?”

        ——————————–

        It’s a sad irony, because **this** WXRP had a better playlist and focus than what 101.9XRP had during the Emmis years. But the vast majority of WXRP’s playlist overlapped with WKQX-LP “Q87.7″ in Chicago to begin with.

        As much as CBS gets grief for killing off heritage rock stations (and the list is pretty big), they really have no blame in this situation.

      • puddingpop says

        Actually, CBS has “killed rock off” twice in NYC, both times on on 92.3 WXRK, in 2006 and 2009. And technically, it’s CBS that made the decision on what to do with this format, so that could be counted as the third time.

        Although it’s Merlin Media who’s often getting called out lately as a company that’s out to kill modern rock stations, it’s probably CBS who has “killed off” the most rock stations over the past several years, often to make room for an FM sports station. Clear Channel seems to be the company most willing to keep modern rock stations on the air, and they’ve got some good success stories doing so in some major markets.

        • says

          No business or company is going out there with the business model “Let’s Kill Modern Rock“. Merlin’s financial difficulties led to 101.9 being brought back in July, but also made this current format a placeholder at best.

          WFAN is one of the strongest brands in radio. One that CBS has been trying to find an FM signal for. WRXP was the means to an end.

  3. M says

    It’s W-R-X-P just to let you know. and also. CBS does because they could EASILY have killed off 92.3 Now FM which hasn’t been winning the battle against Z 100 or KTU. Speaking of CC why the hell do they even have KTU because they’re maybe doing well ratings wise, but I’m sure they overlap a LOT with Power and Z and even Lite! It’s like they all play the same music on CC’s stations! I don’t get it switch to Rock SOMEBODY!

    • says

      Whoopie. I accidentally transposed the WRXP call letters. Again M, you miss the larger story here.

      Who’s to say CBS **isn’t** going to “kill” off Now – or Fresh – to relay/move WINS? One of their stations HAS to go, and all signs are pointing to 1010. And they aren’t going to spin off or dump the stronger of their all-news brands just so this deal can go through. Face it. WINS not only **has** to move to FM just to expose it to a new audience (where it will become the next WTOP, which exploded to #1 in news-heavy DC after it moved to FM outright on a premiere signal), it is going to be **ordered** to do so by regulatory measures.

      But by this deal, CBS saved Merlin Media’s investors from the crushing burden of debt incurred by Randy Micheal’s one-year regin of horror… er, “FM News.” CBS gets not one, but TWO new homes for two of their highest-profile AM stations – WINS and WFAN, and only needed to blow up one of their FM formats in the process. WRXP is just collateral damage, and is being killed by Merlin Media.

      Now, as to that slam against CHR: NYC is big enough of a market that it can support multiple CHR stations. CC has Z100, KTU and Power to all flank each other. But **all three** have made Now a non-factor in the ratings. You could never do that in any other market.

      The other shoe hasn’t dropped yet in this deal. You watch.

  4. MattParker says

    The only way any of this makes sense is if CBS Radio’s “business model” is migrating its long-successful news, talk and sports stations to FM. If so, what’s happening in New York is likely to happen to their clusters in other markets.
    Local-live spoken word is terrestrial radio’s last remaining trump card. Look for CBS to dump music stations on FM for spoken word formats ported from AM. Look for AM stations either to be sold or used for some secondary format (like CBS Sports network feed or programming for special audiences, like news for government employees in DC).
    There is a downside here. CBS’ AM properties include some 50kw class I-A blow-torches with regional coverage. FM won’t give them the same quality coverage in distant suburbs and ex-urbs, in an era where commuting ranges have increased. The CBC ran into this in cities in which they killed off Radio One on AM. CBS probably will, too.

    • says

      That is the case, but as younger people are not tuning into the AM dial at all, this does become ‘that means to an end’ to keep the format relevant.

      WTOP’s move to FM came at a price of not have a massive signal coverage on 1500; however, the AM signal that’s now home to WFED is so directional that it misses the most critical portions of the market – Northern Virginia. Evergreen and Bonneville had no choice but to get FM relays for WTOP back in the late 90s, eventually creating a network that soon emerged on one of the best FM signals in the market.

      It will be a shock, though, to see a prime AM 50kW class I-A signal in 660 get reduced to relaying a 24/7 network feed. If it can happen in NYC, it can happen anywhere.

      • MattParker says

        It is a shame to see 660 AM (previously on 610 AM), WEAF, WRCA, WNBC and WFAN brought low. The first station to sell commercial time. The flagship station of NBC (Red). Home of a morning show hosted by Buffalo Bob Smith, Bill Cullen, Big Wilson and Don Imus. A local talent roster that included Bill Mazer. Brad Crandall, Ted Brown, the Wolfman, Soupy Sales and Howard Stern.
        Also worth noting WFAN started on 1050 AM (previously WHN and WMGM; subsequently WEVD and WEPN). I recall a tasteless joke about WEVD (for socialist leader Eugene V. Debs and owned by the Jewish Forward newspaper): “This is WEVD. All Jews, all the time. You give us 22 minutes … wait, for you, 19 minutes and we’ll give you the world.”

        • says

          For all practical purposes, the station with the rich legacy of WEAF/WRCA/WNBC ceased to exist when NBC dismantled it, and removed it from the air for good. WFAN only claimed WNBC’s existing play-by-play rights to the Knicks and Rangers, hired Imus, and (to this day) uses the old WNBC News closer “and THAT’S what’s happening” to close their TOH 20/20 update… but never claimed any other aspect of WNBC’s history and heritage. 66 WFAN was and always has been the successor to 1050 WHN, and that will be the case when it moves to 101.9.

          It’s sad, really. GE’s actions to buy, then destroy **ALL** of RCA, including NBC Radio (just so they could get their hands on NBC-TV) forever alterted the industry in ways we can never truly comprehend.

          • MattParker says

            NBC-TV’s performance under GE – Sheinhardt Wig Company has given the company what it deserves. Granted, NBC Radio is a textbook case of arrogant and incompetent mismanagement. Repeatedly, anytime somebody came up with a way to success, the higher echelons killed it. Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” is a very accurate portrayal of the corporate culture. Howard, the I-man and Soupy on one station and they couldn’t make money! The way they handled Monitor and NIS showed they were completely oblivious to the then-current state of radio and what stations needed from them. Bob Pittman firing the I-man so he could give the slot to his girl friend should be a criminal offense. And firing Sigourney’s dad to put the boss’ son in charge was outrageous beyond the bound of nepotism. This was the guy who could have kept reinventing NBC to keep ahead of radio’s evolution.

  5. The Fat Man says

    Can we be serious folks. All CBS would have done with TCP is what they did with WXRK, WBCN, arguably WNEW, Radio 92.3 in Cleveland, WYSP, O-Rock in Orlando, and the rest of the their East Coast rockers. Limit the “new” in the playlist. Overhype the 90s rock, limit the DJs’ imput, waited for the ratings to plummet, and then flipped the format. In this situation, 101.9 New Rock would have became 101.9 K-Rock. Just a shame NYC is without a rock outlet again.

  6. MattParker says

    Fybush makes an interesting point: CBS can surrender the license for a weak stick rim-shot TV station and keep must-carry rights through the market – and keep all their radio properties.
    If so, look for local-live sports talk on FAN-FM and network feed on FAN-AM (plus overflow games).

    • says

      Plus if WLNY becomes a virtual station, they can simply ID it as “channel 10″ and drop the cumbersome “10/55″ positioning. Then make into move of an alternate indy station and news/sports/CBS overflow, akin to how CBS runs KCAL in LA.

      So, then… why would CBS have bought WLNY in the first place? Well, why not get a channel with existing cable carriage, right that trying to start one a regional cable net from scratch and fighting tooth-and-nail with Comcast and Cablevison for a decent placement? (Plus – and I just thought of it – CBS could put WLNY’s programming on a subchannel of WCBS-TV, therby ensuring it doesn’t lose **any** OTA viewers.)

      Agree on what will probably happen to both WFANs. Note, too, that it’s possible that Boomer and Carton could be tabbed as CBS Sports Radio’s morning drive offering… and 66 might simulcast Mike Francescia’s show just for the heck of it. In either case, both stations could simulcast each other in drive times – and with PBP rights – but 66 splits off for network programming while 101.9 continues as the 24/7 local voice.

  7. The Fat Man says

    On the comments section of Fybush’s post in the link. Someone suggests selling WXRK to Greater Media. Now although that doesn’t make any sense on many grounds, I can entertain the idea of what Greater Media might do with that station. In Boston Greater Media owns WBOS, known on air as Radio 92.9. The station is a jockless Alternative/AAA hybrid station. I could see them trying to fill the rock gap with a similar format. But again, why sell 92.3 to buy 101.9? Especially when WINS could have its frequency sold and the intellectual property move to 92.3 or 102.7.

      • The Fat Man says

        So CBS is not selling an FM? I can see any company wanting an upstart in NYC. Isn’t that what Randy Michaels exactly did with his failed Science experiment that was FM News? I do agree with that first point you made. It is wishful thinking. My suggestion is that should rock return in some form to the market. That might be what they will get. Jockless and automated.

        • says

          CBS didn’t buy a full-market FM for $75M just to sell a full-market FM.

          Yes, WCBS-FM suffers from same-channel interference to the west, but it still covers the whole NYC metro and has always had great ratings during their oldies/classic hits eras, so it’s not a issue. 92.3 and 102.7 have no signal issues of their own. All of them are transmitting from the top of the Empire State Building.

          Any discussion about CBS selling off an FM is pretty much moot. For what purpose was buying 101.9 then? CBS would have been better off blowing up Fresh or Now, and moved WFAN to either signal.

          • The Fat Man says

            I know they weren’t. I was being sarcastic. If you read the original post to these replies, you will see that. I was entertaining an idea that even I said made no sense.

          • The Fat Man says

            The errors of reading a statement. I took you completely wrong. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  8. MattParker says

    New York NEEDS a rock station like Philly NEEDS a danz station.
    PS: New York also NEEDS a country station. (While we are talking about who killed rock in New York, let’s not forget WFAN killed country.)
    Not sure why somebody would pay more attention to a clearly senseless comment from a poster than from Fybush, who has a good deal of credibility as a broadcast observer and who made it clear that, yes, CBS does not need to sell an FM (or an AM) in the Big Apple. Only NBC makes moves that dumb.

  9. Joseph says

    Might WLNY become a 2.2 subchannel of WCBS-TV??

    This way, CBS can sell the WLNY license.

    I suspect Daystar or TBN (I believe the latter has a station way up in the Hudson Valley whose signal really doesn’t reach New York City, and if that’s the cae, they’d love an upgrade) would be very interested in WLNY to get on New York-area cable systems as a must-carry” signal.

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