More WBRU Sale Details

95.5 WBRU Providence Brown Broadcasting Service UniversityBrown Broadcasting Service has announced that Educational Media Foundation will begin operating 95.5 WBRU Providence on September 1 at 12:00am.

WPRI-TV reports that EMF will be paying $5.63 million for the station, which will be used to create an endowment to fund the two streams, podcast network, and educational opportunities that Brown Broadcasting Service will continue to operate under the WBRU name.

The station intends to find a terrestrial signal to carry its currently Sunday airing “The 360 Degree Experience in Sound” which features Urban and Urban AC programming. That and the primary Alternative Rock formats will both become 24/7 streams at WBRU.com.

Update 8/25: It appears a buyer has been found for Brown Broadcasting Service Alternative 95.5 WBRU Providence RI.

While nothing has been officially announced as of yet, RadioInsight has exclusively learned that Educational Media Foundation will acquire WBRU and will likely begin operating the station as an affiliate of its Christian AC “K-Love” network on or around September 1.

A call letter change was applied for today WBRU to become WLVO, calls that are currently in use by EMF’s 88.5 Halifax PA. Brown University’s Construction Permit for an LPFM on 101.1 in Providence has requested the WBRU-LP call letters for what is currently WPVD-LP. Unlike 95.5 WBRU, the LPFM is owned directly by Brown University’s Brown Student Radio. While the plan is for WBRU programming to continue online it is possible that some of it could also make its way to the non-commercial LPFM.

EMF’s “K-Love” is currently heard in the Providence market on 104.7 W284BA Warwick as well as stations in Westerly RI and New Bedford MA.

Update 11:45pm: WBRU has confirmed our report to WPRI-TV that the station will be sold to Educational Media Foundation with a license transfer application to be filed next week.

Original Report 7/27: Brown Broadcasting Service Alternative 95.5 WBRU Providence RI has confirmed recent reports that the station is about to be sold.

In a note posted on its website, WBRU states its intent to reinvest the revenue from the sale of its FM frequency into digital platforms for its primary Alternative format and its Sunday Hip-Hop “360 Degree Experience in Sound” programming through WBRU.com and new apps to be launched. The Providence Journal adds that the station would also add news based podcasts and form a research and development department to develop and test new media technology.

WBRU Board of Directors spokesman Art Norwalk told the Journal that the station is in active negotiations with a potential unnamed buyer but it should be finalized in “weeks as opposed to months”.

WBRU is one of the few university connected radio stations to operate commercially. It is owned by the independent non-profit Brown Broadcasting Service but staffed mainly by Brown students along with a few independent professionals. It has featured an Alternative Rock format since 1988 when it flipped from AOR.

The letter note posted on its website follows:

WBRU is not going away. While we are currently in the final stages of selling its FM broadcasting license, we have big plans. We are going to reinvest the revenue from the sale to continue creating music and news content for the southern New England community. This will be provided on various platforms—platforms that millions of people already use to access their music and news content in the car, on their phones and computers, and on home streaming devices.

Before we leave 95.5, 24/7 streams of both alternative rock and The 360 Degree Experience in Sound will be available at wbru.com and via our new smartphone apps. This marks the first time that either format has been available seven-days-a-week from WBRU.

Our mission statement directs us to be a self-supporting educational workshop focused on creating and distributing music-centric entertainment and news content. It is with serious consideration for this mission that we take this next step. With technologies and media habits changing so rapidly, we want to channel our energy and resources into creating a content-based media workshop with an eye towards innovation. WBRU has a storied history as a leader in innovation. We were one of the country’s first college radio stations and one of the first college stations to acquire a commercial FM license—before it was a popular platform. We were also among the first stations to stream on the Internet. It is with the same entrepreneurial spirit that we’re moving forward.

We deeply appreciate the support of our audience and advertisers over the years and hope the new WBRU will reach even more people in Rhode Island and the surrounding areas. We invite you to share your ideas with us: what would you like to see from WBRU in the future? You can reach us at community@wbru.com, and stay connected here at wbru.com/updates.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

17 Comments


  1. Why do I have the sneaky feeling EMF will buy WBRU-95.5 and flip it to “K-Love”??

    (Of course, anyone might end up buying WBRU; it’s just that I’ve had this funny feeling since rumors about WBRU getting sold began that EMF would buy it and flip it to their K-Love contemporary Christian network.


    • I don’t think it’ll end up being EMF here, even though I assume that it kicked the metaphorical tires at some point. The ProJo story says that the negotiations now involve one potential buyer–and I can’t see EMF getting into a bidding war in this case. While it’s been aggressive in its expansion, EMF is also wise about not making overly expensive purchases.


  2. Could it be someone already in the market, who will then spin off a weaker signal to EMF? For example, I could see iHeart buying the 95.5 stick, moving WWBB there, and selling off 101.5 to someone like EMF. Remember 101.5 was neutered significantly (from full Class B to Class A) in order to upgrade 101.7 in Boston from A to B1


    • I’m not sure that anyone here would need to spin off a station to avoid going over the market cap. Off-hand, Cumulus might be closest to the cap right now, but might still be able to add another FM. (Of course, whether Cumulus or iHeart could afford to make a purchase here may be a different story. And, there’s always the potential of the DOJ getting involved.)


    • iHeartMedia is in no position to play musical chairs given the company’s financial situation.
      And B101.5 was not the only station downgraded by iHeartMedia in order to upgrade 101.7.


  3. There has now been a brief statement confirming the sale…

    https://twitter.com/KimKalunian/status/901284943799746560


  4. This news should surprise absolutely no one.

    This is a repeat of what happened in Hartford not long ago.

    Cumulus and iHeart are not going to spend more money on signals in a small market like Providence; both companies already have strong local clusters. There are only so much ad dollars to go around, and that pie will gradually shrink as time moves along.

    Brown is wasting its time with the online stations. BRU’s ratings on FM were lukewarm to start with; only a fraction of those listeners will become regular listeners to the online streams.


  5. This won’t be the end of EMF expanding into New England.

    I suspect they will want a station near Boston as well. And that opportunity could come very soon.

    Assuming the CBS Radio/Entercom merger goes through, and the current FCC ownership limits aren’t changed, I can see EMF buy one of the FM stations that the combined CBS/Entercom will have to divest, and flip it to……..K-Love!

    As for which station EMF might end-up with if they do buy a Boston signal, it could be the 93.7 signal (now WEEI-FM), since I expect that the all-sports formats of WEEI and WBZ-98.5 (“The Sports Hub”) will be combined onto one station, probably at 98.5 under the WEEI-FM call letters. With the two stations combined at 98.5, CBS/Entercom would sell-off 93.7, which I suspect might go to EMF.

    Besides, the WBRU-95.5 signal does penetrate into Boston’s southern suburbs (where well south of Boston, WEEI-93.7 isn’t that strong), so EMF/”K-Love” would cover the full Boston market with 95.5 for areas well south of the city and 93.7 in Boston and points north.


    • Another possibility for the merged CBS/Entercom might be (as I have long thought) merge the two sports stations at 98.5, move WAAF from 107.3 to 93.7, and sell-off 107.3.


    • It’s more likely that one of the sports stations will be spun off to a commercial operator, rather than merge. You have a bunch of PBP that needs to go somewhere, and there is a company out there that is vying for them.

      Again, don’t overthink it.


    • If the DOJ is involved here, Entercom may not have a choice: It may be obligated to sell off one of the Sports stations (including the PBP rights and all of the other format-related property) to a commercial operator. IIRC, in the aftermath of the Citadel purchase, the DOJ specifically prevented Cumulus from selling spinoff stations in central Penna. (Harrisburg/et al.) and/or Flint/Tri-Cities, Mich., to a non-commercial operator.

      At this point, we won’t know how this’ll turn out until the two parties publicly announce their agreement/settlement.


    • What happens in Providence has nothing to do with Boston. Entercom’s acquisition of CBS Radio (no, it is NOT a merger!) has nothing to do with EMF.
      Just stop with your musical chairs and what-if scenarios already.


      • How in the Wide Wide World of Sports did this thread devolve into about an unrelated situation in a market totally separate from Providence and WBRU?

        My head hurts.


  6. Hopefully, WBRU-95.5 will mount a “farewell broadcast” to celebrate their decades as a rock station before they flip to “K-Love”, and that perhaps the switch to “K-Love” can be delayed until the tail end of the coming Labor Day Weekend to give ‘BRU the time to mount such a farewell broadcast and contact station alumni, who could appear either in-person or via phone/Skype.


  7. Per a just-concluded press conference, the sale price is apparently $5.63 million–which is being earmarked for an endowment. And, EMF takes over on the 1st, at midnight.

    https://twitter.com/i/moments/902583614533230593

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