Entercom Narrows Down 16 Stations To Be Divested To Complete CBS Radio Merger

CBS Radio Entercom Merger David FieldIn order to complete its merger with CBS Radio, Entercom has agreed to divest sixteen stations in order to ensure regulatory approval.

In a memo sent to CBS Radio employees CEO Andre Fernandez revealed that the following stations will be divested:

Boston: CBS Radio’s News/Talk 1030 WBZ, Sports “98.5 The Sports Hub” WBZ-FM, Classic Rock 100.7 WZLX and Entercom’s Talk 680 WRKO and Urban AC “The New 97.7” WKAF.

San Francisco: CBS Radio CHR “99.7 Now” KMVQ and Entercom AC 96.5 KOIT, Classic Rock “98.5 K-Fox” KUFX, and Urban AC 102.9 KBLX.

Sacramento: CBS Radio’s AC “Mix 96” 96.1 KYMX, Hot AC “Now 100.5” KZZO, Country 105.1 KNCI, and Sports 1140 KHTK

Seattle: CBS Radio’s Variety Hits “96.5 Jack-FM” KJAQ, Classic Rock 102.5 KZOK, Sports “CBS Sports 1090

These divestitures will be in addition to the three stations sold to Educational Media Foundation last month. In an SEC filing today, Entercom revealed that including the $57.75 million it will receive from EMF it will net $265 million cash and eleven stations in three markets from the divestitures.

In the markets where Entercom needed to divest stations, Entercom’s post-merger clusters will include:

Boston: Sports 93.7 WEEI-FM, CHR “103.3 Amp Radio” WODS, Hot AC “Mix 104.1” WBMX, Rock 107.3 WAAF, Sports “ESPN Radio 850” WEEI and WEEI-FM simulcast 1440 WVEI

San Francisco: News 740 KCBS/106.9 KFRC, Sports “95.7 The Game” KGMZ, Hot AC “Alice 97.3” KLLC, Rhythmic Hot AC “Q102.1” KRBQ, Alternative “Live 105” 105.3 KITS.

Sacramento: Alternative “Radio 94.7” KKDO, Classic Rock “Eagle 96.9” KSEG, Active Rock “98 Rock” 98.5 KRXQ, Rhythmic CHR 102.5 KSFM, CHR “106.5 The End” KUDL, and Sports “ESPN Radio 1320” KIFM.

Seattle: Country 94.1 KMPS, Rock 99.9 KISW, Country “100.7 The Wolf” KKWF, Rhythmic Hot AC “Hot 103.7” KHTP, Alternative “107.7 The End” KDND.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, Entercom and CBS RADIO have taken another important step in finalizing the merger of our two companies. A number of regulatory filings were made in connection with the merger transaction. As you may recall, a few weeks ago it was widely reported that Entercom proposed to sell three of its stations in Los Angeles, San Diego and Wilkes Barre. The filings made today propose an additional 16 stations be divested across both companies for a total of 19 stations.

The list of stations will be available on the FCC website; however, we think it’s important that you hear from us directly about which CBS RADIO stations may be affected. I say ‘may’ because the divestiture of these stations still requires regulatory approval, which we expect will happen in the coming weeks.

Among the 16 stations that have been proposed to be divested in the filing today, there are 11 CBS RADIO stations across San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Sacramento. They are:

KMVQ-FM/San Francisco
WBZ-AM/Boston
WBZ-FM/Boston
WZLX-FM/Boston
KFNQ-AM/Seattle
KJAQ-FM/Seattle
KZOK-FM/Seattle
KHTK-AM/Sacramento
KNCI-FM/Sacramento
KYMX-FM/Sacramento
KZZO-FM/Sacramento

Five (5) additional Entercom stations have also been proposed to be divested including: KBLX-FM/San Francisco, KOIT-FM/San Francisco, KUFX-FM/San Francisco, WKAF-FM/Boston, and WRKO-AM/Boston.

The station buyers for these 16 proposed stations have not been announced. We expect to have more information in the coming weeks. In the meantime, our day-to-day operations will not change. We all remain CBS RADIO employees until the merger fully closes which we expect to happen later this year.

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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.

24 Comments


  1. Would WBZ be forced to change its call letters as WBZ-TV remains under CBS?


    • Not unless there is specific wording in the sale requiring it. Here in the Tampa Bay area, we have WFLA Radio (iHeart) and WFLA-TV (NexStar.)


  2. CBS’s dispersal of their radio properties has included provisions for licensing back the usage of their callsigns like WCBS, KCBS, WBBM, WWJ, etc., &c. Because Entercom was not (and is not) going to enter the TV business, this was a practical move to make. In theory, if either Hubbard, iHeart or Cumulus were to get 1030 and 98.5, because neither of those groups have TV station holdings in the New England area, the WBZ calls could be licensed back to them as well.

    However… if a group like Cox purchases, or trades for, WBZ and the Sports Hub… because Cox already owns WFXT/25 — and is in the process of consolidating their radio and TV operations on a cluster-by-cluster basis — then you enter a sticky wicket. Cox would have to ask CBS for permission, and it’s not a guarantee that CBS would want to lend that callsign over to a direct competitor (especially when channel 4 actively brands itself as “WBZ”).


    • I’m a bit surprised that WBZ-1030 and WBZ-98.5 were going to be divested.

      But who would buy them and the pother stations to be divested??

      Both Cumulus and iHeart are deep in debt and could both face bankruptcy (and at least one might even face liquidation) in the months to come.


      • Should Boston get ready for “K-Love 100.7”??


        • Seriously? Just stop.

          To answer your earlier question, Hubbard. Hands down.


          • I would prefer Hubbard, especially if they can make a deal with CBS where they pay CBS an annual fee (to cover the costs of WBZ-1030’s staff and newsgathering expenses) and in return, CBS continues to program WBZ-1030’s format.

            And I think Hubbard would keep the format and staff (other than those also working on WBZ-4, unless they make a deal with CBS to provide news programming) intact.

            And with their ownership of WTOP-103.5 in Washington, Hubbard is just about the only company other than CBS that currently programs all-news or (in ‘BZ’s case) news-by-day/talk-by-night.

            One advantage for Hubbard is that they could take all of the divested CBS/Entercom stations. If Cumulus or iHeart were to do so (despite their financial problems), they’d (especially the latter) would have to spin-off stations and won’t be able to “swallow up the divested stations whole”.


          • Scott Fybush and Lance Venta made a compelling case for Cox in last night’s NERW podcast. In fact, they consider Cox the odds-on favorite to get the dispersed Boston stations, especially if it came down to an asset swap deal. Listen to it if you can.


      • Since Entercom is probably still preferring swaps–and has said, in its latest SEC filing, that it may get 11 fresh stations out of this deal–I would still not rule out Cox. Off-hand, I think that it could deal away Tampa Bay and San Antonio pretty easily here.

        However, now that 1030 and 680 going to be dealt away, it did occur to me that Sunbeam could be a very, very dark horse. It should still have a good amount of money to spend, after putting WLVI into the spectrum auction.


        • Rereading my comment above, I do want to emphasize that other companies (not just Cox) could do similar swaps; that certainly would include Hubbard. However, Cox does own TV in both Boston and Seattle–and has said that it wants to have both TV and radio in as many markets as possible.


        • For those into legalese, the SEC filing is at this link:
          http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1067837/000119312517307226/d362252ds4a.htm

          Since swaps are the preferred method with this mega-deal, for the stations that Entercom is gaining, is there a particular operator out there that has 3 markets with 11 stations in markets where the future Entercom wouldn’t go over the cap? Of course, the 11 stations/3 markets *could* be spread out among more than one group.


      • This was not a surprise. The combined company had to sell off either WEEI or the Sports Hub. Entercom is heavily invested in WEEI and its network of simulcast stations throughout New England. It is too valuable an asset for them to give up.

        Dispersing of WBZ 1030 and the Sports Hub gets it under the DOJ’s good graces WRT revenue concentration, plus both stations are incredibly labor intensive. WZLX is expendable with WAAF in their stable. And 97.7 was an extra signal that was no longer necessary.

        Cumulus and iHeart are incredibly unlikely as buyers, unless they have like properties in other markets they are willing to part with.


        • Does anyone know if the current contracts for the Bruins, Celtics, and/or Patriots mandate that WZLX be the primary (or even only) overflow station? If that’s the case (i.e., if there wasn’t discretion that overflow games could be put on another station), then maybe WZLX had to remain co-owned with the Sports Hub.


          • The New England Patriots have first priority on The Sports Hub under CBS Radio and will retain first priority under a new owner.


      • Surprised that Entercom decided to divest WZLX and WBZ-FM and retain WAAF and WEEI-FM, both of the latter two operating outside of the city. Wonder how they came up with that list? Why keep WODS and not spin that off and keep WZLX? Could WEEI-FM move to 103.3? Why keep WBMX? Who gets the Patriots contract too, a new WEEI-FM? Entercomm cold have tried to keep at least three of CBS’ big FMs and try to spin off more of the others, so for example, they could have sold , WAAF, WKAF, WRKO, WBMX and WEEI-AM and new cluster would be WEEI-FM, WBZ-FM, WZLX, WODS and WBZ-AM. Wonder how they came up with the list of what is kept and what is sold?


  3. Root For Hubbard! 😉


  4. A new Boston Herald column has some truly bonkers speculation about Comcast and/or Bloomberg being involved. Even its mention of EMF isn’t fully grounded in reality–as it includes the idea that the group “could be in the market for an AM station like WBZ”.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/jessica_heslam/2017/10/heslam_big_names_bandied_about_as_buyers_in_radio_selloff


    • That article is clickbait garbage. NBC hasn’t owned a radio station since 1989 (with the sale of KNBR 680) and has had zero interest in ever going back to that.

      Period.


  5. I could see one interesting scenario:

    Since Top-40/CHR WODS-103.3 hasn’t done well in the ratings (vis-a-vis WXKS-107.9, a/k/a “Kiss-108”), I can see Entercom selling the license and Burlington, Massachusetts transmitter site for WRKO-680, but not any of WRKO’s intellectual property.

    Entercom could replace music on 103.3 with an all-talk WRKO-FM.

    This could help RKO’s cause for two reasons:

    (1) It gets the station onto the FM dial.

    (2) It gives ‘RKO a better signal in “Metrowest” (areas between Boston and Worcester), especially at night. After dark, WRKO’s signal is practically nonexistent west of Framingham.


    • WRKO’s programming isn’t successful enough (especially among younger demos) to warrant a move to a full-market FM. Likewise, gutting both 680’s and 1030’s current programming, in favor of a combined new format on FM, would be extremely risky.


      • It would be kinda interesting to see 103.3 become WEEI-FM again. But if that happened, there would be a music format on 93.7, be it a relocated AMP or whatever (a reboot of Oldies WODS?).


    • WEEI went on FM because their target audience wasn’t primarily in the 55-dead crowd.

      WRKO brokers out their morning drive (Boston Globe) and mid-morning (Barry Armstrong) slots, and Howie Carr owns his own show (and the distribution method for it) outright. Their lone regular weekday talk host — Jeff Kuhner — gets zero promotion and resources, which is hilarious as he’s claimed for years to be eventually “nationally syndicated.” Hell, their newscasts are outsourced to outside providers, ceding that battle to WBZ 1030 and WGBH-FM a decade ago. To be blunt, outside of Howie, what relevance does WRKO have at this present moment?

      Entercom has absolutely no use for WRKO, and is more than happy giving it up. Moreover, whomever buys WRKO will not really do anything that differently with it… the same minimal investment and playing out the remainder of a dying, calcifying audience. But instead of being WEEI’s red-headed stepchild, it will be WBZ 1030’s red-headed stepchild.


    • I’m advocating for ‘KAF’s format to move to ‘ODS.

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