Not since the years of rapid consolidation following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 have we seen a radio group operator grow so rapidly. Since the start of 2015 we’ve seen Alpha acquire clusters in suburban San Francisco, Fredericksburg, Lubbock, and Salt Lake City along with the two group acquisitions. Alpha Media didn’t exist at all prior to Larry Wilson merging L&L Broadcasting with his Portland, OR stations in April 2014.
Once the current deals close, Alpha Media will be the fourth largest group owner in terms of total stations behind iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and Townsquare Media. The general expectation is that Alpha founder Larry Wilson is attempting to build up cash flow to take the company public. But what will this large Alpha actually be?
Alpha’s stations can best be broken down into three levels. The first tier would be the PPM markets of Portland, San Antonio, and Salt Lake City that will be joined by San Jose, West Palm Beach, and suburban Chicago and Dallas from the Digity deal. The mid-level markets make up the bulk of the Alpha holdings. Most of these stations are in the southeast, Texas, and California which Morris and Digity both add as well.
A new tier is being added by the two most recent acquisitions. A group of small markets in the Midwest and Northern Plains. Morris’ Abilene/Salina, KS stations will be accompanied by the former Three Eagles and GoodRadio.TV holdings owned by Digity with stations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Those stations are in close enough proximity for some shared resources.
What’s next for Alpha? In surveying their growth the consensus is they need one more big deal before going public. The following is our own speculation, but considering the last two times Cumulus made a purchase they divested large quantities of stations in the process. Could Alpha acquire some of Cumulus’ small and medium markets to allow Lew Dickey to make a run at some of CBS Radio’s potential divestitures? Many of those clusters are familiar to Larry Wilson from his time running Citadel Broadcasting and perfect fits within the Alpha footprint.