Looking At The Ramifications Of The Cumulus/Entercom/EMF Deal Part 2: The Markets

Cumulus Entercom EMF Educational Media Foundation K-Love WPLJ WRQXYesterday we examined the impact the Cumulus divestitures of six stations to Educational Media Foundation and its swap with Entercom would have on each company. Today we look at the eight markets involved in the deal.

New York

From a heritage standpoint losing Hot AC 95.5 WPLJ hurts radio just like losing WLUP Chicago and WABB Mobile to EMF hurt. From a competitive standpoint there was likely one too many stations going after the same 25-54 female demographics in the market.

The big winner here is Entercom which adds 94.7 WNSH (more on that in a bit) and a direct format competitor to Hot AC “New 102.7” WNEW goes away. WNEW and WPLJ have both been hovering in the low 2 share’s well behind iHeartMedia’s market leading AC “106.7 Lite-FM” WLTW and Rhythmic AC 103.5 WKTU. A deal to help promote 102.7 in WPLJ’s final days will be very beneficial to Entercom as would perhaps integrating some of that station’s IP.

Cumulus is not going to remain in New York City with just Conservative Talk 770 WABC and rimshot Urban AC “Radio 103.9” WNBM. The point of eliminating these smaller clusters is to reduce costs and the costs of operating in New York are higher than anywhere else with real estate leases. There’s been rumors for months about Salem acquiring some of the company’s Conservative Talk stations so that will be worth watching out for with WABC, WMAL and perhaps some others.

Shila Nathan 94.7 Nash-FM WNSH New York 99.5 WUSN Chicago

There seems to be a belief among many in the industry that Entercom will quickly do away with

Country on 94.7 WNSH in order to simulcast one of its two All-News AMs. While that will need to be the case within a couple years, we think Entercom will have time before giving up an additional revenue stream like predecessor CBS Radio did when they acquired 101.9 to simulcast Sports 660 WFAN in 2012. There is still a lot of ancillary money that comes with having Country radio in New York that does not come from direct billing. It will also be awhile before the applied WNSH upgrades are built-out which will give the company time to see how the station performs under their watch. A local morning show was just added and by the time the deal closes at the FCC this summer a new brand will likely replace Cumulus’ trademarked “Nash“.

If Entercom did move one of its two News stations to FM, consider that while one would grow with the move to FM the other would also lose audience as it gives one less reason to switch over to the AM band as the only thing left in the market exclusive to the band would be Conservative Talk. So in addition to the lost revenue currently produced by WNSH, putting 1010 WINS on FM would also result in 880 WCBS losing audience to the FM. While keeping them in-house it would lead to Entercom having two less revenue streams in their cluster.

As for EMF, at this point in their growth they needed to be in New York. It won’t dominate in the ratings, however their 96.7 WKLV-FM Port Chester and Pillar of Fire’s “Star 99.1” WAWZ Zarepath NJ have combined for a 1.5 share covering opposite sides of the market. With a full-market signal they should better that. But the big play is generating the attention of Madison Avenue. As EMF rounds out its growth in major markets the next play will need to be diversifying into other avenues. 95.5 and their 100.3 KSWD Los Angeles need to happen for that. Just as much as WRQX Washington needs to happen for another reason…


Jason Kidd Mix 107.3 WRQX Washington DCJust like everything else in Washington, EMF needed 107.3 WRQX for political gain.

With the “K-Love” brand in many markets across the country when Republican politicians come to Washington they can promote their favorite station being on in the capital city. And EMF can use its growing clout for political gain with said politicians.

From a programming standpoint, EMF will be in a battle with Atlantic Gateway Communications’ 91.9 WGTS Takoma Park MD which held a 3.5 share in the Holiday 2018 Nielsen Audio ratings and even Salem’s Christian Preaching 105.1 WAVA-FM and its powerhouse signal.

Hot AC “Mix 107.3” was the biggest programming success story of the Mary Berner era at Cumulus. The previous regime had stripped away its branding, moved it to Top 40 and watched the station sink out of complete relevance. Cumulus brought back the “Mix” branding and former morning host Jack Diamond to lead a resurgence that led to Entercom dropping its own Hot AC last fall for Classic Hits. Cumulus is retaining the intellectual property of all six stations it sold to EMF, but only the WRQX call letters as well. As the only Hot AC in Washington and its current eighth place ranking in the market, we have full expectations that “Mix” ends up on another signal in Washington when all is said and done and would be shocked if it wasn’t Entercom operating it.

Like WABC New York it is hard to see Cumulus remaining in Washington with just Conservative Talk 630 WMAL and rimshot simulcaster 105.9 WMAL-FM Woodbridge VA. Other than Salem, could those stations be a fit for rival Hubbard to flank News 103.5 WTOP-FM?


Talk 106.7 WYAY Atlanta NewsRadioEMF joins a crowded Christian music market with Salem’s “104.7 The Fish” WFSH-FM and Radio Training Network’s “93.3 The Joy-FM” WVFJ already averaging around a 6 share combined (and WFSH hitting number one in the holidays when it is the only all-Christmas station in the Atlanta market). Like new acquisition 106.7 WYAY Gainesville, the signals are not based in Atlanta proper with WFSH-FM and WYAY both sharing the same tower out in suburban Gwinnett County. The difference being that 106.7 operates with 77kW to WFSH-FM’s 24kW. That will give EMF the signal advantage out of the gate in one of the most affluent suburbs in America.

Cumulus has failed for years to find a successful format for the signal with attempts at Oldies, News, and Conservative Talk since Cumulus acquired Citadel.

San Jose

By being embedded in the larger San Francisco market, the San Jose market has been slowly losing commercial radio players. 92.3 KSJO has been brokered South Asian, 104.9 has become non-commercial Classical, now 97.7 KFFG will go to EMF. The deal leaves a top 30 market with only four commercial English language players exclusively targeting Silicon Valley: Empire Country 95.3 KRTY, Bonneville Classic Rock “98.5 K-Fox” KUFX, and Alpha’s combo of Classic Hits “94.5 Bay-FM” KBAY and Hot AC “Mix 106.5” KEZR.

K-Love is currently heard in San Jose on rimshot 107.3 KLVS Livermore and a ten watt translator. Adding KFFG gives them a path to donations in another affluent region.


Energy 93.9 The Beat WYRG IndianapolisBy for all intents exiting New York and Washington, Cumulus is doubling down in Indianapolis by adding Entercom’s three stations to its three in the market creating the top player in the market. The combined cluster held a 23.2 share in the Holiday 2018 PPM ratings which feature many of the stations down from previous months and flexibility for Cumulus to make one or two format changes to hurt competitors.

CHR “Energy 93.9” WYRG would likely be first on the watchlist as it made redundant by Entercom’s 99.5 WZPL. With ZPL holding an Adult lean and WYRG leaning younger and more Rhythmic there may be ways to have the two flank each other, however a format change would allow Cumulus to target an addition demographic. Cumulus’ Rock leaning Classic Hits 104.5 WJJK and Country 95.5 WFMS are their existing powerhouses in Indianapolis with both regularly at or near the top of the market’s ratings. To knock off iHeartMedia Classic Rock “Q95” 94.7 WFBQ or Emmis AC “B105.7” WYXB would be the likely goal leading to Soft AC or Rock positioned between WFBQ and iHeart’s “Alt 103.3” WOLT as possibilities for 93.9 or to a lesser extent Hot AC “Mix 107.9” WNTR which is coming to Cumulus from Entercom.


Let’s be clear. The only reason Entercom acquired AC 94.7 WMAS-FM and Country “98.1 Nash Icon” 1450 WHLL/98.1 W251DC was so it could upgrade 94.7 WNSH’s signal in New York.

But by adding those two stations to Sports 105.5 WWEI, Entercom has a strong presence in Springfield to pair with its nearby Hartford CT cluster. WMAS-FM is the consistent top rated station its signal downgrade if approved will do nothing to harm its coverage of the market. WHLL recently launched its translator and flipped from Sports in the process.


Classic Rock “105.9 The Rebel” WXTL feels like a throw-in more than anything. WXTL held a 1.5 share in the Fall 2018 ratings, failing to chip away at Galaxy’s “TK99” 99.5 WTKW/105.5 WTKV.

EMF plays second fiddle to the “Family Life” network in much of upstate New York. K-Love is currently heard in Syracuse on 101.3 W267AL and rimshot 101.7 WGKV Pulaski. The deal gives EMF at least a Class A signal in Syracuse.


Hot AC “102.1 The Sound” WZAT Tybee Island gives EMF a strong 98kW signal in Coastal Georgia. The one-time Top 40 powerhouse in the market as “Z102” has fallen by the wayside with a 1.4 share in the Fall after returning to Hot AC in March 2017 following seven years as a low-rated Sports outlet.

EMF currently has no presence in Savannah with Radio Training Network’s “His Radio” 91.9 WLFS Port Wentworth the established player in the format.

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  1. Rick Rose says

    EMF does have Air 1 on 88.1 in Savannah but does not own that signal. The Ride to Florida will be covered by K Love on both I-75 and I-95. From north of Atlanta into the state of Florida K love will blanked I 75 on 106.7 Gainesville-Atlanta then 105.5 Macon then 103.9 Hawkinsville then 95.3 in South GA with a Nashville-Valdosta signal. And soon 102.1 Savannah will cover I 95 to almost Jacksonville where the 90.9 signal will reach southeast GA

  2. Les Talk says

    Interesting scenario about Entercom redoing the “Mix” brand in DC. But where? To put it on 99.1 whenever the lease with Bloomberg is up would only hurt themselves internally with Mix 106.5. Plus 99.1 is more a Baltimore frequency. 94.7? Not likely. They just flipped from hot a/c to classic hits. 106.7? No. Sports is too big of a deal with them. 95.5? No. That’s their only urban station. That leaves 107.9… which has never really gained much traction. Mix 107.3 to Mix 107.9? Maybe. But it’s still a Baltimore station. Although they did change the COL to College Park. It would be strange because 107.9 was part of the religious Family Radio.

    1. Aaron says

      Mix to 94.7 makes the most sense. The Drive is doing slightly better than Fresh was but Mix is still way ahead of The Drive. Plus better demos with Hot AC.

      Classic Hits could go to 107.9 if they want to keep it around. But that signal is never going to be a real player in DC.

    2. Nathan Obral says

      Entercom wouldn’t hesitate to dump the Drive and move Mix on 94.7.

      99.1 should be sold to Bloomberg, that would give Entercom a chance at WMAL A/F. Salem is not in the league of running talk stations with actual ratings.

      107.9 has El Zol as it was a format that originated on 99.1, so move it to a similar signal that hits both markets. And 1580 is all-Spanish-language sports as El Zol Deportes, a compliment to 107.9.

    3. Eric Jon Magnuson says

      I concur that a revived Mix would be best on 94.7. In theory, Classic Hits would be a good fit on either 99.1 or 107.9, especially as Baltimore also doesn’t have a true Classic Hits FM. (WQLL [AM] and its FM translator both have signal issues of their own.) However, beyond the lease-related concerns with 99.1, I’m not sure that Entercom would dump El Zol; it may not rate that well 6+, but that’s partly because it competes with Franken-FM WDCN.

      1. Eric Jon Magnuson says

        On second thought, perhaps WQSR’s playlist is too Classic Hits-like for a relocated Drive to work in Baltimore.

  3. Nathan Obral says

    WABC is so bad that putting Salem’s boilerplate conservative talk would be an upgrade. And WNYM has WORSE ratings than WABC.

    It wouldn’t happen, but it would be fascinating to see Entercom rebrand 94.7 as “94-7 Country, the NEW PLJ.” Take that heritage WPLJ brand and calls and build a new legacy with a country format. It worked for WYNY.

    1. borderblaster says

      I would assume they could put their talk/teaching format (the stuff on WRFD-Columbus) on the existing signal, while WABC becomes “770 The Answer”

      1. Nathan Obral says

        WMCA 570 has been Salem’s Christian talk/preaching home in NYC since the 1980s with “The Mission” branding. WNYM 970 could revert to its previous role as a secondary talk/preaching outlet if they acquire WABC for “The Answer.”

        Such a deal would also reunite “The Answer’s” (very polemic) programmer Phil Boyce with WABC, the station he programmed back in the late 90s/early 2000s.

  4. Les Talk says

    Jack Diamond has posted on his facebook page that even though “the station has been sold… our show and Mix 1073 has not.” Which leads us to believe (1) 105.9 will become the new home for Mix 107.3 or (2) another operator (Entercom?) is buying the intellectual property of Mix and replacing another station’s format. More to come soon!

    1. Nathan Obral says

      The domain name registrations will give it away before anything else.

      Entercom buying WRQX’s IP for 94.7 makes way too much sense. WMAL will be cheapened badly if they lose the 105.9 simulcast, which is something Cumulus can’t afford to do with it being on the block.

    2. Eric Jon Magnuson says

      I agree with 105.9 not being a good home for Mix. Cumulus (or whoever ends up buying WMAL) would be foolish to break up the simulcast now–especially with 630’s recent downgrade. Also, 105.9’s signal may cover more of the metro than I remember, but there are still some gaps along the market’s fringes–especially in Maryland.

  5. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    Something has been gnawing at me for the past day: Did Entercom know that Cumulus was also negotiating a deal with EMF? If it didn’t, I can see Entercom right now trying to negotiate a swap with EMF for (most likely) 107.9. Certainly, 107.3 would have better coverage in much of the D.C. metro; however, 107.9 (or, for that matter, 99.1) might be better around the immediate Baltimore area.

    EMF does already have K-Love in the far-western suburbs (centered around Warrenton), on 94.3. And, yes, there’d be at least some gap between 107.9’s and 94.3’s primary contours. However, even that could be overcome–if Hubbard would be willing to swap away WTOP’s current Virginia simulcast (107.7), in favor of 94.3. There’s a lot of overlap in Virginia between WTOP’s primary signal (103.5) and 107.7; however, 107.7 is better than either 103.5 or 94.3 around Stafford and Fredericksburg.

    94.3 was the original FM simulcast for WTOP–when it was still on 1500 AM. And, when WTOP itself moved to FM, that Virginia simulcast (which had long been supplanted by 107.7) was kept for its original replacement at 1500 (“Washington Post Radio”). It was only after the subsequent “3WT” format was dumped that 107.7 started simulcasting 103.5.

    Right now, only Hubbard should know how many folks listen to 107.7–and presumably how many of them couldn’t listen to 103.5.

    1. Nathan Obral says

      EMF has been known to swap if the situation presents itself. Look at Mobile, Alabama, EMF gave Cumulus that big signal that used to be 97.5 WABB (so Cumulus could move WABD on there and Bernie Ditman could spin in his grave) in exchange for a rimshot in the market… and a station in Nashville.

      If I were David Smith, I’d actually offer EMF 99.1 in exchange for 107.3, which would displace Bloomberg to 107.9 (which would be sold outright to Bloomberg). 99.1 is a good signal in its own right that can hit both markets, and reach more listeners (and more donors).

    2. elcartero says

      No way is Hubbard getting rid of 107.7. That signal is responsible for a big chunk of the station’s commuter listening, as 103.5 starts getting staticky inside Prince William County due to WMRY Crozet’s co-channel interference from a mountaintop outside Charlottesville. And yes, 94.3 wouldn’t come close to remedying that loss.

    3. Lance Venta says

      Considering EMF placed their money in escrow on December 31, it is likely that deal was done and waiting on the Entercom part to be agreed to for everything to be made public.

      EMF has already filed to convert all of the stations it is acquiring to non-commercial status. Between that and to expedite closing on their new acquistions, it is doubtful that there will be any secondary divestments.

      1. Beachguy says

        What is the significance of becoming non-commercial?

        1. Lance Venta says

          Once the station’s license is converted to non-commercial status it cannot accept advertising with direct calls to action. IF as Eric suggested EMF later swapped 107.3 to Entercom for another signal it would be months for the FCC to accept the dual modifications of the licenses necessary to return it to commercial status.

          Were there to be a deal where Entercom were to acquire the 107.3 frequency it would likely have just been announced with the other deals made. More likely the “Mix” intellectual property will just be moved to another frequency already licensed to Entercom.

  6. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    I doubt that it was a factor in this deal, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cumulus also has some significant holdings in central Indiana that are outside of the Indianapolis metro: WWKI in Kokomo, and WMDH in Muncie. (Thanks to Inside INdiana Business for reminding me; see

  7. Joey Schwartzman says

    K-Love is also heard in San Jose on a 600-watt Franken-FM, KBKF-LP, which broadcasts from atop Loma Prieta Peak.

  8. bill1820 says

    >WMAS-FM is the consistent top rated station, its signal downgrade if approved will do nothing to harm its coverage of the (Springfield, MA) market.

    I agree. It’s 94.7 transmitter is in the southwestern part of that city. A null to the southwest to enhance WNSH will still allow WMAS to have its full signal in Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.

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