Thoughts On Who Could Buy Scripps’ Properties

Scripps Radio Milwaukee WTMJ Tucson Boise OmahaWith Scripps announcing it plans to divest itself of its 34 radio stations across eight markets, the biggest question being asked is who would want the properties.

In the past a company who operates in mostly top 100 markets that put its properties on the block would be full of suitors. With station groups like Alpha Media, Cumulus and iHeartMedia having financial issues it would be hard to see them as likely bidders for the Scripps properties. That could leave groups like Townsquare Media, Saga, SummitMedia and Entercom interested in most if not all of the Scripps properties.

Going on a market by market basis let’s look at what’s in Scripps portfolio and who may be interested.

Milwaukee

Scripps only possesses News/Talk 620 WTMJ and Country 94.5 WKTI, Entercom has to be seen as the most likely suitor to add to its three station cluster of AC “99.1 The Mix” WMYX, CHR “103.7 Kiss-FM” WXSS, and Sports “105.7 The Fan” 1250 WSSP. With WTMJ possessing the play-by-play rights to the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Green Bay Packers it also hits the right mark for Entercom on that end. The Milwaukee Radio Alliance made up of All Pro Broadcasting and Shamrock Broadcasting’s three stations could also be in position to expand as could Saga if it were to divest one of its weaker FMs like 106.9 WNRG.

Tucson

Scripps’ second biggest market is Tucson where it possesses four stations: AC “94.9 Mix-FM” KMXZ, Talk 104.1 KQTH, Rhythmic Oldies “106.3 The Groove” KTGV, and Sports “ESPN Tucson” 1490 KFFN. Unless a group like Entercom, Bonneville or Hubbard is seeking to pair up a Tucson cluster with their Phoenix operations there is no real obvious regional player here to compete against Cumulus, iHeartMedia, and Lotus’ clusters.

Tulsa

The five station cluster here includes Classic Hits “92.9 The Drive” KBEZ, Country 98.5 KVOO, Classic Country “Big Country 99.5” KXBL, CHR “106.9 K-Hits” KHTT and Talk 1170 KFAQ. Tyler Media, which owns a massive cluster in Oklahoma City and has two AM/translators and television stations in Tulsa is an obvious fit if looking to expand.

Knoxville

Scripps holds four FMs in Knoxville: Classic Hits 93.1 WNOX, Country “Q100.3” WCYQ, CHR “Star 102.1” WWST, Rhythmic CHR “Hot 104.5” WKHT. The market could be a good regional pairing for Entercom or SummitMedia or for a company like Dick Broadcasting that used to own the now-Cumulus cluster in the market and has been growing again.

Omaha

The five station cluster of Rock “Z92” KEZO, CHR “Channel 94.1” KQCH, AC “Star 104.5” KSRZ, Classic Rock “CD 105.9“, and Sports “ESPN 590” KXSP on paper looks like a perfect match for Saga’s Des Moines cluster.

Boise

Scripps owns four FMs in Boise: AAA “94.9 The River” KRVB, Rock “100.3 The X” KQXR, Classic Rock “J105” KJRT, and Classic Hits “107.1 K-Hits” KTHI. This is the only Scripps market where Townsquare is already operating. On the regional side, if Bonneville or Broadway Media were looking for a good pair for their Salt Lake City properties these would be a great fit.

Wichita

The five station cluster of Rock “T95” 95.1 KICT, Country 101.3 KFDI, Classic Rock “104.5 The Fox” KFXJ, Regional Mexican “Radio Lobo 106.5” KYQQ, and Classic Country 1070 KFTI is the only market where Scripps competes with Entercom already. There’s no real obvious player here regionally.

Springfield MO

The smallest market where Scripps is operating in at market 134, the company owns Country 94.7 KTTS, CHR “Power 96.5” KSPW, Talk simulcast 1260 KSGF/104.1 KSGF-FM, and Variety Hits “106.7 The River” KRVI. Zimmer Radio operates in other regional markets such as Columbia and Joplin and could make a good fit for Springfield.

Our Predictions

I’m going to go out on a limb and make the following predictions for the clusters.

Entercom will acquire Milwaukee and Tucson. Bonneville adds Boise. Saga gets Omaha. Townsquare acquires Wichita and Springfield. SummitMedia adds Knoxville and Tulsa.

What about a suitor not currently in radio ownership? The rumor of Lew Dickey seeking to return to station ownership will not go away until he finally makes a move, but until he actually makes that move it seems as though Dickey wants the aura of returning more than actually returning to station ownership.

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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.

10 Comments


  1. Scripps may wind-up owning some of their current radio stations for a lot longer than people think.

    And if iHeart declares bankruptcy (especially Chapter 7) and has to put up all of it’s stations up for sale at once, the value of all radio stations will plunge, meaning Scripps won’t get as much $$$ for their radio properties as they hope….provided they can even sell them!


  2. iHeart will NOT declare Chapter 7. Put the thought out of your mind because it’s not happening. There’s a greater chance of all of us being killed by a giant meteor than iHeart filing Chapter 7. If iHeart does a bankruptcy, it will be a Chapter 11 like Cumulus.

    This isn’t the best time to be selling, but we’re not likely to see station values plummet dramatically either.


  3. Also, I’ve worked for Zimmer, and, while the company did buy KZWV from Randy Wright a few years ago, it’s been pretty much in a state of contraction for the last dozen or more years. The Joplin and Columbia/Jefferson City stations aren’t owned by the same people anymore as Jim Zimmer has Joplin while John and Don Zimmer have Columbia/Jefferson City. The splitting up of the company happened when I was working there. I started in July ’04 and was out in budget cuts in April ’05.

    Twenty years ago, I would’ve said Zimmer would have been a shoo-in to buy Springfield from Scripps. They tried to crack that market several times in the late-90’s without success. It seems unlikely either of the current Zimmers in Joplin or Columbia/Jefferson City would be too interested in Springfield. I wouldn’t, however, count out the other Zimmer brother, Jerry, who owns Great Plains Media. He’s the only one to have expanded since the original company broke up.


  4. I concur that owners who operate in nearby markets would be more likely to wind up with a lot of these clusters than those who already operate in Scripps’ markets. (And, yes, I definitely was thinking about Saga picking up the Omaha cluster.) While some of that may be because the nearby owners are in better financial shape, I think that more of it may be because of Scripps wanting to minimize the amount of spin-offs that could be required.

    I get the feeling that Scripps wants to sell everything off as quickly as possible–although I also wouldn’t use the term “fire sale” here. Indeed, I’d argue that–if the company had been fine with operating at least some of the stations for some time still–it wouldn’t have made such a big (and specific) announcement about wanting to sell.


  5. WTMJ and WKTI would definitely be on Entercom’s radar. I see them buying the combo first. Not so sure if MRA (especially Willie Davis) is interested in having a Country station being paired with a AC and a Alternative. You may have a point about Saga giving up WNRG but the odds are against them, and I agree that they would look at going after Omaha.


  6. I would agree with Lance’s assessment as far as Knoxville is concerned. Entercom would be an interesting possibility since they recently inherited Chattanooga, just down the road. DIck coming back to town would be intriguing.
    Since folks want “local ownership”, could Ron Meredith (owner of Country WMYL “Merle 96.7” and WJBZ “Praise 96.3” raise that kind of money? Would Johnny Pirkle want to get back in with a full cluster as opposed to just his remaining WNFZ? I find both possibilities unlikely, but stranger things have happened. From time to time i hear that there are all these people with money just waiting for the “fire sale” to buy stations for pennies on the dollar and “bring back the glory days”. It might be time to put up or shut up..

    And no, iHeart isn’t liquidating


    • I’m not local, so I have no idea what the finances are for those two individuals you mentioned, but never underestimate the small operator. There is a local operator here in Connecticut who just 10 years ago owned only 2 stations and now has a total of 13 stations and 11 translators.


  7. Ugh! Thought Scripps was crazy for getting back into radio, and this confirms it. Entercom is the most likely bidder for Milwaukee, but Tucson is small potatoes and over radio-ed. Bonneville is possibly interested in the Trust stations Entercom divested, so I don’t see them being interested in more at this time. Saga likes medium markets, but Ed Christian doesn’t buy overpriced stations. And Lew Dickey? …see the first word in this reply.


  8. These stations have Saga’s name written all over them. Most are in medium markets, which is right in Saga’s wheelhouse. The big feature, as many have noted, consists of 94.5 WKTI and 620 WTMJ in Milwaukee, a market where Saga already owns two of the strongest billing stations. Saga would kick Energy 106.9 to the curb in a heartbeat (frankly, I’m a little surprised they haven’t already done so given the station’s anemic ratings performance and challenged signal).

    While WKTI and WTMJ would also be a phenomenal fit for Entercom (could you imagine WMYX paired with WKTI for sales purposes? Holy mackeral!), I doubt they’d have much interest in the remaining markets. I suspect they have no appetite for small to medium markets right now. The Chattanooga situation was an outlier and only came about as a result of a swap in Boston necessary to permit the CBS Radio deal to move forward.

    I cannot see Scripps allowing Entercom to cherry-pick just the Milwaukee stations when, presumably, Saga would have an appetite to acquire several of the markets Scripps will be divesting.

    Another candidate could be Midwest Communications, which is HQ’d in Wisconsin, has strong ties with the Packers (thus making WTMJ desirable), loves the Country format (which makes WKTI desirable), and with the exception of Tucson and Boise, the Scripps markets look to be a good fit geographically vis-a-vis Midwest’s other markets. Being a private company that predominantly specializes in small and medium markets, I do not know if they have the access to capital necessary to swing a deal of such magnitude. Historically, they’ve been pretty conservative when it comes to expansion.

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