KUOW Acquires Seattle Competitor KPLU

88.5 KPLU Tacoma 94.9 KUOW-FM Seattle Pacific Lutheran University of Washington NPR JazzThe University of Washington’s Public News/Talk 94.9 KUOW-FM Seattle has announced it has signed a letter-of-intent to purchase its top competitor 88.5 KPLU-FM Tacoma from Pacific Lutheran University.

When the sale closes in early 2016, KPLU-FM will drop its non-music programming and go to 24/7 Jazz under new call letters. Currently KPLU carries NPR’s Morning Edition from 4-9am, All Things Considered from 3-6:30pm, and Fresh Air from 6:30 to 7:25pm. Morning Edition and All Things Considered are also carried on KUOW-FM in the same timeslots. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer adds that KUOW will eliminate 88.5’s news department while adding additional Jazz hosts for the station.

The University of Washington paid $7 million cash and $1 million in underwriting spots for KPLU-FM. It is unknown if 89.3 KVIX Port Angeles WA/Victoria BC and KPLU’s network of translators are included in the deal at this time. KUOW has posted a FAQ and survey about the acquisition.

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  1. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    KUOW’s FAQ includes mentions of PLU’s “broadcasting licenses” (plural) and 88.5’s “other frequencies”, so it looks like all of the stations are being sold. (This likely would also include KPLK and KPLI, in addition to KVIX and the literal translators.)

    Even after this sale, though, the main NPR shows will still be heard in parts of the metro on the competing Northwest Public Radio–particularly on KVTI.

    1. Charles Everett says

      NWPR and KUOW aren’t exactly competitors. KUOW is centered around the I-5 corridor. NWPR is a statewide network — and KVTI doesn’t even put a city-grade signal into Seattle.

  2. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    The Post-Intelligencer has an item up about the dismantling of KPLU’s news programming; see http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2015/11/12/university-of-washington-will-buy-kplu-fm-pull-the-plug-on-its-news-operation.

    Also, the Times’ Katherine Long has been tweeting about what may be a UW Regents meeting on the sale; there may be an official vote from them shortly.

  3. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    Per a new Seattle Weekly post (at http://www.seattleweekly.com/home/961751-129/kuow-is-buying-kplu-turning-885), “there are more questions than answers right now” about the deal. It doesn’t help that, as the article notes, the UW Regents may not have already been briefed about it.

  4. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    The Regents did approve the deal tonight. (I may have read too much earlier into that tidbit about the lack of details in the meeting’s agenda.) However, most of the newer/updated stories say that KPLU staffers only found out about the sale today–even though there may have been some occasional talks between the two sides, perhaps going back several years.

    In terms of KPLU’s financial situation, the stories tend to suggest that it wasn’t the primary reason for the sale. However, according to one story (at http://crosscut.com/2015/11/kuow-to-buy-kplu), “At the end of 2014, KPLU was valued at about $9.2 million total. Public records show, however, that the station had been slowly bleeding money since at least 2011, when it was worth $9.8 million.” (Beyond that, there have been a few references to the station’s audience declining significantly.)

    One other theme that pops up mostly in related comments is that–despite their repeaters–KUOW may still mostly focus on Seattle/King County, while KPLU may focus quite a bit more on Tacoma/Pierce County.

  5. Charles Everett says

    Why should 88.5 be only a Tacoma station? KPLU has a Seattle office and transmits from West Tiger Mountain with some of the other Seattle FMs.

  6. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    The Stranger has posted a new interview with KUOW’s Caryn Mathes in which she pretty much says that all of KPLU’s signals are part of the purchase (resulting in a combined total of, as she puts it, “15 frequencies to work with”)–and that some of them may end up being used to (primarily, at least) relay KUOW instead.


  7. Mark says

    Another Stranger article gathering E-mails about the news indicates that there are jazz fans who are worried that the music will be dropped from KPLU, because Caryn Mathes dropped all or some music programming from the last two pubradio stations where she was GM. Since the strategy at public radio has been and continues to be encouraging separate music and news/talk stations in each market, I don’t think it will happen (and with KING and KEXP around, neither station will go classical or AAA). I’m sure that the jazz purists who complain about “too many pop vocals” on KPLU (by which, of course, they mean old pop, not Ariana or Tay Tay) will still be complaining that the station’s not “real jazz” enough for them, even if they don’t play Kenny G.

  8. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    It probably won’t end up changing anything, but KPLU’s advisory board voiced its opposition to the sale during Monday’s well-attended (and well-covered) meeting.

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