Friday, June 22, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Clear Channel Flipping Ohio Stations Into Trust

It looks like four big Clear Channel FM stations in the Cleveland market, and a number of other stations in three other Ohio markets, are being spun off to a trust to satisfy FCC regulatory caps, in connection with the ongoing effort to spin Clear Channel itself off to private equity firms.

The four Cleveland stations would be: country WGAR/99.5, rock WMMS/100.7, oldies WMJI/105.7 and hot AC WMVX/106.5. They'd go to Aloha Station Trust LLC.

Also on the list of 71 stations - a large number in other Ohio markets - is what appears to be the entire CC Dayton cluster, along with the company's Lima stations. Many of the latter market's CC stations, of course, will land with Dean Goodman's GoodRadio.TV, who's spinning off at least one (WBUK/106.3 Ottawa OH) to yet another owner.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE: This just in from AllAccess...

CLEAR CHANNEL has filed additional paperwork with the FCC sending another 71 stations, including stations in the HARTFORD, FRESNO, OCEAN CITY-SALISBURY, HUNTINGTON, and AKRON markets, to the ALOHA STATION TRUST, doubling the number of stations for which trust assignments have been requested.

At least some of the stations tabbed are stations already destined for other owners, like GoodRadio, Cumulus (in the case of the Ohio/Michigan station swap involving rock WRQK/106.9 Canton on this end), etc...and we have at least one report that the company's WKRC/12 Cincinnati is legally on the trust transfer list, but of course, all of the Clear Channel Television outlets are already in the process of being sold.

So, what's left in Cleveland that is not on the list? How about talk WTAM/1100? And is Akron-licensed WAKS/96.5 "Kiss FM" on the cut list as well, via its COL?

The whole thing is bizarre to us, assuming the details posted on a list in the "Transactions" area of the R&R website are accurate. (An OMW nod of the hat to whoever passed that along to us.)

At least some of this has been speculated. Inside Radio put a list out a few months ago that CC Cleveland would have to sell off at least one FM station to get under non-grandfathered cap limits due to the sale transaction. But...four?

We won't be able to follow this as closely as we'd like, but we'll try to update this item or this blog with anything major or new.

We're just wondering if this is a massive chess game, moving around stations that may one day be moved back into the company once the dust clears, or if Clear Channel is indeed "slimming down".

We're just having very much trouble envisioning the stations listed here in Northeast Ohio actually being sold away...VERY much...

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

All of this just looks like technicalities to me.

No way is CC dumping 2 major ratings stations (GAR, Majic) the FM Browns and Indians Flagship (MMS) and it's longtime sister (Mix).

Anonymous said...

It's no secret that CC Cleveland's revenue has been hurting for sometime. One reason Jim Meltzer was let go over a year ago.

WMJI floats a good deal of the revenue. WMMS I bet is on the lower end of the money tree.

Anonymous said...

This leads to two questions:
1. Why is the trust named Aloha? Mere coincidence or do we take it literally?
2. If WMMS goes to Aloha and WAKS doesn't, who signs Bo Matthews' paychecks?

Anonymous said...

This is surprising. I wonder what will happen at Oak Tree?

All six Clear Channel stations are currently broadcasting there in Independence. Where could WTAM and Kiss be located at once Mix, Majic, WGAR and the Buzzard are spun-off.

Big news since I thought Clear Channel would continue to own all six. Maybe the new owners for the four stations can bring more live jocks to the stations.

Anonymous said...

guys- take a pill. all of the stations will remain at Oak Tree and All will remain under CC control.

Anonymous said...

I would rather hear from someone official about whether all six stations would remain together.

Don't assume until its official.

Anonymous said...

really. everything is fine.

Anonymous said...

It is despressing to think so many people with opinions on radio flunked High Finance 101...it's about the accounting and legalese, bunky. It's not about programming, dumping stations or Jim Meltzer.

Anonymous said...

Well first of all, the "major ratings" FM stations are WMJI and WGAR. WMMS hasn't had that distinction for quite some time.

Next, CC's revenue is not "hurting" 2005 was a down year, but it's up two in a row and is one of the better cashflow performers in the company.

Why all four FM's in the Aloha trust? Simple... if CC has to spin off an FM they leave all their options open. They spin the one that makes the most sense at the time and the others go back into the regular company. It should be noted that CC will be LMA'ing these stations that are parked in the trust so really nothing will change other than the stations will not be part of the "big" FCC filing when/if CC goes private.

Really nothing new... we've known for six months that one FM in Cleveland may have to be spun... and nothing is likely to happen for another 6+ months.

Anonymous said...

Deep breaths people.

All this is is just some Clear Channel rearranging.

CC is going to keep it's Cleveland stable intact.

WGAR and WMJI bring in the ratings and the cash, and WMMS serves a purpose as the secondary Browns and Indians flagship to handle overflow from WTAM.

WMVX really doesn't bring anything to the table, but they'll go along for the ride.

So just relax, things are not going too change that much, if at all.

Anonymous said...

Bain and the other new guys arent going to keep what CC hasnt spun off in small market USA. CC is going to be sliced and diced, and were all going to have to get over it.

CC is spinnin off WMMS, WGAR, WMJI and WMVX into Aloha Trust.

Aloha will remain a part of CC however, this is their way of dumping WAKS.

The new CC will continue to operate WMJI, WTAM, WGAR, WMVX, WMMS. It will be hidden under a new name.

Yes its true that Cleveland is one of CC's worse nightmares..its not making as much money as it should. If anything, see Akron/Canton and Youngstown in the next chopping block session.

Anonymous said...

The "Citicasters" corporate name, despite a long-ago merger with Jacor in the early 90's (it was a successor of sorts to the old Taft Broadcasting), still exists as a shell name for the licensee holdership for Clear Channel stations.

The same with "Caron Broadcasting" (Salem Communications) and "New World Communications" for FTSC-owned WJW-TV. Neiter company has existed for a long, long time. It's just a technicality - though will there be a difference between these examples and this Aloha Trust? I'd doubt it... but let's see.

And if there is a FCC-induced spinoff, it has to be 96.5, specifically due to how it got into CC's hands (i.e., the trade with OBC - the then-WKDD and the then-WTOU/1350 - that allowed for the Jacor merger to clear...)

That doesn't mean that WAKS would, theoretically, "go away." The intellictual property would obviously displace one of the weakly-rated signals in the CC stable.

* Ergo, bye-bye WMMS or WMVX.

** If WAKS went to 100.7, they would inherit the Browns rights and sports overflow. A major drawing card there - pretty shrewd.

** If they went to 106.5, it would be the first spark of excitement that sorry waste of a signal has had in a long, long time. WMJI will eventually migrate over to the 70's and 80's era, so why not take advantage of this and eliminate this inevitable duplication of formats before it ever comes about?

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

Like Nathan says, we'll eventually see WAKS move on to another signal - either "106-5 KISS FM" or "100-7 KISS FM". (My bets are also on the demise of WMVX)

...and perhaps the return of 96.5 WKDD once again.

Anonymous said...

WAKS is now in the trust as well. Fron "Transactions at a glance" on R&R's site:

Ohio

WAKS-FM/Akron, WBVB-FM/Coal Grove, WIRO-AM & WBKS-FM/Ironton (Huntington-Ashland)

FREQUENCY: 96.5 MHz; 97.1 MHz; 1230 kHz; 107.1 MHz

POWER: 31kw at 620 feet; 3kw at 472 feet; 1kw day/night; 3kw at 449 feet

FORMAT: Top 40; Oldies; News/Talk; Urban

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Good Karma... My dream scenario would be that they could buy 96.5, then turn it into an FM simulcast of WKNR. Note that three of the stations in Craig Karmazin's profile are FM stations; two of which ARE sports/talk. That move alone can give WKNR better coverage area in Akron, Canton and Sandusky, undoing part of the after-effects of the frequency move from 1220 six years ago.

Not to mention that Good Karma would have a shot at the Browns radio rights, and would have the ablility to carry select PBP overflow on either the AM or FM station. The latter would be sort of like what is currently tried with WWGK/1540, though that station's poor coverage area right at sunrise-and-set makes that a challenge.

That at least would be MY dream scenario. Bear with me...

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

12:15 AM just beat me to the punch... So now it's all out in the open.

I guess you can disregared my 12:21 post. Or not. Who knows? (And at this rate, I am curious on what stations were put in trust in the Cincy cluster... I'd be flabbergasted if WLW has been...)

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

Another FOX8 set udate:

http://www.myfoxcleveland.com/myfox/pages/InsideFox/Detail?contentId=3569287&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=5.7.1

Anonymous said...

Good Karma does operate some music formats as well as sports, specifically The Hog in Milwaukee (?)

Anonymous said...

Best case. Carl Hirsch reenters the market and hires his team to straighten out the stations. The Hirsch game plan has always been to hire the top professionals and instruct them to hire new, upcoming air talent and also find air talent in the market that are available and not being utilized. WMJI both introduced new talent and brought back some familiar names. WMMS reinvented itself with the Next Generation and it was the last time that station had decent numbers and billing.

Anonymous said...

How about a partnership with Good Karma and Carl Hirsch? Both owners believe in programming local and both have an excellent track record. The two of them together would bring back the style of the original Malrite and Omni America. They were considered the best run companies and both were managed by Carl Hirsch. Craig Karmazin has made WKNR a much better station.

Anonymous said...

"Bain and the other new guys arent going to keep what CC hasnt spun off in small market USA."

Well, duh!!! CC has already announced that they are exiting markets not in the Top 100. They are in that process now and it's not nor hasn't been any secret.

"CC is spinnin off WMMS, WGAR, WMJI and WMVX into Aloha Trust..."

Well yes again... those stations and about 67 others!

"Aloha will remain a part of CC however, this is their way of dumping WAKS."

If all they wanted to do was dump WAKS they could put a for-sale sign on it and be done with it. The reason that these four stations are not part of the trust is that ONE of them MIGHT have to be sold off and they want to corporately partition their applications so the bulk of the stations that CC will own will be transferred as part of going private. The others will then be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. By placing those POTENTIAL stations in trust it speeds the process.

"The new CC will continue to operate WMJI, WTAM, WGAR, WMVX, WMMS. It will be hidden under a new name."
Well yes, unless down the road the FCC dictates they sell one. There is nothing hidden. If you look at the FCC site you will see that the Cleveland licenses are held under the name "Citicasters" or "Jacor" while other CC markets are held as those names or several variations on "Capstar." These are simply corporations which Clear Channel has acquired but still exist for licensing and accounting reasons. There is nothing nefarious, illegal, or immoral about this. It's simply done for convenience.

"Yes its true that Cleveland is one of CC's worse nightmares..."

What is your source of this information? You certainly haven't seen the financials (which as a publicly traded company are also easy to access). If you did you wouldn't be making these uninformed statements.

"If anything, see Akron/Canton and Youngstown in the next chopping block session."

Actually Akron has also been put into a trust, and for the same reason outlined above.

Here's the bottom line. If the Bain people maintain their confidence in Mays, Hogan, et. al. you will not see any significant changes. If they don't then there might be a change at the top which might result in a change in direction that may or may not involve spinning off additional markets.

In the meantime, please stop posting your own speculation as fact. Who do you think you are, Roger Brown??

Anonymous said...

"And if there is a FCC-induced spinoff, it has to be 96.5, specifically due to how it got into CC's hands..."

The possible spin-off does not have to be 96.5. How CC got it has nothing to do with it. It's going to come down to whether the FCC rules that WAKS in attributable to the Akron or the Cleveland Market. If they attribute it to Cleveland then CC will have to sell one of the five stations which may or may not be WAKS.

"That doesn't mean that WAKS would, theoretically, "go away." The intellictual property would obviously displace one of the weakly-rated signals in the CC stable.

This is true, CC could opt to keep the "Kiss" intellectual property and sell the 96.5 stick. Likewise they could opt to, say, put WGAR's IP on 96.5 and sell 99.5 as just a stick. (I'm not suggesting this is likely... just possible). Or, they could keep 96.5 and sell off one of the other sticks with or without the IP.

"* Ergo, bye-bye WMMS or WMVX."
However, the buyer might or might not opt to keep the IP if they acquired either of these (or any others).


"** If WAKS went to 100.7, they would inherit the Browns rights and sports overflow."
The rights are held by CC and are not indigenous to the frequency. They could opt (with the Browns approval) to move the games to any other frequency they own or if they sold 100.7 they could also transfer the Browns deal (again not likely, but possible.)

Anonymous said...

Carl Hirsch tried re entering the Cleveland market a couple of years ago, took a look at CBS properties there and backed off..

Hirsch is still trying to get the stink of the NextMedia disaster he helped create out of his system..

Currently his cash is tied up in Dean Goodman's GoodRadio LLC venture..how much of a say he has in that could determine what he does say, a couple of years from now, depending on what Dean and Co want to purchase and where..and how long it takes them to repay the 500 million that ownership has borrowed from American Securities Capital Parnters..

Anonymous said...

Rubber City has been sniffing around for another property to add to their stable for quite sometime. This truly could be the grand deal for them if they get it.

I would hate to say Oldies/AC, but if they got 96.5 it would make a nice little bundle for them.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a good Alternative/AAA in the area, kinda like 94.9 THE SOUND in Cincinnati.

If Rubber City bought that station, 96.5 THE SOUND would be a nice station for them

Anonymous said...

too bad The Sound has no ratings...come on guys.

World's 2nd Greatest Program Director said...

WKDD has no ratings either. Even though Keith Kennedy thinks he is the second coming of John Gorman

Anonymous said...

Um 12:44, what does this have to do with KDD or Keith Kennedy???

KISS is on 96.5, not WKDD. Wake up, it's 2007.

Anonymous said...

WKDD is consistently at or near the top with women 25-54 in Akron.
I wouldn't exactly call that 'no ratings'.

And no, its certainly nothing like the numbers they had on 96.5 in the late 90's up to 2001, but you also didn't have Kiss-FM or any other CHR, which took alot of numbers from the old 96.5, and The Fish probably picked some up as well.
Signal isn't as strong either.

Anonymous said...

What (or if anything) would CC have to dump in Akron / Canton?

640?
1350?
98.1?
101.7? (Certainly not)?
106.9? (Certainly not)?

Anonymous said...

I don't think CC would have to dump anything in Akron...4 FMs (with WAKS) and 2 AMs. 4 FMs in Cleveland and 1 AM. Wow, the Akron cluster would be bigger than the Cleveland cluster.

Anonymous said...

whatever the case i do hope that the cc stations are for sale and bought by broadcasters who have local ties whether it be carl hirsch, zapis, embrescia or some new comer. cleveland went from being one of the most respected radio markets to the one of the least in ten years. much has to do with very little local input.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to hear Local Jocks on Overnight Shifts once again

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Hirsch is now a minority owner of Goodradio.

Anonymous said...

When news broke about CC/Aloha Trust, Mike Kinney called a meeting at Oak Tree insisting the news report was false and at best they would only sell one station. Yes everyone believed him. Not.

Ohio Media Watch said...

Mr. Kinney may be right. See our latest item.

But the news report wasn't "false", unless we're all hallucinating about FCC filings. What would be "unproven" and possibly - if not likely - wrong would be the assumption that it would mean the company is getting rid of four of its big FM signals in Cleveland.

This item is now closed...feel free to continue in the Monday item.

-OMW