The Big Boston Radio Swap

| by Ken | in News Add comments

CBS Radio and Entercom are trying to merge but they have too many stations in the same markets so they need to sell off a bunch to make the merger happen.  Those changes have been announced and it looks like that’s going to lead to a shakeup.

First, the current landscape.  A majority of the most listened to stations in the Boston area are currently owned by 4 broadcasting groups.

Entercom:

  • WRKO 680 AM — Talk/Personality
  • WEEI 850 AM — ESPN Radio
  • WEEI-FM 93.7 FM — All Sports
  • WKAF 97.7 FM — Urban AC
  • WAAF 107.3 FM — Active Rock

CBS Radio:

  • WBMX – 104.1 – (Hot AC)
  • WBZ – 1030 – (News/Talk)
  • WBZ-FM – 98.5 – (Sports)
  • WODS – 103.3 – (CHR)
  • WZLX – 100.7 – (Classic Rock)

iHeart Media:

  • WBWL/101.7 Country
  • WJMN/94.5 Rhythmic CHR
  • WKOX/1430 Talk
  • WXKS/1200 Business Talk
  • WXKS-FM/107.9 CHR

Beasley (stations owned by Greater Media until recently):

  • WBOS – 92.9 alternative
  • WBQT – 96.9 urban contemporary
  • WKLB-FM – 102.5 country
  • WMJX – 106.7 adult contemporary
  • WRCA – 106.1 bloomberg business
  • WROR – 105.7 – clasic hits

The changes are:

  • WZLX and WBZ-AM go to iHeart Media
  • WKAF and WRKO go to iHeart Media
  • WBZ-FM The Sports Hub goes to Beasley
  • WMJX goes to Entercom/CBS

Therefore, after the merger and the stations are swapped, the landscape will look like this:

Entercom / CBS Radio merged:

  • WEEI 850 AM — ESPN Radio
  • WEEI-FM 93.7 FM — All Sports
  • WAAF 107.3 FM — Active Rock
  • WBMX – 104.1 – (Hot AC)
  • WODS – 103.3 – (CHR)
  • WMJX – 106.7 adult contemporary

iHeart Media:

  • WBWL/101.7 Country
  • WJMN/94.5 Rhythmic CHR
  • WKOX/1430 Talk
  • WXKS/1200 Business Talk
  • WXKS-FM/107.9 CHR
  • WBZ – 1030 – (News/Talk)
  • WZLX – 100.7 – (Classic Rock)
  • WKAF 97.7 FM — Urban AC
  • WRKO 680 AM — Talk/Personality

Beasley (stations owned by Greater Media until recently):

  • WBOS – 92.9 alternative
  • WBQT – 96.9 urban contemporary
  • WKLB-FM – 102.5 country
  • WRCA – 106.1 bloomberg business
  • WROR – 105.7 – clasic hits
  • WBZ-FM – 98.5 – (Sports)

The obvious first observation is that there’s only 3 owners that are going to control the Boston airwaves.  Some might say “how quaint, terrestrial radio – who cares”.  A lot of people do still listen to terrestrial radio in their cars and even though it is an aging population, these owners will have great influence.

When you look at some of the pieces that move and where they end up, there are some other interesting observations.  As far as sports radio, there was a possibility that both 93.7 and 98.5 would end up owned by the same owners which likely wouldn’t have lasted meaning a merger which then might have allowed the market to open for a new competitor.  Instead, the station with more game broadcasts has likely sold for a top dollar and there will remain competition in the sports radio market.  Seems appropriate.

The news stations weren’t so lucky.  Both news stations are now under iHeart Media.  And iHeart Media had none before.  I figure this must be a loser for the formats.  If you have listened to either station recently, you know that WRKO is mostly news commentary and opinion and basically junk while WBZ is now mostly commercials (“Kars with a “K”!) with a few 20 second news stories scattered in.  Considering that the only other way to get news on the radio in Boston is to listen to NPR and get your news in 20 minute doses, you’d think there’d be room for a format to go between the 20 second useless and the 20 minute dissertation.  People who want real news but don’t have 2 hours to get it all.  However, it just seems unlikely that iHeart is the corporate owner to pull that off.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.

iHeart Media comes out of this with an amazing library of stations.  Besides the news stations, they will have a high ranking country music station, two top ranking CHR stations, and a top ranking classic rock station.  Even assuming the formats remain as they are, that’s a lot of ears listening.

And that’s probably the biggest unknown here – how the formats will change in response to the ownership changes.  Will iHeart Media keep the Urban AC for the relatively lower power 97.7 station or will they turn up the power and change the format?  With 4 news and talk stations, surely something will change on one of them – but since they are all AM, it’s unlikely it will be a music format.  WZLX is really popular with its current format but will the new owners at iHeart want to tweak that?  And what about WMJX that will move from Beasley to Entercom?  Would that change formats to be something more profitable since the new merged entity will be weak for radio stations broadcasting music!?

Lots of questions for now – it will be interesting to see how it plays out.  I’m looking forward to re-reading this post in a few years and comparing the current state then to see how this big swap changed things.

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