ChaseCom, Infinity Broadcasting Purchase Stations
The local radio industry is still buzzing from last week’s announcement about the fates of local stations KYXY-FM and KPLN-FM, and the surprise sale of business-talk station KSDO-AM.
Adhering to ownership regulations involving its merger with another radio conglomerate, Clear Channel Communications Inc. announced March 6 they would sell the romantic hits-format KYXY and classic rock KPLN “The Planet” to New York City-based Infinity Broadcasting Corp., a subsidiary of CBS Corp.
Insiders expect the deal to close in June.
Speculation as to who would buy the stations has run rampant since last fall, when San Antonio-based Clear Channel announced its acquisition of fellow radio powerhouse AMFM Inc. and subsequently declared that they would divest AMFM’s local holdings, KYXY and KPLN.
“I think it’s good for radio in that this thing is finally settled,” said Mark Larson, president of the San Diego Radio Broadcasters Association and the general manager of Christian-talk KPRZ-AM and conservative-talk KCBQ-AM.
Stations employees at KYXY and KPLN had been on “pins and needles” about their next owner, he said. “At least now they know what the next chapter is going to look like , or who’s going to be running the show, anyway,” Larson said.
However, another announcement made extra waves: Clear Channel’s sale of KSDO-AM to Houston-based ChaseCom, LP.
Clear Channel will likely have an agreement with ChaseCom to continue selling KSDO’s advertising, said Mike Glickenhaus, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel’s FM stations..
Clear Channel had to sell KSDO because the signal of a talk station it owns in Los Angeles, KFI-AM, reaches into the San Diego market, said Kevin McCarthy, vice president and general manager of the AM stations Clear Channel owns or operates locally.
It gave the company one too many stations in San Diego, McCarthy said.
According to Federal Communications Commission rules for a market of San Diego’s size, a company can own up to eight stations, with a maximum of five per frequency. On the FM dial, Clear Channel owns KHTS, KIOZ, KJQY, KMSX and KGB.
The AM stations Clear Channel owns in San Diego include KOGO, KPOP and, until now, KSDO.
Clear Channel also programs and sells advertising for local sports station XTRA-AM, which is owned and licensed from Mexico.
“We felt that we have obviously established KOGO as the news-talk giant in San Diego, and we have a unique format on KPOP with adult standards music, and so KSDO in that situation became the odd man out,” McCarthy said.
In its target 35-54 age market last year, KSDO ranked 25th of the 30 stations on the industry-standard report from The Arbitron Co., which researches radio demographics.
However, the station listener tends to be high-income, educated and in an executive or managerial position, according to Arbitron.
KSDO focused on a business format about two years ago, said Cliff Albert, program director for both KSDO and KOGO.
And at the station, it’s “business as usual” in every way for now, Albert said.
“Really, it’s so early in the process here,” he said. “I know everybody always says ‘don’t expect any changes.’ We honestly do not expect any great changes here for the time being, and it could be a long time being.”
Status Quo For KSDO
Tony Chase, chairman and CEO of ChaseCom, said he doesn’t anticipate programming changes for KSDO. However, he added, he does plan to enhance its current format.
In the deal with Clear Channel, ChaseCom bought 11 stations. Chase is also the chairman and CEO of Faith Broadcasting Corp., and the sole general partner of Faith Broadcasting, LP, which operates at least two radio stations. Neither firm is based here.
According to reports, Chase launched ChaseCom last January, backed by companies such as San Antonio telecom giant SBC Communications, Inc.
Chase’s previous venture, Chase Wireless Communications, Inc., agreed in 1998 to be acquired by Leap Wireless International.
ChaseCom reports that L. Lowry Mays, chairman and CEO of Clear Channel, sits on the board of ChaseCom.
“It appears cozy, but I’m sure they’re sensitive to all of the legal implications and that’s fine,” Larson said. “I’m all for diversity and minority ownership and wherever they’re doing that in an appropriate manner.”
As for Infinity’s entry into San Diego, spokesman Gil Schwartz said that the company would not comment on programming changes until it takes ownership of the stations.
In the deal, Infinity bought 18 stations around the country for a total of $1.4 billion, Schwartz said. The company did not disclose how much it paid for the San Diego stations.
San Diego was a natural choice for Infinity, Schwartz said.
“We like it very much,” he said. “It’s a great part of the country.”
The company’s also excited about its outdoor presence in Southern California, he said.
Infinity owns Outdoor Systems Corp., which has 111 billboards in San Diego, according to estimates from its local office.
According to Bob Bolinger, vice president and general manager of KYXY and KPLN, the reaction at his stations has been excitement.
“The question has been answered, and it’s a very good answer, from our perspective,” Bolinger said.