THINK TANK: Changes Are Coming

Last month, the Calgary Herald was doing a story on the potential ownership changes in that market, and after reading our Think Tank piece on the city, they asked us for our thoughts:  “Shuffle looms in Calgary’s $90-million radio market”

In case you’re not fully aware, there are about to be some major shake-ups in the Radio Ownership landscape, not just in Calgary but across the country.  We’ll attempt to paint a clearer picture of what’s happening for you.

With Newcap Radio recently announcing that they’re looking to unload their Alberta properties and Bell Media also shedding signals if the CRTC OK’s their revamped plan to buy Astral Media, the potential is for 40 stations to change hands in a relatively short period of time.  Once the dust settles, the ownership picture will be very different, which will cause the companies that print station letterhead and business cards to become very busy.

Unlike the concerns over the past decade about media consolidation, when a few large companies were buying their fill in most markets, this situation is pretty much the opposite, one that could almost be described as media breakup.

In nearly every market where the “For Sale” signs will be going up, the big operators like Rogers, Corus and Bell will be shut out, having already hit their ownership limits (2 FM & 2 AM stations per owner, per market).  That leaves the door wide open for small and mid-tier companies that have regional footprints to really step-up their game.  Or we could see completely new entrants making a foray in the radio biz, much like what happened in 2011 when Jacques Leclerc, whose business interests includes Laura Secord Chocolates and Biscuits Leclerc, expanded into broadcast with the purchase of CFEL-FM & CJEC-FM in Quebec City.

So that leaves us — and many who currently work at the stations in question — with a big guessing game of who could potentially buy up the various outlets.  For the sake of our speculative exercise today we’re only going to focus on the major market properties, and we’ll have to make an assumption that the list of potential divestitures Bell announced back in September 2012 will still be valid.  While the actual outcome won’t be known for quite some time — it may take upwards of a year or more before the transactions are complete and the CRTC gives their approval on the deals — we can make a few educated guesses about who some of the players are that might be interested in opening up their wallets.

Toronto stations for sale:  Bell’s Flow & Astral’s Boom 97.3

Potential Buyers:
Newcap Radio:  Speculation has it that disposing of their Alberta assets will provide the funding necessary for their first entry into the country’s biggest market.
Rock 95 Broadcasting:  Recently won the 88.1 frequency (launching “Indie 88.1” later this year) and may be on the lookout for a sister station to pair with it.
ZoomerMedia:  Has space for another FM signal before hitting the ownership limits, currently runs Classical 96.3 & AM740 Zoomer Radio.

Ottawa stations for sale:  Astral’s The Bear & Boom 99.7

Potential Buyers:
Corus Entertainment:  Currently without signals in the market, they could potentially go for both.
Evanov Radio Group:  A second station would complement 98.5 The Jewel.
Torres Media:  101.9 The Dawg is their only holding in the city, twinning it would allow for more national advertising revenue.

Winnipeg stations for sale:  Bell’s Fab 94.3 & Astral’s QX104

Potential Buyer:
Golden West Broadcasting:  Regional operator of mostly small-market stations but does have a single FM in Winnipeg, so a second signal would be a natural fit.

Calgary stations for sale:  Newcap’s XL103 & AMP, plus Bell’s 101.5 Kool FM

Potential Buyers:
Harvard Broadcasting:  A second stick would allow for economies of scale while operating X92.9.
Rawlco Radio:  Much like Harvard, Rawlco has only one station in the market, Up! 97.7.
Jim Pattison Broadcast Group:  Recently awarded a new signal that has yet to launch (95.3 The Peak), a second frequency of an established station would ease the start-up costs.
Fairchild Radio Group:  Currently has exposure in the market with one FM, another would allow more options to service the city’s growing ethnic population.
Clear Sky Radio:  Regional operator with stations in Lethbridge & Medicine Hat, a pair of signals in Calgary would allow them to become a force in Southern Alberta.

Edmonton stations for sale:  Newcap’s K97 & Capital FM

Potential Buyers:
Jim Pattison Broadcast Group:  No current presence in the city, Pattison could easily go for the pair.
Fairchild Radio Group:  A huge hole exists in the ethnic market which Fairchild could fill by picking up both frequencies.

Vancouver stations for sale:  Astral’s Virgin, The Shore & CISL-AM

Potential Buyers:
Newcap Radio:  Similar to the Toronto rumours, Newcap may be planning on scoring some notable properties in a market where they currently have no assets.
Fairchild Radio Group:  Has room to acquire an FM & AM before hitting the ownership cap in Vancouver.
Vista Radio:  Small-market operator with a sizable footprint in BC but no exposure in Vancouver, may want to obtain flagship stations for the chain.  Recently teamed up with an investment firm to buy the assets of Haliburton Broadcasting Group in Ontario.
Harvard Broadcasting:  With sticks in Calgary & Edmonton, westward expansion would allow for a larger slice of national ad buys.

Rest assured, there’s a flurry of activity going on behind-the-scenes right now from coast-to-coast, with companies looking at their cash flows, debt ratios & financing options, trying to determine whether or not they’ll be able to take part in what may become the biggest radio asset sale in Canadian history.

Here are the stations that could potentially be sold, along with who the present owner is:

Astral – Toronto – Boom 97.3
Bell – Toronto – Flow
Astral – Ottawa – Boom 99.7
Astral – Ottawa – The Bear
Astral – Winnipeg – QX104
Bell – Winnipeg – Fab 94.3
Bell – Calgary – 101.5 Kool FM
Newcap – Calgary – XL103
Newcap – Calgary – AMP
Newcap – Edmonton – K97
Newcap – Edmonton – Capital FM
Astral – Vancouver – CISL
Astral – Vancouver – Virgin
Astral – Vancouver – The Shore

Newcap – Athabasca – The River 94.1
Newcap – Blairmore – Mountain Radio
Newcap – Bonnyville – 101.3 Kool FM
Newcap – Brooks – The One
Newcap – Brooks – Q105.7
Newcap – Camrose – CFCW
Newcap – Camrose – 98.1 Cam FM
Newcap – Cold Lake – K-Rock
Newcap – Drumheller – Q91
Newcap – Edson – The Eagle
Newcap – Fort McMurray – K-Rock
Newcap – High Prairie – 93.5 Prairie FM
Newcap – Hinton – The Eagle
Newcap – Lac La Biche – Big Dog 103.5
Newcap – Lloydminster – Lloyd FM
Newcap – Lloydminster – CILR
Newcap – Red Deer – Z98.9
Newcap – Red Deer – KG Country
Newcap – St. Paul – The Spur 97.7
Newcap – Slave Lake – 92.7 Lake FM
Newcap – Stettler – Q93.3
Newcap – Wainwright – Key 83
Newcap – Wainwright – Wayne FM
Newcap – Westlock – 97.9 The Range
Newcap – Wetaskiwin – W1440
Newcap – Whitecourt – 96.7 The Rig