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Merged Catholic Network Seeks New Markets

New organization’s broadcast coverage will reach coast to coast

The two largest owned and operated Catholic radio networks are merging not because of operating cost constraints, says the chairman of Relevant Radio’s board of directors, Tom Vorpahl, but rather, “By combining we’ll be able to increase our sustainability and generate enough free cash flow from our operating revenues.”

Relevant Radio and Immaculate Heart Radio announced plans to unify last week. Both operators own stations and produce content. Relevant Radio, founded in 2000 and headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., owns 20 stations and has 37 affiliates. Immaculate Heart Radio, founded in 1997 and headquartered in Loomis, Calif., owns 33 stations and has 13 affiliates.

“As a Catholic, not-for-profit radio operator, we’re usually strapped for resources when it comes to marketing, branding, developing the very best of programing and to grow into markets,” Vorpahl says. Once the unification is up and running, Vorpahl expects Relevant Radio to “first invest in marketing, to more deeply penetrate our markets that we’re serving” as well as “looking into providing compelling content that will expand our market share.”

Eventually, Vorpahl said, Relevant Radio would like to tap into markets that currently do not hear Catholic radio.

Once the merger is officially closed and the FCC approves, the organization will take Relevant Radio’s name. Vorpahl will assume the role of chairman of the unified board of directors.

While transition details are to be determined, Vorpahl doesn’t expect anyone to lose their positions. The two organizations together will broadcast in 36 states and in 15 of the top 50 markets, with stations in four large markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco.

In the meantime a fundraiser campaign is underway with a goal over the next three years to raise $30 million. According to a press release announcing the merger, $22 million has already been pledged.