Could the Cumulus Media and iHeartMedia bankruptcy filings be driving down the price of radio properties?
Dealmakers sealed only 12 radio deals above the million dollar mark in the first quarter of 2018, according to media research group Kagan. The overall volume of radio station mergers and acquisitions reached $149 million in Q1.
It’s hard to compare year-over-year numbers in the radio deal making space since the Entercom Communications and CBS Radio Inc. transaction — valued at $2.6 billion — took place in the first quarter of 2017. It was the largest radio transaction since 2006.
TV and radio deals combined totaled $311.9 million for the first quarter of this year, according to Kagan. That’s the lowest quarterly broadcast mergers and acquisitions volume since the fourth quarter of 2016 and one of the four lowest in the last four years. In all 107 broadcast deals were recorded. That compares to just 70 deals in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The radio scorecard in Q1 was topped by two separate transactions by Emmis Communications as it exited the St. Louis market. Emmis sold two FM stations to Hubbard Broadcasting for $45 million and two other FMs in the market to Entercom Communications for $15 million, according to the media research firm’s most recent report.
Merlin Media did manage to sell off a property in the Windy City in Q1 2018 after Cumulus backed away from a $50 million agreement during its bankruptcy process to buy WKQX(FM) and WLUP(FM) in Chicago. Merlin sold the latter to Educational Media Foundation in Q1 for $21.5 million. In breaking news, it was disclosed this week that Cumulus now has a new agreement to buy singleton WKQX from Merlin for an undisclosed price.
Elsewhere, the third largest radio deal of the first quarter was logged by Townsquare Media and its purchase of a three-station cluster in and around Trenton, N.J., from Connoisseur Media LLC for the tidy sum of $17.3 million. It marked an active quarter for Connoisseur who also sold four stations and a translator in central Connecticut to Red Wolf Broadcasting Corp. for $8 million, according to Kagan.
TV managed to eke out a narrow win over radio in total value of deals in the first quarter of this year. Kagan registered 16 TV deals at the one million dollar mark or more for a sum total of $163 million. Much of that came from deals that involved transfers after last year’s merger between Tribune Media Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. The station count of the new company exceeded FCC caps in several markets, Kagan says, which led the merged company to transfer Tribune’s legacy WGN in Chicago to an entity called WGN TV LLC for $60.0 million in Q1.
A similar transfer took place in New York, signing over Tribune’s WPIX(TV) to the group known as New York (WPIX-TV) Inc. for $15 million. Gray Television Inc. expanded its footprint in the small market of Casper-Riverton, Wyo., paying $15.7 million to Mark III Media Inc. for two full-power stations and two translators in nearby markets, Kagan noted in its Q1 report.
Meanwhile, Bayshore Television LLC sold WJAX(TV) in Jacksonville, Fla., to Hoffman Communications Inc. for $100,000 cash and the assumption of $12.2 million in debt, according to Kagan.
Kagan is part of S&P Global Market Intelligence.