Matt Smith is owner and president of Stanly Communications, licensee of WSPC(AM) and WZKY(AM), Albemarle, N.C. He responds to Larry Langford’s “A Game of ‘Chicken’ in the Translator Market.”
I am the owner of a couple of Class D AM stations in a smaller market in North Carolina. I have been very involved in this “frenzy.”
I have been searching for FM translators for our stations since this all began. I’ve made hundreds of cold calls to translator and CP licensees and have worked with a couple of brokers. I let a couple of bargains slip through my fingers in the early going because I thought they were too pricy at $40K.
Now, if I can find one for sale in our radius (and there are some) they are asking at least $100K, and one as high as $200K. While we could make that happen if there were no other options, it’s not worth that to us. We are still keeping our eyes open and will buy one or two at the right price, but we feel confident we will be able to apply for new licenses in the 2017 window.
But, I am keeping a close eye on this because much like the article points out, pricing may change and quickly. I think the translator owners that have not already made a deal are pricing themselves out of the market.
Right now, the value of these translators are at their peak. And I’d say any Class C or D AM station that is willing or able to pay those high prices has already made a deal. It is possible that once the Class A and B window opens, some stations will jump on some of those high-priced translators if they have the frequency available; but I think if that were the case they would be doing that by now.
In my opinion, translator owners who have not yet made a deal are either going to end up dropping their price dramatically, or still be holding their translators when the 250-mile windows close. I’m not sure they are thinking ahead and seeing that this is their one shot to sell the translator for more than it’s worth once the second 250-mile window closes.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime situation. If they can take advantage and get the high prices, more power to them … I am in favor of a free market. However, I can see the buyers’ market “glut” mentioned above coming later this year.
At least that’s the point of view of one AM Class D owner in search of translators.