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The Business of Radio



by Jeff McKay & Tom Gordon


Last week a new stock joined the Wall Street radio lineup, as Spotify debuted on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “SPOT.”  The NYSE set what they call a “reference point” of $132 per share prior to Tuesday morning trading opening at $165.90, but ended the week closing at $147.92 per share.  In Wall Street filings, Salem reported their CEO Ed Atsinger received no bonus or raise in salary for 2017, but did receive $1.3 million in total compensation.   What are some stations doing wight – billing – and the list of top-10 radio station billers didn’t change from a year ago with Hubbard-owned all-news WTOP-FM in Washington, DC still the nation’s top earner billing $67.8 million in 2017, actually ahead of last year’s numbers.  The top-5 billers in radio also include the iHeart quadruple of KIIS-FM in Los Angeles ($63.2 million), WHTZ-FM in New York ($45 million) tied with KIBG-FM in LA, and New York’s WLTW-FM ($43 million).  Sometimes it pays to wait – in-bankruptcy Cumulus agrees to buy WKQX-FM, Chicago from Merlin Media for $18 million including all intellectual rights and the call letters to the legendary rock station WLUP.  The original Merlin price to Cumulus in lease/purchase was $50m for both.  Merlin sold WLUP to Education Media Foundation for $21.5 million in March.  However, questions now remain as to what an FM radio station with a strong signal in a top-5 radio market is worth – and how this will impact future station sales.

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