Valley News – 99 Rock will remain locally owned
HANOVER – A local buyer has offered to buy Dartmouth College’s WFRD-FM radio station, keeping it in the hands of a broadcaster based in the Upper Valley.
Sugar River Media, which owns and operates WNTK-FM in New London and WUVR-AM-FM in Hanover, has signed a purchase and sale agreement to acquire WFRD for $ 225,000, confirmed John Landry, who now directs with his brother Rob Landry the Upper Valley Stations chain formerly owned by Bob Vinikoor.
“It’s a good fit for us,” John Landry said Thursday of the acquisition of WFRD, the radio station that had been a launching pad for the broadcasting careers of many Dartmouth students, but that the college announced in June that it would look to sell as radio programming has moved online. “We see unrealized potential.”
The sale and transfer of the license are subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, which is expected to close by December 1, Dartmouth College spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said by email.
In the meantime, Sugar River, starting October 20, will operate WFRD under a local marketing agreement, Lawrence said. It allows one party to contractually manage a radio station owned by another party.
WFRD, under the brand “99 Rock”, stays on the air playing an automated rock format. Chris (Garrett) Fazio, the sole employee, manager and host of the station’s morning show, aired his last show on August 31.
Although WNTK and WUVR are known as citadels of conservative talk shows, Landry said he plans to keep WFRD’s rock format. But as embraced as the populist format is among some listeners, it doesn’t attract a younger audience that advertisers will pay more to reach.
Adding WFRD to its portfolio will broaden Sugar River Media’s appeal with sponsors, according to Landry.
“One of the things we were missing was a younger audience. Talk shows tend to distort old people, ”he said.
Landry said WFRD’s audience, in terms of number of listeners, is close to the size of WNTK’s audience, which he says averages about 4,500 listeners in “any given time” (about 85% of WUVR’s programming is “broadcast simultaneously” with WNTK).
“The station already has quite a few subscribers,” Landry said of WFRD. “And with improved promotion, he’ll easily do what WTNK does or better in grades.”
Landry, 58, and his brother, Rob, 64, are radio engineers who worked at stations in New York and New England before becoming owners with the purchase of the former Vinikoor group of radio stations. from the Upper Valley four years ago for $ 1.95 million. .
The group includes WCVR-AM-FM in Randolph, WCFR-AM-FM in Springfield, Vermont, and WCNL-AM-FM in Newport, NH Ensemble, the signals of the Sugar River Media radio stations, cover in overlapping rings the Most of the Upper Valley on both sides of the river.
The Landrys also operate, through a foundation, WSCS-FM in New London, a non-commercial classical music station that was once owned by Colby-Sawyer College which Vinikoor took over in 2014.
Landry said the purchase from WFRD includes the station’s FCC license, call letters and aerial equipment on Craft’s Hill in Lebanon, but not the studio equipment on the third floor of Robinson Hall, which continues to be used to produce programs for the online student-run program. WDCR station.
As Dartmouth announced plans to sell the radio station, he said any proceeds from the sale would be reinvested in the online student radio station.
Dartmouth was originally fetching $ 350,000 for the station – a price that seemed bullish at the time – but in the end the price dropped significantly.
“We have based the valuation on our current sales and the market will support,” Landry said. “I don’t know how they found this. We made an offer what we thought it was really worth.
The sale was handled by Dick Kozacko, a national radio and television station broker based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sugar River Media recently closed its WNTK satellite studio located on the lower level of the Hanover Street Plaza building in Lebanon and will also close the station’s studio in New London. The broadcaster will continue to have production studios at its Newport, Springfield and Randolph stations, Landry said.
Landrys’ purchase of WFRD could lead to an unexpected result, however, at least when Fazio was fired by Dartmouth after 15 years of running the station, selling airtime and hosting his own “Rock ‘N Go Morning Show” from 5 to 10 am five times a week – bringing it back to the air.
“It’s a possibility if we can make it happen. The door is open on this, ”Landry said of Fazio.
Fazio, who used Chris Garrett’s name on the air, said he would be open to the idea as well.
“Absolutely. The morning show ‘Rock and Go’ was my passion,” he said via email.
Contact John Lippman at [email protected]