Monday, April 9, 2012

Lincoln Financial To Add FM Signal

Two rumors were making the rounds last week as 2 applications to the FCC regarding an FM translator at 94.5 came to light.  The first application stated the signal would rebroadcast the HD2 channel of WSTR-FM, and the second was for a move into Atlanta.  The signal is currently owned by Edgewater Broadcasting, which purchased hundreds of FM translators for the express purpose of selling them.

The applications were discovered by poster Rick Rose, who watches the FCC database for changes.  The story was published by and embellished by AJC Entertainment Reporter Rodney Ho in his blog.

The first rumor seemed to be the obvious explanation, that Lincoln Financial would use the 250-watt signal for its AM Sports station, 790 The Zone.  Dickey Broadcasting's 680 The Fan has been solidly besting The Zone in ratings although 790 has remained competitive in the key 25-54 demo during the day.

While 680 The Fan has 50,000 watts in the daytime and 790 puts out 28,000, signal is not really an issue in daylight hours; both stations dispense plenty of power.

Nights are a different story.  Though it misses virtually everyone to the northeast of its Peachtree Corners transmitter and all of north Cobb County, 680 sends a powerful 10,000-watt signal southwest through Atlanta.  The Zone, on the other hand, powers down to 1,000 watts at night with a very directional antenna.  Its area of clear coverage in this time of extra-crowded AM frequencies is very small.

The Fan added an FM translator signal at 93.7 last year.  The 250-watt signal, emanating from the Richland site on Briarcliff Road, does relatively little to fill in areas missed by the AM but provides an option to people who listen only to FM.  In terms of nighttime AM range, The Zone needs an FM far more than The Fan.

The second rumor is that former Radio One programming executive Steve Hegwood is aggressively looking for an FM translator to replace 102.9, which he lost to Radio One in a lawsuit.  Hegwood is the person who traded the 97.9 translator to Cumulus for a class A FM station in Albany, GA.  I have to admire Hegwood.  Several years ago, he lost his radio stations to foreclosure, then lost 102.9, but is already back as an owner.

Hegwood, however, cannot simply obtain a translator signal and broadcast on it.  FCC rules require that a translator "translate" another station.  According to the rumor, Hegwood would lease the translator from LFM and use Star 94's HD2 signal as the main station.

The first rumor sounds far more logical than the second.  I am not totally sure, however.  Lincoln Financial is in the very rare position for a radio company of having no debt.  That means any profit generated by 790 The Zone goes straight to the bottom line.  And despite its low ratings, the station is said to bill some nice cash and throw off millions in profit.

LFM might feel leasing the translator to Hegwood would generate more additional revenue than simulcasting The Zone.  That's a long shot but possible.

Another factor could have an effect on 790 The Zone.  I do not know what Cumulus/Atlanta is planning for the 100.5 frequency, but one reasonable possibility is a simulcast of 680 The Fan.  That could be a game changer.

I predicted a watershed year for changes in Atlanta radio, and so far nothing has happened.  But something will very soon.

WABE Ready for Blast-Off
WABE-FM, owned by the Atlanta Board of Education and the market's NPR affiliate, will be turning on its new 100,000-watt signal in the next 2 weeks.  By moving to the former WPBA-TV position at the top of the original New Street tower, WABE will be increasing both its wattage, from 96,000, and antenna height, from 822 to 1,096 feet above average terrain.

WABE should have as good a signal as any other Atlanta FM.  WPBA-TV, Channel 30, relocated to a new tower next to the original concurrent with the digital conversion.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:

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