The famous “glass-enclosed nerve center” of WTOP, and its partner WFED, were sold by Bonneville broadcasting yesterday to St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting as part of a 17-station deal worth $505M, according first to DCRTV and then the Business Journal’s Jeff Clabaugh.
The expansion by Hubbard is significant, as the group owns just four radio and twelve TV outlets, which means this effectively doubled the size of their footprint, station-wise, and given that they’re primarily in secondary and tertiary markets like Albuquerque, New Mexico and Duluth, Minnesota, the purchase of St. Louis, Cincinnati, DC and Chicago radio outlets is a significant move for the group.
The deal is reported to be an all-cash venture.
Right now, WTOP and WFED use five signals to broadcast two content stations, and it’s not known if Hubbard intends to split the frequencies to break off new stations, or if they intend to keep the groups amalgamated. With the frequencies in their current configuration, WTOP has had several banner years, earning the second highest revenue total for a radio station in the US in 2009 at $51M.
The departure for Hubbard could mean that WTOP and WFED would once again air ads for beer and nearby gambling enterprises in Maryland and West Virginia, which were not aired during the Bonneville ownership period, as Bonneville is controlled by the LDS Church, which prohibits alcohol and gambling. Given that WFED is the flagship station for the Washington Nationals Radio Network, as well as the Capitals Radio Network, that could be a potential boon to the new owners.