MIAMI — With its stock trading at 14 cents per share and debt still very much an issue, Spanish Broadcasting System is nevertheless a leader among Hispanic media companies. With Mega TV making a profit and its radio stations seeing ratings vigor, the company on Thursday will celebrate its 35 years in operation.
A fiesta saluting SBS’s commitment to serving the Hispanic community since 1983, when President/CEO Raúl Alarcón Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father, a Cuban exile who fled Camaguey for South Florida in 1960 following the ascension of Fidel Castro and the government expropriation of all privately owned businesses.
For the elder Castro, this meant the end of ownership of Radio Cadena Agramonte, which continues today under the control of the Cuban government.
Alarcon Sr. took to the New York airwaves, and was a host and PD. Twenty-three years after leaving Cuba, he and his son borrowed $3.5 million to acquire an AM radio station at 1380 kHz serving the New York metropolitan area. This was WSKQ-AM, and it was a major success. In its first year, billing came in at some $20 million.
On February 1, 1989, SBS brought Spanish-language radio to the FM dial in New York with the debut of WSKQ-FM on 97.9 MHz, following its acquisition from the The Jewish Daily Forward and shift of Yiddish-language WEVD to 1050 kHz.
Meanwhile, SBS had started its Los Angeles growth plan with the December 1987 purchase of KSKQ-FM 97.9, which is today KLAX “La Raza.” The cost was $15 million, and allowed SBS to give up the former KSKQ-AM 1540, which it acquired in 1984.
In its home market of Miami, growth came in 1997, when Russ Oasis became a multimillionaire. After buying WXDJ-FM (today WRMA-FM) for $8.1 million in December 1987 and WTPX-FM 106.7 (now WXDJ-FM) in January 1995 for $21.25 million, Oasis and his New Age Broadcasting (including partners Alan and Robert Potamkin) sold the two stations to SBS for $111 million.
This gave SBS a three-FM cluster in Miami, allowing it to part ways with WCMQ-AM 1210.
Then came expansion to Chicago, San Francisco, Puerto Rico and other markets SBS is no longer in, including San Antonio, where it owned KSAH-AM & KLEY-FM.
Today, SBS’s radio stations are among the top-rated Spanish-language radio stations across many of its markets.
At the same time, SBS’s Aire Radio Networks has grown from scratch to an entity seving more than 250 affiliates, 17 owned and operated stations, and targeted network vehicles reaching 94% of the U.S. Hispanic audience.
Then there is the Mega TV operation, which many naysayers bemoaned was a money-losing proposition to compete against now-struggling Univision Communications.
With unique programming featuring noted political commentator Jaime Bayly and talk host Oscar Haza, Mega TV airs in 10 markets across the U.S. and has a national feed on DirecTV Channel 405.
Importantly, Mega TV in Q2 saw its net revenue jump 21%, to $3.5 million. Adjusted OIBDA surged by 768%, to $1.09 million.
Top executives, on-air personalities from SBS radio stations and from MegaTV will be present at Thursday’s event at the trendy Penthouse at Riverside Wharf, along with “special guest celebrities.”
RBR+TVBR will be in attendance as part of its efforts to bring coverage of Hispanic media to the financial and regulatory community. To learn more about the power of Hispanic media, please visit www.hispanicradioconference.com.