Speculation on Cumulus-Citadel fallout in Nashville


The deal folding Citadel into Cumulus will create the nation’s second largest radio group. It will also have surprisingly little overlap, since it brings together Citadel’s big market concentration with a group that is rooted in middle and small markets. But one place where divestitures will be needed is Nashville, and locals are playing the speculation game.

Cumulus is maxed out in the market on the FM side. It has five, and although there is room to add three more AMs, Citadel has two strong FMs and no AMs in the market. That means two stations have to go.
Citadel brings two strong stations into the mix:

* WGFX-FM, a C1 on 104.5 MHz doing Sports Talk (and bringing the NFL Tennessee Titans to the market.

* WKDF-FM, a C0 on 103.3 MHz doing Country.

Cumlus already has:

* WSM-FM, a Class C on 95.5 MHz playing Country.

* WWTN-FM, a Class C0 doing Talk.

* WQQK-FM, a Class A doing Urban AC on 92.1 MHz.

* WRQQ-FM, a Class C2 on 97.1 MHz playing Classic Hits.

* WNFN-FM, a Class C3 doing CHR on 106.7 MHz.

An article in Tennessean.com wonders how this will all shake out. Will the surviving cluster choose to muscle up in the Country format, throwing two stations against Clear Channel’s WSIX-FM? To do so would of course cost it a presence in one of its other formats.

The simple fact is that locals on the ground can imagine a lot of different possibilities, and at this point, Cumulus isn’t tipping its hand any more than two acknowledge that it will have to sell a pair of stations.
The deal has no effect on local consolidation levels, unless the two stations end up being sold separately, in which case the effect would be minor: one FM pair becoming two FM standalones.

MMTC’s David Honig told the Tennessean that the divestiture might actually be a good thing for his organization – it opens up the possibility of a decent signal in the larger market going to a new owner, leading to a slight but welcome increase in the overall diversification of the ownership ranks.

RBR-TVBR observation: Our two cents? Urban AC WQQK is one of Cumulus’ strongest ratings performers in the market, but is on the station with the weakest signal of all seven in the mix. If we had to make a bet, we’d expect the Cumulus to turn 92Q into 97Q, and spin off the 106.7 and 92.1 facilities.

If Cumulus wants to go with just one Country station, than it can keep either the Classic Hits or CHR intellectual property and spin one of the Country formats on the two signals. However, the overlap of current hits and hits of the past might make the two signals being sold a more attractive package, so if it was us, we’d go with the one-two Country punch in the surviving cluster and sell WNFN as is and sell it with the WRQQ format on the 92.1 facility.