Emmis, Owner of NYC's Hot 97, Buys WBLS, WLIB For $130 Mil, Increases Urban Market Share

Emmis Communications, a radio and publishing company which owns WQHT (Hot 97) in New York along with a host of other stations across the country, has announced a deal with YMF Media to purchase two New York radio stations for $131 million in cash. The acquisition of the two stations, urban adult contemporary station WBLS 107.5 FM  and WLIB 1190 AM (and the city's first station targeted at African-American listeners), will double Emmis' annual station operating income, the company said.

In terms of market share, Emmis will now own the No. 2 station in the NYC radio market with WBLS which had 6.8 Nielsen Audio Radio Rating in December; the 13th biggest station WQHT, which had a 2.9 rating during the same period; and the 32nd largest station in the city with WLIB's 0.4 share.

In an unusual arrangement, WLIB and WBLS were already sharing lower Manhattan office space with Hot 97 since the deal that saw WRKS become the New York FM flagship for ESPN Radio.

In 2012, Emmis Communications ended a war of attrition in the Adult R&B format by cutting a deal that saw its WRKS (Kiss FM) New York exit the format and transferring that station's intellectual property to rival WBLS. The deal gives Emmis two of the three R&B or Hip-Hop formatted stations in the market. Hot 97 had been competing WPWR (Power 105.1), part of Clear Channel's New York cluster, as a standalone.

Emmis is expected to assume control of the stations on March 1 through a Local Marketing Agreement (LMA). The actual purchase of the station will take part in two stages -- $55 million following the expected FCC approval of the sale later this year, and approximately $76 million in February 2015.

As a result of the sale, Hot 97 SVP/GM Alexandra Cameron has exited the station. WLIB/WBLS GM Deon Levingston will oversee all three outlets.
For WBLS and WLIB, the sale is the official end of an era as one of the most prominent African-American-owned media entities. Shortly before the WBLS/Kiss deal, YMF Media, whose principals included Magic Johnson, assumed control from longtime owner Inner City Broadcasting. The deal also returns Emmis to buyer status following the LMA or sale of three prominent FMs in New York and Los Angeles to other owners.