19 Jan 2011
PRC Brokers Northern Kentucky University’s Acquisition of 105.9 WPFB and 104.1 WPAY
Deal will expand station’s Kentucky geographic reach and more than triple its population footprint, putting WNKU on path to financial self-sufficiency
Boulder, Colo. – Public Radio Capital today announced that it has brokered Northern Kentucky University’s plan to acquire 105.9 WPFB AM/FM and 104.1 WPAY FM as part of a network of stations that will broadcast the 89.7 WNKU public radio signal to more than 3.3 million people.
The $6.75 million acquisition, which will be funded over 20 years, puts the 25-year-old station on a direct path to financial self-sufficiency by dramatically increasing its geographic reach within the region and more than tripling its current population footprint. The deal will also expand the station’s academic collaboration with the university.
“WNKU has become an integral part of the civic and cultural fabric of our region,” said NKU President James C. Votruba. “In its 25 years, the station has established itself as an industry leader. Today’s announcement reflects the value we, as an institution, place in this community treasure.”
Dr. Votruba acknowledged that some may question the timing of the move, given the university’s continuing funding challenges and the state’s sluggish economy, but said that these factors are part of what makes now the right time for WNKU to expand. “Frankly, if the economy weren’t in the state it is in, there is no way we could afford to do this,” he said. “The price is right, right now. We were presented with an opportunity that we could not pass up.”
He also acknowledged that, as beneficial as expanding the WNKU signal might be, the acquisition would probably not be on the table if it didn’t accelerate the station’s path to financial independence. “We’re proud of all that WNKU has accomplished over the past 25 years, and we’re excited about the prospect of establishing a network of WNKU stations,” Dr. Votruba said. “But at the same time, we must – particularly during these difficult economic times – consider the financial ramifications of a move like this.”
Each year, about $300,000 of the station’s $1.1 million operating budget comes from the university. The rest comes from grants, member donations and underwriting. The expanded network means more listeners, which means more donors and increased underwriting revenues.
WNKU is currently listened to by about 55,000 people each week and has a population coverage of about 1 million people. It also has a growing online listenership, which will increase as the result of the station’s expansion. . “NKU had tremendous vision to pursue this opportunity and it’s a win-win for the school and the growing community served by WNKU,” said Public Radio Capital’s Director of Acquisitions and Legal Affairs Erik Langner. “It was a pleasure to work with NKU on this acquisition.”
WNKU has been voted Best Radio Station in the region by City Beat readers five of the last 10 years. WNKU General Manager Chuck Miller credits the station’s strong local ties for its success. “We’re locally based, locally owned and locally staffed,” Miller said. “That’s becoming increasingly rare these days. Our listeners understand and appreciate that we are a part of this community.”
The acquisition will expand the station’s signal into 16 Kentucky counties not currently served by the station. The two new stations will expand WNKU’s coverage by an additional 2.2 million people. “What has made us great for 25 years is our community participation,” Miller said, “and this acquisition will create opportunities for us to enhance and expand our community engagement on a whole new level.”
Miller noted that the success of the acquisition will ultimately depend upon the availability of public and corporate support. “This community has been urging us to expand for years,” Miller said. “It is the support of our current listeners and underwriters that has allowed us to become one of the region’s most respected radio stations, and we anticipate similar support in these new areas.”
Miller said one of the factors that made the acquisition so appealing was that there would be very little FM signal overlap. “If you look at the current WNKU footprint, and then overlay the WPFB and WPAY footprints, the signals fit together really well,” Miller said. “By adding these two signals to create a WNKU network of stations, our signal will be strengthened in some areas and our reach will extend from Dayton, Ohio, to beyond Ashland, Kentucky.”
And Miller noted that both FM signals – at 105.9 and 104.1 – are in the heart of the commercial part of the radio dial. “For a station that plays as much music as we do, that is very important,” he said. “We’re confident that when our signal reaches more people and they hear the dynamic, original programming we offer, they’ll keep listening. No other station offers the eclectic blend of music or delivers more Northern Kentucky news and features than we do.”
Miller said the acquisition will allow the station, once more space is available after NKU's informatics center, Griffin Hall, opens later this year, to expand existing partnerships with NKU's academic programs. WNKU currently partners with several departments, including electronic media broadcasting and marketing. The station mentored more than 300 NKU students last year.
"With this acquisition, we'll be able to better serve our current listeners and serve thousands of new listeners," Miller said. "We'll also be able to create more academic collaborations. And, best of all, we'll be able to do it in a way that actually enhances the university's academic offerings and that will eliminate the need for NKU to spend its money to operate the station. That's why we're thrilled about this opportunity and excited about the future of WNKU."
NKU was represented by Public Radio Capital throughout the acquisition process. The acquisition has received the necessary approvals from the NKU Board of Regents and the appropriate state agencies. It now requires Federal Communications Commission approval, which is expected later this spring. However, WNKU will begin broadcasting on the new stations on February 1 through a management operating agreement.
About Public Radio Capital
Public Radio Capital’s mission is to strengthen and expand noncommercial media to provide local communities nationwide with more in-depth information, unbiased news, diverse music and cultural programming. Since its founding in 2001, PRC has completed transactions totaling more than $250 million and secured access to public radio services for more approximately 51 million people nationwide. PRC has worked with more than 200 public radio stations ranging from first time station owners to the largest, multi-channel public radio operators in the country, helping them to buy and finance new channels, to preserve existing public radio outlets, and to strengthen their organizations and services.
In Oct. 2007, PRC launched the Public Radio Fund to benefit public radio organizations in need of short-term capital for asset-based projects. Public broadcasters are invited to apply for capital loans from the Public Radio Fund for station acquisitions to increase and diversify public radio program services for more people in communities across the country. More information about PRC and the Public Radio Fund is available at publicradiocapital.org.