Repeating a trend seen in markets across the country, a new FM station is about to sign on in the Twin Cities via the back door.
iHeartMedia, the nation’s largest commercial radio broadcaster is working with the Educational Media Foundation (“EMF”), one of the nation's largest noncommercial broadcasters, to create a new FM station at 102.5.
iHeartMedia didn’t apply for a new FM station, they got it the new-fashioned way: simulcasting an HD channel on an FM translator.
EMF owns translator K273BH – 102.5 FM – licensed to Fridley, a small suburb of Minneapolis. EMF has upgraded the translator to 250 watts and secured a transmission spot on the IDS Tower, the best nroadcasting location in town. Take a look at the K273BH coverage map below. How much do you believe the “stick value” of this station is worth?
I’d say it is worth at least $20,000,000 – maybe more. This “scratch and win” payday is possible because of the lameness of HD Radio.
After seeing that HD Radio was failing, the FCC agreed to allow HD channels to be rebroadcast on FM translators. Translaors can be leased from another owner. In this case, iHeartMedia is going to repeat KCTZ HD2 on the new 102.5. Presto! A new FM station thanks to HD Radio.
EMF has been repeating K-Love on 102.5. (K-Love is beamed to Minneapolis via satellite from Sacramento.) EMF saw the current FM translator gold rush coming. They now own dozens, maybe hundreds of FM translator licenses and construction permits. I bet EMF’s translator revenue exceeds its underwriting revenue.
IS THE NEW 102.5 A FLANKING MOVE BY iHEARTMEDIA?
Published reports speculate that the new 102.5 FM will play Urban Contemporary – rap, hip hop and dance club hits. iHeartMedia already owns or controls nine stations on the FM dial. One of them is Alt93.3, operating on translator W227BF at 93.3 FM.
iHeartMedia will probably operate the new 102.5 like they do 93.3 – as a bottom-feeder that exists to protect another of their stations from getting competition. Rumor has it that iHeartMedia has secured the name Hot 102.5, and it is designed to protect their very profitable (and excellent sounding) Contemporary Hits station KDWB.This is called a "flanking move" in the radio programming biz.
HD RADIO – "KING OF THE BACKHAUL"
Though HD Radio has failed to gain any success broadcasting to listeners, it is now part of a lucrative formula to create new FM stations. FM is the spectrum where the action, and money, is. HD signals are a cheap, easy way to transmit 24/7 programming to FM translators – known as a “backhaul” in the biz. This is a long way from what the creators of HD Radio promised.
HD Radio was created to eventually replace FM and bring digital audio broadcasting to the US. Ironically, HD Radio now is a back door way to get on FM.
ibiquity claims HD Radio has several million weekly listeners. This assertion is disingenuous because ALL of the rated HD Radio stations are repeating their programming on FM translators, like the new 102.5 FM will be doing soon.
People who are listening to programming created for HD on an FM translator, are NOT listening to HD Radio. They are listening to good old FM.