The biggest-ticket translator sale in U.S. radio history has just been filed. The $1.8 million deal will secure Hubbard Radio’s simulcast of KAZG (1440) Phoenix, which has relayed on the signal since Sept. 2015 under what is today the “Oldies 92.7” branding. Hubbard is buying the Phoenix-licensed translator K224CJ from Kenneth Brentlinger and Michael Mallace’s Happy Dog Communications. They bought what was then a 10-watt translator for just one dollar in 2012 and upgraded it to a full 250 watts beaming from the market’s South Mountain tower farm. “This deal shows the strength of the translator market and it’s an indication that translators can really help strengthen the reach of local radio stations and as a result they have some great value,” BIA/Kelsey senior VP/chief economist Mark Fratrik says.
The Phoenix sale is larger than the previous record-holder, Windy City Broadcasting’s $1 million purchase of a Chicago translator (W280EM) in 2014. Other big-ticket contracts filed last year include iHeartMedia’s deal to buy a Denver translator (K231BQ) for $950,000 and Beasley Broadcast Group’s $700,000 purchase of the Las Vegas-licensed translator K268CS at 101.5 FM.
BIA/Kelsey data shows the Phoenix translator reaches over 1.5 million people so what Hubbard is paying isn’t as pricey as it may seem at first blush. The so-called “price per pop”—the measurement of how much it costs for each person covered—is $1.17. That’s right on par with the average price per pop being paid for other translators in recent months (the mean is $0.61 due to the sale of a Tampa market translator that sold for $115,000 but only reaches 17,000 people). “It still is a large number but none of the other translators reached nearly that many people,” Fratrik says. “This deal shows that translators are still useful and this sale more reflects the fact that it reaches so many people.”
But having an FM outlet isn’t everything. Even with the translator, “Oldies 92.7” hasn’t attracted a sizable audience. Nielsen says KAZG had just a 0.5 share (6+) in the March ratings survey, attracting 159,700 listeners in a metro area with a population of 3.6 million. But could Hubbard have other plans for the new signal? Its filing with the Federal Communications Commission says the translator will simulcast modern rock “Alt AZ 93.3” KDKB. Its Class C signal has good coverage of the city center so that suggests relaying an HD subchannel could be part of the plan.