EZ buys KBEQ and signs option for KFKF

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Mark Roberts

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Jan 7, 1995, 7:28:49 PM1/7/95
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The same company may soon own Kansas City's two leading country-music
FM stations.

The Kansas City Star reported that EZ Communications has agreed
to buy KBEQ-AM/FM for $7.6 million from group owner Noble Broadcasting.
At the same time, the Star reported, EZ signed a one-year option
to purchase KFKF(FM) from Sconnix Broadcasting for $28 million.

The Washington Post reported the transaction as a purchase of
station assets (i.e., 314 sale). The Post's report gave the
KBEQ price as $7.65 million. (Thanks to George Achaves for
relaying this report to me.)

The Star's report said Noble and Sconnix had tried to buy each
other's stations, but had failed. A mutual purchase is still possible
because, according to the newspaper report, Sconnix would get the right
to buy KBEQ from EZ Communications if EZ did not execute its option to
buy KFKF.

KFKF general manager Dan Wastler told the Star that EZ Communications
will lease KBEQ to Sconnix during the year in which the option is in
effect, and Sconnix will operate both stations.

Now, for what wasn't in the newspapers (a lot):

Noble had been shopping KBEQ around for at least two years.
The FM "young country" format was considered by many to be
a last-ditch effort by Noble to stay in the Kansas City market.

KBEQ-FM had been a market leader at one time with a high-energy
contemporary-hit format, but Noble let it lapse into a watered-down
"hot adult contemporary" style format in 1990, and the station's audience
shares leaked away to other stations.

In 1991, Noble tried a five-hour nightly modern rock program called
"Planet Q." The program was well executed, but poorly scheduled and not
well promoted. Citing declining numbers, the station cut "Planet Q" back
to three hours a night, and took it out of orbit entirely in August, 1992.
The "Planet Q" playlist had no effect on the rest of the station's day.

Early in 1993, after KBEQ celebrated its 20th anniversary as a
contemporary hit station with special "20 Years in 20 Days" playlists and
programming that seemed to anticipate a 70s-oldies format, it flipped to
young country. The new format revived KBEQ's sagging ratings, and
prevented KFKF from dethroning WDAF(AM), "61 Country," as the market's
ratings leader.

KFKF had been hurting its own performance by continuing a poorly
conceived LMA (leasing agreement) with KKCJ(FM).

In February 1992, KFKF leased financially troubled KXXR(FM), and installed
a satellite-fed new country format at 106.5 on the dial with the call
letters KKCJ(FM). KXXR's management then decided to lease rimshot signal
KCFM(FM) from Lexington, and install the KXXR contemporary hit format at 107.3.
The lease later passed into the hands of Ragan Henry's U.S. Radio, and the
station is now known as KISF(FM).

The KFKF move was viewed as a defensive strategy to keep any other Kansas
City FM station from considering a country format. KFKF was closing fast
on longtime market leader WDAF(AM), and actually was #1 in most 1992
surveys. WDAF, also a country station, fought back
by acquiring the rights to broadcast Royals baseball.

Otherwise, the KFKF strategy worked only for one year. Sconnix did try
to beef up KKCJ a little bit by unplugging the satellite feed and installing
local DJs and a hit-radio-style morning show. However, the station
never has climbed out of the local radio ratings basement.

Legally, the EZ-Sconnix agreement means the KFKF-KKCJ LMA cannot be
continued once the KFKF-KBEQ LMA takes effect. The three-year KKCJ
lease expires February 15.

There may be a connection with a persistent rumor of
an adult-alternative album station coming to Kansas City after the
purchase of a financially troubled station is executed. KKCJ may be
that station. I have not been able to find out.

It's not known whether the KBEQ LMA will have any effect on KBEQ(AM).
KBEQ(AM) has been a fulltime affiliate of the People's Radio Network
since March 1994. In the past, when Sconnix owned KCKN(AM) (now KNHN(AM)),
it simply used its AM station to simulcast the FM station. With regard
to ratings performance, KBEQ(AM) has beaten KKCJ(FM) in some key dayparts
and age groups.

EZ Communications also owns St. Louis FM duopoly KYKY(FM) and KSD-AM/FM.
KYKY is an adult-contemporary station; KSD-FM is a classic rock station;
KSD(AM) is a fulltime CNN Headline News relay. However, there have been
reports that EZ Communications is considering an adult standards format
for KSD's wide-ranging 5,000-watt signal at 550 on the dial.

This article is also available on Web browsers at this URL:
http://www.interstate.net/~transvox/
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Mark Roberts | --Kansas City radio and TV information available on--
Kansas City, Missouri | Home page: http://www.interstate.net/~transvox/
39 01 N 94 35 W 940' | Finger: tran...@interstate.net
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