The aggregator of third-rate TV stations has a deal for its third station: WTVE, licensed to Reading in the Philadelphia DMA. NRJ earlier this year bought two other stations — WMFP Boston and KCNS San Francisco — for $20 million and was a failed bidder for a station in Los Angeles. Seller Richard French bought WTVE three years ago for $13.5 milion.
NRJ TV continues to collect underperforming TV stations in large markets, agreeing to pay $30.4 million for WTVE Philadelphia (Reading) for $30.4 million, according to an FCC filing seeking approval of the deal.
The seller is owned by Richard French, who also owns independent WRNN New York. French bought WTVE out of bankruptcy in 2008 for $13.5 million.
Early this year, NRJ TV purchased two stations — KCNS San Francisco and WMFP Boston — from a trust that had been set up after the owner, Multicultural Television, had defaulted on its loans. NRJ paid $20 million for the pair — $15 million for KCNS and $5 million for WMFP.
NRJ TV also was a bidder for KWHY, the Los Angeles station NBCU eventually sold to the Hispanic-owned Meruelo Group for $40 million.
Through layers of companies, NRJ TV is owned equally (33.3% each) by 1) investor Ted Bartley and family; 2) Bert Ellis, Dan Sullivan and other principals of the Titan Broadcast Management TV station group; and 3) station broker Larry Patrick and his wife, Susan.
Some broadcasters who follow the station trading market believe that NRJ TV is speculating — buying stations with the intention of selling the spectrum through a proposed FCC auction to wireless carriers. The FCC has said that it would share auction proceeds with broadcasters that volunteer their spectrum for auction. But the FCC still needs congressional authority to conduct such auctions.
In an interview with TVNewsCheck in February, Bartley rejected the spectrum speculator label.
“We are buying TV stations — we think at historical lows in some cases,” he said. “We don’t know what the outcome will be. We’re trying to buy at a price to operate them efficiently and make money as broadcasters.
“I think all broadcasters hope for good things [on spectrum], but there’s no certainty,” he says. “We are certainly not speculating on that as the only way to make money.”