NextMedia buyer embraces local approach

The sale of NextMedia Group's 33 radio stations nationwide — including 11 in the Chicago suburban area — was hailed Thursday as a victory for local broadcasting.

NextMediaDean Goodman, whose newly formed Digity LCC is acquiring the group for an undisclosed price, said he plans to continue NextMedia's strategy of providing live and local programming on all of its stations. "Our similar operational approach will super-serve local communities with compelling on-air products and innovative digital strategies," he said in a statement.

In addition to stations in seven other markets, the sale includes these local outlets: classic rock WERV FM 95.9; country WCCQ FM 98.3; news/talk WJOL AM 1340; hot adult-contemporary WSSR FM 96.7; rock WRXQ FM 100.7; Spanish sports WKRS AM 1220; hot adult-contemporary WXLC FM 102.3; rock WIIL FM 95.1; and news/talk WLIP AM 1050. In addition, the deal covers two stations NextMedia placed in a trust to comply with ownership limits: hot adult-contemporary WZSR FM 105.5, and classic rock WFXF FM 103.9. (Those will be sold to Matrix Broadcasting LLC.)

After emerging from bankruptcy in 2010, NextMedia was under the control of its largest creditors, Strategic Value Partners LLC and Angelo, Gordon & Co. In 2012, the company sold off its outdoor advertising subsidiary and began seeking a buyer for its radio stations.

At a time when big radio operators are turning increasingly to syndication, automation and voice-tracking to fill programming hours and save money, it's an encouraging sign that the local focus of the suburban stations will remain intact under the new ownership. Boasting local morning shows and local jocks all day long (with few exceptions), NextMedia has maintained an enviable record of profitability.

Jack Taddeo, general manager of WZSR and WFXF, expressed relief at the news.

"What it means for the staff is that the 'For Sale' sign is finally off the door," Taddeo told me. "And with it, the problem of my two stations specifically being in a divestiture trust. With a two-way sale, both sides run their businesses for keeps. It is a very nice situation for my staff and me."

Pending government approval, the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year.