Radio Disney pulls the plug

the story

Radio Disney has always been unorthodox. They run a significant network of potentially valuable AM stations in major markets. The stations are targeted specifically at children, up through early teenagers.

I think they exclusively play music from artists they developed internally singing music they wrote – avoiding having to deal with ASCAP and BMI. To my ear, Disney’s music is total dreck – but I would admit, it might be me.

Unlike other commercial radio stations, Radio Disney doesn’t rely on advertising. It makes its money by selling music and convincing children to drag their parents to Florida or California and pay $100 a day to stand in line for hours.

The story mentioned September 26 as the date that Disney radio will end, and go completely to Internet-based distribution, other than the mothership in Anaheim California.

It appears that Disney finally realize that teenagers no longer run around with pink transistor AM radios.

Who could possibly want to buy $100 million worth of AM radio stations? The Catholic church (EWTN)? Univision? A newspaper chain freed of FCC restrictions in the last two weeks? Rupert Murdoch?

Since these are all major market stations, The existing big radio station owners – clear channel, Cumulus, CBS mostly can’t buy them because they are restricted by FCC ownership caps. ESPN is a logical choice, other than Disney already owns (80% of) ESPN.

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9 Responses to Radio Disney pulls the plug

  1. haiti222 says:

    They did play many non-Disney hit songs that are innocuous. The stations really were aimed at the mothers that were seeking not to expose their 6-13 year olds to the mature content played on top 40 radio, but instead offered a sanitized version of it, that did include a very large number of self-generated songs. It also served to heavily promote the Disney channel shows on cable, as well.

  2. Frank says:

    Not only Disney owned stations, but many non-Disney O&O will be looking for new formats. Example, WTAE in Pittsburgh has been a RD affiliate for several years, I think is still owned by Hearst. More soap opera then with changes to WPGB and WJAS. Another monkey wrench.

    • Art Stone says:

      I was exploring exactly that detail yesterday. For those who don’t know the history, The Disney affiliate in Pittsburgh used to be WTAE-AM and used to be owned by Hearst.

      The station is now legally titled to an entity which shares its address with ABC TV, ESPN, and Hearst in New York City. Hearst claims a 20% ownership interest in ESPN, with the other 80% owned by Disney. The ownership filing with the FCC claims that the station is 100% owned by Disney. I suspect there is some legal nuance involved, like having the right to take the station back if Disney were to declare bankruptcy or maybe Hearst house a security interest in the station. in this age of leverage buyouts and loan facilities written by global buyers, the entire concept of “ownership” is approaching meaningless. If the bank can tell you in detail how to run your business, who is really the owner?

    • Art Stone says:

      The other stations that Disney was leasing or turned off a while ago, and Disney has been selling off their non-major market stations for several years. I went through the list last night cleaning up the stragglers.

      I have a vague memory I just ate at one point was using are going to use the station down in Carnegie that I’m not sure even exists anymore. There was some dispute about the transmitter with the borough – my memory is very vague though.

  3. Art Stone says:

    re: Station coverage

    Last night I added a link to the station page (streaming-schedule.php) linking to the signal coverage maps generated by the folks at Radio Locator. You can see that WJAS has a much smaller footprint than WPGH-FM

    Pittsburgh being what it is however – if you’re down in a valley between the mountains or in the liberty tubes, your mileage may vary. That’s just the theoretical coverage pattern.

    Oddly, that map shows the transmitter in around Oakland, not Highland Park – but their map link pulls up the Highland park location, matching what is on file at the FCC.

    The transfer of the station has been consummated. It’s a done deal.

  4. Art Stone says:

    Unrelated to the radio aspect, that hilltop in Highland Park has some interesting new publicly funded “investments” as neighbors on what used to be a dead end street. The Pittsburgh Job Corp looks to have a very large sprawling facility, and back in the back (north) side, there is a brand new Youth Detention Facility – and both are served by Public Transportation.

    WJAS-AM is licensed for day/night using the same transmitter, and shows no “Related Facilities” which would be where a license for an emergency backup transmitter would be (I’m pretty sure). The antenna and transmitter are not even easily reachable by vehicle – it looks like maybe there is a foot path to it. It would be set up with a STL (Satellite Transmitter Link) or maybe a dedicated phone line that originates at the WJAS studios, not the Clear Channel Cluster. The WPGB-FM transmitter is located on the top of Spring Garden, the hilly area on the North Side which used to be served by the #3 streetcar line.

    This deal was filed with the FCC in May – it’s not like there was no time to think about these details.

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