June 13, 2022

Emmis Communications Sells All of Its Indianapolis Radio Stations to Urban One That Leaves Them With Only 1190 WLIB and ESPN New York 98.7

Emmis was once a major player in the radio business, having owned many stations across the country including "powerhouse" Hip Hop stations Hot 97 in New York and Power 106 in Los Angeles, have now sold all but two of its radio station stations to Urban One the parent company of Radio One. Their last remaining stations owned by the Indianapolis based company are Gospel station 1190 WLIB and  ESPN Radio New York 98.7. That station was the home of the legendary R&B station 98.7 KISS-FM. It's now leased to Good Karma Brands which airs the local ESPN sports programming. CEO Jeff Smulyan was once a strong proponent of NextRadio which would allow cellphones to become a radio tuner to receive FM radio stations. His belief that if manufacturers were required by the FCC to unblock this feature in cellphones it would benefit the radio industry.

In a separate news release Alfred Liggins, President and CEO, Urban One said, "These are terrific general market formats (Best Variety, Country, News and Sports) and will be a great addition to Urban One in a transaction that is accretive and deleveraging." In anticipation of the transaction, Urban One will sell its WHHH station along with the intellectual property related to WNOW to a third party.

This acquisition is a bit of good news for Urban One, as the company faces an uphill battle as they  continue efforts to build a casino first in Richmond, but now may look to Petersburg, Virginia. Voters in Richmond rejected the referendum in last November's election. Nonetheless, City Council and Urban One are fighting for a second referendum that seems to have been rejected before it gets a chance to be voted on.

Emmis Communications today announced an agreement to sell its Emmis Indianapolis radio stations to Urban One, pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission.

The sale includes B105 (WYXB 105.7FM), HANK FM (97.1FM), The Fan (93.5FM and 107.5FM), WIBC (93.1FM) and Network Indiana.

“When Emmis launched our first station, WENS now HANK FM, in 1981, I never could have envisioned the journey we would go on. Indianapolis is my hometown, and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish – we’ve become an invaluable contributor to the Indianapolis community, a leader of radio industry initiative and innovation, and a trusted resource for Central Indiana listeners and businesses,” said Jeff Smulyan, founder and chairman of Emmis.

Smulyan noted that Urban One has deep media experience, including lengthy experience as an Indianapolis radio and television operator, significant resources, and a commitment to local radio.

In recent years, Emmis has sold many of its media assets and redeployed capital into new ventures which emphasize its sales and marketing experience including: Lencore Acoustics, a leader in high-quality sound masking solutions for commercial applications; Sound That BRANDS, the Los Angeles-based podcasting studio specializing in branded audio content for national advertisers; and Digonex, a leading provider of dynamic pricing solutions for attractions and live entertainment industries. Emmis also operates Indianapolis Monthly magazine and owns two radio station licenses in New York (1190AM and 98.7FM).

Emmis Indianapolis Radio has 77 full-time and 50 part-time employees, all based in the company’s Monument Circle Headquarters.

The sale will close once the transaction receives approval from the FCC, which may take several months. Until that time, Emmis will continue to own and operate the stations.

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