AM Owners Selling More Tower Sites

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UPDATE The warehouse industry is considering AM radio tower sites as their needs expand. Older AMs often have tower sites sited decades ago, before the urban core grew around them. As land for these tower sites grows more valuable than station revenue, some station owners are selling.

Inside Radio cites Family Radio as an example. The WFME-FM New York owner recently sold its five-acre-tower site to Prologis for $51 million. The industrial area site is located on the border of New York City boroughs Brooklyn and Queens and will be used by the buyer for parking and storage.

Prologis Senior VP Jeremiah Kent told Transport Topics the site is located in one of the most densely populated markets where demand for logistics real estate is high and land is scarce. 

There are 4,560 AMs licensed by the FCC. FCC data shows that since 2000, nearly 400 AM stations have shuttered. The trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic — nearly 80 stations have gone silent this year.

Elon University journalism professor Richard Landesberg told Transport Topics he believes some AM owners are leaving the industry “A lot of AM broadcasters are giving up their licenses. It’s because the licenses aren’t worth much, but the land is valuable,” he said.

New technology and companies have made it easier for stations to sell their tower sites and remain on the air, either by moving to another tower or selling to companies like Vertical Bridge. The company owns or manages 288,000 antenna sites nationwide, giving a broadcaster options for another place to put their transmitter in a market, according to the account.

It is not always a warehouse that occupies former tower sites. Inside Towers reported that Cumulus Media sold its 75-acre site in Bethesda, MD, to luxury home developer Toll Brothers for $75 million. The towers came down in a planned demolition this fall, and the home developer plans to break ground this spring.

The AM station that had been there – WSBN (630 KHz) – is now using towers owned by Vertical Bridge in nearby Germantown, MD, Inside Towers reported.

Salem Media Group has been downsizing its radio station portfolio during the past few years, most recently with a deal to leave the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale market. But CEO Ed Atsinger said last month before he sells more radio stations, he’s more likely to sell towers or real estate, according to Inside Radio.

“It used to be if you owned an AM radio station it was a license to print money. Now, it’s valuable real estate,” said Landesberg. “Whatever land use brings in the most money, then the antenna is coming down.”

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