Yesterday, AllAccess.com broke the news that NRC Broadcasting had sold its two Denver FMs, KJAC/102.3 and KCUV/105.5, to Moreland Properties -- owned by none other than automobile pitcher Dealin' Doug Moreland -- for $5 million. Expect them to sound different soon, and to feature a lot of car ads.
Reached this morning, Tim Brown, the man behind NRC, had no comment on the transaction -- and it makes sense that he wouldn't want to go into detail about this turn of events. After all, it marks a sad end for a pair of projects that were once full of promise, only to deteriorate into money pits that epitomize the difficulty old media is having in this new media age.
At the time of "Little Big Man," a 2003 Westword profile, Brown, the son-in-law of Denver gazillionaire (and Random Acts of Kindness Week funder) Phil Anschutz, was rapidly expanding his radio empire, which began with a handful of mountain stations. He paid $15 million for the 102.3 signal -- considered a relative bargain at the time. In addition, he poured heart and soul into an AM music station at 1510 on the dial, which he dubbed KCUV, for "Colorado's Unique Voice."
Brown subsequently moved KCUV to 102.3 FM and operated the Jack-FM format at 105.5. But as the years marched on, revenues ran short, and about a year and a half ago, he reluctantly pulled KCUV's plug in favor of simulcasting Jack-FM on both signals. This move infuriated KCUV fans, and in an interview from this period, Brown sympathized with them.
"We've had a lot of e-mails that have gone from absolute anger to 'What am I going to do now that you're gone? I don't want to listen to commercial radio in Denver anymore.," he said. Then, after a pause, he admitted, "Sometimes, neither do I."
Too bad this cost-saving measure didn't stem the bleeding. In February of last year, Jack-FM laid off the majority of its staff, and Brown was downcast about the direction of the industry.
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"I don't know if I see any bright spots in the future yet," he said then. "I want to believe that radio will come back, along with all media. Radio, television, newspapers: We're all sort of going through it at the same time. For us, it's doing what we can do to survive the economic storm we're in -- and if things improve, we'll be hiring again. And obviously, the first people we'll be calling are the people we had to let go today."
Such a day never came, and given the continued radio downturn, Brown's probably fortunate to get $5 million from Moreland for the two stations, even if the amount is a third of what he paid for just one of them a little over six years ago. Note that Colorado Public Radio has been trying to unload its 1340 AM signal for more than a year and a half, with no takers.
NRC still owns that batch of mountain stations, but its Denver expansion has contracted once and for all. What more is there to say about that?