Curtis Media Group History

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Founded in 1968...

Founded in 1968 by Don Curtis, the Company's first venture was into the field of cable television, a relatively new industry at the time. Curtis was 25, but nonetheless, was able to put together an investor group to back the new operation. In rapid order, the Company obtained franchises in numerous North Carolina cities including Gastonia, Bessemer City, Lowell, Stanley, Belmont, Mount Holly, Valdese, Linconton, Dunn, Erwin, Lumberton, Rockingham, and Hamlet. Shortly after construction was finished in Gastonia, the Company was acquired by Carolina Telephone Company. These systems were later developed and are now a part, after several more mergers, of America Television and Communications. The original investors in the cable venture received a 10 for I return on their investment in just over 13 months.

Meanwhile, the Company had received a construction permit from the FCC to build its first radio station, a 500 watt AM daytimer in Cherryville, NC. This station, WCSL, went on the air in June 1968. By August, the Company had purchased WEWO AM/FM in Laurinburg and WPXY in Greenville, as well as filed an application for another new station in Mebane, NC. After three years of successful operation, WCSL and WPXY were sold in the first steps toward moving into larger markets.

 

The 70's...

In 1974, the Company upgraded WEWO-FM to 100,000 watts of power and subsequently located the tower about halfway between Laurinburg and Fayetteville. With the change of call letters to WSTS-FM and establishment of a separate identity and format, the Company became a trendsetter in the transformation of FM stations from "tag-alongs" to profit centers. The station's success was almost instantaneous, and in rapid order, the Company disposed of its remaining daytime-only station in Mebane, and purchased AM-FM facilities in Thomasville-High Point and Whiteville-Tabor City.

During the late 1970's and early 1980's both WSTS-FM and its sister station, WEWO- AM, achieved distinction as one of the nationís top billing and most profitable small-market combinations. Based in a county of only 35,000, the station's billing rose from just over $200,000 to nearly a million dollars within five years. At the time of its sale in 1984, it was believed to be the nation's most profitable small market operation. Purchased for $150,000 in 1968, WEWO and WSTS were sold to Durham Corporation, a 600 million dollar holding company, for a package of publicly traded stock and cash worth in excess of $3.2 million, in a tax free exchange of stock. As a result of this and subsequent acquisition of stock, Company President, Don Curtis, became one of the largest stockholders in Durham Corporation, whose holdings at that time included Durham Life Insurance and Durham Life Broadcasting, which operated WPTF-AM, WQDR-FM, and WPTF-TV in Raleigh in addition to the Laurinburg stations.

Under Durham Life Broadcasting, WSTS-FM continued to set records while WEWO- AM continued to do well in face of a general decline in AM station profitability. This is a tribute to the strong foundation built by Mr. Curtis during his period of ownership.

The 80's...

As part of the Durham Life Broadcasting acquisition of the Laurinburg stations, Don Curtis became an officer of that company. He spent two years reorganizing and rebuilding Durham Life Broadcasting, taking the company from a deficit of nearly $300,000 to a profit in excess of $1.7 million. This was a turnaround of nearly $2 million in just under two years. During this two-year period of time, WPTF finished first in the Arbitron ratings twice, including a 15.4 share in any single rating period. Meanwhile, WQDR finished second in the Arbitron ratings in two of the three rating periods under Curtis's direction. After a difference of opinion with the Company's Board of Directors over the future development and growth of Durham Life Broadcasting, Curtis returned to the full-time development of Curtis Radio Group.

In 1986, the Company was renamed Great American Media, and acquired WDUR- WFXC in the Raleigh-Durham market and WMBL-WHRT in the Morehead City-Atlantic Beach market. Also, in 1986, the Company acquired WTAB-WYNA in the Whiteville-Tabor City market, and through an affiliated company acquired WIAM- WSEC in Williamston. The latter station was sold to a minority stockholder shortly after its acquisition. Meanwhile, the Morehead City facility upgraded its FM station from 3,000 watts of power to 50,000, which enabled it to compete in the Greenville- New Bern-Jacksonville market, now the Nation's 80th market.

In September 1987, Great American Media sold the Durham stations (WDUR-WFXC) for $6.5 million, just 18 months after purchasing these properties for $2.8 million. By December of that same year, the Company has purchased WKTC-WCPS. Licensed to Tarboro, the 104.3 frequency involved in this transaction was sold to Osborn Communications in a stock-for-stock transaction valued at more than $4 minion., As a result, Great American Media acquired ownership of nearly 3 % of Osborn's group of stations. Osborn and its affiliated companies operate stations in Jacksonville, FL, Nashville, TN, Syracuse, NY, San Francisco, CA, Dayton, OH, Detroit, MI, and other cities.

Meanwhile, the Company purchased WEQR and WGBR for $3.2 million. The call letters and programming from the 104.9 operation, which were retained in the Osborn transaction, were then transferred to the 96.9 frequency and renamed WKTC. With 100,000 watts off a 1,000 foot tower, WKTC serves an area of over 15 counties from Durham to the Coast.

The 90's...

Then, in 1990, after the FCC had relaxed the rules regarding duopoly ownership, the Company acquired WPCM-WBBB. This provided another 100,000-watt FM station in WPCM, enabling the Company to match it up with WKTC and thus form the Country Combo, the FM/FM combo in the Triangle.

Along the way, the Company sold its Morehead City operating (for $1.5 million) in order to concentrate more of its management and financial resources on development of stations in larger markets.

In 1991, the Company changed its name to Curtis Media Group and completed its largest transaction, purchasing the radio division of Durham Life Broadcasting, in a complex cash-stock transaction. The transaction was valued at $9 million and included the purchase of WQDR, a 100,000 watt FM in Raleigh; WPTF, the 50,000 watt heritage AM in Raleigh; WMXF, a 50,000 watt FM serving Fayetteville (renamed WAZZ with a change to the Oldies format in June 1993); WEWO, a 5,000 watt AM serving Laurinburg; and the Southern Farm Network, a 15 station radio Ag Network serving Eastern North Carolina.

Beginning in 1995 when the FCC relaxed the rules regarding ownership of multiple stations in a single market, the Curtis Media Group devised a plan to concentrate on having 5 or more stations in each market. To accomplish that goal, the company has sold WAZZ-WEWO-WFLB in the Fayetteville, Laurinburg market and WTAB-WYNA in Tabor City and has purchased WKIX in Raleigh/Durham, WFMC-WEQR in Goldsboro, WEQQ in Rock Mount-Wilson, and WCHL in Chapel Hill. A total of more than $18 million was involved in these purchases.

In 1999, Curtis Media group purchased WRDT-AM (now WDOX) and WCLY.

The Next Decade...

In early 2003 WRDT began a simulcast with WDNC to become DNC Radio, the Triangle's second news/talk station.

In April 2003 "LaLey 96.9 FM" began broadcasting with a Spanish format, the largest station of its kind, 100,000 watts, between New York and Miami. LaLey offers full service music and news to the growing Latino community in North Carolina.

In 2004, Curtis Media Group purchased WYRN-AM & WHLQ-FM in Louisburg, NC from the Evans family.

February, 2006 WSJS-WSML and WMFR in the Greensboro, Winston, Salem, High Point market were purchased from CBS Corporation.

On March 1, 2009, Curtis Media Group completed its purchase of a six station cluster of radio stations serving the Boone-Blowing Rock-Beach Mountain area of North Carolina. The stations were purchased from Aisling Broadcasting for $2,325,000. The group includes Country Music WMMY (FM), Adult Contemporary WERC (FM), Rock formatted WZJS, along with News Talk WXIT, Community Programed stations WATA Boone, and WERC-AM, Newland. The company has also purchased www.GoBlueridge.net, a full service internet on line service.

Curtis Media Group purchased the North Carolina News Network from Capitol Broadcasting in September, 2009.

In October 2012, CMG purchased WELS AM & FM in Kinston. NC.