Media Explosion in RI - RI PBS Scores $94M, WPRO’s Parent Co. Collapse, Big Projo Changes

Friday, April 14, 2017


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Rhode Island media has probably never seen more upheaval in a single week than this past one. 

What was up, is going down. And what was down just cashed a proverbial winning lottery ticket -- and real questions are emerging about the future of some of the historically leading media.

One company is on its way to being delisted by NASDAQ and got downgraded by Moody’s. And, another is facing more layoffs and buyouts.

SLIDES: See This Week's RI Media Shakeups BELOW


Related Slideshow: Media Explosion in RI - RI PBS Scores $94M, WPRO’s Parent Co. Collapse, Big Projo Changes

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RI PBS Wins Big in the Spectrum Auction

On Thursday in an email to the RI community, RIPBS announced that the public television station had hit pay dirt in the federal frequency auction. 

David Piccerelli told GoLocal that the windfall was as a result of the leadership and perseverance of the late Susie Farmer.

"In a move to secure the future of public television in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, WSBE Rhode Island PBS President David Piccerelli today announced the station's successful participation in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Broadcast Incentive Auction. WSBE Rhode Island PBS will receive $94.4 million to move its signal from its current location to a location lower in the television spectrum."

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Another Big Winner? CW28’s Parent

One of the biggest potential winners in the auction was CW28’s parent company. The CW in Providence is owned by a company - OTA Broadcasting which was launched by billionaire Michael Dell.

Providence stations alone brought in over $158 million in the auction and, overall, the company brought in $440.7 million by selling the frequency broadcast licenses of 10 stations in the U.S.

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WRPO’s Parent Company Downgraded By Moody’s and More

Cumulus Media generates about a billion in sales but due to more than $2.4 billion in debt, the company’s stock continues to plummet -  88 percent since October from $2.40 to $0.27 as close of the market on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Moody’s downgraded Cumulus to Caa2 from Caa1 and issued a negative outlook. In addition, Cumulus was notified by NASDAQ that the company is not in compliance with “listing rules” and has notified the company that it must come into compliance by May 5th.

Locally, WPRO has shaken up its schedule and has recently named Tara Granahan to fill the 9 am to 12 noon time slot previously held by John DePetro. In addition, they have flipped their 6 pm to 9 pm slot from news to local sports. Andy Gresh worked at the cluster about a decade ago when he hosted a sports who on 790 The Score.

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Projo's New Editor, Buyout and Threatened Layoffs

The Providence Journal announced on Thursday that David Butler would be retiring as editor and will be replaced by long-time reporter and editor Alan Rosenberg. In addition, RI Public Radio reported that the paper faces more buyouts and is considering layoffs. 

When posted to Facebook, comments were made that the Providence Journal was only a shadow of itself and more like a “high school newspaper.” 

Newly named Editor Rosenberg fired back on Facebook and wrote, “Read the Journal's coverage of the Trump administration's impact on Rhode Island, or Tom Mooney on medical marijuana and a number of other topics, or Tim Britton and Brian McPherson on the Red Sox. It's far from all being high school sports and police blotter, and that will be true after the buyout as well.”


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