‘Arkansas Rocks’ owner acquiring 16 more radio stations

Arkansas group buying 16 signals

A radio station's "On Air" sign is lit outside the broadcast booth at an FM station in Maynard, Mass., in this Sept. 25, 2006 file photo. (AP/William B. Plowman)

Broadcast Industry Group, LLC, which runs the Arkansas Rocks KLRG 880 AM radio station in Central Arkansas, is acquiring 13 more radio stations and three FM translators from Plainview, Texas-based High Plains Radio Network, LLC.

Included in the purchase are KAFN 690 AM and 99.3 FM in Benton, KWPS-FM 99.7 in Caddo Valley and Hot Springs, KZYP 1310 AM in Malvern, 104.1 FM in Sheridan and Malvern, KVRC 1240 AM and 100.9 KDEL-FM in Arkadelphia, KYXK 106.9 FM in Gurdon and Prescott, and KCMC-FM 94.3 in Viola and Mountain Home.

Other stations include conservative "Mountain Talk 97.1" KJMT in Calico Rock; adult contemporary K92.7 KRZP in Gassville; oldies 1260 AM WGVM in Greenville, Miss.; and 97.3 K247BA in Indianola, Miss.

"For the past five years, we have enjoyed working together under our [local marketing agreement] for many of these stations with [Broadcast Industry Group Owner and Manager] Jay Brentlinger and his company through the darkest hours of covid-19 and now looking toward a bright future moving forward," said Monte Spearman, owner and manager of High Plains Radio Network, in a statement.

The Broadcast Industry Group is also seeking to acquire from Spearman Land & Development Company, LLC (also based in Plainview, Texas) classic country 1360 KFFA in Helena and classic rock "The Mix" 103.1 KFFA-FM in Helena.

The "Arkansas Rocks" stations Brentlinger's group owns include KLRG 880 AM in Sheridan and Little Rock, 94.5 RM K233BF in Greenbrier and Little Rock, KJJI 1190 AM in White Hall and Pine Bluff, and 98.9 FM K255AX in Pine Bluff. The Broadcast Industry Group also owns R&B oldies "The Cat" 1340 AM and 92.7 FM KCAT in Pine Bluff.

Brentlinger said the deal includes $3 million cash payment for all but the two stations in Helena, which are selling for $500,000. He said there are investors and lenders involved in the deal, information about whom will be released in an Federal Communications Commission ownership report after the deal closes.

As with many other forms of media, radio has faced disruption from the popularity of internet streaming. Brentlinger said that his stations are available online and that radio continues to exert dominance in media because of its popularity among motorists.

"As long as radio keeps a foothold in the car, I think the future's bright," Brentlinger said. "Especially since we now embrace metadata, which is what the streaming people put on their websites: album art, visuals for commercials. All those can appear in modern car radios.

"I think there's a lot of people out there who would like to think that radio's going away, but it's showing quite the opposite, that it's still holding. And the latest Nielsen ratings prove that in every market."

If and when the FCC approves the sale, the Broadcast Industry Group will be the second-largest independent radio station owner in Arkansas, up from the six signals it currently owns to 22. A major competitor is iHeartRadio, the largest radio network in the United States. Brentlinger said his approach to advertising differs from theirs, to the benefit of his listeners, ratings and advertisers.

"They believe in putting all their commercials together in one big chunk and doing that once an hour," he said. "I've timed many of them, and I don't know anybody at all who would listen through 12 minutes of commercials. You're not doing your advertisers any favors, either. What if you're the sixth commercial in a 12-minute break? People have long since changed the channel, unless it's just playing in the background."

"The station may have good ratings, because they play 45 minutes of nonstop music. But we do one three-minute break an hour. That's it, and we're going to stick to that. And if we get out-sold, we're just going to start easing the rates up a little bit. I'd rather have the listeners, and I'd rather have it do some good for the advertisers and the sponsors."

Brentlinger said this advertising structure provides enough revenue for the business. This is a shift from radio in the 1990s, when there were three or so commercial breaks an hour, as marketing scientists measured ratings by how many people listened to 15-minute segments.

"If we did get to the point that we were sold out and couldn't raise the rates, we might add another break at 40 or 18-after," Brentlinger said. "It was somebody's great idea that they have all this music, and I love that. But to put in 12 minutes' worth of commercials is crazy."

Twelve of Brentlinger's stations' content will originate from the Broadcast Industry Group studio in Benton. "That doesn't mean that you don't have people go to these cities and meet the people, do the Kiwanis Club meetings and attend the football games. You make yourself part of the community, but you just simply don't have a physical presence in the community except for a transmitter," he said.