The Emmis Story

One of the nation’s most respected media companies, Emmis Communications (NASDAQ: EMMS) owns radio, city/regional magazine, online, and mobile operations in large and medium-sized markets throughout the United States.

Emmis is consistently recognized for its unique people-centric culture that emphasizes innovation and creativity. The Company has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” and has been recognized as a Best Place to Work.. Passionate, knowledgeable and deeply committed to each of the communities in which it operates, Emmis promotes a company-wide “Open Door” attitude that encourages the sharing of opinions and perspectives. The company’s logo – a large “e” pushing beyond the boundaries of a box – exemplifies the company philosophy of encouraging unique approaches to solving problems and generating new ideas.

Emmis launched in 1979 when founder and Chairman Jeffrey Smulyan purchased WSVL, a small and largely unused FM station in Shelbyville, IN. From the outset, Smulyan’s intent was to build a tower near Indianapolis and broadcast a competitive signal into the market. After two years of difficulty and delays, Smulyan’s vision was realized when the station went on the air July 4, 1981 with new call letters WENS and the station was an almost instant hit with an adult contemporary format, creative marketing and on-air talent that included David Letterman.

Building on success at WENS, Smulyan and Emmis have gone on to become known as industry innovators. The company created the nation’s first 24-hour all-sports radio station (New York City’s WFAN); the first rhythmic Top 40 station (KPWR 106 in LA); and the first adult classic soul station (KISS-FM in New York). Emmis also became the first company to own the top-rated radio stations in LA and New York simultaneously. The innovations continue today with Emmis being the leading advocate of enabling FM-chips in smartphones and other mobile devices. The Company has developed NextRadio that allows consumers to access interactive, visually appealing FM Radio on smartphones and in the future automobile dashboards. In keeping with its spirit of innovation, Emmis has also seen tremendous growth and creativity from Emmis Digital and Incite, its cause marketing division.

Emmis (the Hebrew word for “truth”) went public in 1994 and now owns and/or operates the 9th largest radio portfolio in the United States based on total listeners. Emmis owns 19 FM and 4 AM radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Austin (Emmis has a 50.1% controlling interest in Emmis’ radio stations located there), Indianapolis and Terre Haute, IN. Emmis Publishing includes Indianapolis Monthly, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Texas Monthly, Los Angeles and Orange Coast magazines.

Company Timeline

  • 2014

    • Feb- Emmis announces acquisition of WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM in New York – $131 million accretive transaction nearly doubles company’s station operating income.
    • Jun- Emmis purchases controlling interest in dynamic pricing company Digonex.


    • Jan- Bulgaria radio interests sold.
    • Feb- Slovakia radio interests sold.
    • Aug- Radio industry delivers FM-enabled smartphone app to consumer.


    • April- Emmis announces LMA with ESPN Radio to provide programming and sell advertising on New York’s 98.7FM. Emmis also entered into a transaction to sell the intellectual property rights of Kiss FM, the current format Emmis programs on 98.7FM, to YMF Media.
    • August- Emmis Acquires Terre Haute’s WSDM-FM/WSDX-AM; Emmis-Terre Haute Moves Into New Facility.
    • October- Emmis sells Emmis Interactive to Marketron.
    • October- Country Sampler sold.


    • Emmis launches Incite, a full-service social impact marketing firm.
    • Emmis completes the transfer of WKQX-FM (101.1 MHz, Chicago, IL), WLUP-FM (97.9 MHz, Chicago, IL) and WRXP-FM (101.9 MHz, New York, NY) to Merlin Media.


    • Greg Loewen named president of Emmis Publishing
    • Radio Expres is largest radio station in Slovakia.
    • Emmis Interactive revenue doubles.
    • WIBC, KSHE, and KROX nominated for Marconi Award.


  • 2009

    • Texas Monthly wind the National Magazine Award for General Excellence.
    • KPWR-FM is one of the 10 largest billing radio stations in the US.
    • Emmis’ Hungarian National Radio station taken off the air.


    • Emmis Interactive becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Emmis Operating Company and begins marketing its services to radio broadcasters and other local media companies.
    • Eight leading radio companies form a joint venture, the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium, to build a first-of-its-kind nationwide network to distribute traffic data via radio technology. Emmis is a founding member.
    • Emmis sale of WVUE-TV in New Orleans completes the divesture of Emmis’ television division.


    • Emmis purchases Orange Coast magazine.
    • Emmis purchases STAR FM in Bulgaria.


    • Emmis purchases Radio Expres in Slovakia and majority control of Radio Fresh! in Bulgaria.
    • Jeff Smulyan receives the Golden Mike award from the Broadcasters’ Foundation of  America.
    • Emmis declares special $4 cash dividend to common shareholders. Emmis Chairman and CEO Jeff Smulyan requests a $1 salary for the coming year to indicate his commitment to the company and its employees.


    • Emmis begins selling TV assets.
    • Emmis purchases WLUP in Chicago.
    • Emmis purchases majority control of Radio FM Plus in Bulgaria.


    • Emmis purchases KLBJ-AM, KLBJ-FM, KGSR, KROX, KLZT, and KBPA in Austin.


    • Emmis announces the purchase of its 16th TV station, WBPG-TV, the WB affiliate in Mobile/Pensacola.


    • Emmis stock splits 2-for-1.
    • Emmis purchases KIHT, KPNT and KFTK in St. Louis.
    • Emmis purchases Los Angeles magazine.


  • 1999

    Liberty Media purchases 2.7 million shares of Emmis for approximately $150 million. Emmis purchases Country Sampler magazine.


    Emmis forges into television business by acquiring 6 TV stations. Emmis purchases radio stations WRXP in New York, WHTI and WWVR in Terre Haute. Emmis Broadcasting changes name to Emmis Communications Corporation. Emmis moves to new worldwide headquarteres on Monument Circle, Indianapolis. Emmis purchases Texas Monthly.


    Emmis enters the world of international radio when the company is awarded a license to operate a new national radio network in Hungary — Slágur Rádió. Emmis purchases WXYB in Indianapolis, and Cincinnati Magazine.


    Emmis becomes the first company to own top-rated stations in New York and LA simultaneously. Jeff Smulyan voted one of the 10 most influential radio executives of the past two decades by top radio industry publication, R&R.


    Emmis becomes a public company (EMMS: NASDAQ). Emmis WIBC and WFNI-AM in Indianapolis and WRKS in New York.


    Emmis purchases Atlanta magazine.


  • 1988

    Emmis enters world of Publishing with the purchase of Indianapolis Monthly. Emmis purchases WQHT in New York and WKQX in Chicago.


    Emmis purchases KPWR in Los Angeles and KSHE in St. Louis.


    WENS (formerly WSVL, currently WLHK) goes on the air with and adult contemporary format.


    Emmis (the Hebrew word for “truth”) incorporated in Indiana


  • 1970

    Jeff Smulyan and friends purchase WSVL in Shelbyville.