CBS Acquires WFSI, To Launch All-News On 99.1

CBS News AllNews 99.1 WNEW NewsRadio WLZL 107.9 WFSI El Zol Family Radio Stations

Update 1/22: 99.1 WNEW went live with its News programming with a soft launch at 12pm today.

INSTANT INSIGHT: CBS handled the launch of WNEW perfectly. They didn’t think they were ready for their original Thursday debut, so held off until ready. Now by launching ahead of their announced 5am debut, they have 17 hours to iron out any kinks before the publicized launch. The first anchor heard on-air was Cheryl Simone, a veteran of the format from sister WINS New York who knows exactly how the new programming should sound. Unlike recent launches by Merlin Media and Radio-One, CBS has experience with the all-news format and should come out firing on all cylinders right out of the gate against Hubbard’s WTOP.

Update 1/17: Due to some last minute engineering issues, CBS has postponed the launch of 99.1 WNEW’s News programming to Monday, January 23.

On another note, after failing to procure the CBSWashington.com domain from WTOP, CBS has acquired CBSDC.com and will be using that brand for its local Washington site.

Update 1/3: CBS has released all the details on the launch of 99.1 WNEW.

The station will debut on Thursday, January 19 at 5:00am. The daily anchor lineup is described in CBS’ press release as:

Bill Rehkopf and Amy Morris weekday mornings from 5am to 10am. Rehkopf most recently hails from Pittsburgh heritage news station KDKA, and prior to that served as the News Director of WPOC in Baltimore. Morris has anchored 1500 AM WFED in the DC area since 2005, having previously served as general assignment reporter for WTOP.

Jenny Glick and Chas Henry mid-days from 10am to 2pm. Glick joins WNEW from WBAL-AM in Baltimore where she was a lead news anchor. Henry comes to WNEW with a well-established reputation having reported for ABC-7, News Channel 8, plus reporting and anchoring for WTOP.

Evan Haning and Nancy Lyons afternoons from 2pm to 7pm. Haning is a long-established DC news anchor having worked for WTOP for nearly a decade and WRC-AM prior to that for over a decade. Lyons is locally known, as well, having most recently worked with NPR anchoring the hourly newscasts for Weekend All Things Considered.

Sarah Jacobs and Cheryl Simone evenings 7pm to 12am. Jacobs joins WNEW from the Baltimore radio market where she has spent the past 12 years. Simone hails most recently from WIOD in Miami, however she may be best known for the decade she spent anchoring at 1010 WINS in New York.

Update 12/12: 99.1 has dropped its simulcast of “El Zol 107.9” and has begun stunting with Christmas Music and teasers for the new News format. With the move, 107.9 is now operating under the WLZL calls, while 99.1 has claimed its reserved WNEW-FM ID.

Update 12/1: The first shoe dropped today as CBS began its LMA of 107.9 and began simulcasting “El Zol” at 99.1 and 107.9. The simulcast will last through the month of December until the launch of the new News format on 99.1 at a date in January to be announced.

The move has also triggered a call letter shuffle as CBS and Family Stations get the calls they want where they want. As of today the following changes have taken place.

107.9 Annapolis was WFSI now WBGR (will become WLZL)
860 Baltimore was WBGR now WFSI
1580 Morningside was WHFS now WNEW (will likely regain WHFS calls when WNEW moves to 99.1)
106.3 Jupiter, FL was WNEW now WHFS (will likely become WBGR or gain new calls)

On another note, Hubbard has quietly deleted four of the domains it registered last month to tweak CBS. 991News.com, AllNews99.com, AllNews991.com, and News991.com are once again available for registration by any party. Still redirecting to Hubbard’s WTOP is the more important CBSWashington.com.

Update 11/20: CBS has made the first moves towards establishing a brand for its new 99.1 and in doing so will be restoring former New York calls to prominence.

WNEW, which was banished to West Palm Beach in January 2007 following the rebranding of WNEW New York as “Fresh 102.7” will be the call letter brand for CBS’ news operation in Washington. A request was made on Friday to move the WNEW calls to 1580 WHFS as temporary location before moving to 99.1. CBS also registered 991WNEW.com, WNEW991.com, and WNEWNews.com for the new station.

These registrations follow Hubbard Radio’s registrations of CBSWashington.com and various News991.com domains to redirect to WTOP.

Original Report 11/16: CBS Radio has announced it has acquired 107.9 WFSI Annapolis, MD from Family Stations for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition will trigger a shift in programming as Spanish CHR “El Zol” 99.1 WLZL will move to 107.9 on Thursday, December 1 via LMA. 99.1 which has just changed its City of License to Bowie, MD will flip to All-News in January 2012 taking on Hubbard Broadcasting’s WTOP.

“CBS RADIO’s history in all-news is rich in tradition and recognized nationwide for its excellence,” said Dan Mason, President and CEO of CBS Radio in the Press Release. “There is no one more regarded in this field, nor anyone with the journalistic expertise and capability to put forth a product with such instant credibility. We have perfected this format over many decades and we’re thrilled to expand the options for the D.C. community who have a distinct passion for news.”

Robert Sanchez, currently Assistant Director of News & Programming at WCBS New York has been named Program Director of the new station. Former WTOP News Director Michelle Komes-Dolge will be News Director.

No word yet on the fate of Family Radio’s 106.9 WKDN Camden/Philadelphia which was also rumored to be acquired by CBS.

Family Radio’s programming will continue to be heard in the Baltimore market on 750 WBMD and 860 WBGR, which were acquired from CBS in 2005.

INSTANT INSIGHT: It is a no brainer for CBS to take on WTOP head-on. WTOP was the #1 biller in the country last year and continues to dominate the ratings in Washington. If any market can sustain two all-news stations outside New York it is Washington. CBS already runs seven All-News stations across the country along with a few more Full Service News/Talkers with All-News programming blocks. It’s quite a surprise its taken this long for them to add Washington to that list.

99.1 will have the added benefit of having a city grade signal in much of the Baltimore market.

Which brings us to what we don’t understand about this move. During its run as “El Zol” on 99.1, the station wasted its coverage in the Baltimore market, especially the very affluent counties in between Baltimore and Washington. In the 90’s, 99.1 as Modern Rock WHFS garnered a 3 to 4 share in both markets. El Zol continues to generate good ratings in Washington, but is a non-factor in Baltimore. 107.9, due to an adjacent station on 107.7 in Manassas, VA is more reliant on the Baltimore market and those counties in-between the two cities. It’s a clear waste of 107.9 to focus it on just Washington where its signal will not be strongest. Would be a great spot for a Classic Hits station targeting both cities.

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