Is this 1997 or 2017? A major radio merger just closed and Alternative has once again become the format du jour.
Entercom spent their first day following the closing of its CBS Radio acquisition with nearly hourly announcements that included four (maybe five?) format changes as it quickly made its mark on its newly acquired properties. The moves included the expected launch of Alternative in Dallas and New York and the unexpected move of WJMK Chicago to Classic Hip-Hop.
The first move took place minutes after the deal closed as Country 97.3 KSON San Diego moved to 103.7, while low-rated CHR “Energy 103.7” KEGY then relaunched on 97.3 the following Monday. The move helps KSON remain audible in the northern suburbs of the city as its former simulcaster 92.1 KSOQ-FM had been divested to keep Entercom under the ownership caps. KEGY remains one of three CHRs in the market and now being on a lesser signal will not help it against iHeartMedia’s “Channel 93.3” KHTS-FM and Local Media of San Diego’s “Z90.3” XHTZ. Rumors do persist that 97.3 will flip to Sports by the start of the 2018 baseball season in late March to serve as home to the San Diego Padres.
The big tremors began early on Friday morning as “92.3 Amp Radio” morning hosts Shoboy and Nina said farewell to the station minutes before its 10am move to Alternative “Alt 92.3“. An hour later the same exact change took place in Dallas as “Amp 103.7” KVIL became “Alt 103.7“. The moves filled the gaping format holes in markets #1 and #5,
While it had been one year and one day since Dallas last had the format available and eliminated one of three CHRs in that market, in many ways this is the first time New York has a station in the format with full ownership support. CHR “Z100” WHTZ and Rock 102.7 WNEW both flirted with the format in the early/mid 1990’s but never went all the way. “92.3 K-Rock” famously went from Classic Rock to what at that time was called Alternative in January 1996, but in many ways that was the beginning of the end for the broad version of the format that existed up until then. Being paired with Howard Stern led to the station dropping many female friendly artists and the rise of the Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock era of Rap/Rock and the eventual launch of the Modern AC format for the female friendly Pop/Alternative artists. Only the placeholder “New Rock 101.9” from July to October 2012 with zero marketing or promotional support gave the market a true Alternative station.
After over two decades the format has finally come full circle. There is a strong pop contingent to the format (we even have a current artist whose birth name is Sarah McLaughlin), bands like Imagine Dragons and Walk The Moon crossing over to the top of the pop charts, and Beck, Foo Fighters and Weezer with current singles out. The New York version is even going out of its way to ensure at least two female fronted songs per hour to assist with building a broader audience.
Here’s “Alt 92.3” at 3pm on Tuesday, November 21:
- The Lumineers – Angela
- Smashing Pumpkins – 1979
- Alice Merton – No Roots
- Blink 182 – I Miss You
- Hozier – Take Me To Church
- Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right (To Party)
- Dirty Heads – Vacation
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Snow (Hey Oh)
- Walk The Moon – One Foot
- Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
- Sublime – Badfish
- Foster The People – Sit Next To Me
- Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World
- Alex Clare – Too Close
- Lit – My Own Worst Enemy
- Halsey – Bad At Love
- The Killers – Somebody Told Me
Which brings us to the Chicago shocker. While “K-Hits 104.3” WJMK was one of three Classic Hits stations in the market, by no means was it failing compared to the others. WJMK was at a 2.4 share, which tied it with “87.7 MeTV-FM” WRME-LP and put it a shade behind 94.7 WLS-FM‘s 2.8 share, it also had the highest cume of the three. When the station first launched in 2011, we first predicted the station would focus on the songs that sister CHR “B96” WBBM-FM broke in the late 80s and early to mid-90s. It only took six more years and another change for that to come true (but also to a later era of B96 when it leaned more towards Hip-Hop and away from the Dance lean it had). The new “104.3 Jams” positions itself right in-between iHeartMedia’s Urban 107.5 WGCI and Urban AC “V103” WVAZ as well has having crossover appeal that should give it a huge boost out of the gate.
But then what? We’ve already seen many of these Classic Hip-Hop stations crash and burn. On the same day WJMK made the move in Chicago, Cumulus pulled the plug on the format in Indianapolis on a station that had gone worst to first just three years ago. Entercom has Rhythmic Hot AC’s in both San Francisco and Seattle that could serve as templates as to where “104.3 Jams” can evolve as a flanker to WBBM-FM if it decides not to just take on one of the iHeart stations directly.
Seattle may have been the one market where Entercom’s quick actions did not go over as well as intended. On Friday evening, Country 94.1 KMPS which had just become a sister station to Entercom’s existing Country outlet “100.7 The Wolf” KKWF segued to Christmas Music. At the time nobody seemed to know what that meant for the staff as word spread that they were now out of work before staffers had their status clarified over the weekend. For now it appears the station will return to Country in some form after the holidays, but at what cost? The confusion at best will drive some KMPS listeners to other stations or mediums and at worst may open a door for a competitor to launch a new Country outlet in the market between now and Christmas. Is there really much to gain by becoming the third Christmas station in Seattle as opposed to being the second Country for six weeks?
These moves were accompanied by a five percent cut in commercial inventory and eliminating selling unsold inventory to bulk resellers. In doing Entercom wasted no time showing that it wasn’t going to be keeping the status quo at the now former CBS Radio or even their own properties. After previously stating that CBS Radio had lagged on research in recent years leaving the stations to “fly blind”, Entercom came out with three major market moves that showed they had every intent to not just enter these new markets but to raise their competitive standing.
I once again joined Scott Fybush on the Top of the Tower Podcast to discuss these topics and more.