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The Spy Returns To Oklahoma Again

91.7 KOSU Stillwater Oklahoma City 107.5 KOSN Tulsa Oklahoma State University NPR The Spy Ferris O'Brien ClassicalThe station that doesn’t know how to stay dead is rising again in Oklahoma.

Alternative “The Spy” aired on 105.3 Kingfisher/Oklahoma City from 2002 to 2004 and again from January 2009 to March 2011 before a sale gone awry led to the demise of the format on-air, however it has continued online at TheSpyFM.com. Now the Spy will get a third life on-air.

Oklahoma State University’s 91.7 KOSU Stillwater/107.5 KOSN Ketchum/Tulsa will drop its nighttime Classical programming in favor of the Alternative format provided by the webcaster. Spy programming will air nightly from 7pm to 5am and on Sundays from 10am to 12pm with the specialty “Toaster Brunch” Jamaican music program.

KOSU will continue its regular NPR News/Talk programming the remainder of the day, while Classical will be heard on KOSU-HD2.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

34 Comments


  1. It will be sad to see KOSU drop the classical music format at night. I hope that Ferris donated plenty of $$ to NPR/KOSU for the air time. I hope this format does not last long here in Oklahoma City.


  2. That’s nice that the Classical programming will be heard on HD-2 however I have NEVER seen an HD radio. Every store that I have gone to for some reason does not carry them.


  3. I wish that the Buzz or 95X would come back to OKC.


  4. David, this is a content partnership. Ferris didn’t buy his way in.

    The classical is carried on their HD2 station and online still. And, there’s still KCSC.


  5. As Roger put it I have never seen HD radio either. I guess that’s a place for current formats to go and fade away. Too bad K-SPY couldn’t make HD-2 their permanent home. KCSC classical usually doesn’t sound as crisp as KOSU.


  6. Back in 2003 Spy Rock was simulated on all OKC Citadel Stations during Christmas. Yet that awesome stunt wasn’t enough to keep them a permanent fixture. I suggest they keep it an online station and start a nationwide marketing campaign. Maybe that way someone out there would appreciate all of Farris’s hard work and dedication.


  7. My family donates plenty to KOSU, mainly for the Classical music. I doubt we will continue to donate after they replace real master pieces with Spy Rock. I am not sure what KOSU is thinking, by replacing Classical with a format that has proven it self to be a failure multiple times over.

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      First of all as its been stated, KCSC will continue to program Classical in Oklahoma City.

      The Spy program will open up the station to a broader audience than being the second Classical station in town at night. There is no home for Alternative Rock in the market. The Spy has built a loyal audience online that will easily transfer to the FM’s evening programming and bring potentially more donors to the station.

      Is it quite possible that your family is one of the few donors their Classical programming is providing and KOSU believe they have a way to make more money for the station?

      And regarding the Spy format failing, it was on a rimshot signal that barely covered the market yet still built a loyal core audience twice. The management of the station had a deal in place to acquire the signal that went bad, otherwise they’d still be on the air there.


      • I doubt the demographic that would be most interested in Spy Rock will be KOSU’s greatest contributors

        • Profile photo of Lance Venta


          Considering there is competition from a fulltime Classical competitor, what is there to gain from duplicating programming part time?

          KOSU now has another exclusive niche in the market along with its NPR News/Talk programming. The move will strengthen both KOSU and KCSC.


        • Because you have in depth knowledge of this demographic, what ever you perceive that to be correct? Or are you just citing an opinion based on nothing more than teh fact you will not even listen to any shows with the word alternative in them?

          Just think, now you can send that money to Amazon and Apple and download all your classical desire (btw I enjoy classical as well).


  8. The Spy is just using KOSU for exposure. They have a strong online presents.

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      I think this line in KOSU’s announcement sums it up.

      KOSU is implementing its new program schedule after spending the first half of 2012 gathering feedback from listeners through conversations and surveys, as well as through a thorough internal review of the many challenges the station faces to survive

      http://kosu.org/2012/08/kosu-teams-up-with-the-spy/


  9. The article says nothing too profound. If the spy format was just this huge success, 93.7 KSPI, the original Spy, would have never dropped the format in the first place and every station in town would want to create their own version.


  10. This could be challenging…If I donate to KOSU will proceeds go to fund THE SPY in any way?

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      Of course they would. The Spy is getting reimbursed by KOSU for providing programming to it.


  11. interesting that ONLY the clueless x-Citadel, now Cumulus glass office hush puppy wearing corporate radio general manager has ONLY ever refered to THE SPY as Spy Rock or K SPY… also interesting how “he” seems to be overly obsessed with Ferris and The Spy (i have seen the latest ratings & seems like he should be more concerned with why NO ONE is listening to his plain jane, same 40 songs, no matter the format, car commerical radio stations)… maybe its the FACT that a little dj and a little radio station with a loyal following, BEAT him, & it still cuts him deep… karma is a bitch


  12. Tom – This deal sounds like a lot of invested interest to me. We donate to KOSU, in turn KOSU pays SPY ROCK for content. SPY ROCK will promote their streaming service; therefore we pay for SPY ROCK to advertise their web page on KOSU.


  13. It’s been 12 years since KSPI switched formats, but wasn’t it a sale or program director change that preceeded the flip?


  14. We donate to KOSU, in turn KOSU pays Prairie Home Companion for content. Prairie Home Companion will promote their show and personalities, therefor we pay for Prairie Home Companion to advertise their show on KOSU.

    Yep, that’s how public radio works, Tom.


  15. So when The Spy fails will KOSU come back begging us for more donations?

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      Classical will NOT be coming back to KOSU. If you notice the nationwide trend is that NPR stations are splitting News/Talk and Classical into separate stations nationwide. If The Spy programming doesn’t work longterm, KOSU will likely just go all News/Talk.


  16. It is an odd format. NPR paired with SPY ROCK. I would think that NPR paired with soft rock or easy listening would be a better fit. Too bad SPY ROCK couldn’t keep 105.3. The current format is just as awful.

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      Both formats actually have a similar 25-54 base that should reach similar affluent audiences. If you’re comparing the Spy to say any form of Rock that 94.7 has programmed because of the Rock connotation, you couldn’t be more off. The Spy is more of a current based AAA, which is a format that is very complimentary to the NPR News/Talk format.


  17. It would be interesting to see what the outcome would be if KOSU played a commercial sampling classical music and SPY music, put it up to an online vote to see which one would win. It’s interesting I did not even know that a change was in the works.

    • Profile photo of Lance Venta


      That wouldn’t prove anything. The current audience would be in place to vote up the Classical.

      Fact of the matter is, KOSU sees more room for growth with Indie and Alternative Rock than it does with Classical. With an additional full time Classical station in the market its easy to see why before you don’t even get into the demographic arguments. Classical skews much older. This will enable the station to grow its audience in 25-54 and hopefully get the donations to go along with it.


  18. These comments are hysterical and it’s pretty clear that these grumps work in the local radio market and are scared of what’s coming, which is independent, original programming that people actually want to listen to in two, count them TWO major markets, each with a 100,000 watt tower. KOSU and The Spy are going to be wildly popular and is guaranteed to draw listeners from all the local music stations, not to mention advertising dollars. Change is coming folks, KOSU and The Spy are about to change the game of radio in Oklahoma. Oh and by the wayTom, it’s called “The Spy” and not “Spy Rock.”


  19. Firstly, Spy Stillwater never failed. They stayed in the alt/AAA format for at least a decade. They were sold to an out of market company who attempted the format while using a satellite service from Jones Radio at the time with 2 live DJs during the day. Ferris came on board hosting mornings and the owners who were never comfortable with an alt rock format finally decided to take the easy route and go Hot AC.

    Secondly, public radio is facing age and donor concerns that have led many stations (WXPN via HD, The Current, etc.) to see value in younger targeted programming. This actually complements the unique talk and feature programming on NPR and shares similar audience profile. The Spy not only programs alternative music, it has worked with writers, DJs, and artists in the state to create unique Oklahoma centric programming which promotes culture and community – an obvious complement to the public broadcasting mandate. The KOSU/Spy partnership isn’t driven by greed – it’s driven by the logical need of public broadcast to develop more audience and more unique content. Kudos to Ferris and KOSU.


  20. KOSU should refund its sponsors, it’s unethical for a station to solicit funds for an implied format and then drastically change it leaving its supporters high and dry.


    • I hardly consider switching some of the evening programming a “format change.” KOSU’s format is Public Radio, not Classical Radio. As previously mentioned, classical with still be provided on the HD signal with KCSC on the analog signal so classical fans are not high & dry.


    • They solicited feedback from their supporters and stunted for a couple of months before the nighttime programming switch.

      They don’t make the change unless their big supporters mostly agree with it.


  21. So any word on how this format is doing so far?


  22. The Spy lives… and KOSU had a record breaking fall pledge drive.

  23. Profile photo of ebeach


    I wonder how much of that record breaking fall drive money came from “Spy” Listeners?
    For me it really doesn’t matter anymore because I have chosen to listen more and more to Internet Radio. On line I am able to choose programs from a plethora of NPR and PRi programming. I listen to whom and what I want. No longer do I have to have some radio station staff choose programming for me. Yes, I miss the classical music especially in the early evening. No, I do not like alternative and country rock at any hour. When I complained about the change in music format I was told by KOSU staff to listen to KCSC or get an HD radio but getting KCSC is difficult in my area to get a good signal. Because KCSC stays classical I promptly gave a donation to them despite the fact that it is hard to hear them here in my town. I wish KOSU luck but I think they are on their way out. Its not the music format that is their nemesis…. It is the internet. They are not unique.

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