The Christmas/New Year’s season is normally busy for format changes, but with the amount of action (including five PPM market changes in one day) has put the entire radio industry on notice.
While the circumstances behind every change were different, there was one noticeable similarity about many of the new format launches. Escaping younger demographics for older.
We all know that reaching the 18-34 audience has become more difficult for broadcast radio, especially if you are not the heritage player in a market. Lots of words have been written elsewhere about the struggle for radio to reach millennials but has finally come back to hit radio in the wallet where it hurts most.
New AC’s launched in Philadelphia and Tampa. Gold leaning Urban AC in Boston. Adult Hits in Houston. Only Radio One’s flip of 92.1 KROI from Classic Hip-Hop to fill the CHR opening made by CBS, went against the grain in the big markets. The biggest gain for a a format overall was Soft AC which launched in Chattanooga, Columbia MO, Fresno, and Long Island.
With revenues dropping and 18-34’s becoming lost to broadcast radio, the industry is starting to double-down and focus on the audiences it already has. CBS’ “95.7 The Spot” Houston fills the long open Classic Hits void in the market. “Today’s 96.5” Philadelphia will help prop up sister Classic Hits 98.1 WOGL against market leading AC “101.1 More-FM” WBEB. If CBS’ CHR burst of 2008-2010 is over, why should they stop there? A pop leaning 80s/90s hits station like Houston would fill a wide opening in Boston. AC like Philadelphia could flank Classic Hits 104.3 WOMC Detroit. Multiple format options could exist in Orlando and the company has seen 97.1 KAMP Los Angeles and Alternative 106.7 KROQ struggle in the past year.
As AC and Hot AC sounded more like CHR and Oldies was supplanted by Classic Hits, more stations were playing the same songs. The glut made Soft AC a viable option again and allowed 1980s Hits to come back from the dead. Classic Hip-Hop has not proven to have legs in most markets, but radio is showing its desperation to find the next way to keep its 25-54 audience core in place as it says goodbye to the younger audience.
What’s next? Single artist stations as permanent formats as SiriusXM has done? All early 90’s grunge? The return of Jammin Oldies? There’s only so many ways to keep repackaging the same music in different forms.