The four station format shuffle that iHeartMedia pulled off yesterday may have caught many off-guard but the pieces started coming together over six years ago.
In 2009, then Clear Channel rounded out their Seattle cluster with the acquisition of CHR “Kiss 106.1” KBKS Tacoma/Seattle as part of a seven station swap with CBS Radio. That deal at the time gave Clear Channel full control of the younger demographics in the market as KBKS joined Rhythmic CHR 93.3 KUBE in their holdings.
That monopoly ended up leading to the demise of both stations as they were known. In 2010, Sandusky (now part of Hubbard) flipped “Movin 92.5” KQMV to Rhythmic leaning CHR and the station quickly became not just the dominant CHR in the market, but the dominant station in the market. In the last Nielsen Audio ratings released before the flips yesterday, KQMV was leading the Seattle market with a 6+ share of 7.4 and second in Cume to its Christmas music aided sister AC “Warm 106.9” KRWM.
The rise of KQMV first pulled the younger demographics from both stations. They were then hit with the August 2013 launch of Rhythmic Hot AC “Hot 103.7” by Entercom. That station attacked the upper end of KUBE leaving it vulnerable on both ends.
Which brings us to what iHeart pulled off yesterday. With KQMV becoming the dominant player in the market and the KUBE and KBKS brands weakened in recent years, instead of trying to fix the problems with KUBE particularly iHeart went for the nuclear solution blowing up 4 of the 6 stations in its Seattle operations in some form.
“Power 93.3” places a new Top 40 brand on the adjacent signal to 92.5 for those listeners that still utilize the seek button in their car. Power is matching Movin by bringing in an airstaff that will be based locally but also much younger than the hosts on that station. Former Elvis Duran Show members Carla Marie and Anthony in mornings, middayer Kat Fisher and newly announced afternoon host Kwame Dankwa are all in their twenties. The upstart KQMV is now the established power and iHeartMedia is going to attack them the same way Movin hurt KUBE and KBKS.
KBKS still has an established morning show led by Bender Cunningham who has been on the station since 2001. By shifting the station to Hot AC it keeps it around as a flanker to Power to go after KQMV’s older demographics as well as going further after Hubbard Modern AC “Click 98.9” KLCK, Sinclair’s “Star 101.5” KPLZ and KHTP. Kiss-FM no longer needs to dominate in 18-34 or 25-54, but rather just be a solid performer in-between Power 93.3 and sister Classic Hits “95.7 The Jet” KJR-FM.
The other two FM’s involved in the shuffle are rimshots that only reach the southern end of the market. The elimination of Hot AC “Now 102.9” KYNW was necessitated by the shift of KBKS to that format. Eliminating “Boobs Based Active Rock” “104.9 The Brew” KKBW’s 0.3 share for a more accessible Alternative format on 102.9 should help grow the format’s share and attack some shares from Entercom’s “107.7 The End” KNDD. iHeart will also utilize the resources of former KNDD PD Mike Kaplan and afternoon host Harms who both work for the company in Los Angeles.
The odd move is the repositioning of KUBE as a Tacoma based station on 104.9. The station’s signal barely reaches Tacoma (Coverage Map), but comes across as the company hedging its bets and keeping the strong KUBE brand heritage alive. Retaining two local on-air personalities for the station is a nice sign of support, but in reality this station will be struggling to generate a 0.5 share and it will likely be a matter of time before more syndicated or premium choice content is plugged in or the stations moves in yet another direction.
Which brings us to how iHeart handled the moves yesterday. The company ‘s intents to keep most of the moves secret worked out as the domain registrations outside of Alt1029.com were not made until after the launch. Everything else surrounded by the launches on the digital and on-air side was not done as smoothly.
Station websites began showing the new logos an hour before the flips took place. The launch of Power 93.3 made no reference to KUBE’s move to a new frequency as the station went into a stopset promoting KUBE’s 12pm programming feature and out of it with a new format, nor has any mention of the move been made in the 24 hours since on social media. In fact iHeart didn’t claim all the new brands quick enough leading to KQMV making posts like this:
Other stations might move around, but there's only one @MOViN925!
— MOViN 92.5 (@KUBE1049) January 19, 2016
Great, relevant content! https://t.co/OHOOyWshKN
— MOViN 92.5 (@KUBE1049) January 20, 2016
KUBE’s Facebook page has only made one generic post since the move, yet while bombarded with listener comments about it has not made any statement on where to listen failing to promote 104.9 or the iHeartRadio app.
On the Alt 102.9 Facebook page, the new midday host for the station who had been heard on The Brew is telling a listener that the station may not sound the same in 10 days or 10 weeks. What a great way to instill confidence in a new brand to listeners let alone advertisers!
Personally, I would’ve stunted on 93.3 over the three day Martin Luther King holiday weekend to generate attention. Find something that would’ve gained local attention to the heritage KUBE brand promoting the next evolution of the station to come on Tuesday at 12pm. At that time announce that KUBE has moved to Tacoma on 104.9 and introduce “Power 93.3” to a market that has been now been told to expect something. Instead the moves were made with a whimper and the stations will need to work extra harder to generate attention.