What Should Be Done to Turn Around WABC's Ratings?

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This topic contains 113 replies, has 35 voices, and was last updated by  John Basalla 4 days, 2 hours ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 114 total)
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  • #141816

    Barry
    Participant

    WABC 770 AM has been sliding in the ratings for the past few months. At 1.3 it currently has the lowest overall audience share of any major New York commercial station, except for WEPN FM.
    Now that owner Cumulus has new people at the helm, what can be done to help this legendary station’s ratings rebound from the bottom?

    #141837

    Nathan Obral
    Participant

    Short answer: They can’t do anything.

    Long answer: WABC is in a terrible position of aging demographics and a calcified polemic audience, coupled with years of little investment by ABC, Disney, Citadel and Cumulus. Whatever legacy identity that remained of the station has been stripped away.

    WABC is suffering from a terminal illness, and represents a 50kW millstone around the neck of Cumulus as that company is slowly sliding into bankruptcy.

    Outside of simulcasting any of their FM signals (which would be pointless, as no one would listen) they may as well just keep the format in place. Maybe even broker out the weeknight hours along with the weekends for yet more colon-cleansing infomercials.

    KABC, WLS and KGO are all in the same no-win position. The only Cumulus talker that is actually competitive (that I know of) is WMAL AM/FM.

    Recorded in Ultra Stereo, the ultimately superior cousin to Normal Stereo!

    #141849

    Bruce
    Participant

    Would bringing major sports teams help boost WABC’s ratings? I don’t know the length of the contract for the Knicks and Rangers on ESPN-98.7. WOR’s ratings have improved possibly because they carry the Mets.

    #141851

    elcartero
    Participant

    WJR Detroit, WBAP D/FW and WPRO Providence seem to be doing decently, with ratings consistently in the 3 or 4 range. (Of course, those stations still have Limbaugh, and WJR has Mitch Albom who’s a legend in his market and doesn’t appeal to just the wingers.)

    #141867

    Bill
    Member

    Short answer: They can’t do anything.

    Long answer: WABC is in a terrible position of aging demographics and a calcified polemic audience, coupled with years of little investment by ABC, Disney, Citadel and Cumulus. Whatever legacy identity that remained of the station has been stripped away.

    WABC is suffering from a terminal illness, and represents a 50kW millstone around the neck of Cumulus as that company is slowly sliding into bankruptcy.

    Outside of simulcasting any of their FM signals (which would be pointless, as no one would listen) they may as well just keep the format in place. Maybe even broker out the weeknight hours along with the weekends for yet more colon-cleansing infomercials.

    KABC, WLS and KGO are all in the same no-win position. The only Cumulus talker that is actually competitive (that I know of) is WMAL AM/FM.

    WLS may get a (small) boost, as they will begin a six-year deal as the Chicago White Sox flagship station, in 2016. They will also be the new flagship for the Chicago Bulls beginning with the 2016-17 NBA season.

    #141890

    Mark W.
    Member

    WOR’s weeklong ratings are up in large part because of the Mets’ 2015 success.

    I doubt many of those listeners recycle into the other dayparts, though. Perhaps the recent morning drive changes have helped WOR’s cause, too?

    WABC’s fate in large part is due to Cumulus being run by complete morons who have next to zero understanding of the AM news/talk audience.

    Short of the station being sold to a competently run broadcasting company that knows how to execute major market spoken word radio well *or* iHeart graciously returning Rush & Sean to WABC (won’t happen), the station’s ratings will never improve.

    #141894

    What about a first Oldies station on the AM Dial blanking 50,000 Watts of Oldies ?

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    #141898

    Right now everything at 77 is status quo, mainly due to Cumulus Media having a new CEO. Any programming decisions have to be considered with that in mind.

    Sports? WABC lost out on the Mets and now lost out on the New York Islanders. The NFL is out unless the football Giants decide to leave CBS Radio. Forget about the Rangers and Knicks because Madison Square Garden is close to ESPN New York. Even the colleges want no part of 77.

    Music? Those days are over and they ain’t coming back.

    Oh BTW, WPRO hasn’t carried Rush Limbaugh in Providence for several years.

    #141899

    Nathan Obral
    Participant

    WPRO, as well as WBAL in Baltimore and WWL in New Orleans, all plugged in existing local talent to their midday slots after they each lost the rights to Rush’s show (albeit not at the same time). And guess what? These three stations still hold their own in their respective markets.

    WABC never had that luxury because the majority of their local talent became syndicated back in the Disney era. If there was a local talent bench, it slowly dwindled down to just Mark Simone; thus, when Rush and Hannity both left (Cumulus didn’t want to pay the onerous affiliation fees to carry Rush on WABC, while the Dickeys and Hannity had a genuine falling out) there was nothing of value to replace them.

    WABC’s PD, whomever he/she is, is the ultimate paper tiger. Barely audible octogenarian mumbler Don Imus, Geraldo!, Savage, Levin, Batchelor, “Red Eye Radio” and the inferior WW1 News are all in-house Cumulus/Westwood One product and won’t be dropped. Having Doug McIntryre – a Los Angeles host – anchoring the 5PM hour from LA is cheapness to the nth degree. Curtis and Kuby are apparently still there for atmosphere, and possibly out of sympathy. They could pull in Stanley Spudowski out of the janitors closet, install him as the PD, and the results wouldn’t be that much different.

    Cumulus is a company destined for bankruptcy and insolvency. Their new CEO has no radio experience and is only known for directing Reader’s Digest’s parent company into Chapter 11. It’s going to get really ugly soon.

    BTW, the only way music ever returns to 77 is if Cumulus time-brokers the whole station to a gospel music programmer.

    Recorded in Ultra Stereo, the ultimately superior cousin to Normal Stereo!

    #142152

    MTN Productions
    Participant

    What about a first Oldies station on the AM Dial blanking 50,000 Watts of Oldies ?

    That would be a good idea. Let someone take over and make this station sound like WGNY’s “Fox Oldies”, WROW’s “Magic 590” and WLNG.

    #142156

    Beachguy
    Participant

    AM “Oldies”??? What, to grab the desirable 65+ demographic? There’s not a marketable audience for it.

    #142160

    Look, I get tired of hearing from all the senior citizens on the dentist board pining for oldies to be back on the air, talking about how wonderful those pea-shooter AM stations sound doing it out in the boondocks.

    But… you know, it might not be such a far-fetched idea for WABC.

    There are only a few things you can do on AM radio any more, and even fewer that will attract anyone under 50. The Dickeys missed their opportunity to grab the Mets or put a competitive sports-talk format on the air that might attract a younger audience. CBS Radio obviously has all-news locked up in NYC, and conservative talk has proven to be an expensive failure for WABC.

    Of course 60s-70s oldies would attract an aging audience too, but maybe they’d get enough under-60 listeners to make it worthwhile. I’m younger than that, but old enough to remember AM music stations in the 70s and 80s, and I get a kick out of hearing 60s and 70s music on a station like WMTR out in Morristown NJ when I get out that way. There’s a real nostalgia factor in hearing those songs on AM radio that I think WABC could capitalize on, now that WCBS-FM doesn’t touch those songs any more. The 770 signal booms in the tri-state and they could simulcast it on one of PLJ’s HD Radio subchannels too. I really think they could reach some in their late 40s thru 50s who grew up with AM radios and hacked around with Radio Shack gear who would get it, who would like the music and who could even understand the HD Radio part of it.

    Would it pull in much more than a 2.x share? Maybe not, but I’ll bet it would beat the 1.x WABC has now, and it would be cheaper to program.

    A few years ago I’d have said no way, you can’t put music on AM. But all the FM sources for that genre are gone now, nostalgia done right can be cool, and I think WABC has the signal and the heritage to pull it off.

    Again…what else can they do at this point?

    #142161

    Nathan Obral
    Participant

    AM is deader than dead. If you think that any new format or station on the AM dial will have any shot of success, you are exceptionally naive.

    The large legacy AM stations that are still relevant in their markets – KYW 1060, WLW 700, WGN 720, WTAM 1100 – are only successful because of heritage and listener loyalty. Take away that listener loyalty, and the station is toast.

    Cumulus not only destroyed WABC, but shot KGO in the head and left it for dead. Plus they turned KABC and WLS into worthless mish-mashes of mush that are the respective bottom feeders in their markets.

    There is no way that WABC, WLS, KABC and KGO will ever be anything of relevance. The best option they have is to time-broker all five stations to foreign-language broadcasters or Christian ministries… and selling off their transmitter sites at favorable rates.

    Recorded in Ultra Stereo, the ultimately superior cousin to Normal Stereo!

    #142163

    The problem with that, Nathan, is Cumulus doesn’t own that many signals in Market #1 so I can’t see new CEO Mary Berner wanting to dump her biggest signal, even if it is on AM. I think she’s going to want to do *something* with it. Her whole getting-to-know-you speech was about how programming is the oxygen of Cumulus.

    Then again Cumulus needs to clear those syndicated WW1 hosts in Market #1 so status quo is likely where WABC stays, no matter how bad the ratings.

    #142166

    KABC is far from Cumulus’ biggest signal in Southern California. Their Los Angeles FM is a far superior signal and they also have a cluster in the next market north — Oxnard/Ventura — with three excellent FM signals, a lesser FM signal running Nash Icons, and an all-sports AM.

    All that said, KABC is probably doomed to being all or mostly Westwood One talk programming, and there definitely won’t be “oldies on AM” because they tried that already in Ventura, to no avail.

    I personally think they should get out of any market where they only own two stations and have no hope of getting a third, even if that is market #2.

    K.M. Richards, Creator of "The Eighties Channel"

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