Entercom Debuts Urban AC “The New 97.7” Boston
The new format is launching with 10,000 songs-in-a-row under Program Director Chris Malone. Malone rejoins Entercom from Cumulus Memphis where he worked middays at Urban AC 103.5 WRBO and served as Imaging Director for Classic Hip-Hop “98.9 The Vibe” WKIM. He begin his career at Entercom Rhythmic AC “Snap 94.1” WSNA Memphis working up from weekends to Assistant Program Director. He also launched Curtis Media Urban AC 96.9 WBZJ Raleigh in 2012 and programmed Entercom’s 97.1 WQMG in 2014-15. It is being consulted by Jay Dixon, Entercom San Francisco Director of Programming and Operations Elroy Smith, and Edison Research VP/Music & Programming Sean Ross.
The Boston market had been without an FM Urban AC since Radio One sold then 97.7 WILD-FM to Entercom in 2006. As Entercom notes in the press release, the 97.7 simulcast was not adding much audience to WAAF (which will now be heard on 97.7 HD2 and 93.7 WEEI-HD3 to fill some of the signal loss). The new format will position WKAF closest to Beasley Rhythmic Hot AC “Hot 96.9” WBQT.
WKAF is seeking talent to fill its airstaff.
In a move to provide the only full-signal, Urban radio format to America’s 10th largest market, Entercom Communications today announced the debut of The New 97.7, Boston’s #1 For R&B. Since 2006, the frequency had been simulcast with the company’s heritage rock station, WAAF 107.3FM, but delivered little appreciable audience beyond the primary station’s booming signal. The present WKAF call letters will remain for The New 97.7 which ends its simulcast with WAAF today at 11:00AM.
Leading the venture is Program Director Chris Malone, recruited from Cumulus Media’s WRBO and WKIM in Memphis. He’s joined in the new station’s brain trust by Urban radio veteran and consultant Jay Dixon, KBLX/KRBQ San Francisco Director of Programming and Operations Elroy Smith, and Sean Ross, VP of Music and Programming, Edison Research. The New 97.7 will launch with 10,000 songs-in-a-row affording listeners a chance to experience the full breadth of the station’s deep playlist for weeks without interruption.
Entercom New England VP/Market Manager Phil Zachary says The New 97.7 fills a massive void for an underserved market. “Boston has a higher concentration of African-American consumers than San Francisco or Los Angeles,” he said, “but no rated Urban signals. The prospect of reaching almost 8% of the population with one radio station in a Top-10 market is almost inconceivable in 2017.”
Malone has been working off-site to prepare the launch and says Boston is long overdue for a station targeting adult Urban listeners. “Urban AC is the most listened-to radio format among African-American consumers in Nielsen’s metered markets, so we expect the audience response to be emotional and immediate. Entercom has given us the research, the talent budget and the marketing resources to become an instant contender with Adults 25 to 54.” Malone says his immediate priority is hiring a local air staff.