Thursday, November 02, 2006

How to Kill a Perfectly Good Radio Station

In an earlier post I lamented the end of MOJO 94.9 FM radio in Cincinnati. Cumulus, who owned it, sold the MOJO format to Radio One who created a new MOJO format on 100.3 FM.

Meanwhile, they simulcast WYGY (96.5 FM) on both 96.5 and 94.9 and announced a format change for the 96.5 frequency. WYGY was moving permanently to 94.9.

Two weeks ago an article appeared in the Cincinnati Post about a possible all-talk format for 96.5.

On Halloween and November 1, 96.5 played 48 hours of nonstop Twilight Zone Radio, half-hour audio dramas adapted from the TV series. Since I'm a fan of audio dramas, I listened all day both days while I was at work. Needless to say, the programs were of the highest of quality and featured name actors. If Cumulus kept 96.5 as an all audio drama format all the time, I would be a dedicated listener.

But no, on November 3 they launched their new format: all talk, all syndicated, all satellite-delivered national radio talk shows. Nothing local. If you want local, go to AM.

Well you know, that's exactly where all the talk stations are. AM. It's where they've always been, and you will find an over-abundance of both national and local talk shows on a variety of stations on Cincinnati's AM dial. There's exactly one local music station, the only place in town you'll find oldies from the 1950s and '60s, 1160 WDJO.

One may ask, why in the world would Cumulus pull such a boneheaded maneuver as putting an all-satellite FM station on the air instead of, oh I don't know, say a station with a music format that isn't presently in Cincinnati?

As I pointed out in an earlier post, radio isn't about the listeners. It's about the on-air product and how much advertising they can sell on it. The only truly important staff members in a radio station are the salespeople. Everyone else is just lowly-paid extras they'd rather do without. DJs? A voicetracked computer can run the show for free. Promotions? Who cares about local listeners? Engineering? Well, keep just one guy around in case a computer goes down. (What, you mean for all seven stations? Yes, we mean that.) Office staff? Well, fire the extraneous employees. The remainders will just have to do three times the work. They should be grateful they have jobs.

Think I'm kidding?

A perfect example is the new WPRV found on 94.9 FM on the Cincinnati dial. Here was a beautiful opportunity to build a new format from the ground up. New music, new jocks, new imaging, new call letters, and a whole new audience. Instead they opted for the cheapest thing the corporate suits could think of: satellite talk shows.

Here's a big secret for you: they cost either nothing or next to nothing to broadcast. National radio talk shows are self-sufficient. They carry their own national commercials and leave room for local spots.

If a local station wants cheap programming, this is what they do.

Let's look at the lineup.

Mancow in the morning, followed by Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilley, sports, Phil Valentine, more sports!, and Rusty Humphries. The overnight shift isn't listed, but I imagine it's more sports.

They have five hours of sports talk. Five hours! As if all the AM sports talk stations just aren't enough!

It has been recommended they add a couple local talk shows. We'll see how long it takes for that to happen, especially when the next Arbitron book shows a major drop in ratings. Maybe they can hire away Gary Burbank. Think he's available?

And we have the Dawn Patrol on WEBN in the mornings, like 'em or not, they are usually entertaining. But Mancow? Why in heaven's name him? Why not just stick us with The Greaseman? (Oh yes, he no longer does morning radio? Anyone remember why? )

So, what it all boils down to is that Cumulus has given us radio redundancy. What is found on 94.9 can be found anywhere else on either dial, both better and local.

The thing is, the corporate suit-wearers don't think local radio listeners care about their localities. If they could sell it, every city would have all the same radio stations, all playing the same network material. In a way, we already have that with Sirius and XM satellite radio, but that is subscription only. If we choose to, we can buy that service and listen.

But all-talk on 94.9 FM will be its death-knell.

Now, if that's not bad enough, they're making things even worse.

On Tuesday Entercom bought WUBE, WKRQ, WGRR, and WAQZ from CBS. They then swapped WGRR with Cumulus's WYGY (country), so Entercom could own both Cincinnati country stations (WUBE and WYGY) and have a monopoly on the format! Wait, is that legal? I guess so. . . .

Here's where things start going further downhill: 94.9 The Star will move from 94.9 to 97.3FM where currently the only alternative station in town, 97.3 WAQZ resides. WYGY will become 94.9 The Wolf. They've even already swapped office locations and studios!

Goodbye Everything Alternative 97.3 It was nice to know you. (It's rumoured that most of the staff has already been fired.)

The Wolf will play more top-40 country and have a high energy format. Where have I heard this before? Oh yeah, when 96.5 was Y96, Young Country in the 1990s. If you liked listening to the "puking-jock" on-air style, you heard it on Y96. It went away for a reason.

Does all this make sense? I hope Cincinnati radio listeners can figure it all out in the near future. My head just hurts from blogging about it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to kill a radio station.

Gee, perhaps someone should write a book about it. Oh wait, someone is. Me.


At Tuesday, November 07, 2006 11:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, brother. 97.3 wasn't the best station in history, but it filled an area between jock-rock (webn)and the oldies station. I'm 32 yrs old and I feel too old for WEBN and far too young for oldies.
But does anyone in a position to change things care? NO.
Cincinnati has ALWAYS been a corporate radio town, and it seems always will be.
Those who remember the truly alternative 97X have to be missing it more and more. I know I do. Those days are gone forever, never to return. RIP,


At Sunday, April 29, 2007 7:51:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what happened next??


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