Monday, January 18, 2016

1.18.16 Bee-otch of the Day: Cumulus

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Name: Cumulus Media
Age: 19
Occupation: media giant
Last Seen: Atlanta, GA
Bee-otched For: proving why their stock is only a quarter

Just what the Flint and Tri-Cities wanted: more problems.

For years, Flint had been in a downward spiral thanks to the downfall of the auto industry and now, its water problem. Now, the area has no oldies station.

On Friday afternoon at 5 p.m., 96.1 WHNN dropped its 26-year-old oldies/classic hits format for adult contemporary as "My 96.1". The station's morning hosts, Johnny Burke and Blondie were let go, although the rest of the station's jocks were retained.

WHNN was actually doing well in the ratings; in the last Nielsen book released for the region, the station was at a 7.5 (although it's hard to tell how the station was REALLY doing vs. other stations since they don't subscribe to the service). The Tri Cities market already has two other AC stations: MacDonald Broadcasting's WSAM 1400/104.1 The Bay and Digity's Mix 106.3 WGER. Needless to say, soccer moms in the region are overserved. But now, where are people going to get their classics from the 60s, 70s and 80s? The area is quite diverse when it comes to formats with several rock, country, CHR and urban formats, but now with classic hits out of the equation, it's proof that corporate radio simply don't care.

Since WHNN's dumping of oldies, their Facebook posts have been like venom. Lots of listeners claiming that they'll never listen to the station ever again and a few claiming that 96.1 is no longer on their presets.

Michigan has had a long history of failing new AC stations, especially in the past 15 years. Lansing's My 92.1 - which replaced alternative 92.1 The Edge in 2003 - was a prime example. The station only lasted six months. 106.7 WSRT in northern Michigan was another example; it replaced WKPK 106.7 The Peak in the early 2000s. The ratings were so bad that their Programming Director sent in fake Arbitron diaries to make it look like the station was a success. In the end, he lost his job and WSRT ended up flipping to talk and its current format, ESPN.

But let's remember who owns WHNN: Cumulus. Yep! The same company that created controversy when they dropped The Dixie Chicks from all their stations over Natalie Maines' outburst against George W. Bush. The same company that bought up a bunch of Howard Stern affiliates and replaced his show with the unpopular Lex and Terry. The same company that bought up a religious station in Newark, causing rock fans in the New York region to pray and hope for a new rock station in the area, only to put a crappy country station on that frequency that has never been above a two share in the ratings.

The same company that once traded over $20 a share on the New York Stock Exchange about ten years ago, but is now trading for a mere quarter.

Folks, I remembered what happened here in Grand Rapids in 2004 when our oldies station, 107.3 WODJ was replaced with WKLQ's move to that frequency from 94.5, which became WTNR/Thunder 94.5 (now another *sigh* Nash station). A few days later, 98.7 WFGR flipped to Oldies and the people of GR were nothing short of happy. Sadly, WFGR is now a 70s/80s classic hits station with meh ratings, but at least there's real 1955-75 oldies on WGVU 1480.

As for WHNN, I predict that somebody else in the region will flip their station to oldies while WHNN will end up like New Coke. I'm 34 years old and I grew up with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Elvis and other artists from rock's early days that many stations are too scared to play anymore simply because "the demographic is too old". Personally, I'd rather listen to Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly over Katy Perry or cokehead Bruno Mars. I hope that Johnny Burke will also get back on his feet.

And WHY do I listen to internet radio more often these days?
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