In this week’s issue… iHeart, Entercom shuffle Philly AC dial – New owner looks to make lakeside splash – Carton convicted – Remembering talented engineers with NERW-land roots
By SCOTT FYBUSH
*Every market has one – that troubled frequency that just can’t seem to find success even as it shuffles through format after format. In southeastern PENNSYLVANIA, that station has been iHeart Media’s 106.1 in Philadelphia, which has kept the WISX calls for a dozen years as it’s flipped through “Philly’s 106.1,” “My 106.1,” “Mix 106.1” and then ditched its various flavors of AC for throwback hip-hop last year as “Real 106.1.”
As with so many of those throwback stations, “Real” didn’t turn into a long-lasting success, even with veteran Philly talent Chio Acosta in mornings. A few weeks ago, RadioInsight’s Lance Venta uncovered some interesting domain registrations pointing to another possible format change at 106.1, and on Friday at noon 106.1 stopped being “Real,” flipping to Christmas music as simply “106.1 FM.”
Chio had already tipped listeners on Twitter that he wouldn’t be back today, and the news soon emerged that the rest of the airstaff – his co-host Shila Nathan, middayer Nichole Michalik and afternoon jock Johnny V – were also out.
So what happens next at 106.1?
Here’s where it gets interesting: the Christmas format now running there is, of course, the usual seasonal stronghold down the dial for competitor WBEB (101.1), which typically racks up massive ratings and revenue with a sometime-in-November flip to holiday tunes. And WBEB made a change of its own last week, rewinding from its “More FM” branding back to the “B101” identity it used from 1993 until 2013, modified this time as “B101.1.”
WBEB, of course, recently changed hands from Jerry Lee Broadcasting to Entercom, turning it from a rare standalone FM to one cog in a larger cluster that includes two other stations, classic hits WOGL (98.1) and hot AC WTDY (96.5), with overlapping playlists. Assuming the new B101.1 still goes Christmas in the next few days or weeks, will it emerge on Boxing Day with any tweaks to its format to better harmonize it with WOGL and WTDY, trying to keep 101.1 and 98.1 near the top of the ratings and pull 96.5 out of its status as another one of those troubled frequencies?
Which brings us back around to Lance’s scoop a few weeks ago about iHeart’s potential plans for 106.1 – as he picked up with his unique “Domain Insight” skills, Philadelphia appears to be one of several markets where iHeart is planning to launch a soft AC format under the “Breeze” brand name.
The first Breeze launches later today across the country in Sacramento, at (ironically) another “BEB,” iHeart’s KBEB (92.5) in Sacramento, which had been doing country as “Bull.” Assuming Philadelphia’s “Breeze” isn’t just a smokescreen – and there’s no reason to think it is – its eventual soft AC format will pose yet another challenge to Entercom’s attempts to sort out its own AC positions up and down the dial.
We’ll be watching closely as all these possibilities converge around the holidays…and of course Lance will be there at RadioInsight with instant reporting as soon as there’s anything to sniff out.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: WISX indeed flipped to “Breeze” soft AC at noon, two hours after WBEB made its Christmas flip. Did iHeart push Entercom to make its flip earlier than planned? (More at RadioInsight…)
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