In this week’s issue… Amp yields to Big in Boston – iHeart refreshes in Philly – CT AM lives – Plattsburgh FM flips – New FM in North Bay

By SCOTT FYBUSH

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*Every few years, there’s a guessing game in Boston radio. For a long time it was “when will a full-time FM signal launch with an urban format,” then “when will the market get a country station on FM,” and then “when will sports radio land on FM.”

With all of those questions eventually answered over the years, the big question these last few years was “when will CBS Radio (and then Entercom) pull the plug on AMP top-40 on WODS?”

All the way back to AMP’s launch in 2012, the station never quite seemed to jell in a crowded Boston market. Up the dial, Clear Channel/iHeart had the mainstream top-40 audience locked down with its veteran “Kiss 108” (WXKS-FM), flanked by rhythmic top-40 “JAM’N” WJMN (94.5). Within the CBS/Entercom family, “Mix” (originally WBMX 98.5, later 104.1 and now WWBX) was a hot enough hot AC to significantly overlap the AMP playlist across the hall. The station AMP replaced on 103.3, with a heritage back to 1987 as “Oldies 103.3,” left behind a devoted listener base that likely would have followed it if it had moved in the same classic hits direction as its big brothers in New York (WCBS-FM) and Philadelphia (WOGL).

Instead, that classic hits void ended up getting filled across town at Greater Media/Beasley’s WROR (105.7), while AMP floundered at the bottom of the ratings. There were opportunities for flips at big transition points: when CBS exited radio in 2017-18 and AC “Magic” WMJX came over to the revamped Entercom cluster, for instance, it could have been a chance to take Mix closer to full-fledged CHR and free up 103.3 for something new.

Yet as AMP’s ratings continued to move down toward a 1, the format somehow survived. Entercom’s cutbacks in April ended T.J. Taormina’s morning show after more than seven years, with his former producer taking interim host duties until…

Until, for whatever reason, 10 AM Wednesday. After giving what remained of the AMP staff half an hour to say their farewells, Entercom pulled the trigger at long last, relaunching 103.3 as “BIG 103, Music Unleashed.”

But it’s not classic hits in the successful model of WCBS-FM and WOGL. Instead, the new “BIG” is more of a variety hits station ranging from the 1980s through the 2000s. That’s a format that’s been missing from Boston since 2011, when Entercom killed off “Mike FM” (WMKK 93.7) in favor of what turned out to be a wildly successful move of WEEI’s sports format to FM.

(In the sort of irony we enjoy so much here, it was WMKK’s own flip to variety hits back in 2005 that was widely believed to have preempted a plan by CBS back then to flip WODS from oldies to “Jack.”)

So how does Entercom’s move rearrange Boston’s music radio scene now? There weren’t many top-40 listeners to move from AMP to anywhere else: in April’s ratings, WODS drew just 1.0 (6+), compared to 7.3 for iHeart’s Kiss. AMP’s online presence was quickly redirected to Mix, which is already pretty hot for a hot AC.

Entercom’s strategy with Big now likely depends on siphoning off listeners from WROR, which drew a 6.8 in April. Even if Big gets only a fraction of WROR’s audience, there’s a prize there for Entercom: while most of its music lineup has leaned heavily toward female listeners since the big 2018 realignment, the new Big (which will be jockless for now, and which will soon take the calls WBGB) has the potential to draw more male listeners – and especially since selling off WAAF a few months ago, Entercom has had only WEEI to attract the male audience that advertisers value.

And with this latest Boston radio question answered, what’s the new one we’ll all be pondering? Our money’s on “when will iHeart bring WBZ’s news format to FM?” Let the speculation begin…

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Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.

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You don't have to stop reading here! Each week's NorthEast Radio Watch is packed full of exclusive, in-depth reporting and analysis from across the nine states and five provinces we've been serving since 1994. You won't find anything like it on any free site - and you can read the rest of this week's column for just $2.99 by clicking on the "Purchase Only" link below. 

Or click here to subscribe and enjoy full access to current NERW and Tower Site of the Week columns and two decades of searchable archives -- for as little as 25 cents per day.

If you are already a member, please login to view the rest of this column. (If the site does not recognize your username, don't panic! Either your subscription has expired and we need to reactivate your account, or your username and email do not match our payment records and we need to link them. Please email Lisa,  or call her at 585-442-5411, for instructions.)

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