What Does Cumulus’ Sale of WPLJ & WNSH Mean for New York City Radio?


In a matter of hours on Wednesday, New York City’s radio panorama modified considerably as Cumulus Media Inc. dealt grownup high 40 or "scorching grownup up to date"-formatted WPLJ, and nation WNSH (Nash 94.7), to Educational Media Foundation (EMF) and Entercom Communications Corp., respectively.

The biggest influence of these offers could also be felt by listeners of WPLJ, a up to date music mainstay within the New York marketplace for over 50 years even earlier than switching its name letters from the album rock-formatted WABC-FM in 1971.

Since 1983, PLJ has been both high 40 or scorching AC, however that involves an finish this summer time when its spot at 95.5 FM turns into dwelling to a different station in EMF's 500-strong Ok-LOVE up to date Christian community. That suggests something however a clean transition: According to this previous week’s Nielsen BDS airplay charts, just one tune, Lauren Daigle’s crossover hit "You Say," was widespread to each stations' playlists.

WPLJ’s most profitable period got here through the 1970s and 1980s, first as a up to date album rocker after which a mainstream high 40 outlet. For many who grew up in sign vary, that first model of WPLJ — the decision letters of which got here from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's cowl of a 1950s rhythm-and-blues tune “W-P-L-J,” an acronym for "White Port and Lemon Juice" — represented the transfer away from high 40 stations on the AM band (corresponding to co-owned WABC) and the invention of album-based rock acts corresponding to Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Much of PLJ’s scores success throughout that period may be attributed to DJs Jim Kerr, Carol Miller and Jimmy Fink, all of whom are nonetheless heard available in the market in the present day.

During PLJ’s mainstream high 40 years, scores sometimes topped these of its hardest competitor within the format, the still-alive-and-well WHTZ (Z100). For a lot of that period, hosts Kerr and Pat St. John continued their on-air duties from PLJ's album rock days with out lacking a beat.

Since its transfer to scorching AC in 1991, WPLJ’s scores have stayed primarily within the two-to-three-share vary whereas pitted in opposition to similarly-programmed rivals corresponding to Entercom’s WNEW (New 102.7) and iHeartRadio’s WKTU, along with iHeart’s nearly-consistent scores champ available in the market, grownup up to date WLTW (Lite FM). Keeping PLJ robust throughout most of this period was its morning present co-hosted by former Z100 programmer and “Morning Zoo" host Scott Shannon (now morning host at Entercom’s New York basic hits station WCBS-FM).

With such a big a part of New York’s radio historical past about to vanish, what does this imply for the recent AC and up to date Christian codecs within the primary radio market, and past?

For scorching AC, which Nielsen ranked because the fifth hottest radio format of 2018 amongst listeners age 25-54, most likely not all that a lot. In the New York market, WPLJ shares a lot of its present music – together with acts like Maroon 5, Halsey and Panic! At The Disco — with at the very least 5 different stations: New 102.7, KTU, Z100, Lite FM and Entercom’s alternative-formatted WNYL (ALT 92.three). Then once more, there’s the chance that PLJ’s listeners — particularly these on the youthful finish of that 25-54 demographic — might depart terrestrial radio for similarly-formatted channels on SiriusXM, Pandora, Apple Music or, actually, wherever else on-line.

As for up to date Christian, Ok-LOVE’s takeover of WPLJ plus 5 different stations simply bought from Cumulus will definitely widen its already-large radio footprint, with Ok-LOVE shops in 38 of the highest 50 U.S. radio markets. As it’s, Ok-LOVE is already heard in New York on Port Chester’s WKLV, and the format additionally reaches the market from Zarephath, N.J.’s WAWZ (Star 99.1). Ok-LOVE provides two totally different satellite tv for pc feeds primarily based on viewers and style, and it's unclear which one will find yourself on 95.5.

While it is probably not amongst Nielsen’s high ten codecs, up to date Christian has one factor in its favor few others can declare: practically all its music and artists — corresponding to Micah Tyler and Casting Crowns — can’t be heard wherever else on the dial.

Then there’s Nash 94.7, the flagship of Cumulus' nation station chain, quickly to be within the palms of Entercom. While nation can also be amongst Nielsen’s high 5 codecs amongst 25-54 listeners, it has by no means been a scores winner on FM in New York. Will Entercom see the worth in holding a rustic station within the high market, or would possibly the corporate use the frequency to both launch one other format or simulcast considered one of their profitable AM stations, corresponding to all-news WINS?

Looking on the bigger image, Wednesday’s station gross sales and swaps have been principally about Cumulus addressing its over $2 billion of debt. Might this counsel extra fireplace gross sales and additional radio disruption, not solely by Cumulus however the debt-ridden iHeartMedia? 

As they nonetheless say on this enterprise, keep tuned.