Sunday, December 21, 2014


Each time a station I've worked with over the years has been directly attacked I have publicly said:  "Competition makes us better."

For the listeners and the air staff, that's true.

But, generally, from a business point of view I have to privately admit it's simply not, especially in markets where media buyers generally refuse to buy two country stations at good rates.

Doubly so in PPM measurment markets where direct format competition has often driven down shares, making point levels shrink.

This was reinforced for me in September 1999 when longtime Detroit incumbant W4 Country typically had higher ratings with country than did WYCD, lack of advertiser revenue led W4 Country to switch to a classic rock format and WYCD never looked back from a revenue viewpoint.

The same thing played out a decade ago in San Diego.  Local observers claimed that neither Lincoln Financial nor the company formerly known as Clear Channel made any money during a costly fight, but when it ended KSON rose back to the top of the audience and revenue rankings, where they remain today.

iHeart's K-102 and CBS' Buz'n have been going at it in a virtual tie after three years in the Twin Cities in what has been a costly battle for both companies.  The last time KEEY had an attacker in this position they purchased it, leading to two decades of revenue and audience dominance.  This time, BUZ'N came out just as Taylor Swift was on the upswing.

Back before PPM measured Boston a very competitive fight went on between WKLB and WBCS (Boston's Country Station) from 1993 to 1995.  The victor in that battle was Greater Media. They have been extremely powerful from a revenue and ratings perspective for the 20 years since then.  Fighting for format ownership in country can be lucrative, long term.

It's been almost 20 years since the last competitive assault in Orlando for country, which even included Cox's K-92 buying the attacker just before it went country.  Three years later they took it out of the format, leading the market for much of the intervening time with just one country station, part of a solid cluster with broad reach.

Until now, as JVC closed on WHKQ Monday and then quickly launched 103.1 The Wolf on Friday

Things to watch:
  • Is this the beginning of a new post-consolidation age in competitive format battles?
  • In the past, new stations launched as formats were on the upswing.  Is this a good time to launch a new radio station in the country format against a strong competitor?
This I know:  the listeners are going to love having a choice.  The air staffs and street teams are going to have fun going at it.

The accountants, not so much.


Anonymous said...

While you state valid points, I would argue that during the referenced dates the country music format was not as vibrant and popular as it is today. In some markets such as Orlando, Country is just as if not more popular than Top 40, and there happens to be a three way battle in that format. I applaud JVC for being an independently owned entity willing to take a leap of faith to compete against a powerhouse such as Cox WWKA. I wish both stations luck, this is great for Country music, and after spending the morning listening to WOTW, they gained a listener in me.

Jaye Albright said...

I totally agree with you and thanks for making the comment. My only point is that engaging in a country battle can be expensive and challenging on the bottom line, but also that being the winner in the end brought with it a big payoff.

One other thing I wish I had said: the other group besides the talent and street teams who enjoy the competitive battle is media buyers who play one against the other in rate negotiations.

Jager said...


Greater Media won the country battle in Boston only by engineering a deal to buy WKLB. When it was done they dumped the WBCS calls. I have often wondered how big WKLB would be today if GM hadn't gutted the talent side, cut the promotion budget and spent all their time and money on a couple of their loser signals.

In the Twin cities...I wonder if the CBS country station is close to billing what WLTE did as a top 3 or 4 station in 25-54 women for years and years and years.

Of course I may be prejudiced considering I put WLTE and WKLB on the air. The ratings war in Boston was as hard and interesting as anything I ever did in my radio career.

Bob Christy (

Albright and O'Malley said...

Bob, with your knowledge of that situation far superior to mine (I did work for Jim Hilliard and his great team at the old pre-sale WKLB for a brief period of time way back then, but that we just enough time there to defer to you on this. Something tells me that you're correct on every single point. Thanks.