Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slicing and Dicing the New York Radio Airwaves

Stations Trying to Feast on Increasingly Smaller Slices of the Pie

Given the money that's at stake, it's no surprise that the New York radio market is cutthroat on a good day. Unfortunately, that has often meant programming that's safe, staid and just plain boring.
But that's radio biz nowadays. It's hard to innovate when stations are owned by publicly traded companies leveraged to the hilt and can't wait for a new format to take hold.
Listeners are voting with their ears. The spring Arbitron book is out, and it reveals the audience is roaming the dial more looking for something to listen to.
At the top of the heap in the ratings that measure listeners 12 years old and up is urban WRKS, which jumped from a 3.9 rating to a 4.9. Which is very telling, in that it means no station in New York can claim at least 5 percent of the audience -- a first.
In second place are two Clear Channel stations, WHTZ (Z100), at 4.8 and adult contemporary WLTW (Lite FM), which is usually number one, but some format tweaks apparently drove some (but not many) listeners to rivals in the city and suburbs, resulting in a 4.4 rating.
More telling, and of more interest to station management, is that the numbers mostly hold true to form in the 25-54 demographic coveted by advertisers. Interestingly, Z100 nabbed second in that category, even though its hits format skews younger, while Lite FM (the quintessential listen-while-you-work station) only managed sixth.
In the 12+ book, other urban and Latin stations dominate the top 10, which may finally put to rest the argument about whether New York can support the three rock stations it now has (probably not).
That doesn't bode well for WRXP, which hit the airwaves in February as a Triple-A station that was supposed to be a loosely formatted station that played a wide variety of rock. However, the station has too often failed to deliver on its musical mission. Hell, it took five months for the station to even have its airstaff fully in place.
WRXP has tried to be something for everyone, rather than programming to a core adult demographic disenfranchised by other rock stations that play only the classics or head-thumping alternative tunes. It's derivative of everything and nothing at the same time.
The ratings indicate listeners are perplexed or just not interested, as WRXP finished with a miniscule 1.0.
Granted, new stations can take time to build an audience. But 'RXP is starting from a very deep hole that, given the fragmented market it finds itself in, will likely find the climb to daylight to be very perilous indeed.

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