As Cumulus Media seeks to lower its debt, it is engaged in a pair of deals that will give Educational Media Foundation possession of six FM stations. It is also trading its Country station in New York, and two stations serving the Massachusetts city of Springfield, to Entercom in exchange of its three stations in Indianapolis.
In the Bay State, this will leave Cumulus with three FMs licensed to Worcester, Mass., some 50 miles to the west of Boston Common. One of these properties, a Class B carrying call letters once found in New York, has a signal that until now has come close — but just shy — of reaching all of New England’s biggest market.
Thanks to MaxxCasting, Cumulus believes it now has a Boston-market FM.
With Jen & Frank in the morning and syndicated programs such as The Adam Bomb Show also in the lineup, Fitchburg, Mass.-based WXLO-FM 104.5 has been airing Hot Adult Contemporary programming across three decades.
It acquired the call letters in 1984 in tribute to the former “99X” in New York, which became WRKS-FM and is today WEPN, ESPN Radio’s East Coast flagship thanks to an LMA with Emmis Communications.
Competing against iHeartMedia’s WSRS-FM, WXLO has been a stalwart in Worcester. But, thanks to its signal, it has also attracted Boston-area listeners. In the January 2019 Nielsen Audio ratings for Boston, WXLO earned a 1.6 share, 6+.
Now, Cumulus hopes to build on that — and pitch advertisers with what it believes is a Boston-market station. The company’s corporate website already lists WXLO as its Boston-market offering.
How so? WXLO is the latest station to increase its coverage-to-contour ratio via GeoBroadcast Solution’s MaxxCasting tool, also used in the market at independently owned Adult Alternative WXRV-FM “92.5 The River.”
According to GeoBroadcast, the boosters in the City of Boston (10 watts), Lexington (450 watts) and Waltham (700 watts), approximately 1 million new listeners are WXLO’s to attract.
“The MaxxCasting system makes WXLO a competitive ratings force in Boston, the nation’s tenth largest market, by delivering a listenable signal through the city of Boston in Suffolk County,” GeoBroadcast Solutions notes. “The system also establishes a ratings presence for WXLO across a broader strategic travel corridor section of adjacent Middlesex County, the largest county in New England by population, covering a large section of eastern Massachusetts north of Boston all the way to the New Hampshire border.”
The WXLO MaxxCasting system went live in early January. The single-frequency network (SFN) includes three low-power transmission sites, or “nodes,” to maximize coverage for two markets — including a transmission node located on top of the John Hancock tower in downtown Boston.
All nodes are located in areas prone to weak signal coverage, leveraging GBS’ unique predictive modeling software to eliminate interference in areas where signals overlap. This provides a clean transition between transmitters as listeners commute throughout the region.
Further, the architecture integrates specialized IP networking technology from GatesAir to support composite digital FM multiplex (MPX) signal transport. GatesAir’s Intraplex IP Link MPX codecs keep FM signals in the digital domain while maximizing network bandwidth.
The codecs integrate Intraplex SynchroCast technology to tightly synchronize program audio across all transmission nodes.
“We’re excited about how good the station sounds and to reach more potential audience in downtown Boston and beyond with this new technology,” said Cumulus Regional EVP Bob Goodell.
Bill Hieatt, Chief Technology Officer for MaxxCasting architects GeoBroadcast Solutions, adds, “Downtown Boston is an enormous challenge due to the density of buildings, tunnels and other environmental considerations that make signal penetration difficult. While our transmitter site within city limits solves these problems, our nodes outside of the city deliver listenable signals to drivers commuting to and from Boston Metro West and Worcester for the first time. Around the region, WXLO is now reaching audiences traveling along all major corridors, including I-95 and I-93 heading north and south.”
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