Audacy Inc., which one week ago gained attention in San Francisco for saying goodbye to the Alternative format after 35 years with a change at KITS-FM to Adult Hits, has just said “Bye, Buckaroos” to the only Country music station covering the Big Apple and the majority of the New York Tri-State area.
In its place — music enjoyed by a multicultural mix of Gen X radio listeners, with such artists as Usher, The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige now in the mix.
WNSH-FM 94.7, licensed to Newark, N.J., is now “New York’s #1 For Throwbacks,” with branding as “94.7 The Block.”
“From the Apollo Theater to Lincoln Center, everyone is listening,” one liner voiced by an African American female states in part. Indeed, “The Block” is designed to attract Blacks, Caucasians, Latinos and Asians who were raised on WQHT “Hot 97” across the 1990s, when it first transitioned from freestyle dance music to Hip-Hop.
Chris Oliviero, SVP and Market Manager for Audacy in New York, says “The Block” will offer songs and artists “that are synonymous with New York’s iconic hip-hop culture and that still strongly resonate with listeners today across all generations.”
He adds, “This was an opportunity to add a quintessential New York sound to our audio portfolio that has been missing in the area, while at the same time continuing to engage with our New York country audience thru HD and digital platforms.”
The launch of “The Block” mirrors a similar format change in Chicago, where Audacy owns WBMX-FM “104.3 Jams.” On November 17, WBMX will complete its fourth year offering throwback Rhythmic hits in the Windy City.
At WNSH, a commercial free debut with 25,000 songs in a row is underway. More programming details and local on-air talent will be announced in the coming months.
For listeners of the former “Country 94.7,” the format continues — minus air personalities — on WNSH HD2 and on the Audacy app; the audio was noticeably problematic in the Noon ET hour when accessed by RBR+TVBR.
‘TAPS’ FOR A FORMER ‘NASH’ FLAGSHIP
In a November 2019 visit to then-Entercom’s New York studios and offices at 345 Hudson Street, there was a new energy in the building. Eight months after its acquisition from Cumulus Media, WNSH-FM was attracting listeners as “New York’s Country 94.7.” Under Cumulus, WNSH had been the flagship for the company’s now-defunct multimedia “NASH” brand. The key reason for the change: New Yorkers didn’t care about Nashville.
Alas, it appears advertisers and New Yorkers within the “donut” that is the Five Boroughs of the City of New York lost interest in WNSH over the last 23 months. In the September 2021 Nielsen Audio ratings, WNSH had 1.9 share of the 6+ radio listening audience.
WNSH had been a Country station since January 21, 2013, enjoying format exclusivity among big-signaled FMs in New York. It was largely heralded by Nashville and by Country music fans, as the market had not had a Country station since the 2002 demise of “New Country Y-107,” owned by the former Big City Radio and heard across three suburban facilities in a trimulcast. The last full signaled Country station in New York was WYNY-FM, at 103.5 MHz. That station became the highly successful WKTU-FM in 1996, bringing back call letters made famous during the Disco era at 92.3 MHz.
Now, Country is absent again from the Big Apple. In the New York City suburbs, it is a different story. In Monmouth-Ocean, N.J., Press Communications’ WKMK-FM 106.3 “Thunder 106” is a Class A covering an area including Asbury Park and Long Branch. It is the No. 1-ranked music station in the market.
But in Morristown, N.J., a format void has emerged. WNSH in fall 2019 had a 5.8 share, ranking No. 3. In Spring 2021, it was No. 5 with a still-respectable 3.4 share. The Middlesex-Somerset-Union, N.J., market showed WNSH tied for No. 6 in the September 2021 Nielsen Audio results.
Then, there is the City of New York and Nassau County, on Long Island. WNSH was the lone major-signal Country station in Market No. 1 and Market No. 20, respectively. JVC Broadcasting’s WJVC-FM 96.1 only reaches Suffolk County, N.Y.
A BIGGER FLAME FOR THROWBACKS
Until WNSH’s sign-on in early 2013, the 94.7 MHz signal was the home for Harold Camping and his Family Radio-branded Christian Talk and Teaching programming. It had been WFME since 1964, and largely considered a Northern New Jersey radio station with limited coverage of New York City.
While the station had a 23.5kw Class B signal, multipath problems in Manhattan created many obstacles for WNSH and, before that, WFME. A Construction Permit for 40kw has helped ease that issue, using a tower site within sight of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
A PROGRAMMING COORDINATOR IS SOUGHT
In related news, Audacy is looking for a skilled Programming Coordinator to provide project management and administrative support to the core programming leadership group in New York City.
Among the job’s responsibilities, the coordinator will assist in the planning and organizational management tasks around programming, content and creative with a large portfolio of radio stations and digital content platforms; and help develop and implement consumer marketing and advertising campaigns in select markets to drive ratings.