A report is highlighting Kirk Litton’s launch of the new Columbia, SC station (WWNU-FM–The Palm) after the recent purchase of it and WWNQ-FM from Double O Radio.
“We’re just going to go deeper than jukebox radio,” Litton told the paper. “You’re not going to hear the same two songs from artists. We want to give Columbia something they haven’t heard before.”
Litton partnered with Hootie & the Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan to purchase WWNU-FM Carolina 92.1 and WWNQ-FM Country Legends 94.3. The deal is a JV of Hometown Columbia, Davis Media and Triple M Broadcasting.
WWNU flipped from Carolina 92.1’s easy listening to a rock variety-based format in late June. “The Palm” is a nod to South Carolina’s nickname as the Palmetto State and to how the station will be programmed: The music will be hand-picked, said The State.
Mike Allen, formerly of Charleston, SC rocker WCOO-FM The Bridge 105.5, will take over as WWNU’s MD and morning host. Litton is looking to hire hosts for the midday and afternoon drive slots. Live DJs will begin broadcasting 7/9.
Litton, who was regional sales director for Radio One in DC before purchasing the stations, said Bryan will be a regular at the station: “He’s very excited about bringing something to Columbia that it hasn’t had before.”
The Palm is also the new local affiliate of the Carolina Panthers Radio Network, and it will broadcast the NFL team’s games when the season starts. In another sports-related move for Hometown Columbia, The Palm’s sister station, WWNQ, will broadcast NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series beginning July 15.
The programming changes at WWNQ, rebranded as Carolina Country, will be slight. There still won’t be any bubblegum country, but songs from the ’80s and ’90s will be played. “We’re upping the music decade a little, but we’ll still feature the hall of fame legends,” Litton told The State.
Columbia was the last radio market for Double O, which sold its Panama City, FL cluster to Powell Broadcasting earlier this year.
RBR-TVBR observation: Inner City’s heritage Classic Rocker Fox 102 WMFX-FM and Alternative Rock 93.5 WARQ-FM (6th and 8th place in the market, respectively) will be the biggest competitors for The Palm to do battle with. However, AAA/Alternative low power WXRY-FM 99.3 “The Independent Alternative” may also be a contender (Gamecock Alumni Broadcasters), as it brands itself with the same mission: “Radio can be magical. However, somewhere along the way, most broadcasting companies forgot that radio is more than just playing well-researched music and more than saying what pollsters say are the right things to say. The Independent Alternative® 99.3 WXRY remembers what made radio special in the first place and is leading the way to abandon cookie-cutter corporate programming and to make radio special again. We invite you to come back to listening to the radio and join us and make a difference.”
Bottom line, all four of these stations have local talent and operations—and that’s good. But what counts these days for music-based FMs to survive (especially Rock-based) is handpicked music—listeners are flocking to the internet to hear songs they haven’t heard over and over again. If the PD, MD and DJs really know their music, they’ll take the listener on a journey—one without the confines of the same four songs from the same 20 bands. This is how The Palm can win.