The Steel City has got game


As reported in Friday’s MBR (10/05/07 MBR), CBS flipped talker 93.7 The Zone back to the future, returning to it’s once 18-49 dominant CHR brand B-94. Friday’s flip completes the circle for B-94, the market’s big gun from 1981 until 2004, when it was dismantled to build K-Rock for Howard Stern, then moving on to a run as Free FM Talk and finally The Zone, with O&A, Dennis Miller and a bunch of local guys. Why the flip back? Here’s the deal: Across town, Clear Channel locked in their lineup on WPGB-FM with local radio star Jim Quinn, who has been in the Steel City for over three decades and is one of the most recognizable talents in town today, added Rose and a roster of the usual right-of-center Talk suspects such as Sean Hannity, Rush, Glenn Beck and Savage. That left The Zone with no shot.  It was only a matter of time until The Zone talk was tossed off the 93.7 frequency for a format with a real chance of doing better than the one-share CBS was getting from its lineup of second-stringers.
CBS CEO Dan Mason already has the News-Info-Older Talk end sewed up with legendary KDKA. WPGB scooted underneath ‘KD and solidly into the #2 slot. Talk radio is about having the biggest stars, and WPGB has them, along with Pirates baseball. Bottom line:

There just are not enough Talk superstars to go around for three radio stations, so once The Howard (Stern) left FM radio and Quinn & Rose re-upped with ‘PGB, 93.7’s days as a Talk station were over. Latest May, June, July Arbitrends prove it – daypart Mon-Sun 6A-Mid, demographic persons 12+, list by rank on AQH share:

KDKA-AM  8.2  # 2
WPGB-FM  5.3  # 5
WTZN-FM  1.0  # 19t

Up for grabs is around 90 million bucks in market revenue. National total around 18 million and local bottom lines at about 73.25 million. A one-share’s estimated worth in Pittsburgh is roughly 900K bucks depending on format and spot load, so do the math. Sad news is the Steel City is showing no growth in population and revenue. RBR estimates that market revenue will be off 5% in 2008, continuing a consistent decline.

RBR Observation: Re-branding of the heritage B-94 "Pittsburgh’s Hit Music" station was a no-brainer and is Mason’s current MO. Less expensive to flip back to a heritage brand, especially with the same dial position, while paying out the heavy six figure cost of all those pink slips.  Most stations have a tougher time doing the retro-flip, but, in this case, the original B frequency is the new address, and so are all the pieces from the old B-94 still line up, making it much easier for the listeners to "get it." B-94 can coast for the next 90 days by playing the hits and relying on plenty of street and local media buzz while assembling an inexpensive on-air staff. There were a couple of "bring back the B" blogs in Pittsburgh over the years and CBS can count on those happy P-1s to share the good news on the Web, too.  Now the real challenge: B-94 should have no problem picking the low hanging revenue fruit and growing the new B as a younger demo female Top-40 up against Kiss without crunching the toes of Star, the CBS-owned Hot AC that plays music from the 80’s, 90’s, and Today. RBR recommends not even attempting cross-market protection of Star as it does not work today.