WGN launching new traffic service


WGN-AM 720So long, CCME’s Total Traffic Network at Tribune’s WGN-AM Chicago: Beyond a number of high-profile lineup changes at the station under new GM Jimmy de Castro, another subtle but significant programming shift is coming–a new traffic reporting service.

The station is switching to Utah-based Radiate Media in a multi-year deal.  Radiate provides both on-air reporters and traffic information in return for inventory.

“It’s a really good economic deal for us, but most importantly, it’s a better product,” de Castro told The Chicago Tribune.

Listeners may not notice much of a difference, with embedded WGN traffic reporters Mary Van De Velde, Leslie Keiling  and Ted Novak making the move over to the new company. But it represents a big win for two-year-old Radiate.

“WGN is among the leaders in the country in terms of traffic,” said Gary Lee, Chicago-based vice president and general manager of Radiate. “We’re thrilled to establish this association.”

Radiate is challenging Total Traffic Network, the largest broadcast traffic provider in the U.S. with over 3,000 radio and 200 television affiliates, including CBS-owned news station WBBM-AM 780, among other local stations.

Founded in 2011, Radiate has a network of some 2,400 radio and TV stations, with a growing presence in Chicago.  Local affiliates include WLS-AM and WLS-FM, WTMX-FM 101.9, WGN-Ch.9, WMAQ-Ch.5 and WLS-Ch.7.  The addition of WGN Radio may be a tipping point for local traffic dominance, according to Lee.

“Chicago is already Radiate’s best market,” said Lee, 63, a broadcast traffic pioneer who launched the Shadow Traffic Network in Chicago in 1979. “I really do think we have the upper hand here.”

The move comes as WGN Radio is rolling out a new but familiar lineup, with alumni such as Steve Cochran and Kathy & Judy back on the air next month.

See the Chicago Tribune story here.