Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leslie Fram, Steve Cook Reflect on WRXP-FM NYC

From Rodney Ho,
Two key players from 99X’s heyday in Atlanta, Leslie Fram and Steve Craig, landed in New York in 2008 to build an adult-leaning rock station from scratch. Called WRXP-FM, Craig compared it to the early days of 99X: using mostly word of mouth and guerrilla marketing, as well as the programming smarts of Fram, the station grew steadily.

Craig, in an interview last week, said he was disappointed by the move: “We committed to this wholeheartedly. We put a lot of passion into it. The listener response was absolutely amazing.”
“We were firing on all cylinders,” he added. “We had a good run.”

WRXP started just as the economy was starting to crater in 2008. Emmis could never afford to spend the millions necessary to promote a new station in a market the size of New York. In June, the rock station ranked 19th in Arbitron ratings with a 2.6 rating, drawing 2.3 million weekly listeners. That’s not bad.

But RXP’s owners Emmis Communications needed to sell the station to pay off debt. Randy Michaels, the wild man of radio who ran Jacor, then Clear Channel (and was unceremoniously ousted from Tribune Broadcasting last year), recently purchased three stations, including WRXP. Rumor has it he wants to change 101.9 to FM talk.

So unlike 99X, which has survived in some way, shape or form, for 19 years, WRXP only made it three and a half years in the biggest radio market in the country.

Craig was befuddled when Emmis a few months ago eliminated the sales staff at RXP and merged them with the two Emmis urban stations in town. That made no sense to him. And as a result, he said, “as our numbers were going up, our revenues were going down.”

Fram and Craig are now pondering their next moves. Craig said he was given a very fair seven months severance, which is equal to the rest of his contract.

Fram, Craig said, “was very upset. She was the one controlling the ship. She worked herself to the bone. She did everything she could to make sure it was working.”  I reached out to her. She accepted an email interview but as you’ll see below, she assiduously avoids negativity to the press, even if she feels negative.

Q: Things seemed to be going well with WRXP in the ratings. Then the rug was pulled out from under you. What happened with the new company? Why couldn’t you convince the new owners that RXP was viable?
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