Three years after launching, MeTV FM’s eclectic soft oldies format has turned a low-power TV signal at 87.7 FM into a top-10 Chicago radio station, confounding competitors and rewriting the unwritten rules of broadcast radio.
“A lot of people think it’s amazing that we’re doing the kind of numbers we are without all those traditional things,” said Neal Sabin, 61, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting, which operates the station. “But we’ve broken a lot of radio rules here.”
According to The Chicago Tribune, the mastermind behind the national MeTV classic television network, Sabin used his own iPod playlist to create an unlikely radio success story at WRME-LP, which can be heard at 87.7 FM but is actually licensed as Ch. 6, a low-power Chicago TV station.
Owned by Los Angeles-based Venture Technologies Group, WRME has been everything from Spanish language to country to smooth jazz to alternative rock to sports talk in the nine years since it fired up its signal in Chicago, with varying degrees of ratings success.
MeTV FM has steadily built its audience since debuting in February 2015, ranking in the middle of the pack with a solid 2.4 share as recently as January, according to Nielsen. But in February, the station jumped all the way to a 3.6 share and a top-10 ranking.
|Nielsen: Chicago's Top 10 6+ March 2018|
The secret sauce, Sabin said, is an underserved older audience and an enormous playlist of about 3,500 songs. The format draws heavily on mainstays such as the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Billy Joel, but it also brings in more obscure singer-songwriters, one-hit wonders, deep album cuts and plenty of guilty pleasures.
“One of the things it has going for it is the unpredictability of it because of the spectrum that’s covered by having that many songs in there,” said Norm Winer, the longtime program director at WXRT 93.1 FM, who left the seminal Chicago rock station two years ago.
The demise of K-Hits, WJMK-FM 104.3 FM, the classic hits station that new owner Entercom flipped to classic hip-hop in November, no doubt sent some listeners to MeTV FM, but Sabin said the station’s growth has been mostly organic.