Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicago's Battle For a 4-Share

Imagine, writes Robert Feder at chicago.timeout.com, starting a war when you have no ammunition:

That’s what Emmis Communications did in Chicago over the weekend when it abruptly switched the format of WLUP-FM (97.9) from hard rock to classic rock. Loop listeners woke up Saturday morning to hear Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner and Journey in place of AC/DC, Metallica, Rush and Ozzy Osbourne. Overnight “Chicago’s Rock Station” had rechristened itself “Chicago’s Classic Rock.”

"It’s no coincidence that the move came just three days after Bonneville International announced the sale of Chicago’s leading classic rocker, WDRV-FM (97.1), in a package deal with hot adult-contemporary WTMX-FM (101.9), adult contemporary WILV-FM (100.3) and 14 other stations to Hubbard Broadcasting for $505 million. The blockbuster transaction only served to underscore how much less the Loop and Emmis’ other distressed properties are worth these days.

I hate to break the news to them, but if the folks at Emmis think they have a prayer of mounting any real challenge to the Drive, they’re delusional.

After 10 years of refining and perfecting its format, the Drive is so well-programmed, so well-promoted and so well-managed that it’s folly to think it could be vulnerable to a pale imitator. In terms of air talent alone, it’s not even fair to compare the Drive’s lineup of Steve Downes, Bob Stroud, Bobby Skafish and Phil Manicki with the Loop’s Pete McMurray, Pat Capone, John “Byrd” Kempf and Walter Flakus.

Under current management, the Loop and Q101 have become mere echoes of their past glory. Throughout all of the 1980s and much of the ’90s, they were two of Chicago’s hottest and most influential radio brands. Today, they’re a couple of also-rans — ranked 17th and 18th, respectively, in the December Arbitron survey among listeners in the 25-to-54 age demo that defines success in the industry."
Read more here.

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