Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Indy Radio: iHM To Wage Country Radio Battle

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Speculation that iHeartMedia was buying a new FM to showcase Rush Limbaugh can be put to rest. Limbaugh is looking for a new home in Indy after receiving notice that current outlet WIBC 93.3 FM was planning to stop airings.  That scanario seemed logical, but knowing the current status of conservative talk radio, obviously iHM felt they couldn't maximize their ROI with talk, even on FM.

According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, iHM is planning to flip newly-acquired WRDZ 98.3 FM to country.  If so, that assures a three-way radio war with Cumulus' WFMS 95.5 FM and Emmis' WLHK 97.1 FM.

iHM has an agreement to purchase Indianapolis-area radio station WRDZ-FM 98.3 from Radio Disney as part of a two-station acquisition worth $1.95 million, according to documents filed with the FCC. The other station (AM) is in Salt Lake City.

WRDZ 98.3 FM  (3 Kw) Red=Local Coverage
As part of the agreement, iHeartMedia says it will change the call letters of the Indianapolis-area station to WUBG-FM and has registered the Big983Indy.com domain. That would position the station in the broadcaster’s “Big” brand, which includes Big 95.5 in Chicago and Big 104.7 in Pittsburgh—both country stations.

It was not immediately clear when Big 98.3 would begin broadcasting. A programming and marketing agreement set May 4 between Radio Disney and iHeartMedia indicated that the new station could hit the air before the purchase agreement closes.

It appears Radio Disney will take a loss on the sale. It bought WRDZ in 2003 for $5.75 million.

Big 98.3 will enter a fierce battle for ears of country-music listeners. After decades of dominance as the area’s country king, WFMS (13 Kw)  was overtaken in the ratings by relative newcomer Hank FM (23 Kw) in 2013.

The station likely would lack the firepower to be a direct compeitor with the two big guns, however. Its tower is near Avon and its signal is weaker than most other major local stations.

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