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WHEN Flips from Sports to Urban… More Flips Coming?

Updated 12/23 – SYRACUSE — Shortly after 3:00pm Wednesday, Clear Channel ended the sports format on WHEN and replaced it with a simulcast of Power 106.9 (WPHR).  Not too long after that, the Power 106.9 website is now sporting (pardon the pun) a new logo — and there are new station liners — branding it as “Power 620 AM.”  It is believed the changes are leading up to an FM simulcast of NewsRadio 570 WSYR.

Thanks to a tip from an anonymous CNYRadio.com reader, we were on the lookout for a format change today, but our tipster couldn’t tell us which station(s) would be involved.  Unable to find anything different on the dial this morning, we waited — and finally, we started hearing from readers at 3:00, that WHEN had announced it would be ending the sports format.  Moments later, the AM station started simulcasting Power 106.9 — or rather, Power 620.

The newly-retired Power 106.9 logo.
The newly-retired Power 106.9 logo.

Earlier this week, it was reported that someone had registered several internet domain names suggesting that WSYR would be moving to the FM dial at 106.9.  Shortly after that report, one CNYRadio.com reader wrote to tell us he was recently contacted to answer questions for a survey about his radio listening habits.  The survey focused on talk radio, and asked the gentleman if he would be more likely to listen to a station called “News Radio 106.9 WSYR,” as opposed to any AM-based talk station.

Another tipster tells us the urban format will be simulcast on 106.9FM and 620AM for the rest of the week, and then the WSYR simulcast will take over 106.9FM.

Earlier this week, CNYRadio.com placed a call to Clear Channel Operations Manager Rich Lauber, to ask about the above-mentioned domain name registrations.  His voicemail greeting said he’d be out of the office until today.  We haven’t yet received a response, but we will update this story if/when we hear anything new.

In Related News…

As long as we’re talking about the goings-on at 500 Plum Street, we’ve got an update to an earlier story about a wave of layoffs carried out earlier this month at Clear Channel locations across the country.  We never got any response to a message we left with GM Joel Delmonico last week, but we’ve heard from a couple more tipsters who concur that the station dismissed its business manager.  That seems to mesh with what national radio industry websites had reported earlier this month — about Clear Channel looking to streamline certain “back office” functions through a “hub and spoke” model.

Added 12/23 – Coverage Elsewhere

  • The Syracuse Post-Standard has an article about the 106.9/620 simulcast.  While Delmonico made time to talk to the newspaper, he wouldn’t admit that this is just a transitional phase, moving Power to the AM dial to make way for 106.9 to carry a simulcast of 570 WSYR.
  • RadioInsight.com, the site that first reported on the new internet domain name registrations suggesting WSYR would be moving to the FM dial, has updated its story.
  • National radio news website Radio-Info.com has the story on its homepage and it was in today’s Taylor on Radio-Info newsletter.  In addition to the comments posted below, there’s discussion on Radio-Info’s Syracuse/Utica message board.

Thank you!

On both accounts, thanks to many CNYRadio.com readers who’ve been helping to keep us informed about the changes.  Without your help, we wouldn’t have many of the stories you read here.  Keep those tips coming — if you’ve got news about local radio and we haven’t reported it yet, email cnyradio@cnyradio.com or use the Contact Form.  All requests for anonymity are honored with the highest regard… but if you really don’t want anyone to know who you are, remember that you don’t have to fill in your name or email address if you use the form.

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10 Comments to WHEN Flips from Sports to Urban… More Flips Coming?

  1. Can I predict how this will be criticized? AM radio has become an obsolete signal for music broadcast, so Clearchannel has moved urban fans “to the back of the bus” with a second-class service on a medium that doesn’t even offer a stereo signal.

    (not that it can’t do that, in fact I think WHEN has in the past, but who has anything that could recieve it?)

    It doesn’t surprise me to see them do away with SportsRadio620, though, because it’s always gotten the short-shrift when it comes to cutbacks; half the guys that once worked there work elsewhere in the same market. And I’ve been vocal in the past about the whole Yankees baseball thing – I wonder what happens with that and the Chiefs coverage now? I tend to think they can’t pre-empt Limbaugh and Reith. Nor can they pre-empt all the regular programming through two ballgames a day for entire weeks on end all summer…. or can they? Who knows what the GM will do; IMHO that’s the guy who should be canned.

    But I’m kind of leaning towards the Chiefs getting nabbed by Galaxy or going to WNSS; WSYR has already run commercials seeking advertising for next season’s Yankees coverage so I would assume they’re already contracted to carry those games – somewhere – in 2011.

  2. Being a long time Jim Rome fan, I wondered if any station here is going to be picking up “the Jungle”. I hate to go online over to Clear Channel’s WHTK and stream him online from work. I thought that they would flip sports over to 106.9 instead of talk. I hope that he lands on another station here in this market.

  3. WNSS would be a logical choice to pick up Jim Rome, although it would probably have to be run delayed.

    I kind of think the GM just isn’t a sports fan. You can go back through the news articles and follow every action they’ve made when it comes to sports and either it makes no sense, or it short changed WHEN in some way, or both. Every time they cut on air staff, it was WHEN, but there are guys on WSYR who’ve been there over 20 years. So it’s either he’s not a sports guy, he’s beholden to the WSYR people for some reason, or the guy just doesn’t have a clue. I mean, WNSS can hire some of the same people, apparently pay them enough to be happy, and sell enough commercial air time to make money, on a weaker signal, with lower ratings, and with a weaker network lead-in. You’re telling me the cluster owned by the biggest radio company around can’t manage that? Instead they’ve thrown in the towel on the whole format.

  4. If 106.9 is just simulcasting 570 then it’s a waste of a frequency. How is that serving the public? The CNY area has over 30 radio frequencies but over half of them are simulcasts of other stations.

    Also what will become of 106.9 HD2 which is already simulcasting 570? Why doesn’t ClearChannel just move Fox Sports to 106.9 HD2

  5. Actually that’s a good point, in one sense it’s a waste and again – doesn’t make sense.

    With the Galaxy ESPN combo, the FM simulcast makes sense – the AM stations are small and relatively weak, the FM is an improvement on what they offer, particularly at night when the 1200 signal has all the strength of a single Christmas tree bulb. But WSYR can be picked up pretty much anywhere in a 75-mile radius of Syracuse, it carries further than the 106.9 signal. At night it still reaches 30-40 miles out.

    But how I said the GM just copies other people? He’s at the same time copying Galaxy’s AM-on-FM format while also copying WXTL’s talk on FM format. What that’s supposed to accomplish, I’m not sure, unless the long term plan is to eventually abandon talk on WYSR-AM and only have it on the FM signal.

    I don’t think the HD-2 signals merit enough ratings for it to matter what they play, they could run EBS tests all day long and barely get a complaint.

  6. sportsmedia:
    It’s probably not a coincidence that the Savage dispute is coming at the same time. That would minimize the sports pre-emptions. They could also do what they did with WSEN: the AM side gets the sports pre-emptions while FM and the Internet stream continue with regular programming.

  7. I kind of doubt that Savage waited for Clearchannel to flip formats in this cluster/market to file a lawsuit, and I kind of doubt Joel Delmonico was at all worried what his syndicated talk hosts were doing when he made this decision.

    Further, even if Savage leaves radio entirely, they would just pick up some other show to replace him. Knowing them like I do, they’d probably try to get one that’s already on another station before they went to something new.

    The pre-emption issue now is what happens to daytime Yankees games given that in 2010 they played on WHEN and at most they might pre-empt an hour of Jim Reith for a game?

  8. To address a few different issues discussed so far:

    WNSS doesn’t exist anymore. Citadel changed the calls to WSKO back when they rebranded from ESPN to “The Score” in February.

    Savage’s lawsuit is between him and his syndicator (Talk Radio Network, which is not owned by Clear Channel) regarding the overall national syndication of his show. It has nothing to do with what’s happening here in Syracuse.

    As far as sports goes… from my knowledge of how the Yankees operate (from another market in a cluster that used to air Yankees games), the Yankees are pretty strict about stations carrying every single game… you can’t just air the night games and skip the day games due to Rush Limbaugh (who is equally strict about every show being carried, with very little exception).

    It always seemed to me that WHEN would be the first preference for Yankees games… but on nights when both the Yanks and the Syracuse Chiefs played, the Yanks would move to WSYR and the Chiefs get 620.

    If all the indications of 106.9 turning into a simulcast of WSYR come true (and at this point, I’ve heard “unofficial confirmation” from so many people I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen), I suspect CC could still carry both teams. Technically, 570 and 106.9 are still two separate stations… they don’t *always* have to be simulcasting. When the Yankees have a day game, then the game can be on one station while Rush remains on the other. When there’s a Chiefs/Yankees conflict at night, pontiac59 probably won’t be happy — I suspect they’ll put one game on FM and the other game on AM, so the evening talkers will still be pre-empted anyway… it’ll just be a matter of which game ends first, and when it does, will it join the “other” game, or will it return to normal programming?

    Many commenters on syracuse.com criticized Joel Delmonico for snubbing sports fans. I’ll be honest — thanks to his refusal to answer my messages (even though he’ll talk to the paper), I don’t have much love for the guy either, but I can’t assume he holds 100% of the blame for tossing the sports format. As reported earlier on CNYRadio.com, CC already did something similar in Albany — converting a rock station to a simulcast of WGY. Similar changes have been taking place in other markets too. I suspect it may have been partly (or mostly? or entirely?) a directive from corporate.

  9. This presents a golden opportunity to CITADEL. The urban format BELONGS on their 105.9! Its weaker signal is at a disadvantage in competing for a general audience, but it covers well a high percentage of the Urban audience.

    If I am correct that 105.9’s not showing up at all in the summer Arbitron indicates that the Big Talker format is bombing, one would think that Citadel needs an exit strategy from the talk format. If 105.9 has zero now, it can be even worse with WSYR next door at 106.9 with a better signal!

    An urban format on 105.9 can get a 2 or 3 share and provide some saleable numbers for Citadel. This is a good option for a secondary facility like 105.9.

    One would think that Citadel could reach an understanding with Clear Channel to take over the WPHR intellectual property and call letters. If they do it now, rather than after the WSYR flip, Citadel can maintain the Power audience intact and move them right down the dial. Clear Channel would be able to avoid the public relations disaster coming from a radio station stiffing the urban audience again. Such a disaster would tarnish the launch of WSYR on FM.

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