About three months ago Clear Channel flipped four liberal talk radio stations to other formats claiming that the stations were not performing well.
Now, the results are in and it appears that format flips have proved to be flops.
Also, according to an article that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, where the lib talk station, WTPG/1230, was flipped to conservative talk, it appears that CC’s motives were not to improve to the programming but rather to protect dominant status of their heritage conservative talk station WTVN/610.
During the last two weeks of December, stations operated by CC in Boston, MA and Columbus, and Cincinnati, OH dropped lib talk in favor of new formats.
WXKS/1400-WKOX/1200 in Boston became The Rumba (a music format targeting Hispanics). WTPG in Columbus became a conservative talker with new call letters – WYTS, and WSAI in Cincinnati was changed to eclectic mish mash of lifestyle talk calling itself The Source.
Now the Winter Arbitron survey results are in and the news for Clear Channel are not good.
Hispanics in Boston have not picked up on the Rumba where listenership has dropped by 75%. Conservatives in Columbus, who seem to be happy with WTVN, are not flocking to WYTS, which saw listenership fall by 38%. And talk radio listeners in Cincinnati are not tuning to The Source, which has resulted in stunning 90% decline in WSAI’s ratings.
Collectively, the three stations have lost about 70% of listenership over the past three months.
Next ratings period we will see how the other CC flips have worked out --e.g. in Akron, WARF/1350 and in New Haven WAVZ/1300 where the stations have switched to Sports.
Remember what CC managers said at the time that they announced these three flips.
We’ve reported extensively on comments made by Darryl Parks, CC’s operation manager in Cincinnati who refers to himself as "the 'Grim Reaper' of liberal talk radio."
"It was a format that was set up not to entertain, but it seemed set up to get people elected, for a lack of a better way to put it," Parks said. " "There were some good (liberal) shows, but they need to start looking to more broad-based subjects than just harping on politics."
Tom Thon, CC’s market manager in Columbus told the Dispatch that the format flip was just a "business decision".
"Unfortunately, central Ohio listeners did not respond to the progressive format," Thon said. "It’s been very underperforming in ratings and revenue."
However, that same newspaper in Columbus revealed that CC might have had a different motivation.
On Wednesday, the Dispatch, reporting on the sharp ratings declines experienced by WYTS, confirmed that CC had no desire to return to lib talk in spite of the miserable ratings they were receiving for the newly launched conservative talk format.
"The station now ties up talk-show hosts such as Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage in case another station in town wants to flip an FM station to talk,"the Dispatch reported.
So it seems that "the business" decision that CC made was not designed to get higher ratings for WTPG (WYTS), but rather to protect their conservative talk franchise on WTVN.
Lib talk radio fans in Boston, Columbus, and Cincinnati are working hard to get the format back in their respective markets. For more information check out their discussion boards.