A major change is likely in the dynamic of urban radio when Radio One takes over a station with a powerful transmitter reaching most of the region.
Radio One is based in Silver Spring, Md., and operates about 50 stations largely targeting African-Americans, including two in Charlotte and four in Raleigh-Durham. It announced this week it had reached an agreement to buy WNOW-FM (Poder 105.3) for $7.75 million.
Gary Weiss, regional vice president of Radio Ones Carolina operations, said Friday the company would unveil a new format on the station early in September, though for competitive reasons he would not reveal details.
Its not a good idea for us to telegraph that at this point, said Weiss.
But typically, in cities where Radio One operates multiple stations, it tends to focus on the three major formats in urban radio: adult contemporary, inspirational and rhythmic hip-hop.
In Charlotte, Radio Ones stations cover two of those now: WQNC-FM (My 92.7), which features contemporary and rhythm & blues from the 80s and beyond; and WPZS-FM (Praise 100.9), which features gospel and inspirational music.
Longtime fight for listeners
Radio One competes against CBS Radios two powerful urban stations, WBAV-FM (V101.9) and WPEG-FM (Power 98), both perennially among the top five local stations in ratings.
In the latest Arbitron rankings, the two CBS stations claimed 16 percent of the regions radio audience. Radio Ones two stations had 6 percent.
Up until now we havent been formidable, said Weiss, largely because the companys signals were not strong enough to reach the corners of the Charlotte market. But with the powerful WNOW-FM transmitter on the same high tower as WBTV (Channel 3) and WLNK-FM (Link 107.9) and throws a signal for about 60 miles that will change, he said.
Weiss ruled out moving either the WPZS-FM or WQNC-FM signals to the new station, saying the company has been studying the market and has an entirely new sound in mind.
Fight became aggressive
Weiss said Radio One put its Charlotte stations up for sale last September, but nothing came of it. They were taken off the market in April and negotiations began with the owners of WNOW-FM, which had been playing a Mexican regional music format.
We decided wed like to be in Charlotte after all, and decided wed like to be in it to win, he said.
An agreement was signed July 20 for transfer of the station, and it was announced this week. Radio One will take control of the station next month, paying $50,000 a month to operate it until the purchase closes within 18 months in 2013, Weiss said.
Urban radio industry shorthand for targeting African-Americans and younger white listeners drawn to the rhythmic energy of hip-hop has long been Charlottes No. 1 format, ahead of country music, which in the latest Arbitron rankings captured 14 percent of the regions listening. Charlotte is the nations 24th largest radio market, with a population of 2.05 million. African-Americans compose 22 percent of that.