A year ago, Radio One was looking to sell its underperforming Charlotte stations.
It couldnt get a good offer, so the Maryland-based broadcasting company decided to go all-in and try to make a dent against CBS Radios powerhouse urban duo of WBAV-FM (V 101.9) and WPEG-FM (Power 97.9).
Based on the October rankings from Arbitron, Radio One hit its target with a vengeance.
Key to the strategy was its $7.75 million acquisition of WNOW-FM (105.3). Radio One switched formats from Spanish to classic hits in September.
It was renamed Old School for its menu of black artists like the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder and Rick James. In a single month, the stations overall audience shot up nearly 140 percent, landing in a tie at No. 11 with Clear Channel Radios WHQC-FM (Channel 96.1).
This week Old School (WNOW) changed its call letters to WOSF-FM.
Thats for Old School Flavah, says Gary Weiss, who oversees Radio Ones stations in Charlotte, Raleigh and Richmond. Spell it right its F-L-A-V-A-H.
Radio One also began simulcasting its inspirational gospel WPZS-FM (Praise 100.9) on its other but weaker station, WQNC-FM (92.7), which had specialized in black-oriented contemporary music.
Thats resulted in a 25 percent boost in listener ratings for Praise, according to Arbitron, and put the station among the top 10 in Charlotte.
Urban radio, industry shorthand for stations targeted at the African-American audience and young whites drawn to rap and rhythm, has long been the No. 1 format in Charlotte radio. Blacks compose 22 percent of the available audience and in October the regions urban stations attracted more than a fifth of all listeners. Format No. 2 in Charlotte is country music, which attracted 14 percent.
Radio Ones gains came at the expense of CBS Radios stations. WBAV-FM, which has long dominated radio rankings with its bookend syndicated shows of Steve Harvey in the mornings and Michael Baisden in afternoon drive time. It fell to No. 3 behind the citys two country stations in October, a 20 percent tumble for WBAV-FM. Sister station WPEG-FM fell 11 percent in overall listeners, landing at No. 5.
In nearly every ratings period since the beginning of 2006, WBAV-FM has been Charlottes the No. 1 station. It lost Tom Joyners morning show to Radio Ones WQNC-FM (and is now on Old School) in late 2004 and faded before landing Harvey a year later. He was an instant success and WBAV-FM has topped ratings since.
WBAV-FMs operations director Terri Avery says she expected some dip because every new station attracts sampling. But she believes that CBSs stations will continue to dominate against Old School, which plays music but has no local hosts, because of CBSs intensely local focus and popular talents like Chirl Girl, Gary Knight and Jewel Carter.
WBAV-FM also has straight-shooting Beatrice Thompson, the best talk talent in Charlotte, which has unusually strong hosts for a city its size. Thompson, who has spent her career in Charlotte radio and TV, is known for her fearless style and well-placed sources.
Radio Ones Weiss says the company will probably be looking at adding local talent, but for now, music is the star at Old School.
Radio One did extensive polling to find a niche underserved by CBS Radio, Weiss says. Theyre a good competitor and theyre not going away, but they appeared to be a lot more formidable than what they turned out to be. Theyve been comporting themselves like the 900-pound gorilla and the only option. Now were in it to win it.
Harvey and Baisden are winners in every city where theyre carried, Weiss says, but that presented an opportunity to Radio One.
Theyve got a lot of talk and a lot of clutter. In a way, theyve maybe got themselves painted into a corner, Weiss says.
Former WCNC (Channel 36) anchor/reporter Bobby Sisk has taken a similar assignment at Bostons CBS affiliate, arriving just in time for superstorm Sandy. Moira Quinn, still well-known from her days at PM Magazine, returned to WBTV to talk about her diagnosis of breast cancer. In an interview with Channel 3s Kristen Hampton, Quinn said the Stage 2 cancer was caught in a mammogram, and she expects to be fine after chemotherapy. Quinn is now spokeswoman for Charlotte Center City Partners.
WFAE-FM (90.7) will hold its next installment in its Public Conversation Series at 7 p.m. Wednesday at ImaginOns Wells Fargo Playhouse. News director Greg Collard will moderate the discussion focusing on the decline of respect and manners. Panelists will include Wingate University President Jerry McGee and Mecklenburg District Judge Rickye McKoy-Mitchell.
Owner Rick Hendrick will lead a discussion of his NASCAR teams achievements in Beyond 200: The Hendrick Motorsports Story at 8 p.m. Sunday on Speed channel with drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Geoff Bodine, Terry Labonte, Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip. Among those featured on the Extreme Makeover Home Edition two-hour holiday special at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 with be driver Michael Waltrip. A year ago, the show shot the makeover in Lincolnton at the Friday family home.
Myers Park High School and UNC Chapel Hill grad Keith Whitener won $147,597 over eight days on Jeopardy!, making him one of the top 15 winners ever on the show. Whitener, 29, is now a research chemist in Washington at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.