Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Welcome Back: Country Returns to New York Metro. What Drove Past Success

Something that’s been a long time coming happened yesterday (Monday, 01/21) in the nation’s number one market: New York City got a country station again.

Having launched WYNY as a country station for NBC and programming it from 1987-1992, I know that the New York metro is a great country market.  As with many formats, some pockets are hotter than others, but with 1-million-plus cume, there are lots of fans and potential P1s.

We had a number of firsts at WYNY including being the first country station to raise 1-million dollars for St. Jude. We had a cume of over a million with no sports affiliation to inject additional audience.

We had a staff of high profile personalities including the great Dan Daniel and Jim Kerr – two of the biggest names in New York City radio – and Scott Carpenter from KZLA, plus talent that worked (before or after) at New York's legendary CHR Z100.  

WYNY turned out to be a radio “Who’s-Who” whose staff also included the brilliant Steve Blatter (@Steve_Blatter) who is now the Sr. VP/GM, Music Programming SiriusXM.

We marketed.

We researched (continually) which helped us develop a unique brand strategy and a programming action plan that was built on totally on the New York/NJ/Connecticut country user.

We had a stellar promotions department that had a passion to find ways to put our amazing station and talent in the midst of listeners. 

We loved on the music and the artists, from Merle Haggard at the Garden to the Kentucky Headhunters at the Plaza Hotel (I’d love to tell you about THAT event when we see each other at CRS this year).

We hung with listeners every chance we could.

We embraced them and loved on their towns.

Over the years I’ve often been asked, “Why is there no country station in New York?” I’ve responded that three big factors are in play: signal, power ratios, and the corporate passion for the format.

Certainly one of the challenges for country in the New York metro is that big pockets of the audience live to the east (Long Island) and to the southwest (New Jersey). You can be talking in the neighborhood of 100 miles between the eastern and western pockets of the metro, so a signal with a big footprint is necesary if you’re going to be able to reach the maximum audience.

Obviously the revenue potential is a key consideration of any format decision, and formats have various power ratios (a power ratio of 1.2 means you can generally charge 20% above your ratings). These ratios vary across formats and across the country, so if the power ratio of one format is better than another, that would be a consideration. Recently country’s national Power Ratio was 1.07;   all news was a 2.0. 

That may or may not be what country is today in market #1.

And finally, yes, New York IS a different market for the format. The degree to which the plan is customized for the best prospects will make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in any way advocating watering the format down – but New Yorkers won’t accept “medium” as an acceptable suit size.

Country won’t be a ‘gimmie.’

But I’m excited for the industry and the fans that country has made a return to a great country market - hey, Jason Aldean sold out the Garden in 10 minutes and Brett Gardner, outfielder for the New York Yankees has been playing country music as his ‘walk to the plate music’ in Yankee stadium for years. 

Plus there's the market's strong sale of country music.

The blueprints for success are well documented. 

The potential rewards are great. 

The bar is high.

And those who have gone before you are here as resources to help you succeed.

The degree to which that success happens will be what Cumulus will do beyond the ordinary, and how they will treat New York as the unique – and amazing – country market that it is.

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