Back in 1972 WCBS-FM became one of America’s first oldies stations. It was fabulously successful. That’s another way of saying it was very profitable.
By 2005 radio was changing. Though CBS-FM was still very profitable its operating costs were very high. Technology had enabled other stations to pare their budgets by cutting back on live disk jockeys. Profit is just as meaningful when it comes from diminished costs as it is from increased sales.
On June 3, 2005 CBS-FM became Jack-FM. The disk jockeys (the expensive disk jockeys) were gone. In their place was an automated station playing a wide variety of music.
The public took to Jack-FM like a duck takes to oil!
Not to use too many bird metaphors but CBS had killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Profits plunged. Nice going corporate bean counters.
To quote Wikipedia:
The “Jack” format experiment at WCBS-FM is widely regarded, inside and outside the industry, as one of the greatest failures in modern New York radio history, as the station fell to the very bottom of the ratings of full-market-coverage FM stations in the New York market.
Seeing the error of their ways (and missing all that cash) CBS decided to go back to oldies on WCBS-FM in 2007. The switch paid off almost immediately. And now:
New York radio has a new No. 1 station. Classic hits WCBS-FM has taken the top spot in the ratings for May, according to the monthly ratings report from Arbitron, which was released Wednesday.
In the category of listeners aged 12 years old and up, WCBS beat WLTW-FM with a 6.4 share of the audience vs. Lite FM’s 6.0. Clear Channel Radio’s WLTW had been the No. 1 station every month since Sept. 2008, but while its numbers have held steady, CBS FM’s have climbed. – Crains New York Business
While companies like Clear Channel, Citadel, Cumulus and other large radio group owners have tried to make more by spending less CBS has decided to let superior programming and attention to local detail find its own level.
Don’t get me wrong. This is CBS. They are a corporation that mostly does things in a corporate type of way. They are not radio’s Mother Theresa, but they have come up with a winner in New York City by investing in the product.
Oh my God! Good triumphs over evil.
As an old radio guy (in every sense of that word) I have been disheartened by what radio has become. Too often you’re listening to someone who’s not live nor in your city. Local service is gone. One chain with a presence in Connecticut does their local news from Syracuse, NY!
I often moan that radio is dead. It was weakened at the exact time other technologies like iPods and Pandora were rising. And the death spiral was set in motion by heavily leveraged companies with neither the money nor desire to compete the old fashioned way.
The success of WCBS-FM could mean there’s still a pulse.