At the top of the hour, Chicago smooth-jazz stalwart WNUA will flip from its 22-years-entrenched format to the Spanish-language programming design known as “Mega,” in the latest example of the decimation of the format beloved by so many cabbies that’s taken place over the past two years. But for the first time in my extensive reading on this topic, I’ve found out just why radio companies seem to be fleeing from the sultry sounds of “Piano In The Dark” in droves:
The problem that ultimately doomed WNUA was not the devotion of its audience, which didn’t flag. The problem was Clear Channel’s ability to cash in on it.
According to independent industry revenue figures, WNUA’s take was off by almost $2 million in 2008 compared with ’07, while Spanish-language leaders — WLEY-FM 107.9 and Univision’s WOJO-FM 105.1 — showed gains.
“The revenue support for WNUA declined significantly in recent years due to the changes in how advertisers evaluate radio stations, and we were faced with a very difficult decision,” said Earl Jones, president and market manager of Clear Channel Radio Chicago.
“This is something we really struggled with,” said Tony Coles, vice president of programming and operations of its six-station cluster. “We’re fans of WNUA. So it was really tough to even have conversations about the end of that radio station. But we looked at all the indicators. We really put a lot of time and energy and research and marketing and everything for that radio station, and the needle wasn’t moving — and then the economy started going south as well.”
You’d think the smooth “sophistication” of WNUA and its ilk would at least be enough to attract the businessman-anxiety-stoking advertisers who run spots on most metropolitan areas’ news stations. Perhaps when the new pop stations for attention-span-challenged types that CBS Radio is flooding the world with go tits-up, we’ll see a resurgence? OK, that’s wishful thinking, I know. Let’s break out the Brenda in memoriam:
WNUA swings to Spanish format [Chicago Tribune]
Piano In The Dark – Brenda Russell [YouTube]