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K-Rock flips to Top-40

March 9, 2009

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K-Rock flips to Top 40

By By Matthew Flamm

Published: March 9, 2009 - 4:59 pm

Goodbye, Pearl Jam and U-2. Hello, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake.

As of Wednesday at 5 p.m., K-Rock is no more.

WXRK-FM, which re-launched as a rock station in May 2007 after an ill-fated dalliance with the all-talk format, is going Top 40. The station will be re-branded 92.3 NOW FM, CBS Radio announced Monday.

“It’s the first new mainstream music station to be launched in New York in nearly 30 years,” said Greg Strassell, senior vice president of programming at the radio operator. He added that one aim of the flip was to “diversify our radio portfolio in New York City.”

The station will target 18- to 34-year-old listeners, an advertiser-friendly demographic group that Clear Channel Radio has been able to capture with its top-rated WHTZ-FM.

WXRK has been through more personality changes than Madonna in recent years.

Through 2005, it was the longtime home of Howard Stern, turning to rock music for the rest of the day after the shock jock king finished his morning show.

Once Mr. Stern moved to Sirius Satellite Radio in January 2006, the station was re-invented as all-talk WFNY, or Free New York.

The talk shows never caught on, and K-Rock returned in May 2007. But the rock station also lagged in the ratings.

WXRK was ranked 21st in Arbitron’s January ratings survey, with a 1.5 share of audience among all listeners. WHTZ, or Z-100, was in second place with a 5.2 share, and in 1st place among 18-34-year-olds, with a 10.5.

Some radio experts said that the format flip wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but that CBS faced an uphill battle.

“They’ll have to introduce a station that’s as compelling as Z-100 and convince people to give up their old friends for new friends,” said Robert Unmacht of media consulting firm In3 Partners.

CBS responds that there are plenty of 18 to 34 year olds to go around.

“There’s room for a new competitor to come in and be a unique station,” Mr. Strassell said.

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