Fresh start for WWFS
June 24, 2007
By Matthew Flamm, Crain's New York Business
By: Matthew Flamm
Published: June 24, 2007 - 6:59 am
Each weekday on WPLJ, listeners can tune in to Scott & Todd in-the-Morning.
At WLTW, they can hear Karen & Christine in the Morning.
But on WWFS, the newest station targeting suburban women, the morning host
is virtually anonymous.
A low-key approach and soft music mix aimed at younger listeners have
finally given WWFS what years of fumbling and a series of format shifts
could not: a ratings winner.
The CBS Radio station, which was once known as WNEW and is now called Fresh
102.7, jumped into the top 10 among its key audience--women listeners--in
its first Arbitron survey this winter. Its share of that audience more than
doubled from the fall.
Competitors are taking notice.
"It sounds like a station you might hear in an elevator," snipes Scott
Shannon, WPLJ program director and half of Scott and Todd. Nevertheless, he
says, "it seems to be affecting LTW and PLJ."
Fresh is doing more than affecting WPLJ. An aggressive marketing campaign
when 102.7 launched in January helped it blow past WPLJ--owned by Citadel
Broadcasting--in the target audience.
WPLJ's share of women aged 18 to 49 held even at a 3.4 in the winter.
But 102.7's share climbed to a 3.9 from a 1.8 in the fall, when it was
playing dance music under the old Mix format. Fresh ranked ninth in the
target demographic, up seven spots. WPLJ slipped to No. 11.
Fresh has now set its sights on powerhouse WLTW, which recently dropped its
longtime Lite FM moniker in favor of 106.7--a move that some observers think
was made in response to competition from Fresh.
Long-suffering CBS Radio executives are delighted to see their problem
station turn the corner.
"To land in the top 10 on a launch was fabulous," says Fresh General Manager
"We have a very suburban, upscale audience, and advertisers love it."
Monthly ad revenue for 102.7 has doubled since the launch, and nearly 50 new
accounts have signed on, Ms. Mason says.
Fresh still has catching up to do. Last year, it posted ad revenues of $17
million, according to BIA Financial Network. WPLJ billed $37.2 million and
WLTW $65.6 million.
But Fresh is making progress.
"Its share of ad dollars is growing at a faster rate" than that of its two
competitors, says Mark Lefkowitz, media director at Furman Roth Advertising
Inc. "It's still not a giant number, but if [102.7's] ratings continue to
improve, I think both of those stations will take a hit."
Even so, Fresh has to prove its staying power. New formats often draw
listeners eager to sample something different, but they don't necessarily
"They've done a good launch, and you have to see how it plays out," says Rob
Williams, market manager of Clear Channel New York, WLTW's operator. "There
are plenty of stations that can launch well."
Ad growth questioned
There's also some question about how much 102.7's advertising revenue can
Fresh is far from topping the ranks of stations targeting suburban women.
106.7's No. 1 position in that category makes that station a must-buy for
many advertisers. And WWFS doesn't have the selling power of star
Morning hosts Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill have long helped WPLJ bill
far beyond its modest ratings by promoting products and events. Having
popular pitchmen helps stations charge higher rates for ads.
"Fresh doesn't have all the tools in the toolbox that WPLJ has," says radio
consultant Robert Unmacht.
Ms. Mason argues that the Fresh Web site is a great promotional tool and
that advertisers are happy with the results.
Reasonably priced option
For marketers, Fresh is a welcome addition, largely because it gives them an
alternative to 106.7, the top-billing signal in the country and an expensive
station to buy.
"The more competition, the better for my clients," says Tricia Pickering, a
senior media buyer at Carat USA. "Fresh may not be No. 1, but when you break
into the top 10, that's a big deal."
Latest rating comparisons (average quarter-hour share of female audience
aged 25 to 54, Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to midnight).
Winter 2007; Fall 2006; % change
WWFS 4.3; 2.1; +105%
WPLJ 3.4; 3.7; -8%
WLTW 9.4; 9.8; -4%
Source: Arbitron Inc.