WCBS-FM officially returning to oldies format

July 9, 2007

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WCBS-FM officially returning to oldies format

WCBS-FM, or 101.1, confirmed all the rumors Monday. The radio station announced in a press release that it will return to its oldies format on Thursday, at 1:01 p.m.

But this iteration of WCBS-FM won’t be quite the same station that flipped to the Jack FM format on June 3, 2005.

The new oldies station will play artists from the 1980s, like Blondie, Huey Lewis and John Mellencamp, according to Program Director Brian Thomas. The old station stuck mostly to 1960s and ‘70s.

Like the old WCBS-FM, the programming will focus on pop music, not rock. But Mr. Thomas expects it to appeal to some of the rock fans who now listen to Jack.

“[The selection] is a few years older than Jack, but this will be a much more mass appeal product [than the old WCBS-FM],” Mr. Thomas says.

Along with oldies, DJs Dan Taylor and Bob Shannon will also come back to the WCBS-FM airwaves. Others may follow in months to come.

Mr. Taylor will host morning drive and Mr. Shannon will follow as midday host. Broadway Bill Lee, a longtime WKTU DJ, will spin records for afternoon drive.

Channel 11 weather anchor Mr. G will also return to the station to provide weather updates, as will Al Meredith to read news.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the loyal fan base who’ve never stopped asking for the format’s return, and now we’re thrilled to be back,” Jennifer Donohue, general manager of WCBS-FM, said in a statement.

The station had flipped to the Jack FM format in the hopes of reaching a younger, more advertiser friendly audience, but fans protested, ratings plummeted and advertisers fled.

Completing the reversal, Jack FM will move to an HD Radio side channel—where WCBS-FM’s oldies tunes have been heard for the last year and a half. Jack does not use on-air personalities, and plays a mix of current and older songs in a random pattern similar to the shuffle mode on an iPod.

The switch back to oldies may encompass more than a response to listener demand. In the most recent Arbitron report, this winter, Jack FM had worked its way up to a 3.2 share of the audience among 25 to 54 year olds, putting it on par with the old WCBS-FM. But without popular hosts Jack could never take advantage of promotional opportunities like live reads, for which advertisers pay a premium.

“Jack doesn’t do product endorsements, Jack doesn’t have lunch with clients, Jack is really a dull boy,” says Robert Unmacht of media consulting firm iN3 Partners. “There are a lot more places you can sell ads [on WCBS-FM].”

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