Figuring Out 106.5’s Next Move

As Clear Channel Cleveland gets some attention for a wide-ranging musical stunt on the now-former “Mix 106.5”, just about everyone short of the proverbial dog catcher is trying to guess what the station does next on the still-currently-named WMVX/106.5.

We’ll preface this as being a piece, entirely, of speculation, based on no fact or even rumor about 106.5’s direction after 7:30 on Monday morning.

We’ve heard, well, nothing out of Oak Tree that would give us any hints.

However, “nature abhors a vacuum”, and radio observers do as well, so let’s put some bets down at the World-Famous Format Change Window:

* “GENX RADIO”. This one is getting most of our betting action today.

Though it could vary a bit from market to market, “GenX Radio” is Clear Channel’s latest “hot” format…a young-skewing 90’s music station, basically.

It started in Louisville KY, and expanded to Ohio…where the Columbus market’s “Radio 106.7” flipped to “GenX Radio”.

And just this week, Clear Channel made another flip to “GenX”, ending a rock format at St. Louis’ WSDD “The Sound” (and apparently ending a second gig for WMMS/100.7 afternoon drive host Alan Cox, who was voicetracking middays at “The Sound” from Oak Tree).

Louisville to Columbus to St. Louis…to Cleveland?

Any new format will have to play nice with existing stations in the Clear Channel cluster. Some cannibalization is not entirely out of the question, but not MUCH of it is going to be allowed.

“GenX” would have to be adjusted, mainly vis-a-vis top 40 WAKS/96.5 “Kiss FM”, but we think it could be done.

Remember, Clear Channel’s “name” formats are more branding than strict music formats. “The Brew” in Milwaukee is a little different from “The Brew” in Columbus. “My” is used on a number of stations, from Canton market straight ahead AC WHOF/101.7 “My 101.7” to Mansfield classic hits duo WSWR/100.1-WXXR/98.3 “My 100.1/98.3”.

Just because 106.5 could be “GenX”, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be a direct clone of the stations in Louisville, Columbus or St. Louis…all Midwest markets, by the way, if you’re looking for another sign.

If you’re looking for still another sign, consider that “Mix” programmer Tony Matteo, who programs no other stations at Oak Tree, is still in the building – as far as we know, at least.

That would seem to preclude the second candidate in our list…

* TALK OR SPORTS ON FM. Your home of the FM Talk Watch is discounting that possibility for 106.5.

There are various theories floating around that would support changing 106.5 to a spoken word format, either as a simulcast or replacement for talk powerhouse WTAM/1100, or as talk or sports complement to WTAM, or some combination thereof.

The first is something we’ve been saying here since this blog started in 2005… AM demographics are rapidly aging, and at some point, even big AM news/talkers like WTAM are going to have to consider changing bands.

We just don’t think it’s “that point” for WTAM.

And if 106.5 was headed for a spoken word format, why would they craft a rather extensive music stunt over four days?

If 106.5 was headed for news/talk/sports, why would Oak Tree announce the dismissal of their only full-time on-air staffers, and take the time to note the exit of “Valentine in the Morning”, but not mention the status of program director Matteo…who is as we mentioned, as far as we know, still at Oak Tree?

(For non-regulars coming in via Google search, “Oak Tree” is our regular shorthand for the Clear Channel Cleveland cluster, which is located on Oak Tree Boulevard in the Cleveland suburb of Independence.)

Any news/talk/sports station would presumably come automatically under the oversight of WTAM program director Ray Davis, making Matteo’s role unnecessary. But…as far as we know, he’s still there.

(And if he’s programming the music stunt, we’d like to tip our hat to him. It’s created a lot of buzz locally and nationally, at least among folks who watch the radio business. And we’ve gotten some positive presumably-non-industry-member comments as well.)

We also don’t buy mounting 106.5 as a syndicated talk sister station to 1100, or vice versa.

Such a lineup, even of the best syndicated hosts, won’t draw much in Cleveland, and the cluster is already airing the two biggest hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, on WTAM.

Why mess with that just so you can air Sean Hannity? Live in afternoon drive, Mike Trivisonno would bury Hannity in the first PPMs and beyond, no matter which frequency each was on.

Similarly, sports has (still) a very important role at WTAM, and moving that component to another frequency also messes with Oak Tree’s AM powerhouse.

And finally, there is no impending prospect of a major talk competitor on either the AM or FM band in Cleveland.

CBS is not long for the market, wanting to sell all of its non-Top 10 market holdings. If they were staying, they’d probably flip an FM to sports at some point.

And, our apologies to Salem’s WHK/1420, but no Salem talker is “major” competition for other secular big talk stations in major markets.

Our thought boils down to this: Clear Channel only moves or simulcasts WTAM onto the FM dial when they look at the demos and see there’s dwindling saleable audience. And not a moment before.

And we don’t think they’re close to that point…yet.

* FRESH. Here’s one out of left field, from Detroit.

Clear Channel just relaunched AC stalwart WNIC/100.3 there as “Fresh 100.3”, with a more aggressive hot AC format.

Here’s All Access on the change:

“Our target audience is still the same,” CLEAR CHANNEL/DETROIT OM TODD THOMAS said. “This is the music that radio listeners in DETROIT told us they wanted to hear. With their help, we’ve created a unique sound on 100.3 for 2011 and beyond.”

However, in Detroit, Clear Channel came out of Christmas music on WNIC to revamp the presentation and format. The station did not stunt for days with any kind of music, let alone the all-over-the-map music playlist that WMVX has been sporting since Wednesday morning.

If CC wanted to nudge “Mix” into “Fresh”, they could have just done it last Sunday or Monday.

IN CLOSING: There are other format prospects out there, but probably not likely enough for us to waste time on them here.

The current stunting, meanwhile, has garnered a lot of attention, with a Twitter hashtag – #1065cle, started by long-time OMW reader Kasper from Oak Tree sister station “96.5 Kiss FM”.

And one Twitter user has taken to using the API to tweet the station’s unusual playlist, song by song.

Even if you take a liking to it, WMVX’s All-Over-The-Road playlist will go away on Monday morning at 7:30. Such a station is a pretty cool novelty, but would drop off the map when the new ratings year starts…


4 Responses to Figuring Out 106.5’s Next Move

  1. victor malar says:

    Going from Rock to Gen-X is a change, going from Mix to Gen-X is a tweak.

    If 106.5 were going Gen-X, they could do it under the Mix banner simply by infusing more 90’s tunes in the playlist.

    By firing their DJ’s and going all over the board like they are now, WMVX is pulling a red herring, so should they flip to talk, it would be a huge shocker and have people talking.

  2. Maybe we’re just over-analyzing why they would stunt.

    Maybe the content and length of the stunt doesn’t give any indication of what’s on the other side…just a thought.

    And talk wouldn’t be “a huge shocker”, particularly if it was a WTAM simulcast. The content would be very familiar to many listeners, it’d just be on a different band. (I’m still betting on a music format, tho.)

  3. Yekimi says:

    ***sigh*** Used to be I was “in-the-know” when stuff like this was going to happen. Now with almost everyone I knew in Cleveland/Akron radio gone and new people voice tracked from trillions of miles away [well, it SEEMS like a trillion miles] I am just guessing along with everyone else.

    • Hey, we’re just guessing at a lot of this, too.

      And though there were two local voices on Mix, the morning show was tracked by a guy from Los Angeles with a couple of minutes back in his day from when he used to say “Mix 106.5” into a California microphone a few times…

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