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60.3 F
San Diego
Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Radio, Ad Execs Wonder Why Star Fell So Abruptly

Not only are listeners baffled by the sudden format change at longtime pop music and personality-driven radio station Star 100.7 KFMB-FM, local advertising executives and radio industry insiders also are scratching their heads while evaluating its replacement, dubbed Jack.

“Some stations may make adjustments in their music or change in their personality lineup, but this is almost like throwing away an old station and starting a new one,” said Rick Goodrich, media director for AM Strategies, a San Diego-based advertising agency. “This is a radical move. It pretty much is astonishing to everyone.”

For the last 11 years, Star built its reputation on adult contemporary acts such as Maroon 5 and singer Kelly Clarkson, along with upbeat, chatty personalities including the morning drive team of Jeff and Jer and midday host Anita Rush.

But when KFMB-FM abruptly adopted Jack, as well as an entirely new persona on April 6, it rattled the nerves of loyal listeners who have bombarded a number of chat rooms and Web sites with complaints, which in turn has caught the attention of advertisers and radio industry insiders.

Goodrich, who places advertisements for San Diego-based auto group Mossy Corp., which operates nine dealerships throughout the county, said he has two other clients that ran ads on Star, but could not speculate on whether those ads would continue or be removed.

“We are reviewing the situation and we are watching it closely,” said Goodrich, adding that Mossy will continue to use Jeff and Jer, who will remain with Jack in the crucial morning drive slot, as its spokesmen. “Anytime there is a new format, you have to project what you think it can do. Once in awhile the station will guarantee ratings. Star didn’t.”

Agencies are, in effect, putting blind faith into a station when choosing to run advertisements, he said.

New Tunes

Under Jack, listeners will hear a wide variety of music, from Tom Petty to No Doubt to the Rolling Stones , a significant change from the pop music that targeted young women, which was a significant part of Star’s listener base.

During the past year, Star’s ratings had slipped, according to New York-based Arbitron Inc., an international media and marketing research firm,

From January to December 2004, Star slid from a 4.3 share to 3.1 for listeners 12 years and older.

The breakdown into ratings specific to age group was unavailable from Arbitron.

“We have researched the audience over a long period of time and have found that they are increasingly unhappy with the lack of variety on most radio stations. In addition, they have told us they dislike the repetition and object to the amount of talk on most stations, including Star 100.7,” said Tracy Johnson, the general manager, vice president and program director for 100.7 Jack-FM, which is owned and operated by Midwest Television Inc. “Changing to Jack addresses those listener concerns and fills a niche in the market as a variety-driven radio station.

“For several years, listeners have been telling us what they want, but we have not responded by giving it to them. Now we are, and they in turn are responding to us.”

Jack’s format is similar to the concept of an Apple iPod, a popular portable music player that allows listeners to program their favorite songs and then play them in random order , one sign the station may be seeking new ways to reach a growing segment of listeners who have turned away from commercial radio in favor of portable players and the burgeoning satellite radio market.

Jack, whose slogan is “Playing What We Want,” offers a rebellious attitude and hopes to address many of the problems that fell under the Star 100.7 format, Johnson said.

But Jim Richards, the vice president of programming for the local division of San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications, which operates 11 stations, including KHTS-FM 93.3, KGB-FM 101.5 and KUSS-FM 95.7, said the switch came as a surprise.

“They were one of the market leaders, and I haven’t yet been able to put my arms around how that’s a great move for them to drastically alter the format,” Richards said. “How do you justify blowing something up that was working well in ratings and revenue? I think what they did has great potential to profoundly positively impact (Clear Channel station) My 94.1.

“There is no direct competition now for My 94.1 It’s a very curious move, but I am not going to say it’s a mistake. But there is a thin line between genius and crazy, and we will find out over time.”

KFMB’s move to Jack comes on the heels of Los Angeles-based KCBS-FM 93.1, known as Arrow 93.1, which flipped to the Jack format in mid-March.

Arrow, which, like Star, had also been on the air for 11 years, fired all its on-air radio personalities, with the exception of morning host Jonathon Brandmeier.

The Jack format, which originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, appears on 16 stations across the United States and Canada, with more expected to turn up in the next several years, said Garry Wall, operator of Nashville, Tenn.-based Wall Media, which owns the licensing for Jack-FM.

Wall said stations are turning to the Jack format because it is “radically successful” and allows a station to interact with the listener.

“The format allows stations to connect passionately with the market on a level that stations don’t normally experience,” Wall said.

Competitive Market

According to industry veterans, stations normally are hesitant to change formats. But in San Diego’s highly competitive market, format switches occur quite frequently. KBZT-FM 94.9, which is operated by Jefferson-Pilot Communications Co., switched from oldies to ’80s music to its current format of alternative rock in just five years.

Besides My 94.1, Star’s chief competition came from longtime soft rock station KYXY-FM 96.5, which is operated by Infinity Broadcasting.

According to Arbitron’s fall 2004 ratings, KYXY led the pack as the No. 4 station in the market, with KFMB-FM and My 94.1 tied at ninth for listeners 12 years and older.

And while KFMB-FM has maintained a strong following in the market, the move to Jack may come as an attempt to beat the other stations in implementing an adult hits format.

“Star was such a fine radio station. It seems to me that they did it before someone else could,” said Darrel Goodin, the general manager of the local offices of Greensboro, N.C.-based Jefferson-Pilot Communications, which operates jazz station KIFM-FM 98.1, the alternative rock KBZT-FM 94.9 and country station KSON-FM 97.3. “Star had an overdeveloped image for (the) morning show and a pretty underdeveloped image for their music. When you think of Star, you think of Jeff and Jer. If someone else had done it, given they had an underdeveloped music image, it could have been very bad for them.”


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