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News Archive: April/May 2005

April 29, 2005
According to this article in Radio & Records, Westwood One is planning to offer a Variety Hits format delivered by satellite. The format, which will be called "Sam", will be aimed at a 25-54 audience (slighly different than the 35-44 range targeted by the Canadian Bob FM format) with songs that are hits but have a low burnout factor. The article reveals that the playlist will sample from "almost 40 years of recorded music", which implies a 70s-and-beyond era from which music can be chosen.

The format is slated to launch on June 6. Due to the complexity of programming the format, this might be a more appealing choice for mid-to-small market stations that other satellite-fed formats, which in theory are easier to program. Local liners will be provided by the same voiceover talent that will do the national liners, which will be mixed 50/50, according to the R&R article.


May 2, 2005
There are rumors swirling that Clear Channel might make its second move into the Variety Hits format (the first being in Des Moines, IA) in the Atlanta market. The company has moved its successful Viva 105.3 format over to the stronger 105.7 signal in the market, though for the moment it is simulcasting Viva on both 105.3 and 105.7 to help listeners know about the move. 105.3 covers only part of the Atlanta market, but since its move-in it has been used by Clear Channel as a testing ground for new formats in Atlanta. '80s music was tried unsuccessfully, as was FM Talk (though the talk lineup was, to put it kindly, an odd mix). Spanish worked great and is now getting the push up to a full-powered format. Currently, Infinity has a Variety Hits station in Atlanta with 92.9 Dave FM, though it is much more rock-leaning than the typical Variety Hits station.

Paragon Media, which helped develop the Jack FM format in Canada, has released some interesting new information about the format and a list of myths about Jack FM. The release includes a comparison of why the company believes the Jack brand is much stronger than Bob (or any of the other male first name Variety Hits stations). Click here to read the .pdf file of the article, written by Paragon CEO Mike Henry.

May 3, 2005
The list of markets with Variety Hits in the United States is now complete, to the best of my knowledge. I might've missed one or two out there; if so, let me know at loupickney@gmail.com. Next up is the Canada list...

Also, in putting together the Des Moines page, I discovered that Clear Channel created a site called FreeBusRide.com as part of an elaborate stunt that touted a free 24/7 bus service. The campaign ended up being a promotional twist to get people aware of Clear Channel's first move into the Variety Hits realm, 106.3 The Bus. I mention this because there were some other cities listed on there: Rockford, IL; Madison, WI; Wichita, KS; Colorado Springs, CO; Austin, TX; and Springfield, MO. Is that a hint of things to come, or just part of the ruse to make it seem real? We shall see.

May 4, 2005
Baltimore now has a Variety Hits station, as Infinity Oldies outlet WQSR flipped today to 102.7 Jack FM. The flip happened at 11:30 AM; I'm told that the entire WQSR airstaff was let go in the switch. Best wishes to them in finding work elsewhere in a speedy manner. The one thing I don't like about this format is when it ends up costing people their jobs.

Also, another flip happened this week (on Monday), as KKXX-FM in Bakersfield, CA changed from Active Rock to Variety Hits as 93.1 Pirate Radio.

May 5, 2005
The flips just keep on coming. Entercom flipped 80s WBZU 105.1 The Buzz to Variety Hits as 105.1 Charlie FM, the same name Entercom used for its Variety Hits station in Portland, OR.

May 6, 2005
Former KCBS-FM imaging and commercial producer Ed Moloney has been signed by Westwood One to be the Program Director for the forthcoming "Sam" Variety Hits satellite-fed offering that is set to launch on June 6, 2005. Sam (standing for "Simply About Music") is the first satellite-offered service for the Variety Hits format.

100000watts.com now classifies Variety Hits stations as a separate sub-group as "Adult Hits". However, there are a few stations that we dissent in classifying in this genre, mostly Classic Hits stations that don't meet the criteria for being a Variety Hits station.

May 10, 2005
I've decided to remove WZGC Atlanta (92.9 Dave FM) from the listings. A line has to be drawn somewhere, and WZGC is really more of a Modern Rock/AAA/Modern AC hybrid. Mark Knopfler's Postcards From Paraguay, which the station played this afternoon, is an example of why that station doesn't belong in the listings.

Philadelphia's 95.7 Ben FM has changed call letters to WBEN-FM effective 5/9/2005. Also, 98.7 Simon in Greensboro, NC switched call letters to WSMW as of 5/9/2005.

May 11, 2005
Late breaking news: San Francisco/Oakland now has a Variety Hits station, as at noon PDT today KZBR flipped from country to Variety Hits as 95.7 Max FM.

Another station has joined the ranks of the Variety Hits list. This time it's WKIO in Champaign/Urbana, IL, which yesterday switched from Oldies 92.5 to Variety Hits as 92.5 The Chief.

May 12, 2005
Another day, another city gets Variety Hits. South Central joined the Variety Hits game for the first time, flipping Nashville's successful Oldies 96.3 WMAK-FM to Variety Hits as 96.3 Jack FM. The station was Oldies for in excess of ten years, and it had done very well 25-54, but Oldies is a dying format. I know many of you don't want to hear that (and I love a well-programmed Oldies station myself), but that's reality.

Clear Channel flipped Outlaw Country 92.7 (KFAB-FM) to Variety Hits as My 92.7 in Fargo, ND. This is not Clear Channel's first Variety Hits station (they have one in Des Moines and another in Springfield, MO), contrary to some reports. However, I consider the change of Clear Clannel KVUU K-View 99.9 to My 99.9 in Colorado Springs (where KJAC can be heard) to be merely a rebranding. I know there will be times where it will be hard to decide what qualifies and what doesn't, but KVUU played the Backstreet Boys multiple times this afternoon/evening. In my estimation, that's a disqualification. That makes you a Hot AC.

Compare the KVUU website to the KFAB-FM website and I think you'll see what I mean in the vast differences. But don't take that as a knock on KVUU -- to take on an established Jack FM heads-on with a clone would be crazy.

After much deliberation, I've decided that Cox's WMMO in Orlando belongs on here. While not "Jack like" in presentation, the musical mix it has had (for the most part) since 1990 has proven to be years ahead of its time.

May 13, 2005
In reaction to South Central's WMAK-FM in Nashville flipping Oldies 96.3 to 96.3 Jack FM with Variety Hits, Cumulus retaliated today by changing Hot AC formatted Star 97 to Oldies 97.1, with plans to hire the three on-air personalities jettisoned by South Central in the move to Jack. There's a link to an interesting newspaper article about the situation located in the media section on here.

May 16, 2005
Infinity has flipped a Hot Talk station to Jack for the first time, as right after Howard Stern this morning the station flipped from 92.9 WBUF to 92.9 Jack FM. However, this article from Radio & Records reveals that WBUF will keep Stern's show in morning drive for the remainder of his contract (it's scheduled to expired at the end of 2005).

This site is now affiliated with Radio-Info.com, and we have a message board on the site (which I help to moderate). Check it out by clicking here (there's also a link to it in the left corner). As of this writing, we have some good discussions going on already in there.

Thanks to Lance Venta of Radio-Info.com, who pointed out two more Variety Hits stations that I had initially overlooked in my compilation: WMJO in Saginaw, MI and KTMT-FM in Medford, OR. Those are now included in the city-by-city market listing.

May 17, 2005
Thanks to Ian March, music director of 93.9 Bob FM (CKKL in Ottawa), who gave me corrected information on that station's sign-on in the market, as well as info on a Canadian station I had overlooked initially, (CFMK) in Kingston, Ontario.

May 18, 2005
According to this article in Radio & Records, Bill Lueth has been named the PD of Bonneville's new Variety Hits formatted 95.7 Max FM in San Francisco. An interesting note: the primary voiceover talent used for that station, and sister Bonneville Variety Hits KPKX in Phoenix, is actor John O'Hurley. He's best known for his role as J. Peterman on the television show Seinfeld.

Thanks to Lance Venta of Radio-Info.com who provided information on KWSZ in Santa Maria, CA, which flipped to Variety Hits last month as 105.1 Mike FM. I have very little info on this station; its website is up with an "Under Development" page, and 100000watts.com still lists it as having an Oldies format. This article confirms the flip, but details are scarse. If anyone from Mapleton Communications or the Santa Maria area reads this and has more information, please send it my way.

May 19, 2005
Thunder Bay (Ontario, Canada) has lost its Variety Hits simulcast known as Larry FM, which flipped yesterday to CHR as Hot FM. Now until the flip happened, I didn't even know the station existed, but that's the difficulty with trying to keep track of Canadian radio stations from my location here in Tampa, FL. I have certain websites that I visit to follow U.S. radio stations, but for our neighbors to the north, where this format first spread and proved itself via commercial radio, information can be hard to come by at times. I know this site has plenty of visitors from people who work in the radio business in Canada, so if any of you see any missing/errant information, please pass it my way. The Thunder Bay tip came from the Variety Hits message board, which has some nice discussions going on concerning the format.

May 20, 2005
It was bound to happen. JACK-FM, meet JILL-FM. North America's first in-market Variety Hits showdown is, interestingly enough, a battle of Jack vs. Jill. And it's not happening in a mid-major or a small market: it's taking place in Los Angeles.

KCBS-FM (93.1 Jack FM) in Los Angeles, from what I've been told, is more male-skewing with its music than the typical Jack station. That lead Joe Amaturo's Amaturo Group, which owns KMLT Thousand Oaks, KLIT Fountain Valley, and KELT Adelanto, to flip its trio of Class A stations (all on 92.7) in the outer L.A. area from AC Lite 92.7 to Variety Hits (with a female lean) as 92.7 Jill FM. PD George Johns is overseeing the switch, according to Radio & Records.

Additionally, R&R reports that the 92.7 Jill FM trimulcast can best be heard in Orange County, eastern Ventura County and northern San Bernardino County. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, this has on 93.1 Jack FM, which has an estimated broadcast radius of 79 miles.

May 25, 2005
Things have slowed down considerably in the past few days as far as stations switching to the Variety Hits format. But don't worry, this site is still watching the industry closely, waiting to see how these stations do in the Spring 2005 Arbitrons (and in Canada with whichever monitoring service is used in a given market). I've done my best to keep this from turning into Rumor Central, but I do feel comfortable saying that the talk that had been going around about WNEW New York going to JACK-FM has slowed down considerably. But don't think Variety Hits won't eventually make its way to the Big Apple...

There's an outstanding article that I ran across on the internet today from radio consultant Guy Zapoleon, who I consider one of the best in the business at what he does. This article reveals Guy's take on the Variety Hits format. What is most interesting is Guy's take on how what stations are currently in a given market can play a major role in a Variety Hits station's success.

There's now a Mailbag section on this website. The first entry is an angry e-mail that came my way last night, along with my retort.

May 26, 2005
Here's a warm welcome to those of you who made your way to this site by way of the AP article by Nicole Ziegler Dizon, that was picked up nationally, which spotlighted the Variety Hits format and included a link to this site. Check out the article if you haven't yet read it.

NRG Media's KCTY-FM in Omaha has flipped from Classic Hits (as Retro 106.9) to Variety Hits as 106.9 Bob FM. It's NRG Media's first Variety Hits station.

A new mailbag is online, with questions about how new the format really is and when we might see it in SW Florida (if ever).

May 27, 2005
Dallas's 100.3 Jack FM (KJKK) will face a challenge from an unexpected source: AM radio. KFXR, which has been a Fox Sports outlet, has changed to Mighty 1190, promising to play Dallas' "broadest and deepest mix of pop, rock, soul, disco, R&B, classic rock and oldies." This article from Billboard Radio Monitor explains more. The station is targeting Adults 35-64 and will be commercial free throughout the summer and will use the slogan "Guess What's Next" on-air. Clear Channel sold KFXR to First Broadcasting in January 2005. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, KFXR has on Jack FM. Mighty 1190 is not going to be a true Variety Hits station, but more of an old-style community radio presentation with its music mix.

May 29, 2005
Reports out of Tallahassee are that Triad Broadcasting's 99.9 WEGT, which had been Classic Hits as 99.9 The Eagle, switched to Variety Hits yesterday as 99.9 Hank FM. The station's website, Eagle999.com, still shows the old information and lists Bob & Tom for mornings; Bob & Tom now air on Triad's WUTL. If anyone has more information about what's going on at WEGT, please drop me a line (check the contact page for my e-mail).

May 31, 2005
I'm going to go ahead and add WEGT Tallahassee to the list of Variety Hits stations, though information on it is very scarce at the moment.

What I'm watching today is the situation surrounding 97.7 WOXY (Oxford OH), 99.5 WAOL (Ripley OH) and 97.7 WAXZ (Georgetown OH), all of which switched to Variety Hits as "Bob FM" over the weekend. The three stations cover outlying areas of Cincinnati, but none hit the metro with any type of competitive signal.

The Bob name didn't last long. At around 9:30 Monday night (5/30/2005), the trimulcast dropped the Bob name and are, for now, going nameless with 10,000 songs in a row. Could the drop of Bob it be a licensing issue over the Bob FM name? Or did Salem's 1160 WBOB (conservative talk station that covers Cincinnati) complain about the simliarity to its call letters?

I hear now that the Southern Ohio trimulcast is holding a "listeners pick a name" contest for the station.

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