It’s been a while since there’s been a round of format changes in Richmond radio… so the change that Cox Radio made at WMXB-FM/103.7 yesterday may well be kicking one off.
At 3:00pm yesterday, Cox blew up the Adult Contemporary format of “Mix 103.7”. Mix had been struggling against similarly-formatted stations Lite 98 (Clear Channel) and 98.9 Liberty (Main Line) for a while, so it seems that this was somewhat inevitable.
Cox replaced the Mix with what appears to be an Adult Alternative format as “103.7 the River”. They’re playing a mix of better-known alt-rock with some lighter rock that 30-40-somethings would recognize. For example, in the 8-9am hour today, artists included 3 Doors Down, Fall Out Boy, Natalie Merchant, Matthew Sweet, John Mayer, The Fray, and Barenaked Ladies.
This gives Cox Radio three rock stations… the River, Y101 doing more straightforward alt-rock, and 96.5KLR doing classic rock. There’s also Clear Channel alt-rocker “102.1 the X”.
Here’s the thing – Y101 is running promotional liners for 103.7 the River, as well as a big announcement on Y101’s website. Cox has also pulled Y101’s airstaff off the air. Those moves indicate that Cox is trying to shift their existing Y101 audience to the River.
Why would Cox be giving up on Y101? Two factors: the existence of “102.1 the X” combined with Y101’s recent frequency change. The X and Y101 have basically split the alt-rock audience in half since the X signed on. That was apparently tolerable when Y101 was on a weaker signal at 101.1 FM. In 2009, Y101 moved to a better signal on 100.9 FM and then waited to see if that was enough to decisively beat the X in the ratings. That failed to happen.
Clearly, Cox expects more of the 100.9 frequency.
So, the open questions are:
- When is Cox going to change formats on 100.9?
- What format will it be? A friend who knows the market well thinks it could be CHR – or for those not in the business, “Top 40” – to try to take advantage of Clear Channel’s sinking Q94.
- Once Cox puts a new format on 100.9, who’s going to make the next move, and when?
DISCLAIMER: In case you’ve forgotten (or didn’t know), I work weekends on Main Line Broadcasting’s Big Oldies 107.3 (WBBT-FM/WARV-FM).