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Monday, August 10, 2009

Energy 92 Sold to New Owners

Posted By on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 10:50 AM

click to enlarge retro_radio.jpg
Yesterday, Chron radio columnist Ben Fong-Torres reported that Energy 92 (KNGY) has been sold. As far as I know, the station was the only major commercial station in this market to actively target gay and lesbian listeners with its programming. It was a bit of an anomaly in the world of commercial radio with a playlist based around electronic dance music and club hits rather than Top 40 songs. Though it played its share of songs by Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga,, Energy also broadcast underground material, remixes, and songs which didn't get much play on other stations. At this time, Fong-Torres reports, it's unknown whether the new owners will keep the same format or start over from scratch.

According to the Chron, the station was purchased for $33.5 million by Flying Bear Media and sold for just $6.5 million. Buried down in the fine print was this ominous line: "But at least the company bought only one station. Companies that gobbled up dozens or hundreds of stations are bracing for much bigger falls."

Fong-Torres doesn't just come out and say it, but regular subscribers to Jerry Del Colliano's Inside Music Media know he's referring to Clear Channel, Citadel, and Cumulus, three of the largest radio station ownership groups in this country. Commercial radio's cookie-cutter approach to programming is only making the problem worse. It was certainly a missed opportunity when stations were unable to immediately respond to the news of Michael Jackson's death because the practice of voice-tracking meant there were no live DJs in the studio at the time. And, as Kevin Ross of recently wrote, "urban radio has not realized how important it is to allow each station in each market to have its own identity FIRST."

Ross goes on to note that "Urban radio is complaining the economy has created a revenue slump in advertising for urban stations and to a large extent that's true but what has also caused a revenue slump in advertising at urban stations is an EXTREME lack of innovation and the ability to appeal to who advertisers are trying to reach, today's young consumer."

This is where Energy's blueprint comes in. The station's programming was actually a model of what commercial radio needs to aspire to--fresh, unique music which stands out on a dial where it's not impossible to hear the latest Beyonce song at the same time on three different stations. The station targeted LGBT listeners, not young urban audiences, but otherwise Ross' analogy holds true. Let's hope that the station's new owners will realize this and, if they do change the format, keep the same level of innovation, instead of imitating what is clearly becoming a recipe for failure.

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Eric Arnold


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