It looks like the question of “how long can alt-rock music stay on 87.7 ‘Cleveland’s Sound’?” can be answered “‘through 2013’.”
Cleveland Scene’s Vince Grzegorek reports that Murray Hill Broadcasting alt-rock/AAA WLFM-LP 87.7 will be flipping to a Spanish-language format on January 1st.
Employees heard about the change in a staff meeting on Tuesday.
But the station is not being sold. A tweet from the “Cleveland’s Sound” Twitter account clarifies that 87.7, or rather, LPTV channel 6, isn’t being sold directly:
Need to clarify: station was not sold, it is a programming partnership beginning Jan 1 which will include a switch to a Latin format.
Crain’s Cleveland Business has more details on the “programming partnership”, directly from station head honcho Tom Wilson:
On Jan. 1, the primarily Spanish language station, La Mega 87.7 Latino and Proud, will go live, revealed Tom Wilson, whose Murray Hill Broadcasting is partnering with Cincinnati-based TSJ Media to introduce the format to this market.
“There’s a need in the market to service that segment of the population,” Mr. Wilson said. “There’s no other Latin, Hispanic radio station in Cleveland, Ohio, currently.”
Crain’s Michelle Park Lazette quotes Wilson as saying the alt-rock format wasn’t necessarily less successful than hoped, but that the new partnership was a “significant upgrade of an opportunity”.
We remind readers that rumors were flying hot and heavy before the alt-rock format started on 87.7 in 2012, that there talks of LMAing the signal to Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850”, which has been battling FM competition.
That, obviously, never happened…and “Cleveland’s Sound” could well have been the fall-back for Wilson with no LMA in the cards back then.
Crain’s writes that 87.7 “probably will not retain” any current on-air staffers, presumably because they don’t likely speak or broadcast in Spanish.
It’s been a tough ride for alternative rock listeners in Cleveland.
Format mainstay WKRK/92.3 flipped to sports in 2011 under owner CBS Radio, and it’s now “92.3 The Fan”.
Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting’s WNWV/107.3 tried the format as eclectic “V107.3”, and then the station changed back to its original “107.3 The Wave” identity, with a smooth AC format, when Akron’s Rubber City Radio Group bought it.
And of course, Radio One hip hop WENZ/107.9 came first in this group as “The End”.
There is one alt-rock competitor left, of course. Clear Channel operates W256BT/99.1, a Parma-based translator, as “99X”…rebroadcasting rock WMMS/100.7’s HD2 channel.
There are, however, no full-market Spanish-language signals in Cleveland.
Spanish-language listeners in the market are served by two local non-commercial outlets – Lorain’s WNZN/89.1 and Painesville’s WHWN/88.3.
There is, of course, an asterisk besides calling WLFM-LP a “full-market” signal, given that it’s actually above the non-comm FM band and rides on the audio of an analog LPTV station.
And like “Cleveland’s Sound” before it, the FCC clock still ticks on the new Spanish-language operator of 87.7, with analog LPTV (and the FM audio byproduct of it) still set to go away in September 2015.
But even so, it’s the broadest attempt yet to serve a Spanish-speaking audience in Cleveland that could well be too small and spread out to be served market-wide.