Here's the scouting report...
Nine FM (99.9) is owned by the Chicago-based company, Newsweb. They own a handful of small AM stations in and around the city, but they are probably best known for being the previous owners of WPWR-TV, Channel 50. Local ownership of commercial radio stations is almost unheard of these days, (damn you Telecom Act of 1996!!) so this is definitely a positive for Nine FM.
Leading the launch of the new Nine FM is Newsweb Vice President Harvey Wells. Prior to joining Newsweb earlier this year, Wells spent 25 years at the legendary WXRT and served as general manager of the station since 1990. Nine FM's program director is Sky Daniels, also an industry veteran. Daniels is best known around these parts for his work as a jock at The Loop during its hard rockin' heyday in the early 80's. Having experienced and talented management is a huge benefit for this station and it also demonstrates that the parent company is backing the station for the long haul. It should also keep Nine FM from succumbing to the growing pains and the botched deals that plagued Air America during its first month.
Location, Location, Location
Some of you may be a bit confused about 99.9FM because you've either never heard of it or you've never ran across it while scanning on your car radio. That's because Nine FM isn't really a Chicago station. It's actually a station that used to be based out of Kankakee, (formerly known known as "The Bus") and the transmitter is still located a few miles north of there. However, it is a full-power, 50,000 watt station, so it does blast its signal well into the burbs and even into far southern parts of the city.
"So why don't they just move it to the top of the Sears Tower or somewhere closer to the city?"
Ha, ha...good one! Ask anyone that owns a suburban station that question and they'll have a good laugh. Current FCC regulations make it virtually impossible for any more stations to move into Chicago. In other words, all of the slots on the dial are full and no one is leaving anytime soon. In order for Nine FM to have a full-signal across all of the city and suburbs, Newsweb would have to buy out an existing station and take over its programming. The cost of acquiring a full-powered city signal would be anywhere from $50-$150 million, (maybe even more?) so that's probably not going to happen anytime soon.
The bottom line here is that the more people a station brings in, the more money it makes. The city is where the most people are...and most importantly, where all the money is. Nine FM, with its far south suburban signal, probably covers more corn acreage than it does metropolitan square blocks, so its money-making potential is a bit limited. Will Newsweb be able to make any money on their recent acquisition? Or, more realistically, will they be able to keep their losses low enough in order to keep Nine FM around long enough for it to gain a significant following?
Of course, only time will tell...
But no matter how solid your management is or how well the business plan is executed, the most important thing is whether people like your station and want to listen to it everyday...
Tomorrow on RFC, we take "Nine FM' for a test drive and see if the music and programming lives up to the hype.