WNSH audacy new york country music hip hop music

Audacy sent reverberations through the country music industry Friday (Oct. 22) when it unexpectedly flipped New York’s WNSH-FM (94.7) to classic hip-hop, leaving the nation’s biggest media market without a terrestrial country radio station and industry observers wondering if country radio has any future there.

“I hate to say this because I’m a big believer in the market, but I would be very skeptical of another broadcaster coming in,” says RJ Curtis, executive director of Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB). “In that market, country is a niche format. We’ve known it was a struggle in New York City for a long, long time.”

Cumulus Media launched WNSH in New York in 2013, ending a decade-long gap in country radio programming there after WYNY-FM flipped to Spanish contemporary in 2002. Audacy (formerly Entercom) took over WNSH in 2019. In September, WNSH ranked 21st in the New York marketing, pulling in a 1.9% share of the local market, according to Nielsen Media. Its highest share over the past six months had been 2.5 in July.

“Clearly, Audacy saw a better opportunity with a different format. You can’t blame them for that,” says Joel Raab, country radio station and media consultant. “There’s a 2 share for country in New York if you just put it on and if you heavily market it, I think there’s a 3 share unless you put on personalities who appeal beyond the country format.”

“There’s certainly ways for people to get to the music if they want to, but we are sad that [country] is not part of the New York area any more as far as a radio signal,” says Royce Risser, executive vp promotion for Universal Music Group Nashville.

He adds that while the digital service providers and satellite radio will greatly fill any exposure gap, WNSH was able to provide local support that the other outlets cannot, in terms of sponsoring shows in the area or serving as a vital part of promotional efforts. “We’ll get by, but we would sure rather do it with a New York station,” he says.

NYC country radio station flips to classic hip-hop

Now, Country is absent again from the Big Apple. In the New York City suburbs, it is a different story. In Monmouth-Ocean, N.J., Press Communications’ WKMK-FM 106.3 “Thunder 106” is a Class A covering an area including Asbury Park and Long Branch. It is the No. 1-ranked music station in the market.

Software-defined networking SD-WAN VMware Big Switch Networks

But in Morristown, N.J., a format void has emerged. WNSH in fall 2019 had a 5.8 share, ranking No. 3. In Spring 2021, it was No. 5 with a still-respectable 3.4 share. The Middlesex-Somerset-Union, N.J., market showed WNSH tied for No. 6 in the September 2021 Nielsen Audio results.

Then, there is the City of New York and Nassau County, on Long Island. WNSH was the lone major-signal Country station in Market No. 1 and Market No. 20, respectively. JVC Broadcasting’s WJVC-FM 96.1 only reaches Suffolk County, N.Y.

EARLIER STORY: The staff at AUDACY WNSH (NEW YORK’S COUNTRY 94.7)/NEW YORK is on the air this morning saying their goodbyes ahead of a format change happening later TODAY (10/22). Morning host KELLY FORD is fielding calls from guests, including former morning hosts BLAIR GARNER and CHUCK WICKS, and Country stars KELSEA BALLERINI, RUSSELL DICKERSON and MICHAEL RAY.

The station flipped to Country in JANUARY of 2013 (NET NEWS 1/21/13). FORD said on the air this morning that the staff learned of the format change YESTERDAY (10/21). “Everybody in this room fought really hard, really long for this not to happen,” FORD said during her tearful, largely commercial-free morning show. PD JOHN FOXX said, “We defied odds” with the station’s nearly nine-year run. “I’m so proud of what we did.”

Just before noon (ET), FORD signed off with the first song played on the station in 2013, RANDY HOUSER’S “How Country Feels.” The Country format will continue to air on the AUDACY app and the station’s HD2 channel. Listen here.