It’s been one year since WBLS/107.5 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The result of which led to YMF Media taking majority control from original owner, Inner City Broadcasting.
However, a confluence of events has resulted in WBLS scoring its best achievement since debuting almost 40 years ago.
In April, Disney acquired the FM signal from KISS FM/WRKS, meaning black music for listeners wedged between hip-hop and Jazz was down to just one station. At the same time, ‘BLS was struggling to keep its playlist fresh and revenue streaming.
With ESPN moving to 98.7 FM, WBLS smartly took advantage of the situation. Within days, WBLS had become a de facto merger with KISS. Air personality Shaila Scott resumed middays, while popular Kissing After Dark host Lenny Green was back in his familiar daypart as well.
“This definitely helped former WRKS P1’s [regular listeners] to feel more comfortable switching over and, these talents bring a lot to the table.” WBLS operations manager, Skip Dillard tells FishbowlNY. “They were all chosen [based on] talent and recognition in the community.”
WBLS had Scott and Green in place, along with several former KISS part-timers and weekend specialty shows. Now the payoff is being proven correctly for Dillard. The station immediately shot up in the ratings. As we reported last week, WBLS reached its high-water mark in the monthly Arbitron figures at number two.
“We were very excited about August, given listening levels tend to be lower in the summer months,” Dillard admits.
Not only did ‘BLS skyrocket among overall audiences, Dillard says male listenership jumped and increased daytime share for key demographics, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.
But he says, eclipsing behemoth WLTW as the city’s top-rated station is a different matter.
“Lite FM is a monster and has always marketed consistently well,” Dillard says. “Not to mention, they have pretty much [along with WKTU] the largest overall weekly listenership of any U.S. radio station.”
But as WBLS is enjoying a radio renaissance, Dillard says there’s a bigger picture to explore.
“Black music in New York is just as popular as ever. We’re the home of Mary J. Blige, LL Cool J, Maxwell, and other greats both past and present,” Dillard says. “The love for that kind of music here certainly hasn’t diminished even with one [fewer] station focusing on it.”
Whether WBLS ultimately gets to number one, Dillard says his loyal fans are always first.
“Our goal is to continue to create a better WBLS by reminding our listeners of great moments in their lives and creating some ‘new’ memorable moments for them along the way.”