WLTE flipping to country competition for K102

A week or so ago, I noted speculation that CBS Minnesota radio market manager Mick Anselmo planned to switch WLTE’s format. Now, it’s happened: 102.9 FM will become “New Buz’n Country,” aimed squarely at regular ratings champ K102, owned by rival Clear Channel.

It’s always been a mystery why someone hasn’t taken a piece out of K102’s hide, since the station is often the local ratings champ; it’s on a seven-month winning streak among all listeners, and seven of eight among advertiser-coveted 25-to-54-year-olds. Anselmo, who ran the local Clear Channel shop for years, is now tackling the behemoth he built.

(Although country’s audience was historically considered downmarket, you need only look at the pricey Target Field sellout for Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw to question that stereotype.)

The battle might not mean much to news junkies or music hipsters. However, in the past few months, Clear Channel has benefitted from converting KFAN to FM, a welcome development for a debt-dogged conglomerate in a tough ad climate; they might give some of those gains back should Anselmo’s reformatting work.

Meanwhile, LiteFM‘s share of the local listening audience has drifted from nearly 5 percent to around 3 percent in the past year. It’s considered a mainstream adult/contemporary station, and its departure should help other music competitors, at least until the next station reformats.

(Gotta believe Anselmo’s enjoying his upstart country station’s monicker including the same “102” as the long-time market leader.)

Here’s the release:

Minneapolis/St. Paul – December 19, 2011 – CBS RADIO Minneapolis announced this morning that 102.9 WLTE will become BUZ’N@102.9 on Monday, December 26, 2011at 8:00 AM and play the latest in country music.  The station, which will be heard on-air, online at www.buzn1029.com and through the Radio.com app on mobile devices will feature popular country music and artists including the newest releases and hits from Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Band Perry, and Lady Antebellum.

In addition, the station will offer wall to wall country news and information online and through social networks, as well as coverage of all major country music events and happenings, and local concerts from the biggest names in the country community.

“BUZ’N will offer Minneapolis area residents the best in new country music, culture, and community both on-air and through online outlets.  Launching a brand in the digital age offers us a whole new array of multi-platform communication and connection with our audience,” said Mick Anselmo, CBS RADIO Minneapolis Senior Vice President/Market Manager.  “Country music is continuing to rise in popularity and its core artists have become recognizable to a broad audience of music fans.  This immense interest in the format from a variety of different listening audiences and backgrounds makes it the perfect time to introduce Twins Cities listeners to this fresh new station and voice that is sure to keep them BUZ’N.”

Said Jeff Kapugi, Vice President, Country Programming, CBS RADIO of the new station, “CBS RADIO is a leader and visionary in the country music space and home to some of the top rated country stations in the nation.  Country music is rapidly becoming a national pastime and now Minneapolis residents will have a great choice for the latest country music in BUZ’N.  We cannot wait to hire and bring top-notch radio talent to the Twin Cities and connect with the community at local shows and events.”

In a related announcement, Lite FM listeners can still hear their favorite AC songs at KZJK HD-2 @ 104.1 FM through HD Radio receivers in the Minneapolis area. 

Find and connect with BUZ’N and all of the newest country music online atwww.BUZN1029.com, through Twitter@buzn1029 and on Facebook at BUZN1029.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Scott Stansbarger on 12/19/2011 - 01:02 pm.

    I don’t listen to country music so I’m a little disappointed in the format change. We are only one of a few metros of this size without a modern rock station. I was hoping for one and I’ll continue to hope for one.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 12/19/2011 - 01:21 pm.

    Scott – The Current?

  3. Submitted by Bo Darville on 12/19/2011 - 02:07 pm.

    It would be great if we got a country station that played something different than the over focus grouped suburban housewife pablum that’s featured on k102. It looks like BUZ’N will be almost the same dang station. Yuck.

  4. Submitted by Rick Ellis on 12/19/2011 - 02:08 pm.

    I’m looking forward to hearing the station. Although it’s successful locally (and nationally), I’m not a big fan of the mix of old and new songs favored by K102. There are plenty of solid new country songs, so I don’t need to hear a track from five or even ten years ago.

    I’m hoping to hear a mix that is a bit heavier on the guitar (especially later in the programming day). And a bit of edge in the talent wouldn’t hurt, either.

    Of course, this is coming from a guy who once worked at a station that tried a mix of country and talk, so what do I know…

  5. Submitted by Scott Stansbarger on 12/19/2011 - 06:59 pm.

    Dave, I’m a huge fan of The Current, but I’m not sure that I would call it modern rock. I consider modern rock to be true alternative where as The Current, although they do play a lot of alternative music, they also play the likes of Billie Holiday, Elvis, and Miles Davis, for example. Perhaps it’s only a subtle difference, but there is a difference.

  6. Submitted by Hal Davis on 12/19/2011 - 11:45 pm.

    Scott (#5): I’m not a big fan of the Current — I prefer to listen to Dakota Dave Hull on KFAI and to KBEM-FM. But any station that mixes alternative music with Billie Holiday, Elvis, and Miles Davis gets my vote.

  7. Submitted by Brad Alan on 12/21/2011 - 03:50 am.

    I have been listening to KFAI’s “Good & Country” for the last 16 years or so. The only drawback is that it is only on 2 hours a week (3-5PM Saturdays. However, if REAL country music is your taste, I highly recommend it. The host, ken Hippler, is a pleasant personality and you might even learn something about country music along the way. What we don’t need is another “Hot New Top 40” so called ‘country station with a bunch of juvenile sounding jocks. Good grief already!!

  8. Submitted by Brian Elfert on 12/21/2011 - 10:07 pm.

    I hate to lose this station. It was the only station worth listening to on FM.

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