Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Here Comes Santa Claus? 102.7 FM

Radio listeners in the Black Hills who tune around the radio dial just for the fun of it discovered something a bit odd the other day. A time warp, right out of “The Twilight Zone.” What else could explain the gentle strains of Silent Night and Jingle Bells blasting from the radio in early April?

Perhaps someone at this station, 102.7 FM, forgot that Christmas is over for this season?

Maybe it’s a radio signal returning to earth after bouncing off of a distant galaxy.

It might be an April Fool’s prank.

Or….maybe it’s just a new radio station with a gimmick to get our attention. Well, it seems to be working.

102.7 FM is on the air from Connecticut, or wherever, blasting away at the Rapid City market with Christmas music. Clearly, it’s an effort that seems to be working. I first learned about it from Dan Daly's Rapid City Journal blog site. Dan reports that the station call sign will be KXZM and the city of license is Box Elder, while the transmitter is atop "M" hill in Rapid City. Who are these people and what do they want?

Well, it turns out they’re Yankees from Connecticut. The company is called Connoisseur Media, and it’s headed by Jeffrey D. Warshaw, a well-to-do businessman who says he’s a broadcaster. Mr. Warshaw sold his first Connoisseur company – a collection of 27 radio stations -- for a cool $258 million. The Connoisseur web site indicates their new operation is “characterized by well researched and targeted programming, intense training and development of its people, and dedicated local service.” They list 17 radio stations from Erie, Pennsylvania to Billings, Montana.

It’ll be fascinating to see just how many Connoisseur employees populate the Rapid City market. Even more interesting will be watching them scramble to provide a “dedicated local service.” That’s a refreshing concept that even many locally-owned broadcasters struggle to attain but seldom achieve.

My bet is that their local service is promotional hype…..that their local staff is comprised mostly of a few sales people – and perhaps a contract person to keep the satellite gear and transmitter operating.

In the end, I doubt that Mr. Warshaw is Santa Claus coming to town with a bag of local services for Rapid City and the surrounding area. I predict they’ll have a competitive music service – whatever that may be – with a strong promotion strategy, a local sales force, and a creative way of trying to “sound local.”
The measure of their local service will be how much they really become a part of the community. How many news staff will they have? How effectively will they report the weather? Just how much will they really become a part of the social fabric of the Black Hills? I doubt that “dedicated local service” is a big part of the holiday strategy unleashed by Connoisseur Media.

I could be wrong. I hope I am. Stay tuned.

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