December 11, 2013
By Michelle Park Lazette
A little more than a year after its launch, 87.7 Cleveland Sound will swap its alternative rock format for a Hispanic one, according to the longtime radio executive who launched the local radio station in September 2012.
On Jan. 1, the primarily Spanish language station, La Mega 87.7 Latino and Proud, will go live, revealed Tom Wilson, whose Murray Hill Broadcasting is partnering with Cincinnati-based TSJ Media to introduce the format to this market.
“There's a need in the market to service that segment of the population,” Mr. Wilson said. “There's no other Latin, Hispanic radio station in Cleveland, Ohio, currently.”
While Cleveland Sound will remain at its current location in The Agora, it probably will not retain any of its current on-air talent, Mr. Wilson said. The station broke the news of the format change to its staff on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
Asked whether he had found the alternative rock format to be less successful than he'd anticipated, Mr. Wilson replied no.
“This is just a significant upgrade of an opportunity,” he said. “Sometimes you just don't realize what opportunity is there until somebody presents it to you. It's really the way to go.”
That may be, but many are voicing disappointment on 87.7 Cleveland Sound's Facebook page.
“Not happy with the program change effective Jan 1. This was the only station in Cleveland that played decent music,” one woman posted.
“Just heard the news. Beyond bummed! Cleveland radio now sucks again. Unbelievable!” wrote another.
Responding to one person's question about whether the format change is true, someone operating 87.7 Cleveland Sound's Facebook page replied: “Yep, like any of us that have worked our asses off to try and get this off the ground are happy about this, or will see a dime out of the sale.”
Though many of the comments reference a sale, Mr. Wilson said this is a programming partnership, not a sale. Murray Hill Broadcasting remains the license owner, he noted.
Josh Guttman of TSJ Media and Mr. Wilson said they have been in talks for several months, and are in the process of interviewing and identifying the station's new on-air talent. Some programming also is under development.
Mr. Guttman said bringing Hispanic radio to Northeast Ohio is needed.
“For this to happen in Cleveland, it's 20 years late,” Mr. Guttman said, citing the Hispanic population in Northeast Ohio. “For a market this size not to have an FM station that can become their station, it's very unusual. This is an obvious need.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, city of Cleveland residents of Hispanic or Latino origin totaled 39,534, or about 10% of the city's population — an increase of 4,806, or 13.8%, from 34,728 in 2000.
TSJ Media operates Hispanic media products in Ohio and beyond, including La Mega stations in Columbus and Cincinnati, Mr. Guttman said. Each of the stations has its own independently operated product, he noted.
“In the last 24 hours, the amount of phone calls we've gotten from customers from hearing it (the news) through the grapevine … I don't think I've gotten that many phone calls on a pre-launch in my life,” Mr. Guttman said.
Source: Crain’s Cleveland Business