WNWS SAGS IN RATING GAME (May 7, 1986)

WNWS SAGS IN RATING GAME
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Miami Herald, The (FL) May 7, 1986
Author: LINDA THORNTON Herald Staff Writer

In the first Arbitron rating book after WNWS (790 AM) merged with WGBS,
reaction to the consolidation seemed favorable. The station rated a 3.9 in the
fall 1985 Arbitron — not the sum of both stations’ former audiences, but a
competitive share nonetheless.

But in winter 1986, the first full quarterly Arbitron measurement of the
combined WNWS/WGBS venture, WNWS was down in overall audience to a 3.1 (topped
by WINZ 940 AM’s 4.1 and tied with WIOD 610 AM’s 3.1).

WNWS has already taken steps to remedy the decline. Sagging ratings
played a large part in the departure of former weeknights host Bev Smith. WNWS
management offered to transfer Smith to the overnight show, but under the terms
of her contract, she had a right to refuse and leave the station. She did.
Smith began a new job this week at WKIS-AM in Orlando.

“Bev had a warmth and sensitivity that will be missed by her listeners.
But, unfortunately, it never translated into any ratings mandate,” said Dennis
Collins, vice president/general manager of WNWS and WLYF (101.5 FM).

According to Collins, WNWS’ decision to release morning news anchors
Chuck Dent and Gretchen Graham from their contracts and to replace them with
former WINZ anchor Ken Taylor and former WNWS anchor Tom Schafer was not
ratings-oriented. The husband-wife news team of Dent and Graham drew WNWS’
biggest audience share in the recent Arbitron).

“It wasn’t tied to ratings or performance,” said Collins. “It was a
contractual opportunity we had and took advantage of, because we thought we had
a better team to bring in.”

Dent says that he and Graham still aren’t certain of the reasons for
their dismissal.

“We were rather shocked, more so after the ratings came out,” said Dent.
“We had no (previous) indication that they weren’t pleased with our work, and
they (still) haven’t given us any reason. They said nothing was wrong.”

Dent says he and Graham plan to remain at WNWS until May 23 when their
30-day notice period runs out. They haven’t made a decision about future
employment. Smith has since been replaced on the 9 p.m. to midnight weeknights
show by former overnight host Jerry Wichner. Wichner is now up against WINZ’s
Neil Rogers, who drew a 7.7 share of nighttime listeners in the winter Arbitron.

“Whether Jerry will beat Neil Rogers in the ratings or not, I don’t know
and I don’t care,” said Collins. “We just want to strengthen that day part.”

Other recent changes at WNWS include the departure of afternoon news
anchor Tom Sirmons, who resigned from WNWS to take a job at KNX news radio, a
CBS owned and operated station in Los Angeles.

WINZ to WSST?

The deadline is drawing near (May 15) on I-95’s (WINZ 94.9 FM) decision
to adopt the new call letters WSST. The Federal Communications Commission has
approved the proposed name change, a move often accompanied by a switch in
station format.

New WINZ AM and FM vice president/general manager Gary Lawrence won’t
elaborate yet on his and program director Gabe Baptiste’s game plan for I-95.
But Lawrence does hint of a specific goal, soon to be announced, for the
station’s recent variation in sound. Formerly defined as a Contemporary Hit
Radio (CHR or Top 40) radio station, I-95 recently tossed out most of the Latin
and urban dance rock in its playlist and replaced it with more adult-oriented
rock.

“It won’t be dramatic changes, it will be subtle. We won’t be Top 40,”
said Lawrence. “The music will have a broader appeal. We’ll be going after most
stations in this market.”

Lawrence added that other upcoming plans for I-95 include the
appointment of a new morning (6-10 a.m. weekdays) disc jockey. I-95 deejay Earl
“The Pearl” has been filling in on mornings since the “Morning Zoo” was fired in
February.

Rogers and WNWS

Regular listeners to Neil Rogers’ show know by now that WNWS offered
Rogers a job recently. This was in March, about the time that Rogers was
complaining on and off the air about WINZ’ then-fluctuating management.

“We heard rumors, like everyone else, that he might in fact be
available,” said Collins.

After a few follow-up contacts between Rogers and WNWS, the matter was
dropped. (Rogers has nearly two years left on his contract with WINZ.)

Rush-hour market

While his competitors at WNWS and WINZ-AM discuss contemporary issues
between newscasts from 5-6 p.m. weekdays, WIOD’s Mike Miller is trying a new
program format to attract rush hour listeners.

During the last hour of his 2-6 p.m. show, Miller turns the microphone
over to an assortment of local and syndicated guests in a news magazine-type
segment entitled Good Afternoon South Florida. Features include an entertainment
report by WIOD’s Janet Cowan, two 10-minute newscasts by anchor Debra Boyd, two
sports reports by Rick Weaver, financial analysis by Gordon Williams, a few
words from Paul Harvey, and some advice from “Dear Margaret and Steve.”

“We felt that most people on their way home didn’t want to hear heavy
news being discussed. We bring them up to date with two news segments, and also
try to offer a fast-paced hour,” said Miller.

Linda Thornton will be a guest on Mike Miller’s program from 2-4 p.m. Friday on WIOD (610 AM).
photo: Mike Miller (r)
Edition: FINAL Section: AMUSEMENTS Page: 3E
Record Number: 8602050637 Copyright (c) 1986 The Miami Herald

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