This article possibly contains original research. (July 2021)
|Simulcast with WFAN, New York City|
|City||New York, New York|
|Broadcast area||New York metropolitan area|
|Frequency||101.9 MHz (HD Radio)|
|Branding||WFAN Sports Radio 66 and 101.9 FM, The Fan|
|Subchannels||HD2: CBS Sports Radio|
|Owner||Audacy, Inc. |
(Audacy License, LLC)
First air date
|October 31, 1940|
Former call signs
|42.18 MHz (1940-41)|
45.5 Mhz (1941-46)
99.7 MHz (1946-47)
Call sign meaning
|HAAT||415 meters (1,362 ft)|
Public license information
|Webcast||Listen live (viaAudacy)|
WFAN-FM (101.9 FM), branded Sports Radio 66 and 101.9 FM or The Fan, is a commercial sports radio station licensed to New York City. The station is owned and operated by Audacy, Inc., and is simulcast with WFAN (660 AM). WFAN-FM's studios are located in the combined Audacy facility in the Hudson Square neighborhood of Manhattan and its transmitter is located at the Empire State Building. The station is also simulcast on WJFK-HD3 in Washington, D.C.
The station traces its origin to an experimental Apex band radio station, W2XWF on 42.18 MHz, which was authorized in 1940 and licensed to radio engineer William G. H. Finch. In 1941 the station was authorized to convert to a commercial FM station, W55NY transmitting on 45.5 MHz. In 1943 the call letters were changed to WFGG, which were changed to WGHF in 1945. One of the uses of the station was to test Finch's broadcast facsimile system. By 1946, the station was broadcasting on 99.7 MHz, moving to 101.9 in 1947. In late 1948, it became the New York City affiliate of the farm-oriented Rural Radio Network based in Ithaca, New York, which owned a group of upstate stations that would later associate with WQXR. In 1955, its then-owner, Muzak, changed the call letters to WBFM, reflecting its parent owner. The station aired a mostly-instrumental beautiful music radio format.
The station was purchased by the New York Daily News in late 1963. WBFM adopted the WPIX-FM call letters on October 11, 1964, as the station was now co-owned with television station WPIX (channel 11).
Broadcasting from the "Pix Penthouse" on the 28th floor of the Daily News Building, WPIX-FM ushered in what was to become one of the most popular formats in FM radio, easy listening (later adult contemporary music), signaling the end of the dominance of beautiful music, jazz, classical and block programming on the FM band. WPIX-FM would be noted for not being able to settle on a format for any real length of time, and was derisively nicknamed "the format of the month station" by many in the New York City radio industry. The station went through 11 different formats during its post-easy listening period:
Notable air personalities during the WPIX-FM period included Mark Simone, Alan Colmes, Meg Griffin, Ted David and Jerry Carroll (a.k.a. "Dr. Jerry"). Another WPIX-FM personality, Ken Harper, host of the all-night "Manhattan After Hours," from 1964 to 1968, went on to produce "The Wiz" on Broadway.
The station gave up quickly on both the Disco and the Rock and Roll/New Wave formats, only to see both genres of music become popular several years later.
Beginning with "The PIX Penthouse" in 1985, WPIX-FM started to play contemporary jazz after dark to boost its nighttime ratings, and beginning in September 1987, the station's evening programming was entirely dedicated to the genre. Then, on August 10, 1988, the station adopted a jazz-based adult contemporary format during the day and retained all jazz at night. Later that month, on August 22, the station modified into a full-time smooth jazz radio format, with the new call letters WQCD and the new branding, "CD 101.9". While the genre had varying degrees of presence on most Top 40 and AC stations at the time, New York City had not had a full-time commercial jazz station since 1980, when WRVR (106.7 FM, now WLTW) became country music station WKHK following an ownership change two years earlier. The re-launch of 101.9 was accompanied by a new television advertising campaign which featured Al Jarreau, Miles Davis, Kenny G, Bobby McFerrin and Herb Alpert-all artists whose music formed the core of the new smooth jazz format, which proved successful and long-lasting for a station that had not been used to stability in its programming.
WQCD's early music blend featured contemporary jazz mixed with soft rock and urban adult contemporary, along with some new-age music (the "CD" branding came from the station promoting that it played between 70-80 minutes of music between commercial breaks, the length of an average compact disc). The station programmed an equal balance between vocal and instrumental music. At night the station played strictly contemporary jazz music, with a majority of it instrumental. As time went on, WQCD phased-out soft-rock cuts and became a full-time contemporary jazz station. The playlist continued to feature large amounts of instrumental jazz, with some new age, and several urban adult contemporary songs. This formula would largely be unchanged for over 15 years. When the Daily News changed ownership in 1991, WQCD and WPIX were retained by the newspaper's former corporate parent, the Tribune Company. In 1997 Tribune sold WQCD to Emmis Communications, and the combination of WQCD and Emmis's two existing New York stations, WQHT (97.1 FM) and WRKS (98.7 FM, now WEPN-FM), gave the Indianapolis-based company an FM triopoly in the New York market. In 1998, Emmis moved WQCD out of the Daily News Building, and along with WQHT and WRKS into a newly constructed common facility at 395 Hudson Street. The multi-station complex was the first of its kind in American radio, now becoming increasingly consolidated.
WQCD ran an experiment from November 22, 2004 until August 2005, when the station's playlist included chill music, a relaxing sound based on the music found on the beaches of Ibiza. The ratings were not satisfactory, and the experiment ended. The station retained the tagline, "CD101.9, Your Chill-Out Station" during its successful transition back to the standard smooth jazz format.
WQCD's on-air staff remained unusually stable in the generally volatile radio climate, led by morning host Dennis Quinn. Midday host Deborah Rath had been with parent company Emmis since 1988, as a veteran of both WRKS and WQHT. Afternoon drive host Paul Cavalconte was a veteran of New York jazz, classical, and rock stations, adult standards WNEW. Evening host Sharon Davis called WQCD home for nearly a decade. Rafe Gomez hosted "The Groove Boutique", a nationally syndicated groove jazz mix show that aired on Saturday nights beginning in 2003. "The Groove Boutique" was a finalist in the 2005 Best Mix Show category of the 8th annual New York Radio Market Achievements In Radio (A.I.R.) awards.
On February 5, 2008 at 4:00 p.m., Emmis Communications announced a change to a rock format under the WRXP call letters and the tagline 101.9 RXP: The New York Rock Experience. The last songs played on "CD 101.9" were "Shining Star" by The Manhattans and an instrumental rendition of "Street Life" by U-Nam, while the first two songs played on "RXP" were "Rock and Roll" by Velvet Underground and "Supernatural Superserious" by R.E.M.. With the exception of Paul Cavalconte, the entire WQCD air staff was released including Dennis Quinn, who had survived every other format change at 101.9 since joining the station in 1971. Only program director Blake Lawrence was retained from the previous format for WRXP. Emmis cited a declining audience for smooth jazz, which moved to the station's HD2 subcarrier. (An online version of CD101.9 would eventually be launched in late summer 2015.)
WRXP was the first alternative rock station in New York City since WXRK's format flip to active rock in April 2005. Even though classified as alternative rock (with a slight adult album alternative lean), Nielsen BDS and Mediabase reported WRXP as an AAA, with suburban station WXPK recognized as the main AAA station in the New York City market. By 2011, WRXP was classified as an alternative rock station by both Nielsen BDS and Mediabase.
WRXP's first on-air personality was Brian Schock, who, until leaving the station to return to San Diego in January 2009, was also the station's assistant program director and music director. Station management promised to hire a New York rock-savvy airstaff for the rest of the station's dayparts. Among those hired were veteran radio and MTV personality Matt Pinfield as the morning drive host; Steve Craig as midday host; and Brian Phillips as evening host. The weekend air staff included Dave Greek, Greg Russ and Jennifer Kajzer, as well as Cavalconte, the only personality retained from the WQCD smooth jazz format. In March 2009, WRXP announced that Nik Carter, formerly of WXRK, and later with VH1, joined as the station as its afternoon drive personality.
On November 9, 2008, Anything Anything with Rich Russo debuted on the station.
On June 21, 2011, it was announced that majority ownership of WRXP was acquired by Merlin Media LLC, a new entity headed by veteran radio executive Randy Michaels. The sale, which the FCC approved in September 2011, included two other Emmis-owned stations in Chicago, WLUP-FM and WKQX. Merlin registered several domains for what the new format of the station would be, including a return of WYNY's country music format, but many suggested an all-news radio format. All of WRXP's DJs, except for Cavalconte, were dismissed, and at 5 p.m. on July 15, 2011, WRXP's rock format ended with "Long Live Rock" by The Who. WRXP's website (MyRXP.com) continued operation after the station left the airwaves, continuing to offer its music format via streaming online audio and later a Spotify playlist (with occasional new songs added) until Merlin acquired the domain name (see below).
After a brief period of dead air, WRXP (whose call sign was changed to WEMP on July 21) switched to a stunt of Adult Contemporary music branded as "101.9 FM New," which served as a transition to the station's new format. The first song on "FM New" was "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock. "101.9 FM New" featured a live morning show that began at 6:00 a.m. on July 18, hosted by Paul Cavalconte (who had been with 101.9 since 1998), with Jeff McKay (a New York traffic reporter formerly of Shadow Traffic and WINS) providing traffic reports and weather updates (until the next day, when Meteorologist Scott Derek began). News reports and news blocks were gradually introduced beginning with a 3 p.m. newscast on July 25, 2011, anchored by Dave Packer and Mike Barker.
On August 12, 2011, the station ended its adult contemporary stunt and went full-time all-news as "FM News 101.9," following in the footsteps of its Chicago sister station WWWN (the former and current WKQX), which flipped to all-news on July 29. As conceived by Merlin's then-COO, Walter Sabo, "FM News" was what Sabo considered a "redefining" of the all-news format; the on-air presentation was generally looser and conversational in tone, while an emphasis was placed on lifestyle, health, and entertainment features. The initial news staff at WEMP included those with experience in New York radio, including WINS alums Catherine Smith, Alice Stockton-Rossini, and Brett Larson, as well as former WCBS anchor Therese Crowley and WRXP holdover Paul Cavalconte.
Over time, the "FM News" approach on WEMP would be adjusted. The reliance on lifestyle and entertainment features was decreased; the station turned towards a tighter on-air presentation and hard news format. Several new features were added, including "10 minutes of non-stop news" at :00, :20 and :40 past the hour (similar to the fact that WINS delivers news headlines at these intervals), the "top 5 trending stories" leading off every hour, and hourly sports and business updates. They also advertised "traffic and weather on the 5s". Coinciding with the on-air changes was a major promotional push, including television ads and promotions that tweaked WINS' longtime "22 minutes" slogan, with WEMP proclaiming "Give us 10 minutes, we'll give you the world." (After WINS owner CBS Radio sent a cease-and-desist letter to Merlin Media, WEMP dropped the slogan, and replaced it by "non-stop news".) Then, Merlin Media fought back against WINS by demanding them not to call itself as "New York's One and Only All-News Station" (to highlighting its round-the-clock newswheel as opposed to WCBS carrying some live sports broadcasts if there's an overlap with WFAN) on the air, because this was misleading according to WEMP's format at the time.
In the time FM News was in operation, it was plagued by a variety of technical issues after management in Chicago decided to automate the news, much like some music stations automate music formats. The controversial approach led to a number of on-air gaffes, including wrong time checks and news stories misplaced. The only live elements on the air were traffic reports, which were reportedly demanded by a manager at WEMP, despite the traffic reports being recorded by their Chicago sister station. The expanded traffic reports became one of the few successes of the radio station, and several months later, Chicago's "FM News 101.1" would also return to the live traffic reports.
WEMP and its all-news format struggled to make gains in Arbitron ratings. For example, in the period ending January 4, 2012, Arbitron rated WEMP at a 0.5, far behind both of the CBS Radio-owned all-news stations in New York, category leader WINS at 3.2 and WCBS at 2.8 in that month. (WEMP's share was lower than one of the last ratings books for WRXP, a 2.6 share in July 2011.)
In July 2012, there was speculation that Merlin Media would convert WEMP to a news/talk hybrid, similar to its sister stations in Philadelphia (WWIQ) and Chicago (WIQI, which was also struggling in ratings with all-news and had added some talk programming). Instead, Merlin had other plans for the station. On July 17, 2012, at 10 a.m. (ET), Merlin management held meetings with the news staffs of both WEMP and WIQI; while the meeting took place, a newscast on "FM News 101.9" was abruptly cut off and replaced by the reporting of one final story -- an announcement that the all-news format was ending immediately.
"This is the final story being covered by FM News. It is to announce that a format change is about to occur at 101.9. In just a few moments, FM News will become New Rock 101.9. The final line of our final story is this: A special note of thanks to everyone involved with FM News for their passion and support. Sometimes just saying thank you isn't enough, but in this case, it'll have to do. Thank you... and good-bye."
After a brief period of dead air, WEMP then returned to an alternative rock format under the "New Rock 101.9" branding, with "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys the first song played. (At the very same time, WIQI transitioned from all-news to adult hits.) In a press release, Merlin CEO Randy Michaels called dropping all-news from both WEMP and WIQI "a difficult decision to make" but one that had to be made in light of "minimal audience engagement." Several "FM News 101.9" staffers were released by Merlin, with a handful retained by the company to likely serve as reporters for Merlin's WWIQ in Philadelphia.
"New Rock 101.9" ("New Rock for New York") featured a playlist that included current and recent alternative rock songs and artists. The presentation included an irreverent attitude and the "backselling" (identification of artist and song title) at the end of many current songs. To coincide with the format change back to rock, Merlin Media made two noteworthy moves: It filed a request with the FCC on July 18 to revert the station's call sign from WEMP to WRXP (the calls were officially changed on July 25), while also obtaining WRXP-related domain names from the station's previous owner, Emmis Communications, including MyRXP.com (which would redirect to the station's NewRock1019.com website). "New Rock 101.9" ran with limited on-air talent, including former WRXP host Brian Phillips on middays, with the possibility that other former 'RXP staffers would be invited to rejoin the station. The WEMP calls, by coincidence, moved back to Wisconsin upon their release by Merlin, and are now in use by an easy listening station licensed to Two Rivers which began full-time operations in December 2014.
Despite WRXP making gains in the Arbitron ratings with its revived alternative format (the station jumped to a 1.6 share in July, and then to a 2.1 share in August), Merlin Media was faced with a high debt load from recent purchases and the cost of its failed news format. Additionally, one of Merlin's investors was seeking buyers for the company's stations. Merlin announced on October 8, 2012 that it had agreed to sell WRXP to CBS Radio. With the purchase (estimated at $75 million), CBS said it would convert WRXP to a simulcast of its sports radio station WFAN. The simulcast began at 11:57 p.m. on November 1, 2012, after Jeff Buckley's "Last Goodbye" brought a close to WRXP's "New Rock" format. A call sign change from WRXP to WFAN-FM took effect the next day, November 2. CBS operated WFAN-FM under a local marketing agreement until closing its purchase on December 10, 2012. The LMA officially relieved Merlin Media of its only New York radio property and allowed it to concentrate on its stations in the Chicago and Philadelphia markets.
The purchase of 101.9 by CBS put WFAN back on equal footing with ESPN Radio affiliate WEPN, which made its own AM-to-FM move in April 2012 (to the former WRKS). Speculation at the time suggested that the move would also allow CBS to split the WFAN simulcast at a later date and ensure a full-power New York home for its new national sports network, CBS Sports Radio, which began daily programming in January 2013 (and currently airs on the HD3 subchannel of WCBS-FM). Such a move would have mirrored CBS-owned sports talk pairings in markets such as Baltimore, where WJZ airs CBS Sports Radio full-time and WJZ-FM airs local sports talk. CBS (and later, Entercom) chose not to break the simulcast, with Cumulus Media's suburban station WFAS (1230) serving as the de facto CBS Sports Radio flagship instead. Due to MLB and NFL blackout rules, WFAN is only allowed to air sporting events involving the New York-area teams within its home market.