Thursday, September 10, 2009

N.Y., L.A. CBS Stations Shake Up Top 40 Radio

In mid-July, CBS Radio top 40 WXRK (92.3 Now) New York placed "Replay" from Iyaz (pictured) into medium rotation, after the track generated a flood of text messages when Sean Kingston played the catchy, Caribbean-flavored tune during a live interview with Now afternoon jock TicTak.

Six weeks later, "Replay," which has yet to chart on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 list, is the fledgling station's 12th-most-played track with 64 spins, according to Nielsen BDS. While WXRK is the only New York station playing it, "Replay" has racked up 19,000 digital downloads in the New York market in the first three weeks following its release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Iyaz's experience is the latest sign of the surprising heft wielded by the new top 40 stations that CBS launched earlier this year in the nation's two largest radio markets. Now and its West Coast bookend, KAMP (Amp 97.1) Los Angeles, are helping expose numerous artists, quickening the pace that songs cross over from urban and rhythmic outlets and helping spur sales, label promotion executives say.

Though neither has the reach of New York's WHTZ (Z100) and L.A.'s KIIS-FM, Clear Channel's iconic top 40s that have dominated their markets for decades, the newcomers are making an impact. "Now is showing itself to be a station that can break records in the market," says Phil Nieves, senior director of promotion at Ultra Records, whose former No. 1 Hot Dance Airplay track "Feel Your Love" by Kim Sozzi has received 682 plays on the station as of Aug. 30.

There's more at stake than two markets: If Amp and Now succeed over the long term, CBS and other broadcasters could flip stations in other markets to top 40, a format that performs exceptionally well when measured by Arbitron's Portable People Meter ratings service but has largely been limited to one per market for decades. Click here to read the complete story in Billboard (subscription required).