On Monday, the 5 local shows on 93.9 The Ticket, the local ESPN affiliate in Louisville, we loaded with calls about the previous weekends games, most notably, the UK loss to VMI on Friday.
On Tuesday, the station suddenly ceased operations, a decision brought down by the corporate office in Atlanta. The move comes as a shock to both staff and listeners, as The Ticket had firmly entrenched itself as a serious option for sports talk in the city.
I produced a show on 93.9 The Ticket, and take my word for it: This move to end all shows on the station was the most shocking thing I have ever been a part of. I walked into the station on Tuesday fully prepared to run another wonderful show, excited about that night's UK-UNC game and the calls it would entice. Instead, I walked into a station filled with stunned faces and many tears.
Let's give a little back story to this entire situation. Cumulus Media owns the 2nd most radio stations in the country, behind ClearChannel. They bought up the former 1570 The Zone in January 2008, slapped it with an ESPN tag and the station was off and running.
Since January, the "Dave and Scott Show" was picked up by the CW-Louisville from 6-8AM, a great move for the station. Bob Valvano and Will Wolford brought their show over from another station, taking over the 8-10AM slot. Obviously, I am biased, but I think the station had by far the best lineup in the city.
And the success of the station was really showing up in the ratings. 93.9 The Ticket had jumped the competition in all major demographics, and had made a significant jump in overall ratings. I know staff was very confident by the end of the year, the station would be #1 in the market.
The appeal of the station is it's lack of affiliation with the University of Louisville. Hosts were not pressured to only speak positively about UL, even during a tough football season. It was very clear to those in the know, that The Ticket in just under a year of exsistence, was on its way to the top. This rise even brought some contempt from UL Athletic Director Tom Jurich, but thats another story for another day.
That brings us to Tuesday, and the announcement of the station ending. There are many problems with this move from the Cumulus corporate office:
(1) The executives of Cumulus did not have the courage to come up to Louisville to discuss the move with the staff of 93.9. A call was sent to the station manager telling him of the move. With this type of drastic move, I feel it was there responsibility to talk to the staff face-to-face about the decision, and take the criticism that would have come their way. If you are going to fire approx. 15 people and numerous interns, Cumulus should not have taken to cowardly way out.
(2) The decision was 100% spur of the moment. There was absolutely NO warning that this move was ever possible. I can still remember the opening staff meeting in January with a Cumulus execuitve, with the words "the sky is the limit" and "we think this market can be taken over" spoken. All the staff of 93.9 did was live up to and then exceed those expectations. I can tell you that many great promotions were in the works for basketball season, and I find it unfortunate that the plug was pulled before the major sports season in this area. And if this decision to cease operations was a long time coming, no warning was given to the people it would affect most, the staff of 93.9 The Ticket.
(3) THE STATION WAS SUCCESFUL!!!!! As I already mentioned, the station was on the verge of becoming the #1 rated sports station in the city, and was already #1 in key demographics, meaning advertising was going well. Maybe I am daydreaming, but normally you dont pull the plug on things that are successful. Instead of putting more money into a successful station, Cumulus decided to switch to a format that this market is already saturated in.
(4) Cumulus never paid any attention to the station itself. This is something that you average listener would never know. But the corporate office in Atlanta NEVER gave any attention or help to 93.9 The Ticket. And the station still thrived despite those handicaps. From the beginning of January until Tuesday, the station NEVER had a viable website, something that any legitimate station would have. That squarely falls on Cumulus and their inattention to the Louisville market. It somewhat miraculous the station was successful and popular, and that credit goes directly to the hard-working, dedicated staff at 93.9.
This has been a sad couple days for me personally. I really haven't even had the time to express much anger about the decision because I feel so badly for the staff that now has no jobs. I can not say enough about the staff at 93.9, who worked tirelessly with less than stellar pay, all for the greater good of sports fans of Louisville. I will not take shots at the other sports station here in Louisville because they do the best they can under the restrictions they have. But, the sports fans in Louisville have been robbed of options for their listening pleasure.
I thank everyone who listened over these 11 months, and hopefully many of the shows can land somewhere else soon. I know many people are sending their complaints to the Cumulus office in Atlanta, which is a wonderful idea. I will tell you it is unlikely to change the decision of Cumulus, but hopefully support for these hosts will lead another company to pick them up.