In a Survivor-type blindside, iHeart Media’s WNUA’s Regional Mexican format was voted off the 95.5 frequency on Monday and replaced by a Country music format branded as Big 95.5, giving heritage country station WUSN its first competition in eighteen years.
As first reported by Radio Insight, the format change took place at noon with Florida-Georgia Line’s “This Is How We Roll” as the first record played at the new station.
Core artists on Big 95.5 include Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood (notice the press release did not include Taylor Swift.) In addition to current hits, Big 95.5 plans “Throwbacks”, featuring gold and recurrent product. The station plans to announce a talent lineup soon, and is going commercial-free and without jocks in the interim.
iHeart Media/Chicago President Matt Scarano had this to say: “Big 95.5 is going to be a dynamic country music leader and a breath of fresh air for country radio in Chicago. The station will deliver the biggest hits, the biggest stars and the biggest results for our advertising partners too.”
The station is a part of iHeartRadio and you can click here to listen.
iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel) hopes to capitalize on the strong popularity of Country music in the nation’s third-largest radio market, despite being a one station market. During October (the last full month not influenced by Christmas music), WUSN had a 4.4 rating, while WNUA had a 1.5 – a third of the ratings Unvision’s WOJO had with a similar Regional Mexican format (recent December numbers however – influenced by Christmas music – showed WUSN dropping nearly a full point.)
WNUA launched a Spanish CHR format on May 22, 2009, after 22 years as a Smooth Jazz station, known as “Mega 95.5”. In June 2012, the station decided to take on competitors WOJO and WLEY with a Regional Mexican format, but never made any inroads. The lack of reaction to the format’s demise indicates “El Patron 95.5” won’t be missed.
This is yet another change for the 95.5 frequency. WNUA’s roots date back to 1959 as a station owned by the Moody Bible Institute. By 1970, it became WDHF with a Top 40 format, flipped to rock as WMET-FM in 1977, then WRXR-FM in 1985 (when the AOR/Rock format was dropped), to WNUA-FM with a New Age/Contemporary Jazz format in 1987, which later became known as “Smooth Jazz”, until 2009 when it became “Mega 95.5”.
As for WUSN – which flipped to Country in 1982 and was originally owned by Infinity Broadcasting (before they merged with Viacom/CBS), they get competition for the first time since the demise of “Kicks Country” WKXK (94.7 FM), a station which lasted just seventeen months from December 1995 to May 1997.
Other stations in recent years that had former Spanish formats and went back to English include WIND-AM (560) and WRZA-FM (99.9 FM), seguing from Spanish music to “Nine FM” in 2004. Since 2008, the station has been known as progressive talker WCPQ.