WNUA-FM to flip to Spanish-language format

After 22 years as a pioneering “Smooth Jazz” outlet, Clear Channel-owned WNUA-FM is changing formats to Spanish Pop, effective Friday at 9:55 a.m.

The station is being branded as “Mega 95.5”. and is being made available online at Mega955.com.

The move is being made as other stations across the country are dropping the Smooth Jazz format. On Tuesday, Clear Channel dropped Smooth Jazz from its KKSF-FM in the Bay Area (SF/Oakland) to launch a Classic Rock format.

The format has also disappeared from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Dayton in recent years.

Many industry say the format’s older-skewing audience, the inability to generate revenue, and the lack of new artists are among the main reasons stations are pulling the plug.

While ratings for WNUA have gone in a upswing in recent months, it was not enough as revenues at the station sagged in 2008. Cutbacks began several years ago, as the station ended its Sunday morning brunches at downtown hotels, and most recently, fired popular radio personality and program director Rick O’Dell after 20 years.

Meanwhile, the audience for Hispanic radio has grown, evidenced by the successes of heritage WOJO-FM, WLEY-FM, and newcomer WVIV-FM, who was the biggest gainer month-to-month in the recent April PPM survey.

This is the latest change for the 95.5 frequency. The station’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 foormat was dropped), and finally WNUA-FM with a New Age/Contemporary Jazz format, which was picked up by other stations across the country. WNUA was one of Chicago’s most successful radio stations, ranking in the top five at one time.

WNUA’s most notable personality was Ramsey Lewis, who based his daily syndicated show from Chicago.

Thanks WNUA, for the memories.

Also: Alternative is having a tough go of it as well. Entercom’s KWOD-FM in Sacramento is dropping the format tomorrow, as is sister station WMFS-FM in Memphis, who dropped Alternative today to go all-sports. Bonneville also dumped Alternative from WSWD-FM in Cincinnati.

To borrow a phrase from Marc Berman – for WKQX-FM (Q101)… Tick-Tock, is the cancellation clock ticking?