98.3 FM Flips Format from Conservative Talk Radio to Classic Hip Hop

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URBANDALE, Iowa -- 98.3 FM has a new sound. What was "The Torch" is no more. 98.3 is now "The Vibe."

The format flip happened Monday at noon. "As any format flip goes in radio, a lot of them are done suddenly because if word gets out, it gives your competitors an opportunity to maybe beat you to the punch on a format," said Cumulus Media in Des Moines Operations Manager & Program Director Sean Elliott. "On this one specifically, on the classic hip hop, there have been markets where when one station signs on, and two others sign on within the same week. It’s been a real kind of rush to get to this format and so while we’ve been working on it for a little while, you know, we still felt the need to keep it covert," said Elliott.

Out at 98.3 is conservative talk radio; in is classic hip hop. The folks over at Cumulus Media in Urbandale say the old format just wasn't working. "We gave that station a lot of opportunity. The ratings were disappointing, quite honestly," said Cumulus Media in Des Moines Vice President & Market Manager Craig Hodgson. "We’d tried news talk in a number of variations on the 98.3 frequency over the years and it had a passionate audience, but not the biggest audience," said Elliott.

The folks at Cumulus Media saw an opportunity to grab a bigger audience by making the switch to classic hip hop, which they say is the hottest format in radio right now. "In the latest book that was published, I think The Torch, which was on, had somewhere around a one share, one and a half, and you know our estimates are if everything goes right, we feel like if this format does what it`s capable of doing, we hope that this could do a four or a five share in the market," said Elliott.

Cumulus says the classic hip hop format has worked out great in other markets.

"We launched this in Indianapolis in December of last year and it became the number one station in the market the very next month, and has continued to hold those kind of audience levels," said Hodgson. "It finds a niche and it's done it in Erie, Pennsylvania. It’s done it in Tucson, Arizona. You know it’s happening right now in Minneapolis, where they launched about five weeks ago and the increases in audience have been just astounding. We expect the same reaction here because this is the music people grew up with in the 90’s. It’s the music they partied to and danced to and you know made out to and went to college with, and it’s something that they haven’t heard in a long time, and it just hasn’t’ been available until now," said Hodgson.

Cumulus is moving some of its talk programming over to its AM station 1700. That change will take place on Monday. As part of the transition, "1700 The Champ" will be renamed be "Big 1700." Big 1700 will feature news, talk, and sports programming. "We`re kind of doing a hybrid. We`ve taken the news talk from 98.3, and combined that with our all sports station," said Elliott.

"We’re going to have news and talk for the morning hours, from midnight until noon, and continue with our sports talk programming from noon until midnight, along with play by play, NFL football, UNI Panthers sports, Des Moines Buccaneers hockey, and the entire NFL football package, Monday, Thursday, Sunday nights plus Sunday afternoons and NCAA basketball. So, really excited about what we’re doing with that station as well, and we think some of the listeners from The Torch might find the morning lineup on News - Talk - Sports - Big 1700 of interest as well," said Hodgson.

However, some of the programming is falling by the wayside, including some of the big name talk show hosts that were a part of the old lineup on The Torch. Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage will not be a part of the programming over at Big 1700.