September 27, 2013

Changes afoot across Myrtle Beach area radio stations

Having a second news-talk radio station on the Grand Strand has given Washington Redskins fans at least one victory this season. That shift is among changes made this month at three stops on the local FM dial.

Having a second news-talk radio station on the Grand Strand has given Washington Redskins fans at least one victory this season. That shift is among changes made this month at three stops on the local FM dial.

Every game day, rooters of the three-time Super Bowl champion Redskins can tune into team network game casts on a the simulcast signal shared by WJXY-FM 93.9/WXJY-FM 93.7, covering the North and South Grand Strand, respectively.

The frequencies, reactivated Sept. 19 since the ending in early summer of another entity’s programming of “The Outlaw” Southern rock/country format, tout “News Talk That Matters.”

Eddie Esserman of Joule Radio LLC in St. Simons Island, Ga., the trustee for the station pair, said their various nationally syndicated talk shows – including Don Imus in weekday morning drive and Mike Huckabee to start the afternoons – as well as the Redskins games, constitute “a good lineup” chosen based on Myrtle Beach-area demographics.

Esserman also found the prevalence of local Redskins fanfare impressive, especially because of so many households that have relocated from the mid-Atlantic states.

For as long as WJXY/WXJY remain in Joule Radio’s hands, “there’s no reason we shouldn’t be competitive,” Esserman said.

Happy with its “big names” for shows, he also thinks “we are on the cusp of a fundamental change in the landscape of talk radio” and that by accessing listeners with other hosts’ programs, they might “see a leveling here” in the talk format spectrum.

“I thing we studied it pretty well before we turned it on,” Esserman said, welcoming new listeners and being “open to both positive and constructive criticism.”

New face at WRNN

The other news-talk station in town, a staple at NextMedia’s WRNN-FM “Hot Talk” 99.5, has welcomed a new third member to its morning trio 6-10 a.m. Mondays-Fridays. Liz Callaway from Long Island, N.Y., joined Dave Priest and Pat Taylor on Sept. 3.

John Sheftic, NextMedia’s market manager for its five Myrtle Beach stations, said adding Callaway after Kristine Ward left for a larger market to host a new show in Charlotte, “has worked out terrifically.” Sheftic said Callaway had interviewed with the company for another post, and he realized that if an opening later arose at WRNN, “she would be so perfect,” especially with her news director background in radio. Three weeks later, that need struck, Sheftic said, praising Ward for her “fantastic job” in her year on WRNN.

In less than three weeks, Callaway already has brought a “breath of fresh air in the building,” Sheftic said, especially as WRNN moves its morning show “in a slightly different direction.” He said it’ll stay news-talk and all local, but with extra entertainment and information into the mix, with more interviews – such as guests James Gregory, Ted Nugent and Grant Turner as “Ricky Mokel” this past summer, and local municipal and state officials – and the weekly “Ask a Lawyer” segment at 9:05 a.m. Mondays.

Through developing more and stretching existing relationships, WRNN wants to expand its community presence.

“We have a really big commitment to local radio in the morning,” Sheftic said, “and that’s critical.”

He also said “the freshness that comes with various guests” through being “more of a ‘Fox and Friends’-type show” gives listeners a break from the “political drumbeat” that dominates news overall.

“We want to be fresh, lively and a little on the hip side,” Sheftic said.

Callaway, the mother of two teenage sons, including a freshman at Coastal Carolina University, said with her new radio family, “I felt right at home immediately.”

She said the adjustment in a new job usually lasts several weeks, but that wasn’t the case in sharing the mic with Priest and Taylor.

“It might be because we do so much talking,” she joked.

She said having visited Myrtle Beach for family vacations for about a decade, she has been amazed by the changes and growth here.

Loving the beach, as she did living near the Hamptons, Callaway said the Grand Strand reminds her of her homeland, with its tourist and environmental issues.

“It does feel like home,” she said, calling her new job “a gift.”

‘Nash-FM 106.5’

One of the two Myrtle Beach country stations, WLFF-FM 106.5 “The Coyote,” has rebranded itself, keeping the same style of music, but with a new “Nash” identity.

David Lewis, vice president and market manager for Cumulus’ five local stations, said the station format hasn’t changed, but Nash reflects “a new brand” of country programming Cumulus is building across the United States, across which the company operates 84 country stations. That initiative included the launch in January of a flagship Nash station in New York City, which lacked a country outlet for 17 years, Lewis said.

Locally, Nash will keep in place the familiarity of the station’s weekday on-air staff, including “Night Train and Nikki” in morning drive, along with “CMT Radio Live” with Cody Allen on weeknights, and Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn fame on overnights and hosting “American Country Countdown” shows on weekends.

Nash also will let listeners tap into bigger promotions and contests as “part of stretching our larger national brand,” Lewis said, speaking about other national Nash plans, such as a magazine and TV programming.

“For us, the listeners are going to be really excited,” Lewis said.

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