"An Unfilled Hole": CBS Dallas VP Explains Movin' From Dance Music to Spanish Pop

These have been busy days over at CBS Radio Dallas: First, it turned chatty Live 105.3 into the sportsy The Fan. Then, mid-song yesterday, all-day dance party Movin' 107.5 became the puro Español Mega 107.5, described by Kurt Johnson, VP of programming for CBS Radio Dallas, as "Dallas's first and only Spanish-speaking Hot AC station, which is basically up-tempo contemporary pop music for adults." Johnson's been a hard guy to get hold of today -- says he's spent the whole day fielding calls from jocks at other Spanish stations interested in working into the Mega-mix.

But a little while ago, he did chat with Unfair Park about the state of CBS Radio in Dallas -- specifically, why the switch to Spanish pop and whether CBS is looking to make further shakeups at coming days. To the latter question, he says, "No, we don't have any changes planned. We have a great line-up of stations." Of course, this is the radio business, where today's all's-well is tomorrow's unexpected shake-up. Says Johnson, who's also CBS Radio's Dallas market manager, "We're always looking at the marketplace."

Which, he says, is how CBS decided to flip the format switch at Movin' 107.5, which launched in October 2006, knocking The Oasis back to smooth-jazz hell. Johnson says Movin' "had been growing" and that it had garnered an estimable, faithful following -- many of whom have called CBS Radio Dallas over the last 24 hours to express their extreme displeasure with the change. "But we really spotted an opportunity here," he says. "We recognized the growing Hispanic population and economic clout they have, and we decided to move in that area." (Incidentally, Dallas isn't the only market losin' its Movin': Jacksonville, Florida, today saw its dance station go ... country.)

After the jump, Johnson has some words for those unhappy with the state of local radio. And, yes, satellite fans, that means you.

Johnson says CBS Radio began considering the 107.5 format change "a few weeks ago." The reason? Corporate surveys -- many done in area malls and online, most taken over the phone -- revealed that the Spanish-speaking audience was indeed growing, but wasn't getting everything it wanted -- chiefly, a pop station. So CBS opted for this format, aimed primarily at 25- to 54-year-old women who want their Juanes, Gloria Trevi, Christina Aguilera, Shakira and Luis Miguel.

"The Spanish-language market here is very competitive," Johnson says. (At last count, there were 10 Spanish-language stations in the DFW market.) "There are good broadcasters here filling a lot of needs, and this one they didn't have covered. It's rare you find an unfilled hole, as we call it, in the market, and we did here. ... Populations evolve and markets change, and as new music evolves, there are opportunities. The Hispanic population in Dallas-Fort Worth is predicted to be over 30 percent by 2012, so you have to look and see if the community is being served and if there's a business opportunity there."

As for Movin' fans, well, Johnson hears them loud and clear -- but, sorry, business is business.

"I've gotten some of that [negative] reaction," he says. "Fans of Movin' 107.5 may or may not be a fan of a Spanish-language pop station for sure, and I understand that. It's a different target. We had a very loyal, dedicated group of fans for Movin', but in the end we saw a large unserved need here and wanted to move into that. It's never easy for fans of a station when it changes formats. I understand that. Movin' was a great station, but this was a major unfilled need."

Incidentally, Johnson's also seen that Rochester Institute of Technology study that shows Dallas radio listeners' dissatisfaction with what they're hearing -- and not hearing -- on the airwaves. And he's not impressed.

"I will tell you, I see a lot of these studies, a lot of different surveys," he says. "Radio's demise has been greately exaggerated. We've found there are other studies that show radio listenership grew with younger people, and that's something we hadn't heard recently. Radio's still the most pervasive medium there is, reaching hundreds of millions every week. But a lot of radio's bad press has to do with satellite radio, because, while they're not doing well and are struggling to survive, they did a good job wth press They went out and said,  'We have benefits [terrestrial radio] doesn't have,' and they positioned traditional radio as dying and as something less than it is. But anywhere you go, people cite their favorite stations and have their presets. Radio's still a vibrant and vital force."

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