New York rock radio station 92.3 WXRK "K-Rock" — the former home of Howard Stern in the Big Apple — will reportedly go off the air as of 5 p.m. EST Wednesday, March 11th, and be replaced by WNOW, a Top 40 format (morning jocks Opie & Anthony were fired and won't be along for the ride). The change marks the second time New York City has lost K-Rock, its biggest rock radio station: after Stern departed for satellite radio, it relaunched in December 2005 as Free-FM, which featured a mostly talk format with rock on the weekends, and briefly, David Lee Roth as a morning-show host. In May 2007, K-Rock returned as a rock station, but shifted its focus from new music to Nineties alternative and classic rock. This week's change leaves the tri-state area with 101.9 WRXP — "The New York Rock Experience" — as the region's dominant rock station. WRXP launched its current format in February 2008, and plays classic alternative as well as newer artists.
According to the New York Times, K-Rock's listenership had fallen to 21st in New York's Arbitron rankings in the important Age 12-and-above demographic for the month of January. The CBS-owned WNOW, or NOW FM as 92.3 will be known as of tomorrow, will face off against a giant in New York radio in Z100, a Clear Channel-owned Top 40 radio station that's been around since 1983 and represents the Number Two radio station in the region. CBS Radio has made it a habit in challenging Clear Channel's Top 40 domination of late, as CBS turned Los Angeles station KLSX into Top 40 to compete against Clear Channel's KIIS two weeks ago.
The shift to Top 40 represents the direction the entire music industry is heading: While music sales are slumping and radio stations are suffering through their worst years since the 1950s, sales of digital singles have gone through the roof. Top 40 radio caters to that crowd. To promote the new format, NOW FM will reportedly play 10,000 songs in a row of limited commercial interruption, the NYT reports.