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Hank FM lassoes ratings crown from rival WFMS

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WLHK-FM 97.1 “Hank FM" has put a backwoods butt-whupping on country rival WFMS-FM 95.5 to take the No. 1 spot in the metro Indianapolis radio market.

Owned by Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp., WLHK saw it share rise from 7.3 in March to 8.6 in April, meaning  that on average 8.6 percent of the central Indiana market was listening during the month.

WFMS's share declined to 7.2 in April from 7.8 in March. Just last February, WFMS had an 8.6 share.

Meanwhile, Emmis’ soft rock WYXB-FM 105.7—known as “B105.7"—has tied with WFMS at the No. 2 position for April, according to the recent ratings released by Arbitron.

It’s the first time in recent history the same radio company has owned the No. 1 and No. 2 stations in the market, according to Emmis executives, who said they consulted with a ratings archivist to confirm the achievement.

“A while back we set some pretty lofty goals. In fact, some thought we were a little crazy,” Charlie Morgan, senior vice president and marketing manager for Emmis-Indianapolis, said in a statement.

The WFMS slap-down was undoubtedly gratifying for Morgan, a former executive at Cumulus Media Inc.-owned WFMS.

He’s not the only former WFMS staffer at Emmis. WLHK now employs former WFMS personality J.D. Cannon and executive Bob Richards, who is now program director and does on-air shifts at WLHK.

WLHK’s ascension to the top would have seemed preposterous when it switched to the format in 2005. Then, WFMS was the longtime local king of country and of the radio market in general.

Since then WLHK has been chipping away at WFMS, which hasn’t helped itself with a series of budget cuts in recent years by owner Cumulus.

Beside the departures of Cannon, Morgan and Richards, WFMS in 2009 let go of popular “Country Loving” host Darren Tandy. He was replaced by a syndicated show, "CMT Radio Live with Cody Alan."

Emmis’ WLHK, on the other hand, has put an emphasis on local personalities.

“With the exception of one countdown [syndicated show] on Saturday morning, we have local personalities on the air 24 hours, seven days a week,” Richards said.

Meanwhile, he credits the rise of WYXB to a share of 7.2, from 6.3 in January, to tweaks to the soft rock format and putting a premium on concert ticket giveaways.

An executive with WFMS didn't respond to a request for comment.

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  • Ratings decline
    I am one of the defectors. I was a long time WFMS listener, but I just can't stand Nash Nights Live. I just want to listen to good music--not a bunch of silly, morning-talk-show-like banter in the evenings.
  • Follow-up?
    Will there be a follow-up to the story? HANK's reign lasted just 1 month. Radio Info - Indianapolis — For the fifth consecutive month, the market’s top two stations (6+) are country-formatted rivals. With a solid +1.1 to 8.3, Cumulus Media’s WFMS regains the lead. Conversely, following a strong +1.3 March-April showing, WLHK (Emmis’ “Hank”) slips back to second (8.6 – 7.8).
  • Excellent Job!
    HANK has been my favorite station for quite some time ... glad to see that everyone else is recognizing the quality of programming and talent that we have locally!! Way to Go!
  • Not surprised
    I am not surprised that WFMS is heading down the ratings pole. They get rid of the best people. JD, Vicki, the girl on Saturdays. The morning show can't carry them forever and this is proof.
  • O'Brien
    Did I miss something? How could you write this article and not mention Dave O'Brien? He's the only morning personality I can stand offering quite a bit more intelligence than any other in the city...or on satellite.

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