National broadcaster iHeartMedia Inc. on Friday afternoon debuted the Indianapolis market’s third country radio station, WUBG-FM 98.3, which will square off against two local country powerhouses, WFMS-FM 95.5 and WLHK-FM 97.1.
iHeart is getting into the country game in Indianapolis after agreeing earlier this year to pay $1.95 million to buy WRDZ-FM 98.3—the market’s Radio Disney station—plus a Salt Lake City, Utah, station. The Walt Disney Co. announced last year it was disbanding Radio Disney and casting off its 23 stations.
The new country station, which goes by “Big 98.3,” will enter a fierce battle for ears of country-music listeners. Following decades of dominance as the area’s country king, WFMS in 2013 was overtaken in the ratings by 97.1, which goes by “Hank FM.” Atlanta-based Cumulus Media owns WFMS, while Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp. owns Hank FM.
The newcomer appears to be starting out on a budget, tapping talent from its Big 104.7 station in Pittsburgh to fill weekday air time. Radio Insight reported that Big 104.7’s Bob Delmont will be on from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and that station’s Carson will be on from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
IBJ reported in June that iHeart’s new station would be at a competitive disadvantage to 95.5 and Hank FM because of a weaker signal. Its tower is near Avon in Hendricks County, and some industry experts have said the signal has difficulty reaching eastern Marion County and parts of Boone and Hamilton counties, including Zionsville, Carmel, Westfield and Noblesville.