iHeart replaces country format with hip-hop at FM 98.3

Fifteen months after buying the former Radio Disney station at 98.3 FM and changing it into a country-music station, iHeart Radio is pulling the plug on the boot-stomping format.

On Monday, iHeart debuted the station’s new format—hip-hop and R&B—and rebranded it Real 98.3.

“This is an exciting and powerful addition to the iHeartMedia Indianapolis portfolio,” said Earl Jones, president for iHeartMedia’s Kentucky-Indiana region and senior vice president of urban operations, in a written statement. “Hip-hop is thriving, and I can’t wait to get things rolling.”

iHeart jumped into the country game in Indianapolis after agreeing last year to pay $1.95 million to buy WRDZ-FM 98—the market’s Radio Disney station—plus a Salt Lake City, Utah, station. The Walt Disney Co. announced in 2014 it was disbanding Radio Disney and casting off its 23 stations.

iheart branded the local country station Big 98.3. But WUBG never came close to matching the ratings of the market’s other two country stations, Cumulus Radio’s WFMS-FM 95.5 and Emmis Communication’s WLHK-97.1 FM.  Those two stations over the last six months have earned ratings four to six times higher than that of WUBG, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.

In its new format, the iHeart station will likely have to battle WTLC-FM 106.7, the market’s most listened to station in August and fourth most listened to in September, according to Nielsen, and WHHH-FM 96.3, another top 10 station in this market. Both stations cater to the urban market.

Real 98.3 is attempting to lure listeners Monday with the promise of playing 10,000 songs with no commercials, featuring artists such as Drake, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Usher, Jay-Z and Beyonce. 

In addition to Real 98.3, iHeartMedia Indianapolis owns and operates rock station WFBQ-FM 94.7, alternative music station WOLT-FM 103.3, and sports station WNDE-AM 1260. 

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