Chicago’s venerable WGN Radio (720) may be nearly 100 years old but it’s getting an injection of fresh blood under new owners Nexstar. The station has added NFL play-by-play to its weekend lineup, is changing the way its ratings are reported by Nielsen and has other changes in the pipeline. “WGN Radio has a rich history that we want to respect while making noise as Chicago’s only live 24-hour local talk station,” says Nexstar Executive VP Sean Compton.
No stranger to radio, Compton was once the No. 2 programming exec at Clear Channel Radio (now iHeartMedia). He returned to radio in September when Nexstar named him Executive VP of WGN America, WGN Radio and Director of Content Acquisition, after closing its $7.2 billion purchase of Tribune Media Co., where he was part of Tribune’s senior management team.
Less than a month after taking over what is Nexstar’s only radio property, Compton is adding select NFL football games on Sunday afternoons, according to Chicago media reporter Robert Feder. “The Compass Media NFL games are some good matchups, but more importantly people love the NFL,” Compton told Inside Radio. “And if on bye weeks or prime weeks for the Bears, we can offer some other NFL match-ups, we see it as a great weekend draw for more listeners.”
WGN also plans to use the NFL cume infusion to cross-promote other programming. The station began airing NFL games Sunday (Oct. 13) with a double-header package of the Houston Texans vs. Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Jets.
Meanwhile, WGN is switching to Total Line Reporting, which will combine its over-the-air audience with its streaming listeners and report the combined audience as a single number. In February, Nielsen loosened its TLR policy to give broadcasters greater flexibility, allowing client stations that simulcast 95% of the quarter hours in the survey period to elect to have Nielsen report the estimates for their simulcast partners as a single combined number in its ratings reports. That means WGN will still qualify, even though it can’t stream the NFL games online.
Beyond that, Compton says the station will be better off simulcasting the same commercials online instead of monetizing the streaming inventory separately. “It will give our audience a consistent listening experience online and on-air, which ultimately should improve our ratings, which would then improve our revenue.”