In our recent post headlined "Why KBPI May Not Be Rocking the Rockies at 106.7 FM for Much Longer," we reported that while the venerable rock station was still accessible at the 106.7 FM frequency that it's occupied for more than twenty years, its shift to 107.9 FM, designed to align the signals in Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, meant this could change soon. And it has: At 5 p.m. today, December 18, rock-loving listeners who tune in to the old dial spot will discover that the format has switched to 106.7 The Bull, a new country outlet.
Tim Hager, president of iHeartMedia Denver, whose properties include 107.9 KBPI and the new signal, whose call letters will be KWBL, is psyched about the change.
"I don't know that I've ever been more excited about something we've done in my radio career," Hager says. "We see quite an opening for country music in this town, and I wholeheartedly believe we're going to reshape radio in Denver forever."
The most popular country station in the Mile High City has long been KYGO, at 98.5 FM, and while other C&W-derived signals have attempted to cut into its market share over the years, including The Wolf, at 92.5 FM, none has been able to snatch its crown, and Hager isn't impressed by their efforts to do so.
"KYGO hasn't had a really formidable competitor in this market for decades," he maintains.
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The Bull will debut with what Hager describes as "at least 10,000 songs to start this off. It'll be more than a month of nothing but music," focusing on core artists such as Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert, plus Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini and other younger personalities.
Then, on February 1, 2018, the Bull will begin regular programming. The day will start with a syndicated show hosted by Bobby Bones, who "was just voted Forbes's most powerful man in country radio," Hager notes. "He's hosted the Country Music Awards and comes out of Nashville — and he's as big a name as you can get in country radio."
The rest of the day, he adds, "we'll be live and local," and although he isn't ready to divulge the identities of any jocks set to join the project, he hints that they're likely to turn heads among country radio listeners in Denver.
As a name, "The Bull" seems likely to be twisted by Internet trolls — particularly ones unhappy that KBPI has been displaced, even if it's only a few clicks down the dial. But Hager isn't worried.
"It's the highest-testing name we've got," he maintains, pointing out that iHeartMedia "owns 256 country stations across America. The industry power we have by owning that many country stations — and the premieres and exclusives we get makes our content second to none — affords us a tremendous amount of research into what the country listener wants, and that includes the best-testing names. We know about that, too."
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Neither iHeartMedia nor its corporate predecessors (most famously Clear Channel) have operated a country station in Denver before now. Why not?
"I think it's more that we've never had a station that we've been able to flip to country — and we still don't," he says. "This move we made with 107.9 to allow BPI to live on made it all possible. I never would have made the decision to flip BPI to country, because it's such a strong brand and does so well for us. But we were able to engineer this in a way that allowed us to keep BPI and add a country station. That put us in a really unique situation."
Hager doesn't expect a huge amount of confusion over the change. "This past week, we've been doing nothing but promoting BPI's shift over to 107.9, and we also have a marketing plan with TV, billboards and a pretty big social-media presence to ensure that everyone knows where to go. And at the beginning of the year, we'll launch a pretty significant marketing plan for 106.7 The Bull."
Until then, Hager is looking forward to seeing where the (cow) chips will fall. In his view, "This will shake the radio community in Denver in a really big way."