WLTW (106.7 FM, "106.7 Lite FM") is a radio station with a Mainstream AC format in New York City. WLTW is owned by iHeartMedia and broadcasts from studios in the AT&T Building in the Tribeca district of Manhattan; its transmitter is atop the Empire State Building.
The station is often No. 1 or close to it in Arbitron ratings for New York City. From 2002 to 2004, the station generated more revenue than any other radio station in the New York market. One reason for its success, in a city that heavily identifies with rap, hip hop, and dance music (formats whose stations make up many of the other top rated FM stations in New York), is that its playlist variety (where just about any popular song from the 1980s to today that is not rap/hip hop, hard rock, or non-crossover country is played) has attracted an unusually broad demographic range of listeners. Some radio industry analysts have likened the station's format to "a Jack FM with reporters giving weather/traffic news and financial reports."
The station first went on the air in 1961 as WRVR, a religious station owned by Riverside Church that also played some jazz. A remnant of this period is a 5 A.M. Sunday morning sermon from the church that airs on the station. As time went on, WRVR was a full-time jazz station with a strong following, but low ratings.
In 1976 WRVR was purchased by Sonderling Broadcasting, owner of WWRL, with the hope that it could move to an urban format and compete against WBLS, which had cut into WWRL's ratings. However, community opposition prevented the format change and WRVR remained a jazz station under Sonderling ownership. At that time it developed the precursor to what would later become known as the "smooth jazz" format.
In 1980 Viacom bought the Sonderling chain, and the station adopted a country music format as "Kick" WKHK. The station was known as "Kick 106.7 FM." The format change, from jazz to country, took place in the middle of the night. The change brought many protests from New York jazz fans, and a petition to the FCC to deny the station's license renewal, which was denied. (The WRVR calls were moved to a radio station in Memphis, TN, that had once been owned by Viacom, but is now owned by Entercom.) However, ratings were low, as they were unable to compete with WHN, which also had a country music format at the time. In 1988, a new jazz station appeared on the New York airwaves, with the call letters WQCD ("CD101.9"); for a time, it existed as an HD2 station to WRXP, the station that replaced it (which later changed calls to WEMP, then back to WRXP, and is now WFAN-FM).
Then, on January 23, 1984, Viacom dropped country and changed the calls to WLTW. The station became an MOR station known as "Lite FM 106.7 WLTW". Initially they were an easy listening station without anything that would be classified as "elevator music". At this point, the station played music from such artists as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, the Carpenters, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Barry Manilow, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, and the Stylistics. The station also played softer songs from such artists as Elton John, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, the Righteous Brothers and Billy Joel. The station wouldn't play any new music except for new songs by artists that were familiar to listeners of the station. With this format change, ratings did increase from its previously low levels. (Almost immediately after the call letter switch, the WKHK calls were picked up by an FM station at 95.3 in Colonial Heights, Virginia that was also doing a country format. That station still has the WKHK calls and is now Heritage-owned Richmond, Virginia Country station "K95".)
By the late 1980s, WLTW started to play songs from such artists as Whitney Houston, Chicago, Foreigner, the Doobie Brothers and Bruce Springsteen. As other competing New York City stations changed their focus, the station stayed with their soft adult contemporary format, even though they were phasing out songs from artists such as Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, and the Carpenters. At this point, the station's ratings were at or near the top compared with other New York City radio stations.
By 1996, with WPAT-FM adapting a Spanish adult contemporary format, WPLJ adapting a hot adult contemporary format, and WMXV (now WWPR-FM) switching to a modern adult contemporary format, WLTW segued to a mainstream adult contemporary format. The station added more uptempo songs from such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey and Billy Joel, as music from artists such as Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers were phased out, and new songs were now being played on the station. Despite the fact that the station had now changed its approach musically, they still refused to play any jingles or have their airstaff talk over the music (they would change in due course, with the former just recently added). The station had been No. 1 more often than not in the ratings, and since 2002, they have continuously been the No. 1 radio station in New York City.
Merger with Clear Channel Communications
Chancellor bought Viacom Radio in 1997, and with it WLTW. In 1999 Chancellor merged with Capstar to form AM/FM, which retained WLTW. Finally, in 2000, AM/FM merged with Clear Channel Communications (which became iHeartMedia in 2014), making WLTW a Clear Channel-owned station, and iHeartMedia has owned the station ever since. (Of note, Viacom would not be out of the radio business for long, for when they bought CBS, they also bought their radio properties, which were owned by the radio subsidiary Infinity Broadcasting - which interestingly owned WLTW's future competitor, WNEW-FM.)
WLTW was simulcast nationwide on XM Satellite Radio from 2001 to the end of 2003, under the channel name "Lite." WLTW on XM was replaced by The Blend on February 2, 2004. In 2004, all XM music channels went commercial free, and WLTW was replaced with a unique-to-XM channel called Sunny, which had an easy listening format. Since then, Clear Channel has regained the right to air commercials on their XM music channels. Sunny then began carrying commercials, but was still exclusive to XM. After a few format tweaks, Sunny played soft oldies until it became The Pink Channel.
During the holiday season (Thanksgiving through Christmas), WLTW has played Christmas music interspersed with its regular playlist. Only on Christmas Day and a few days leading up to it would the station devote all its airtime to holiday music. After the September 11 attacks, Christmas music was seen as a comforting "feel-good" format for radio listeners. Already established as a popular station for Christmas music, WLTW began to switch to an all-Christmas format earlier in 2002. After retaining its leadership in market share, and as part of a national trend, the station continued to make the switch earlier in the following years. By 2004, the all-Christmas format ran from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and in 2005, it began on November 18, the week before Thanksgiving (November 24). On November 18, 2006 (the Saturday before Thanksgiving 2006) the station switched to all Christmas music for the holiday season. This is the 2nd year in a row they made such a move. They were the first NYC Station to do so. They did so the same day as WALK, a Long Island-based station which shares a good portion of their listening audience. By all accounts, the gamble paid off; WLTW captured 7.4% of the New York radio audience during the fall of 2005—the biggest market share in WLTW's history and the highest share for all New York stations since the winter of 1995. At some points during the 2008 holiday season, WLTW would draw as much as a third of all radio listeners in the New York area.
As part of Clear Channel's nationwide cost-cutting efforts WLTW fired station veterans Bill Buchner (mornings) and J.J. Kennedy (evenings) on November 6, 2006. Buchner was replaced with Karen Carson, who is co-hosting mornings with fellow WLTW staffer Christine Nagy. WLTW Program Director Jim Ryan has denied these firings were part of the company's cost cutting that were going on at all the other Clear Channel stations in preparation for their conversion the leveraged buyout that took the company from public to private ownership in 2006, but rather from their desire to improve ratings.
The syndicated Delilah show, distributed by sister company Premiere Radio Networks, replaced Kennedy's local evening lovesongs show on November 20, 2006, bringing the syndicated show to the full New York market for the first time. Prior to WLTW picking her show up, Delilah was only heard in outer portions of the New York market from stations in neighboring areas, such as WEZN-FM. In a departure from her normal format, Delilah and her syndicator are allowing Ryan to program the music on the WLTW's version of Delilah, instead of the selections that are sent to her other affiliates.
On April 2, 2007, just after April Fool's Day, WLTW removed the "Lite" branding and was simply known as "New York's 106.7." This probably took place in reaction to the "Lite" brand being associated with an older demographic turning away the younger listeners, as well as increased competition from the new Fresh 102.7. Later in 2007, the Lite-FM branding returned on the station. This was true even though WLTW played Livin' on a Prayer by Bon Jovi and Crazy by Gnarls Barkley, just like with most AC stations today. By 2009, most of the hot AC content was toned down in order for competitor WWFS' (now WNEW-FM) shift from hot AC to adult contemporary. In 2011, WWFS switched panels to the hot adult contemporary panel from the adult contemporary panel on Nielsen BDS and later Mediabase, giving WWFS more format similarity to rival WPLJ (owned by Cumulus Media) rather than WLTW or its rimshot rivals (WNBM/WFAF, WKJY or WMGQ, the latter two on 98.3 FM).
Further cost-cutting efforts by Clear Channel caused the departure of longtime station favorites Al "Bernie" Berstein and Valerie Smaldone in early 2008. It was also announced that Program Director Jim Ryan would exit as of May 2008. Chris Conley took over the Program Director Position. Mr. Conley was a programming consultant with McVay Media and long time programming veteran with years in the Adult Contemporary radio format. Chris had a very successful tenure at WBEB B101 FM in Philadelphia. Ms. Morgan Prue, winner of several Music Director Of The Year Awards, stayed on as the station's Music Director and Assistant Program Director Upon Ms. Prue's departure, to pursue a program directorship in Canada, Ms. Jillian Kempton was named Assistant Program Director/Music Director.
Lite FM has evolved into a more upbeat "Variety" station from its earlier "Soft Rock" approach with deejays talking over intros, keeping a non stop music flow, and has added a jingle package for the first time in the history of the station. The station uses Reelworld One AC with its own logo. The station is also well known for having somewhat of a lean toward Rhythmic AC compared to most other AC stations owned by Clear Channel, possibly due to the younger-leaning audience in the NY market.
In May 2011, WLTW returned to XM Satellite Radio, with a full-time simulcast on Channel 13. However, station owner Clear Channel sold off its ownership stake in Sirius XM Radio during the second quarter of fiscal year 2013. As a result of the sale, nine of Clear Channel's eleven XM stations, including the simulcast of WLTW, ceased broadcast over XM Satellite Radio on October 18, 2013.
For Holiday 2009, the station received a rating of 11.6 (7,024,700 people).
Since the arrival of program director Chris Conley, the Adult Contemporary format Lite-FM ratings have gone from a market position of 3rd place with a 5.6 share of Persons 25-54 (Arbitron April 2008) to 1st place with a 7.5 share of Persons 25-54 (Arbitron March 2010). In the August 2010 ratings (Arbitron August 2010), the station went to a 7.0 share in the much wider demographic of persons 6+ giving Lite FM a dominant 1st place lead in the Market.
WLTW has experienced unprecedented ratings success in 2012 and 2013. The last 23 consecutive monthly ratings periods, Lite-FM has been No. 1, 12+ and persons 25-54 (Arbitron June 2013). This is a new record set for a NYC radio station in the Arbitron PPM era. Also unprecedented, in the PPM era, WLTW has had 43 out of 45 No. 1 ranked months. WLTW is usually around the mid 7 share range. For the month of August 2012 (Arbitron August 2012), WLTW was No. 1 with both women and men in the 25-54 demographic.
In the first quarter of 2013, Lite-FM continues its radio dominance in the NYC Metro Market pulling near 8 shares (without the help of holiday music) (Arbitron March 2013). The station's program director, Chris Conley, was voted as the #1 program director of the year, in America, in the April 2013 issue of "Radio Ink Trade Magazine".
On Air Sound
NYC radio stations have traditionally used very aggressive audio processing in their quests to sound louder than their competitors. WLTW maintains one of the least processed signals in the NYC market today. The station may not seem as "loud" as others. However, studies have shown that the lower levels of distortion reduce listener fatigue, especially with females, resulting in longer listening sessions.