|City of license||Detroit, Michigan|
|Broadcast area||Metro Detroit |
|Slogan||"Today's Best Hits Without the Rap"|
|Frequency||96.3 MHz (also on HD Radio)
96.3 HD-2: Top 20 New Hits
|First air date||June 1, 1948|
|Format||Adult Top 40/Hot Adult Contemporary|
|Former callsigns||WPLT (6/30/97-3/14/01)
(Radio License Holding I, LLC)
|Sister stations||WJR, WDRQ|
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2013)|
WDVD is an Adult Top 40 / Hot Adult Contemporary radio station in Detroit, Michigan, broadcasting at 96.3 MHz on the FM dial. WDVD's studios and offices are located in the Fisher Building near downtown Detroit. WDVD's transmitter is located in Oakland County in Royal Oak Township at 8 Mile Road and Wyoming Avenue.
WDVD broadcasts with an Effective Radiated Power of 20,000 watts from an antenna that is 787 feet in height. WDVD transmits its signal from the same tower that five other Detroit FM radio stations broadcast from. WDVD is currently owned and operated by Cumulus Media. WDVD can be heard clearly in the entire Detroit Metro area, and the station can be received as far away as Clio, Michigan, Oregon, Ohio, and London, Ontario. WDVD is licensed for HD Radio Operations with its secondary channel known as "Top 20," featuring new releases consistent with the station's Adult CHR format. The HD-2 station originally featured a classic alternative-rock format under the moniker "Planet 96.3" (a format that was used on the analog station in the late 1990s and early 2000s).
On June 1, 1948, the station signed on as WJR-FM, simulcasting WJR-AM. Eventually the station moved into a beautiful music format separate from its AM sister. In late 1970, the station adopted the "Solid Gold Rock and Roll" automated format from Drake-Chenault, a forerunner of the adult contemporary format which played oldies from the 1950s and early 1960s with a sprinkling of current hits. For a time, WJR-FM used the on-air moniker "California Radio" with this format. After almost three years the station reverted to the beautiful music format, with which it was quite successful for a time. Competitors at this time were WLDM-FM now WKQI, FM sister of AM sister's arch rival WWJ-AM; WWJ-FM (now WXYT-FM), and WKNR-FM (later WNIC-FM).
Hot Hits WHYT
In June 1982, Billboard Magazine reported that WJR-FM's owner, Capital Cities Communications, had hired consultant Mike Joseph to implement his widely successful "Hot Hits" format on WJR-FM by the fall of that year, taking note of the success the format was having in Philadelphia (WCAU-FM) and in Chicago (WBBM-FM). In July 1982, WJR-FM applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a call letter change to WHYT. The call letter change was approved on August 16, 1982, and, oddly, the new calls coexisted with the station's Beautiful Music format for a few weeks.
On September 15, 1982, at 5 PM, WHYT signed off the Beautiful Music for good with "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra, followed by the first song of the new format, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band. "Hot Hits" was a fast-moving, jingle-intensive format that featured a tight rotation of 50 current hits (no recurrent hits or oldies, unless they happened to be featured on currently charting albums).
The station's on-air name was "96 NOW" (the same slogan used by WBBM-FM which still operates on the same 96.3 frequency in Chicago to this day). "96 NOW" was a moderate ratings success but did not approach the popularity that WCAU-FM or WBBM-FM were enjoying with Hot Hits, probably due in part to heavy competition from Detroit's urban contemporary and album oriented rock stations. In response, WHYT's CHR format went through several metamorphoses in the next few years, dropping the Mike Joseph formats (though they continued to use the slogan "Hot Hits" on the air through 1986) and adopting several different on-air monikers, including "96 Hit FM" (1983) and "Hitradio 96" (1984). One of the noteworthy WHYT personalities during this time was Joey Reynolds, who had last worked in Detroit radio at WXYZ-AM eighteen years earlier.
In 1985, the station retooled itself as "Power 96 FM" and added more dance music and urban contemporary product to its CHR playlist, and listenership increased (perhaps due to urban powerhouse WDRQ's switch to an adult-contemporary format earlier that year), leading the station to be a regular top 10 ratings finisher through the end of the decade. In 1989, the station dropped the "Power 96" name and became simply known as "96.3 FM", taking on even more of a rhythmic contemporary lean. For much of the 1980s, WHYT was Detroit's local affiliate for Casey Kasem's (and then Shadoe Stevens') American Top 40. Legendary personality Joey Reynolds hosted WHYT's morning show for a time in 1984.
WHYT's major competitors from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s were Z95.5 and 99.5 The Fox, as well as urban-contemporary powerhouse WJLB-FM. The station's peak of popularity came during its days as "Power 96" and then "96.3 FM" from roughly 1986 to 1991, when the station moved its music mix toward rhythmic CHR (while not totally abandoning mainstream pop and rock), frequently racked up top five Arbitron ratings 12+, and was one of the top stations in the 12-24 age demographics (often neck-and-neck with WJLB, with Z95.5 coming in a distant third despite often beating WHYT 12+). Michael J. Foxx was a popular draw in the mornings. In 1991, however, the debut of 89X, as well as Foxx's departure, took substantial market share away from WHYT as teens and young adults flocked to the "cutting edge" modern rock format of 89X.
In 1992, the station delved even farther into rhythmic CHR territory, becoming known as "96.3 Jamz." WHYT eliminated most of the mainstream pop and rock from its playlist and began to focus almost exclusively on hip-hop, R&B and dance hits as well as some dance remixes of mainstream hits. The WHYT calls are now used at a contemporary Christian music station near Lapeer, Michigan.
The Planet 96.3
With the July 4th weekend in 1994 came a formatic shift at WHYT, as the station modified its Rhythmic CHR format into a sound it tagged Planet Jams, evolving into a hybrid of hip-hop and alternative rock while dropping all R&B product. This format, known in radio trades as "Channel X" (also implemented at KUBE in Seattle among other stations), was described by some as a radio version of MTV. Alternative bands such as Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, and Pearl Jam were played alongside Coolio, Snoop Dogg, and Da Brat, and the station also continued to sprinkle in some dance hits from the likes of Real McCoy, Madonna, Ace of Base, and 2 Unlimited. Within a few months, though, the station had dropped all hip-hop songs from rotation; eventually the dance cuts were also phased out, and WHYT, now known as The Planet 96.3, became a more straightforward alternative station.
In reference to the format shift, program director Rick Gillette, who had guided WHYT to high ratings during its "Power 96" and "96.3FM" days in the late 1980s, claimed that the station was merely responding to the popularity of the "hot" music of the time, which happened to be Alternative. In addition to Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and the other popular rock bands of the day, the Planet played a number of local Detroit acts that never achieved major national stardom, such as the Suicide Machines and Charm Farm, as well as some non-mainstream dance and ambient artists such as Vanessa Daou.
After completing a deal with a college radio station in Plattsburgh, New York, the station's calls were switched to WPLT to match the "Planet" moniker on June 30, 1997. With the call letter change, however, the station tweaked its format to more of a Modern Adult Contemporary sound to distinguish it more from competing alternative-rock station CIMX (and, later in 1997, WXDG). The Planet dropped White Zombie, The Offspring and other harder-edged artists from its playlist and focused more on alternative pop-rock acts such as Jewel, Sheryl Crow, and Barenaked Ladies. The Planet also played Classic Alternative music heavily, with the hour-long "Flashback Lunch" middays at noon; "Saturday Night Flashbacks", with dance and extended versions of classic alternative and '80s songs, broadcast live from the nightclub Clutch Cargo's in suburban Pontiac; and holiday-weekend countdowns of "The Coolest Flashbacks of All Time." During this time, the station identified itself as Modern Hits of the 80s and 90s.
A popular feature on WPLT was Big Sonic Heaven, a Sunday-night program of ambient, trance, chill and non-mainstream dance music hosted by DJ Darren Revell. The Planet made some ratings headway with the Modern AC sound, but was never a major player in the market. Over the Labor Day weekend of 1999, the station stunted by playing "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by R.E.M., and then debuted "Alternative Classics", an attempt to convert the station's popular 1980s "Flashback" shows into a full-time format by combining 1980s new wave and punk with more recent (but non-current) 1990s grunge/alternative. Core artists included U2, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Go-Go's, Peter Gabriel, Erasure, and Echo & the Bunnymen. The change failed to raise ratings, and within a year, WPLT had begun to re-add current music into its rotation (such as "Smooth" by Santana and Rob Thomas) under the guise of "Future Alternative Classics".
In response to continued low ratings, the station changed its calls to WDVD on March 14, 2001, with its music gradually shifting in a more mainstream Hot AC direction, though still heavy on alternative rock. The "Flashback" programs and "Big Sonic Heaven" were cancelled shortly afterward. By 2006, the rock songs were reduced as CIDR-FM flipped back to adult album alternative from hot adult contemporary. The WPLT calls have been picked up by a country station in Spooner, Wisconsin.
96-3 WDVD today
After the transition to Hot AC and the WDVD calls, the station continued to feature a heavy alternative-rock base for several years, while still playing "hair bands" such as Poison and Aerosmith and pop artists like Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera, and still remained in the lower echelons of the Detroit ratings. By 2006, however, this began to change as WDVD freshened its presentation and began to evolve into more of an Adult Top 40 station, dropping most 1980s titles from its playlist, adding jingles, and branded itself with the new slogan Today's Best Hits Without the Rap (and taking shots at longtime rival station WKQI for playing too much hip hop). Generally, though, as per its slogan, the station avoids hip hop music except for those who cross over to the Hot AC charts. Songs by Hot AC artists with hip-hop guest stars, such as "California Gurls" by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg, typically have the rap breaks edited out.
On June 12, 2007, WDVD was taken over by Citadel Broadcasting. According to the Citadel page , Citadel considered WDVD an adult-leaning Top 40 station without rap. After a long time in the ratings doldrums, the station has seen its share of the Detroit market increase recently, as they have added more pop music from artists such as Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Britney Spears to their playlist to compete with both Channel 9-5-5 and 98-7 Amp Radio. Likewise, the amount of 1990s music on the playlist has also decreased except for a handful of stalwart pop-alternative titles from artists like Alanis Morissette, No Doubt, Matchbox Twenty, Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day, and all 1980s titles have been removed. By June 2012, the station had moved even closer to Adult Top 40 by adding pop-friendly hip-hop artists such as Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, and Flo Rida into rotation.
By August 2011, eight months after rival WNIC rebranded as Fresh 100.3, that station moved its format from its longtime adult contemporary format to hot adult contemporary, giving Detroit two hot adult contemporary stations by the Fall of 2011 (plus CHYR-FM). WDVD and WNIC do not have identical playlists, however, as WNIC, which identifies as a "variety of yesterday and today" station, still plays a fair amount of '80s AC titles left over from its old format and a wider selection of 1990s hits than WDVD. WNIC returned to their old AC format in September 2012. Citadel merged with Cumulus Media on September 16, 2011.
In 2007, WDVD revived "Planet 96.3" and the "Alternative Classics" format as an offering on its secondary HD Radio channel. This has since been dropped and replaced by "Top 20 New Hits", a format focusing on new Adult CHR releases not yet played on the main station.
- "Cumulus now owns Citadel Broadcasting". Atlanta Business Journal. September 16, 2011. Retrieved September 16, 2011.
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WDVD
- Radio-Locator information on WDVD
- Query Arbitron's FM station database for WDVD
- WDVD Playlist
- WHYT CHR airchecks, 1982–1992
- Steve McVie's Mike Joseph Hot Hits tribute, featuring WHYT "96 Now" airchecks from 1982–83