||This article possibly contains original research. (June 2014)|
|City of license||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Broadcast area||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Branding||97.3 Radio Now|
|Slogan||Milwaukee's #1 for ALL the Hits!!|
|Frequency||97.3 (MHz) (also on HD Radio)|
|First air date||January 1961|
|Transmitter coordinates||43° 06' 41.00" N
87° 55' 38.00" W
|Callsign meaning||We Are Radio NoW!|
|Former callsigns||WISN-FM (1961-1978)
|Sister stations||WISN, WKKV-FM, WMIL-FM, WOKY, WRIT-FM|
|Webcast||"Radio Now" stream|
WRNW (97.3 FM) - currently branded as 97.3 Radio Now - is a Top 40 (CHR) FM radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin which is located on the 97.3 frequency and is branded as "Radio Now". The station is owned and operated by iHeartMedia, Inc., and transmits from the WISN-TV tower in Milwaukee's Lincoln Park, while its studios are in Greenfield.
In January 1978, the station flipped to AOR as WLPX, using consultant Lee Abrams' "SuperStars" format. The station became an immediate success in the ratings, even pushing rival WZMF to tighten their format, and later drop it altogether for beautiful music. WLPX also sponsored future NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki on local racetracks.
In the summer of 1983, WLPX abruptly switched to CHR, first as "The New 97X FM", then shortly after as WBTT A.K.A. "The New B-97 FM".
Light adult contemporary became the format in April 1985 as "Light 97" with the WLTQ call sign. The station's DJ's, before the 1997 sale of WLTQ and WISN Radio from Hearst Communications to Clear Channel, often appeared on WISN-TV in various roles, including hosting telethon and remote programming, and programs involving the Wisconsin Lottery in order to keep the line between the Channel 12 newsroom and other station operations clear from impropriety.
WLTQ featured the popular syndicated Delilah program in the evening shift.
Despite the station's high ratings over the years (particularly in the "at-work" audience), by 2003, WLTQ's ratings started dropping considerably, as the station's stodgy "Light" image turned many younger listeners away.
97.3 The Brew
On September 17, 2004, at Noon, "Light 97.3" signed off with "We Said Hello, Goodbye" by Phil Collins. WLTQ then began stunting with songs with the words "air" or "America" in the title, telling people "Milwaukee will be TALKing about 97.3" while airing clips of Al Franken, promoting to listen the following Monday at 6 AM. Rumors abounded that 97.3 would join the Air America talk format popularized in Madison. However, at the promised time, 97.3 instead adopted an '80s-centric Classic rock format as 97.3 The Brew, launching with "(You Can Still) Rock in America" by Night Ranger. 97.3's callsign was soon changed to WQBW to match the branding. The Brew's" initial slogan was "Rock of the '80s and More". The slogan eventually changed to "The Biggest Variety of Rock Hits" as the format morphed towards adult hits. Their television ads and billboard advertisements featured an obese shirtless man named "Dancin' Kevin" based off an imaging campaign at WLUP-FM in Chicago. WQBW immediately experienced ratings success with the new format, which led to direct competitors WKLH and WLZR (both sister stations owned by Saga Communications) making changes: WLZR dropped its active rock format for a more older-targeting, harder-leaning mainstream rock format as "The Hog", while WKLH (airing a straightforward classic rock format) adopted new on-air imaging. Both of these changes stole listeners back from WQBW, prompting the station to shift towards adult hits by 2008. In addition, Hot AC station WKTI flipped to adult hits that same year, with a playlist featuring many of the same artists being played on WQBW. With all of these changes, WQBW became the lowest-rated station in the market with the format it originated.
97.3 Radio Now
At 9 AM on May 28, 2010, immediately following the Connie & Fish morning program (and after playing "The Final Countdown" by Europe), the station ended the "Brew" format abruptly. It flipped to CHR with the branding "97-3 Radio Now", launching with "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha. The move was made quickly to preempt an expected format change by WJZX. A day earlier, WJZX ended its smooth jazz format and began a stunt format known as "Tiger Radio." The station's new format was likely to be Rhythmic Top 40 under the new callsign WNQW, which prompted Clear Channel to act quickly and claim the "Now" name and brand before WJZX owner Saga Communications could claim it. Radio Now had a DJ-free format, but eventually brought back the morning show, though the title changed to "Connie and Curtis" after "Fish" Calloway's departure a week after the format change (Calloway would later take the morning slot at WZEE's Rhythmic Top 40 rival in Madison, WJQM). On July 26, the station began to have DJ's, again with voicetracking from other stations.
On June 10, 2010, WQBW's call letters were officially changed to WRNW. These calls had previously been used from 1960 until 1982 for WXPK in the New York City suburb of Briarcliff Manor, the station where Howard Stern first came to the broadcasting industry.
WRNW's format change gives longtime top 40 powerhouse WXSS its first competition since its closest rival, adult Top 40 WKTI, converted to an adult hits format as WLWK in late 2008. WRNW's Top 40 musical direction favors a pop/rock approach, as it plays less Rhythmic/Hip-Hop than WXSS and most other large market Top 40 (CHR) stations. This musical direction both differentiates the station from WXSS and protects WRNW's once dominant Urban sister station, WKKV.
On August 31, 2012, Connie and Curtis was ended on both WZEE and WRNW, to be replaced with Clear Channel's internally syndicated Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on September 4. Ironically, that same week, WRNW picked up new competition from WZBK-FM, who, after WRNW beat them to the punch with the "Radio Now" format flip, finally made the switch to Rhythmic Top 40, this time as "Energy 106.9," (and new call letters WNRG) on September 7, 2012.
On April 25, 2006, Clear Channel announced that WQBW's HD2 subchannel will carry Radio Radio from their Format Lab, a format focusing on classic modern rock hits. It was later replaced by the Rock Nation feed from Format Lab, which features active rock.
On February 28, 2011, the format of WRNW-HD2 changed to another national Clear Channel iHeartRadio feed called "Spin Cycle," featuring remixed hit songs presented in a continuous mixshow format. Mixers include DJ Goofy WhiteKid and VJ Kidd Leow.
At the beginning of August 2012, the HD2 signal began to carry the audio of WISN; although their AM signal is also carried in HD Radio, it is severely limited after sunset. This returns what had begun as WISN-FM to carrying their AM mother station in some form for the first time in decades.
History of call letters
- "Smooth Jazz, Brew and Radio Now Recap", Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (May 28, 2010)
- Ross, Sean (June 10, 2010). "Punch Wars #5 – Milwaukee's New CHR Battle". Radio-Info.com.
- "Saga Gives Milwaukee An Energy Boost" from Radio Insight (September 7, 2012)
- "WISN-FM Starts" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 19, 1949. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
- 97-3 Radio Now website
- "Connie & Curtis" website
- Audio and background of "The Brew's" sign-on
- "New format is going to party like it's 1989" (JSonline.com)
- "WLTQ-FM changed on its own, honest" (JSonline.com)
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WRNW
- Radio-Locator information on WRNW
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRNW