Mobile's 93 BLX has been a top 3 radio station in Pensacola for over 20 years...
sometimes often it's #1. Before Magic 106.1 signed on, WDLT also did damn well in the Pensacola ratings, considering that I couldn't pick up a trace of 98.3 downtown. If the Urban AC audience has no choice but to listen to WDLT on 104.1... they'll listen, just like they did when 106.1 played rock.
I went through some old M Street Radio Directories from the early 90's, and you're correct that 'BLX and a few Mobile stations showed well in Pensacola. The previous ratings I looked at only listed Pensacola ratings for out of market stations that actively sold in Pensacola, of which there weren't many. I apologize for the error.
I will also say that I agree with you that the urban AC audience will listen to 'DLT if given no other choice. The problem remains that Pensacola advertisers are not going to pay Mobile rates to go after Pensacola listeners. The rates are too high, and returns are much too low. While agencies are very shrewd about negotiating prices down, they aren't likely to be able to get Pensacola rates out of Mobile stations.
I can see where your coming from about folks listening to the local stations... but that only applies if there is a local station to listen to.
This is true, but whether or not there's a local station to listen to is determined mostly by advertisers. So long as there are enough advertisers in Pensacola who won't support an out of market station that charges higher rates, you're probably going to see 'DLT and 'RRX airing much of the same programming. As I mentioned before, Cumulus has known for two months that this would happen. They've already had plenty of time to transition listeners and advertisers to 104.1 if they felt that was a viable model. Something else to keep in mind is that advertisers dictate Arbitron market definitions more than broadcasters. If the advertisers felt there was a reason to combine Mobile and Pensacola into one market, it would've been done by now. If the two were combined, you'd have a market of just less than 1 million people that would be ranked right around #60. However, advertisers want the two markets split because Pensacola customers don't support enough Mobile businesses to make it worth the extra money they'd have to spend on advertising, and the same can definitely be said for Pensacola businesses and Mobile customers. Radio has always been considered the cheap medium, and advertisers want to keep it that way.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. What you're saying makes perfect sense from a programming standpoint. The problem is that there are two sides to broadcasting, and they don't make up an equal part. Programming makes up a smaller portion of the industry everyday. Aggressive sales is the focus day in and day out, and management almost always comes from the sales side of the building. Also, understand that I share your frustration. When I was talking about a cluster I worked for being acquired by Cumulus, our new market manager, who was one of our sales managers under the previous company, went as far as to say, "I know nothing about programming. I just care about the numbers!" This was also the same guy who complained to management a year earlier that our top-40 station, which knocked off the heritage station about a year prior, wasn't hitting its margins because "it plays too much music." All you had to do was look at all the spots on the log that said "FILLER" to see that wasn't the case!
Magic 106.1 was a shock when it signed on (I had just signed a contract with Rock 106 about 5 days before the flip... my sales rep had no idea he was selling me crap). The people in the building weren't even expecting urban on 106.1 but they knew rock was on the way out soon. I was told that several of the staff chose to leave over what they perceived as a horrible decision by Cumulus executives... that was a very long time ago.
The sales reps usually know before the programming staff that a change is happening, but I've encountered similar situations myself. I'd hate to be that sales rep since some of the advertisers demand cell phone numbers from reps before they sign contracts. I also would have to say that, yes, I would think they would have known Rock 106 was on its way out. The ratings were terrible, and they practically doubled when 'RRX became "Magic 106." Now, the station has averaged a 6 since it flipped formats more than 5 years ago, and it sometimes hits very close to an 8. In other words, it's been a good move. Cumulus got rid of a station that couldn't get a 3 share and replaced it with a station that does well both 12+ and in 25-54 women.