Looking to bring new direction to its lagging classic hits station, Cumulus Media is about to change programming leadership at WLS FM 94.7.
After four years as program director, Jan Jeffries has been transferred to WRQX, the company’s Top 40 station in Washington, D.C., effective immediately.
“I’m excited because I’ll be able to be with my family,” said Jeffries, whose two grown children live in the Washington area. “It’s all positive for me.”
No word yet on a replacement for Jeffries here, but the move clearly is aimed at reinvigorating the station, where ratings have been underperforming and revenue declined 30.8 percent last year. No change is expected in the station’s classic hits format, although its playlist has broadened perceptibly since Jeffries departed earlier in the week.
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WLS FM ranked 14th overall with a 2.8 share and cumulative weekly audience of 1,228,000 — far behind its resurgent rival, CBS Radio classic hits WJMK FM 104.3, which ranked sixth with a 4.0 share and 2,417,600 cume. The gap was wider among listeners between 25 and 54, with WLS FM tied for 18th with a 2.1 share and 554,900 cume, while K-Hits 104.3 ranked fourth with a 4.4 share and 802,600 cume.
Jeffries, who also carried the title of senior vice president of corporate programming for Cumulus Media, came to WLS FM in September 2011 after the company acquired the station from Citadel Broadcasting. He switched the format from oldies to classic hits one year later.
Billed as “Chicago’s Classic Hits,” WLS FM features an all-star lineup that includes John Records Landecker, Robert Murphy, Greg Brown, Brant Miller, Jack Diamond, Danny Lake and Radio Hall of Famer Dick Biondi. But following the rigid dictates of the station’s format, the music always overshadows the talent.
“We have reinstated the heritage sound of WLS FM,” Jeffries said of his tenure here. “We’ve taken it to great heights. It’s in great shape.”
This was Jeffries’ second tour of duty as a Chicago radio programmer. Starting in 1984, he served as program director of WAGO, the short-lived Top 40 station owned by Cox Broadcasting, followed by his first stint at WLS FM under ABC ownership.