New York Alternative-Rock Station That Was Once Home to Howard Stern Flips Format to News Talk

New York City alternative rock station 92.3, which was once home to Howard Stern, will sign off on October 27 as Audacy flips the format to News radio 1010 WINS on the FM frequency.

Alt 92.3 brand manager Mike Kaplan — who exited as program director of Los Angeles alt-rock station KROQ in March and as format vice president for Audacy’s portfolio of alternative stations (both positions are now held by Kevin Weatherly) — will remain through the transitional phase. Alt 92.3 will move to Audacy’s streaming platform, 92.3 HD2 and nationwide via the Audacy app and website. The station’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts will remain intact. 

The move to flip Alt to the 1010 WINS simulcast, Chris Oliviero, market president of Audacy New York, tells Variety, is less about the performance of the station — which launched in 2018 — and more about the company’s “commitment to two formats that dominate in news” on a much stronger signal.

At launch, and for a period of time thereafter, the station will identify as 1010 WINS at 92.3FM, according to Audacy.

With the flip, 1010 WINS and sister station WCBS-880 will merge to share anchors and reporters under a new agreement with union SAG-AFTRA. WINS director of news and programming Ben Mevorach will be promoted to VP of New York news. Assistant news director Ivan Lee will serve as brand manager of both stations, filling the gap left by Tim Scheld, who will depart WCBS by the end of the year.

Plans for the flip began last year, Oliveiro says, to make the move for the popular news station, which in the September PPM ratings pulled a 3.0 share in September with a cume of 1,217,000 listeners, and a .7 share and 127, 200 cume on the stream. Alt 92.3 (WNYL), in comparison, finished with a 1.2 share and 938,900 cume.

The move will meld the 50-year-old brand, known for strictly reporting local news in the city and outer boroughs with CBS-A-880’s global resources, with reporters “in more places, covering more stories, creating more original content, expanding our digital footprint, and now offering listeners a crystal-clear FM audio experience,” Mevorach adds.

While the flip is a, er, win for news junkies, it’s a sad day for fans of the alternative rock format, which never seemed to find a solid footing in the Big Apple.

The station’s foothold in rock began in 1985, when it flipped from adult contemporary in the ’70s and — then later as “Disco 92” — flipped to the album oriented rock format following the all day-broadcast of the historic Live Aid Concert on July 13. The station was home to Howard Stern, who originally broadcast during the afternoon drive slot before moving to mornings in Feb., 1986.

With Stern in position as the highest-rated morning show in New York, and syndicated nationally in 1987, K-Rock, was then branded as a Classic Rock hub with air personalities Flo & Eddie from classic rock band the Turtles and New York radio veterans including Dave Herman, Pete Fornatale, Meg Griffin, Vin Scelsa, and Alison Steele from WNEW added to the staff.

By 1996, the popularity of alternative rock and competing stations like Q1043 moved K-Rock to yet another format tweak, a hybrid of alternative rock and active rock. With Stern’s departure to Sirius XM in 2006, the format switched to yet another change with an all-talk experiment, “Free FM,” featuring Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth in morning drive and shows with Penn Gilette, Leslie Gold and Chris Booker. The controversial duo of Opie and Anthony replaced Roth from 2007 to 2009, before another change to precipitated the crew to sign off with Nirvana’s “All Apologies.”

A brief experiment with a CHR format, 923 AMP Radio launched in 2014, lasting three years before the flip back to alternative with Alt 92.3 under what was then Entercom (now Audacy).

Kaplan took the reins in 2017, trying to invigorate an audience with a diverse playlist that embraced other flavors besides rock, a formula he tried to apply with KROQ. Kaplan took flack for programming moves in Los Angeles — letting go of “Kevin in the Morning with Allie & Jensen,” and a reworking of the popular, three-decade “Kevin & Bean Show” (with Allie Mac Kay and Jensen Karp filling the void after Gene “Bean” Baxter’s exit) — and steering the station away from its rock and alternative roots towards more pop-leaning fare.

Kaplan did add an Alternative flashback show, “Postmodern,” on Sunday mornings on the New York stick and Audacy stations around the country. Hosted by Scott Lowe, its playlist of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s hits included songs by Beck, the Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order, Nirvana, No Doubt, Oasis, Goldfinger, and Ramones. A recent “Rock of the ’90s” Labor Day countdown took a few chances with deep cuts by King Missile, Fatboy Slim and Peter Murphy.

In New York, Alt 92.3 wasn’t without its controversy. In 2021, morning show hosts Cane and Corey, who along with their producer, Jai, were fired for a series of work violations, including a vaccination requirement and the launch of an unauthorized podcast, and went on a tear on a podcast taped immediately after. During that talk, the hosts — whose show continues on Patreon, Spotify and Apple Podcast — hinted that the move to simulcast 1010 WINS was imminent.

“As we said in our ‘We Got Fired’ video, Alt will become WINS,” host Cane Peterson tells Variety. “‘Show Killer Mike’ name is now officially ‘Format Killer Mike,’” he says of the nickname for Kaplan.

Afternoon jock Brady informed the Alt 92.3 audience that the end was nigh in an emotional, seven-minute soliloquy. “This frequency and alternative rock go together,” he said, as he namechecked air personalities of the past, including Booker, Cane and Corey, and Stern. “92.3 is more than just a radio station. It’s a community, it’s a culture.”

Brady teared up on the air, saying it was “painful to say this” about the decision that “alternative rock in this city will come to an end, and the staff found out on Friday when they were all pulled into an office and, like 1010 WINS does, ‘gave us the news.’”

Issues with the alternative format, offer former MTV VJ and syndicated radio TV and podcast host Matt Pinfield, go deeper than just one radio station.

“I thought the station sounded good when I was in town over the summer,” the New Jersey native tells Variety. “The music had gotten better, but the alternative format across the board has its challenges and an identity crisis figuring out where their next superstars are going to come from. … They are busy following streaming numbers and research. Streaming numbers and research should be part of the equation, but you can’t make it all about analytics. It has to be determined by tastes in the market, your gut and your heart, and if it’s a really good song. You have to take some chances and not program out of fear.”

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