WFLZ vs. Hot 101.5

It's been nearly two years since Cox's WPOI (Hot 101.5) Tampa, Fla., switched to mainstream top 40, giving the market a "Power Pig" flashback. Hot 101.5 went up against heritage top 40 WFLZ with a mellower version of the assault tactics that WFLZ had deployed successfully against WRBQ (Q105) in the early '90s. Seemingly in no time, WPOI had nudged ahead and WFLZ had replaced longtime morning man M.J. Kelli with Kane.

And then the two scenarios diverged. Older-leaning Q105 made an ill-fated decision to go younger against WFLZ, plunging the two stations into a battle that shrunk total top 40 shares and ended only when Q105 went country in 1993. WFLZ, however, has nudged back ahead of its rival. In the May ratings, it went 6.3-6.1 while Hot 101.5 was up 5.0-5.2. 

WFLZ PD Tommy Chuck was a good sport when Hot 101.5 was being touted in the trade press (including the ROR column) on a regular basis. Now that WFLZ is leading again, the battle deserves a Fresh Listen.

Like many of the insurgent top 40s of its time, Hot 101.5 launched with a greater emphasis on rhythmic pop and dance music—signing on with titles like Afrojack's "Take Over Control" back when the term "EDM" wasn't being regularly bandied about. WFLZ wasn't the "nearly-a-hot-AC" that Q105 was. But it did feature a few mainstream pop titles that Hot 101.5 made a point of not playing (e.g., the Band Perry's "If I Die Young") at the time.

Two years later, Hot 101.5 still leans turbo-pop and dance, although it didn't jump on recent Daft Punk and Robin Thicke songs immediately, as it might have at the outset. WFLZ, if anything, feels a little more rock and gold-based than it did before Hot 101.5's arrival. (The hour monitored here included Fall Out Boy, Imagine Dragons and even Blink-182.) It also has a little more room to maneuver in that direction following the move by WSJT (Play 98.7) Tampa from adult top 40 to sports.

Hot 101.5 has the more streamlined presentation of the two—still doing all its jock business over intros. It's also continuing to elbow its rival ("WFLZ was really cool . . . 20 years ago"). Plus it sped up songs noticeably enough that my 10-year-old daughter knew something was different before Demi Lovato finished the first sentence of "Heart Attack."

WFLZ has the between-intros pacing that has become increasingly common in an era of pre-recorded shifts and :00 intro songs, but it does have personality. It also has a few cold segues per hour and imaging with a more matter-of-fact feel.

When heard on June 13, WFLZ was teasing a two-hour music block at 4:30 p.m. We heard Hot 101.5 kicking off a 101-minute music sweep at 4:40 p.m. WFLZ is doing a "Pick Your Tickets" promotion. Hot 101.5's contest is "Pick Your Pump"—shoes or free gas. Both stations are using "all the hits" in some form.

When Q105 went country, no top 40 station had a lot of music to work with. It says something about the state of top 40 now that there's enough dance and turbo-pop for Hot 101.5 to continue on its initial course and enough viable pop/rock that WFLZ doesn't have to follow it. The combined 11.3 shares that the stations split between them are more than the combined 10.1 share with which the WFLZ/Q105 battle ended.

Here's WFLZ, at 2 p.m. on June 13:

Calvin Harris featuring Elle Goulding, "I Need Your Love"

Jessie J, "Domino"

Maroon 5, "Love Somebody"

Katy Perry, "Wide Awake"

Imagine Dragons, "Radioactive"

T.I., "Live Your Life"

Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"

David Guetta, "Play Hard"

fun., "Some Nights"

Icona Pop, "I Love It"

Blink-182, "All the Small Things"

Zedd, "Clarity"

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Demi Lovato, "Give Your Heart a Break"


Here's WPOI (Hot 101.5), 4 p.m. that same day:

David Guetta featuring Sia, "Titanium"

Pitbull featuring Christina Aguilera, "Feel This Moment"

Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"

Calvin Harris featuring Elle Goulding, "I Need Your Love"

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

Jason Derülo, "The Other Side"

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Can't Hold Us"

Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"

Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell, "Blurred Lines"

Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera, "Moves Like Jagger"

David Guetta, "Play Hard"

Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"