Chuck is entertaining upstate listeners

Commercial free mornings, no repeat songs during day

Published on Sunday, March 4, 2012

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Steve Sinicropi, Vice President/General Manager of Cox Radio in Greenville, liked Chuck so much, he decided to pay for the intellectual property and adapt the concept to the Upstate.

Steve Sinicropi, Vice President/General Manager of Cox Radio in Greenville, liked Chuck so much, he decided to pay for the intellectual property and adapt the concept to the Upstate.

A new radio station has been on the air in the Upstate for a few months now, and people are taking notice. It's 97.7 Chuck FM, and it "plays everything". The station is owned by Cox Media Group, which according to its website, "is an integrated broadcasting, publishing and digital media company." In Greenville, along with 97.7 Chuck, Cox also operates 107.3 JAMZ, "one of the top ranked Urban Contemporary stations in the nation…(and) one of the highest rated Adult 25-54 stations in the Greenville/Spartanburg radio market," and "HOT 98.1 WHZT-FM, ranked "consistently one of the highest rated young adult stations in the Greenville/Spartanburg radio market." 

All three of these radio stations operate out of the office space in 220 North Main Street of the Hyatt Regency Greenville, owned by JHM Corporation, which has been experiencing renovations since December.

So how does Chuck stand out in comparison to the other stations in this area? First of all, the persona that speaks for the station is unique and catchy. I say persona because Cox likes to maintain the mystique of the voice of Chuck, comparing him to Wilson on the popular sitcom Home Improvement (a character known for hiding his face behind a fence), and refusing to name the man behind the voice. I think this is a nice touch, as it lends Chuck relatability as a friend, even going so far as the persona being maintained on the station's Facebook page.

To get the lowdown on this new station, which I've heard everywhere from the McAlister's Deli on Congaree to the Dallas Skye Salon & Spa (I was there to pick up my girlfriend) on Pelham, I sat down with Vice President/General Manager of Cox Radio in Greenville, Steve Sinicropi. 

The best way to describe Steve is that he's professional: he has a presence that commands a room, and he's not afraid to get right to the point. He's obviously proud of Cox's new endeavor, and is quick to show off the kind of numbers Chuck is already bringing in on his flatscreen television, hooked up to his desktop computer, which he operates with a handheld device. This office, which has a hair raising view of Main Street below, is neatly organized with these high-tech gadgets alongside curious metal-worked statues.

Bart: Talk about your background. How did you end up in radio?

Steve: I've been in the business now for thirty years. Before that I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa and went to the University of Iowa. I originally wanted to be a lawyer but was lured into radio as an account executive selling ads in 1982. I became a sales manager, then a general manager there, and even bought my own radio stations. I ran radio stations in Milwaukee, Denver, and Los Angeles. Then in the mid-'90s I became the president of Cybertoons a software and Web development company in Milwaukee. We actually pioneered some of the first secure shopping carts and social networking software with a targeted advertising dashboard long before Amazon and Facebook, but people weren't interested then. I've been the General Manager for Cox Radio in Greenville for nine years now.

Bart: So how did Chuck come to be?

Steve: On December 16 we moved into this (new office) space, and we brought all the employees into the conference room, had a little party there, turned on the radio, and they heard Chuck for the first time and found out we had a new station. Before that, last April my former general sales manager, David Abel, moved to Charleston to run WAVF 101.7. I take my family to Hilton Head and Charleston every year, so this last summer David turned me on to Chuck, which has been on there for five years. I liked it so much, we decided to pay for the intellectual property. We took the concept, the formula, like another restaurant's recipe for fried chicken, and built on it to adapt it to this area. 97.7 is a brand new signal, never been on the air before, broadcasting from the top of Paris Mountain.

Bart: Who is your target audience? 

Steve: Chuck is aimed at disenfranchised 30, 40, and 50 year olds. People like me. I love Chuck! We offer an adult variety that can be played in the workplace. It never repeats the same song in the same day. We offer a commercial free workday from 9 a.m. to noon. We don't play commercials for three hours, which is something no one else has.  

Bart: How has radio changed in the 21st century?

Steve: The Internet greatly complements what we do. People listen online at work and on their mobile devices. Radio is a mobile media; there are a lot of ways to consume product. In fact, the Internet can help me distribute product. I can go to Ando media and look at unique online streams. How many people are listening, how it's changed over the day. More and more are listening all the time, and it's a big "at work" station. For instance, at 3:20 today, 212 people are listening to Chuck. At 8 a.m. it was 35 people, at 9 a.m. it was 121 people, and at 10 a.m. it was 177 people. The highest was 221, and although the numbers are low on Saturday and Sunday they're big on weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bart: So how does the website and social networking complement the station? 

Steve: Our numbers shows women are more likely to use Facebook. Facebook is a way to interact with the listeners. Chuck answers all his messages. He loves his listeners. We know how well Chuck is doing, although we don't have ratings yet, by the almost 1,600 Facebook fans that Chuck has as of today after just nine weeks. That's already half or a third of our competitors, like MY 102.5, 98.9, and Rock 101, that have been around for fifty years. Our official website, as well, has the new Chuck television ad up and shows what songs just played.

Bart: How do you stay competitive with Internet/XM/Sirius?

Steve: Technology actually helps. It really hasn't hurt the radio. Radio is free, convenient. Stuff like Pandora doesn't tell you about the local area. When television, the walkman, CDs, and MP3s came out, people said they were going to kill radio. Radio, however, is ubiquitous. People treat it like turning the lights on. It's always there. Satellite radio you have to subscribe to, and dozens of comments on our Facebook page show people saying they're going to throw their satellite radio out now. Pandora you have to subscribe to, and it doesn't always serve up the music you like.

Bart: Will you be getting DJs or personalities in the near future?

Steve: What you hear right now ... for the foreseeable future, Chuck will stay the same it has been. "Who is Chuck?" is a provocative question, and may never be answered. The persona of Chuck is so intriguing, for now, that we don't need DJs. When we have remotes and events, our representatives are "Friends of Chuck". We've been contacted by hundreds of people that go to the coast and love how Chuck has been for five years, and now it's right here and we don't need to change it.

Bart: A lot of stations in the area claim to "play everything", but that usually means the kind of easy listening you'll hear in a dentist's office. How is Chuck different? 

Steve: Parents can be comfortable with their kids listening to the radio. Businesses can play it. People listen to it at work. We have way more music and variety. What other station will play ABBA to ZZ Top, MC Hammer to Frank Sinatra? Nobody else.

Bart: How have you dealt with the Hyatt's renovations, and the inclusion of a new retail plaza, these last few months?

Steve: This is a fantastic building, a fantastic hotel and business, and I think the renovations (for the hotel as well as a new retail plaza and fountain) will reenergize Main Street.

Bart: What are your goals for 2012? 

Steve: We are starting to get out there. Our tent just got completed, along with a Chuck vehicle, all decorated for the station. We have merchandise now, including shirts, mugs, and the coveted bumper sticker. We have our eye on Friday Night Jazz in the spring and Fall for Greenville. We're getting our voice out there.Thank you Steve. I know I'll be listening!


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