Energy 103.7 gets cranked down-dial

New ownership gives Top 40 station a swift country kick

Tonya and Sonic were a no-show last week. Why?
  • Tonya and Sonic were a no-show last week. Why?

Listeners of Energy 103.7 were given a rude awakening Friday, November 17, when they discovered their favorite station wasn’t playing the hits by Pink, Kesha, and the Chainsmokers.

Instead they were hit with some country drawl, “The boss is on your back and your truck won’t start/ None of your friends want to listen to Hank.”

That hillbilly pro-booze rant titled “Fix a Drink” is the number one country song nationally, but it’s not what you want if you’re used to DJ Khaled.

Energy 103.7 listeners went three days without their hits, until Monday morning, when Energy established itself on 97.3 FM. The switch was all about making KSON’s country listeners happy.

Fifteen years ago, the owners of KSON-97.3 FM bought the 92.1 frequency so they could reach North County (97.3 is spotty in North County). Last week the merger of CBS Radio and Entercom became complete, putting six FM signals (KYXY, Energy 103.7, FM 94/9, Sunny 98.1, and the two KSON signals) together in one group. Because the FCC allows only five FMs in any one market, the newly expanded Entercom decided to sell its weakest signal, 92.1, to a religious broadcaster.

Last year KSON took in just under $9 million, which made it the third most lucrative San Diego radio station (after iHeart-owned “Star” 94.1’s $10 million and Channel 9-3-3’s $9.5 million). Entercom wanted to make sure that KSON, the most successful station in its portfolio, would still have countywide coverage, so it moved KSON away from 97.3 to the superior 103.7.

Where does that leave the renamed Top 40 Energy 97.3 in the big picture? Entercom doesn’t seem committed. On the day of the frequency flip, KSON staff sported new “KSON 1037” T-shirts. Entercom didn’t even get around to changing Energy’s website address from energy1037.com to energy973.com.

But radio-tea-leaf readers point to even more ominous realities for Energy 97.3. Last week, just after Entercom officially swallowed CBS Radio, the new company showed it didn’t much care for Top 40. The second most popular Top 40 station in New York City and the third most popular Top 40 station in Dallas were “blown up” by Entercom and replaced with new alternative stations.

Energy is the third-place-rated local Top 40 station after Channel 9-3-3 and Z-90.

Much of the staff of Energy 97.3 is homegrown talent. Tonya Gonzalez, half of the Tonya and Sonic morning show, was born and raised in Chula Vista. Her partner, Sean “Sonic” Leckie, spent ten years as a bartender, including stints at various Gaslamp bars. Afternoon DJ Beto Perez was born in TJ and raised in South San Diego.

At least one national radio website suggested that Entercom may launch a sports station with the Padres on 97.3 next year. This year Entercom began a five-year commitment to carry Padres play-by-play. It didn’t work out so well for FM-94/9, which took a ratings hit when it merged alt-rock and Padres. One article on the Inside Radio website had the headline: “Padres Radio Sounds like Strike One.”

The only other city where an alternative rock station carried live baseball was Minneapolis/St. Paul. Just last week that relationship was ended and Twins play-by-play was returned to the AM dial.

Entercom CEO David Field has often said sports has been and will continue to be an important part of his radio group. Bob Bolinger, who oversees all five Entercom stations in San Diego, declined to comment.

The five Entercom stations are preparing to move next month to newly built studios and offices in Sierra Mesa on Granite Ridge Drive. The new complex will be across the street form the iHeart radio group (KGB, Star 94.1, Rock 105, Channel 9-3-3, Jammin’ 957, XTRA Sports and KOGO).

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