WUNC to end its music stream and HD2 service

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WUNC in North Carolina’s Research Triangle is discontinuing its streaming music service and HD2 signal June 30. 

WUNC Music, a Triple A music format, started in 2016 and focused on up-and-coming alternative and indie rock artists, GM Paul Hunton told Current. 

“The streaming/HD2 service never attracted a large enough audience to offset its costs or to become sustainable,” he said. 

WUNC’s original goal was to launch a separate terrestrial signal for the music service, but the economics of that expansion have become too difficult. 

“It’s a very challenging time for public radio and for the media industry at large,” Hunton said. “One thing the pandemic really did was change the way people commute and drive and engage with broadcast radio.”

Hunton questioned whether enough of the “dwindling” broadcast audience would be listening to radio by the time WUNC Music could move to its own signal.

“It may not make sense economically to buy a broadcast signal five years from now, six years from now or even now,” Hunton said. 

When WUNC Music sunsets June 30, the HD2 signal will switch to BBC World Service, Hunton said. 

WUNC Music Director Brian Burns, meanwhile, will join the station’s digital news team where he will produce interviews and feature stories on the music scene in North Carolina. 

“It frees up Brian to . . . focus more on storytelling and highlighting and promoting the music scene in North Carolina,” Hunton said. “North Carolina has a really incredible history of music.”

Burns will produce online stories and appear more frequently on Due South, WUNC’s daily radio show, and The Broadside, a weekly podcast, Hunton said. 

Hunton described the change as a strategic pivot to bring more service to WUNC’s core audience. 

“This is a transformational time for public radio,” Hunton said.  “Finding ways to serve our audiences more directly is something we’re all thinking about and strategizing around.”

One thought on “WUNC to end its music stream and HD2 service

  1. As someone who’s following FM signal prices very closely, I will say that I can’t speak to WUNC’s situation specifically….but IN GENERAL there hasn’t been this good a time to acquire a new FM signal since the 70’s.

    The biggest religious buyers…mostly K-Love/EMF…aren’t buying nearly as many signals anymore. And they’re not bothering with little signals at all anymore, either; they’re going after full-market signals in major markets almost exclusively.

    The big commercial players…Audacy, iHeart, Cumulus, etc…are all flirting with insolvency and some of them have already been to the bankruptcy well too many times to do so again. If they file again it’ll be for dissolution, not reorganization. The dynamic has changed. Full Class B and Class C FM’s that used to sell for many tens of millions can now be purchased for two or three million. Sometimes less. Never mind the smaller Class A FM’s, which can often be bought for six-figure amounts, even five-figure.

    Never forget that there is an entire cottage industry (and there has been for 25 years now) devoted to flogging the idea that radio is dead and digital is the future. They’ve been saying that since 1998 and it still ain’t true. Radio is still alive, and digital still doesn’t pay the bills. And as everything on the web gets worse and worse, and less trustworthy, and less consumer-oriented? Radio still chugs along. Maybe it’s not as much of a cash-printing machine as it used to be. But there’s still a certain cache there.

    There’s an honesty and trustworthiness in FM…due to its inherently restricted nature…that public radio can, and should, be leveraging for all it’s worth.

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