BRANDON — Andy Kovacs stands as a David, battling the Goliaths of the corporate radio world with a low power FM radio station that delivers hit music programming to East Hillsborough listeners without the support of big advertising budgets or multimillion-dollar billboard campaigns.
WYPW-FM 99.9, or Power 100 as it's branded, plays Rihanna, Maroon 5, Justin Bieber. And Kovacs says he's not playing around when it comes to building the station into an integral part of the community.
"I want to take radio back to its roots," said Kovacs, who took the station on air in January. "Not a money machine, but a living, breathing community entity making a difference. People are noticing. After only months on the air, we have already begun eroding the competition's audience."
Kovacs remains undaunted by the challenge of taking on broadcast conglomerates like Cox Communications (WPOI-FM 101.5) and iHeart Radio's WFLZ (93.3 FM), perhaps because he spent 16 years working for broadcast conglomerates. Now he's taking his knowledge and looking to create a format that can appeal to his target market: ages 18-44, with a lean toward women.
Even though its signal covers a relatively small radius of 14-20 miles — Brandon, Riverview and much of the area east of Brandon — Kovacs insists he can compete because he doesn't have to answer to a corporate structure.
"Unlike major corporations, we do not answer to shareholders," Kovacs said. "We also do not have to pay enormous corporate salaries either. Here, the money stays at the local level. I have over 16 years' experience in professional broadcasting, gaining knowledge from radio legends. I'm very grateful for this."
Gabe Hobbs, president of his own media, talent management and consultant company and former senior vice president of Clear Channel Communications, said low power FM stations have found success all around the country. Hobbs, who is on the board of a St. Petersburg low-power station, said they typically have a format that doesn't cater to the mainstream, but he believes Kovacs can find his way.
"You don't see a lot people doing what Andy is doing, which is trying to replicate a mainstream format," said Hobbs, who worked with Kovacs at Clear Channel. "To me, he's really putting up his dukes to carve out a niche in a fairly crowded (market). It'll be interesting to see how he's differentiating the field."
One approach Power 100 uses to differentiate itself from competitors involves shorter commercials. Most radio stations run 30- to 60-second commercials.
"The people love how we are getting back to the music fast," Kovacs said.
Power 100, owned and operated by New Media Humanity Association, serves the area as a nonprofit, as do all low-powered FM stations.
What's the mission behind the non-profit status.
"Simple: Provide an outlet for local charities and other non-profit organizations access to the airwaves, as we have already been doing," Kovacs said. "Anyone interested in doing a public service show can email us at [email protected] We also plan on bringing local concert fundraisers to Brandon to raise funds for those in need."
Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this story. Contact Tatiana Ortiz at [email protected]