WPLR launches new radio station in Milford

Glastonbury-based radio station WMRQ-FM has a new rival for Connecticut’s alternative rock audience.

Wesport-based Connoisseur Media, whose radio station portfolio includes WPLR-FM, last week quietly launched Mod 102.3. Connoisseur Media had spent much of the summer simulcasting WPLR’s classic rock programming before making the switch.

Kristin Okesson, general manager for Connoisseur Media’s Connecticut properties, said the company acquired the 102.3 frequency recently. Okesson said market research done by Connoisseur determined there was void in the New Haven area for a station that plays alternative rock from the last 10 years.

“Our team understands, lives, and supports the New Haven community,” she said. “Moreover, this team has a deep passion for alternative music with years of combined experience in the format. We look forward to supporting alternative/indie artists and giving them a platform to launch new music in a market that is diverse, has a rich history in the arts, and already loves this genre of music.”

Okesson said WMRQ has a musical playlist that is more heavily focused on music from the 1990s.

WMRQ’s history playing alternative rock at 104.1 FM dates back to the 1990s.

The call letters and format were launched in October 1994 and the station’s first run lasted for nine years before declining ratings prompted a call letter and format change in September 2003. The station began playing hip hop and rythm and blues music under the call letters WPHH.

The station ultimately reverted to playing to its original WMRQ format in October 2007, although those call letters were not restored until May 2009, when the station was purchased by Ledyard-based Red Wolf Broadcasting, which is its current owner.

Connoisseur’s bid to carve out a niche within the alternative rock market in Connecticut is a calculated risk, according to Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University in Hamden. Mod 102.3’s focus is on tapping into the colleges and universities within the immediate area, Hanley said.

“There is money to be made there, but it is very difficult demographic to reach,” he said. “They should do OK given the number of college students in the area.

One issue that may plague Mod 102.3 is its strength of signal, which barely reaches the Quinnipiac campus in the north and fades out for Shoreline towns east of Branford. WMRQ, by contrast, has a signal that reaches most of Connecticut, which may give the more established station an advantage .

Okesson said the fact that the new station originates on sister station WPLR’s high definition channel give Mod 102.3 an advantage and compensates for the weaker over-the-air signal.