BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Next month, CBS Radio ( CBS) will silence its rock station in Boston, WBCN, after 41 years. "The Rock of Boston" will be relegated to online-only status.
How is WBCN rocking through its impending demise? By sticking with the same joke-jock-in-the-morning, Red Hot Chili Peppers-thrice-an-hour format that made it expendable in the first place. Those who mourn WBCN aren't shedding tears over lost blocks of tepid '90s rock, but a lost local connection. That void is driving listeners away from stations nationwide and forcing radio companies to squeeze every dollar out of their fading product. Commercial radio isn't just dying: It's starving itself to death. "There's less local news, less local DJs and more format changes than in the past," says Wells Fargo ( WFC) analyst Marci Ryvicker, who expects radio revenue to drop 13% this year. Radio companies like Radio One ( ROIA), Citadel Broadcasting ( CTDB), Cumulus Media ( CMLS), Salem Communications ( SALM) and Entercom Communications ( ETM) have seen their stocks become cheaper than a pack of gum this year. It doesn't help that these companies are saddled with debt from buying back stock and making compulsive acquisitions, Ryvicker says. There's similar static on satellite radio, where deals with General Motors ( GRM) and BMW to install receivers in new cars have failed to boost Sirius XM Radio ( SIRI) shares above $1. The company lost $62 million in the first quarter and its subscription fee is about to jump by almost $2 a month thanks to a music royalties ruling in Congress. Worse yet, Sirius's iPhone application was unseated as the top-selling music app in iTunes by Pandora, the free music service.