|City of license||Phoenix, Arizona|
|Broadcast area||Phoenix, Arizona|
|Slogan||"The Valley's #1 Hit Music Station"|
|First air date||July 5, 1964 (as KHEP-FM)
June 22, 2007 (current format)
|HAAT||530 meters (1,740 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||K AriZONa (although previously ZON stood for the "Zone" format)|
|Former callsigns||KHEP-FM (1964-1985)
|Sister stations||KMLE, KOOL-FM|
In July 1964, the station signed on the air as KHEP-FM and aired a classical music format. In 1985, the station was sold to the owners of the Boston Globe and took the calls KONC ("Concert 101"). In 1986, the station abandoned classical music for satellite-delivered soft AC as KAMJ ("Magic 101"), using the Transtar 'Format 41' network with a local morning show anchored by Mike Del Rosso.
By 1989, EZ Communications had taken the station completely live and local with a Hot AC format as "The All New Magic 101." In May 1990, it moved to an AC format as KMXX ("Mix 101"). It was later sold to Sundance Broadcasting in 1992 and switched to Triple-A as KZON ("The Zone"), a moniker it would carry throughout its incarnations of modern rock, Modern AC, Adult Top 40 and back to modern rock in 2000 up until its flip in January 2006.
On December 23, 2005, it was announced that KZON would adopt CBS Radio's Free FM format, featuring mostly nationally-syndicated hot talk shows like The Adam Carolla Show, Frosty, Heidi & Frank, The Tom Leykis Show and Big O And Dukes. The station switched from Modern Rock to the male-targeted format, with rock music played during overnights and weekends, on January 3, 2006. During its brief run it attempted to appeal towards male listeners, as CBS Radio had high hopes that this format would do well in Phoenix, even with a promotional campaign that came along with it. On January 3, 2007, KZON reduced the music content and began to add more talk shows to the weekend lineup, and a taped Tom Leykis episode airing overnights, all in an attempt to attract more listeners.
Despite growing ratings, it proved to be a failure in the market, especially when talk radio station KTAR moved to FM in January 2007. On June 21, 2007, at 5 PM, during the Tom Leykis show, CBS Radio decided to pull the plug and began stunting with an effeminate male, known as "Ronaldo", playing all-Paris Hilton music in an attempt to demand for the release of her from jail (she was serving a brief jail sentence at the time). 24 hours later, KZON changed formats to "Hitz and Hip Hop", modeled after CBS' high rated WBBM-FM/Chicago (B96). The station adopted the moniker "101-5 Jamz."
KZON was the fourth station to drop the Free FM format, following sister station KSCF in San Diego, California, which flipped to Modern AC, sister station and former Free FM flagship WFNY/New York City, who returned to Active rock and its original call letters and moniker WXRK (K-Rock 92.3), and sister station KIFR/San Francisco, who picked up the KFRC-FM calls and Classic Hits format from their sister station (which is now KMVQ) after it dropped the aforementioned format several months earlier.
As with many format changes in radio, there has been a backlash from fans of Free FM who would like to see the station and its personalities return. The former Free FM website was linked to the stream of sister station KLSX "97.1 Free FM" in Los Angeles, where Carolla and Leykis originated until 2009, when KLSX dropped the format for Top 40.
Rumors of a format change came true on June 22, 2007, when the station stopped its normal broadcasts and began playing music by Paris Hilton exclusively, while starting a petition on its website to free Hilton, who was in prison at the time. The move was seen by many as a form of stunting to generate attention before a formal switch in formats. At 5 PM on June 22, KZON switched to a Rhythmic CHR format. The first song played after the initial announcement was "Party Like a Rockstar" by the Shop Boyz.
KZON's flip to Rhythmic also sent a message to KKFR, telling them that the "Power" has been turned off (in reference to KKFR's frequency switch from 92.3 to 98.3) and "Where Hip Hop USED to Live". To add insult to injury, KZON also boast on air as playing "100,000 watts of 'Static-Free' Hip-Hop" and borrowed the "Mac Vs. PC" ad campaign in which KZON billed itself as the "Mac" to KKFR's "PC." In addition, they are also poised to take on Top 40 rival KZZP, the former Rhythmic AC (later top 40) station KMVA, and (as of 2013) former Old School Hip-Hop turned Rhythmic KNRJ. In response to KZON's debut and full-powered signal range, KKFR's then-PD Bruce St. James wasn't worried, and in a statement with the Arizona Republic, "What are they going to do?" he asks. "Play more hip-hop than us? Really, I think we'll be OK." St. James, by the way, would end up joining KZON as its new PD in January 2010, but after almost three months on the job, he resigned on March 30, 2010, to pursue other opportunities. In November 2008, KZON switched its slogan to "The Valley's #1 Hit Music Station," a slogan that KKFR would also adopt the following December, giving the Phoenix area two radio stations with the same format and slogan. Since then KKFR has dropped that slogan.
As of 2010, KZON has expanded its focus to include Dance and Pop tracks, while at the same time has managed to overtake KZZP and KKFR in the Arbitron PPMs.
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