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KSCA, KIIS Remain at Top; KABC Hits 40-Year Rating Low

Radio * Spanish-language music and Top 40 stations lead the market, but Arbitrons bring KABC bad news.

April 26, 2000|JUDITH MICHAELSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the second quarter in a row, a Spanish language-English language duo--Mexican regional music station KSCA-FM (101.9) and Top 40s music station KIIS-FM (102.7)--held onto the top two slots in the Los Angeles-Orange County radio market.

Meanwhile, talk station KABC-AM (790) continued its slide, garnering 1.9% share of the audience, its lowest level in nearly 40 years, the Arbitron ratings service reported Tuesday. During the winter, KABC averaged 33,200 listeners per quarter hour, marking the first time since 1961 the station has fallen below 2%. In the summer of 1960, KABC went to a talk format.

KABC's dip below a 2 share, which it drew last fall, has raised questions about the fate of program director Drew Hayes, who in recent days has been the focus of a swirl of Internet rumors that he was on his way out. Hayes on Tuesday declined to discuss his status at the station.

With Hayes on the job this week, station officials allowed only that they were awaiting the results of a research project due at the end of the week before making any decisions. Hayes--who has a long radio career and was previously general manager of ESPN Radio Network in Bristol, Conn.--joined KABC in June 1998 after KABC's ratings had sunk to 2.6%, then its lowest in three years. With ongoing changes in talk show hosts, KABC has been on a virtual decline since fall 1997 when it drew a 3% share.

Currently the station's core talk show hosts include John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, who have the early morning, 5-to-9 a.m. slot, followed by Dennis Prager, weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, and Larry Elder, from 3 to 7 p.m. in afternoon drive.

"There's a decline in talk listenership in the marketplace," Hayes said Tuesday. "The station is in a rebuilding process." Asked when he expected the numbers to turn around, Hayes said that building a talk station takes time.

Meanwhile top-ranked KSCA drew a 6.1% share of the market for the winter 2000 quarter, which runs from Jan. 6 to March 29, averaging 104,600 listeners per quarter hour, a slight decrease from the 118,800 listeners it averaged during the fall tracking period.

In turn, KIIS rose a half-percentage point to a 5.5% audience share among overall listeners 12 and older, Monday through Sunday, from 6 a.m. to midnight. Its average listenership rose to 94,600 listeners, from 87,700. At a glance, it appeared that KIIS might have cut into KSCA's listenership.

While officials at KSCA could not immediately be reached for comment, Roy Laughlin, KIIS president and general manager, attributed his station's fifth increase in a row to the same fever that's sweeping television audiences across the country. "We made changes like doing the Millionaire Birthday Game, where we gave away $3 million over the past 8 months. We started this pre-'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,' " he said, referring to the ABC game show that has overtaken prime time.

He noted that KIIS, which took second place over KSCA's sister Spanish-language station KLVE-FM (107.5) last quarter, also started playing the vastly popular music of 'N Sync, Backstreet Boys and Latin crossover artist Ricky Martin.

Otherwise, it was a quiet quarter with virtually no steep climbs or sharp drops in listeners around the dial.

Indeed, the rankings of the next five stations stayed exactly as they had been last fall. KLVE, whose adult contemporary music focuses on love songs, took a 5.1% audience share, averaging 87,200 listeners, up a bit from the previous 4.9% and 85,500 listeners.

Rock oldies KRTH-FM (101.1) continued its steady gains. Pat Duffy, vice president and general manager, was fairly crowing at the station's rise among 25- to 54-year-olds to 3.8% and fifth place. That's up from seventh place last fall in that key demographic group, and 14th place last summer. Duffy ties some of the growth to programming changes, saying, "We added a lot of music from the '70s." In the 25- to 54-year-old demographic, KROQ-FM (106.7) soared to a fifth-place tie with KRTH at 3.8%, moving up from 13th place.

Among talk stations, KFI-AM (640) led the pack in seventh place with a 3.5% share, up from the previous 3.2%, averaging 60,000 listeners per quarter hour. Talk station KLSX-FM (97.1), meanwhile was in a virtual tie at 1.9% and 22nd place with KABC, averaging 32,900 listeners per quarter hour.

Meanwhile KRLA-AM (1110) stayed put in 32nd place with a 0.6% audience share, while conservative talk station KIEV-AM (870) held its previous share of 0.5%. It's now in 35th place.

Among the rival news stations, both owned by CBS, KNX-AM (1070) held onto 15th place and a 2.3% share, while KFWB-AM (980) increased its share to 2.1% share from 1.9%, moving into 18th place.

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