Listeners searching the FM dial for "The Temptations" on Tuesday might get uninterrupted silence instead.
The country's largest owner of Spanish-language radio stations is signing paperwork to acquire its newest L.A. stations, KACE-FM (103.9) and KRTO-FM (98.3), a bureaucratic detail that could very well postpone their relaunch a few days. No matter what happens, L.A.'s biggest R&B station will sign off forever on Monday night.
Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. executives said they won't go on the air until the acquisitions are formalized and until they've decided on the exact format--although it will likely be more music than talk. What has been decided by management is that the new format will be simulcast over both stations (KRTO has carried KACE's programming in a similar fashion).
"There is a chance as we go through the changeover that the station will be off the air for a brief period of time," said Mac Tichenor, president of Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., which laid down $75 million for the stations last year.
But Tichenor isn't worried about low ratings right now. His Dallas-based company owns 46 Spanish-language radio stations nationwide, including a significant foothold in the market here with KSCA-FM (101.9) (talk and music), KLVE-FM (107.5) (music) and talk station KTNQ-AM (1020).
That growing presence on the dial translated into glum news for KACE staffers who have been spinning classic R&B for more than five years for Cox Radio Inc. Last week, 18 employees were packing their things and sending out resumes, according to Kevin Fleming, program director.
The only other R&B station operating in the Los Angeles market is Stevie Wonder's weak-signaled KJLH-FM (102.3), a symbol of the shifting demographics in an area that is now nearly half Latino and less than 10% black.
By linking the broadcast of both KACE and KRTO, the radio company will be able to quickly extend its reach here.
"Between the two [new] stations, we cover the major portion of the L.A. area," said Gary Stone, KSCA station manager who will also oversee operations at KACE. "We [simulcast] already in Houston and Dallas, and it works very well."
Stone is already sitting pretty, with KSCA under his direction quickly climbing to the No. 1 spot in the highly competitive morning-show slot--a position it has held for two years. The station's incredibly popular show "El Cucuy de la Manana" is a high-energy, lowbrow talk show that has outranked even syndicated shock-jock Howard Stern in the L.A. area.
The new KACE programming, details of which are scarce, will be mostly music, although what genre remains unclear. It will be aimed at an audience Tichenor believes is being underserved here.
"It's an opportunity to give the audience more choices and tailor formats a little more closely to their tastes. When you've got more stations to work with, you can customize them more and more to particular musical tastes," he said.
But won't the company's cluster of L.A. Spanish-language stations chip away at each other's audience?
"They do compete with another, but it's better for the audience. Although you may have slightly fewer people listening to each station, because it's tailored to their specific taste, they'll listen longer," Tichenor said. "So, you get more listening overall. We're not worried about competing with ourselves. We'd rather be doing it than having someone else do it."
If area stations think Tichenor is satisfied, at least for now, with his company's presence in the L.A. area--think again. He said he still wants more stations, especially in the country's top 15 Latino markets.
"We're always looking," he said.