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Radio Rarity: Am's Kfi Ties For Top Spot

July 19, 2006|Martin Miller | Times Staff Writer

Who said AM radio is dead? On the strength of its news and talk format, KFI-AM (640) vaulted into a tie for first place in the local radio ratings this spring -- marking the first time in almost two decades an AM station has claimed No. 1.

Powered by morning drive-time host Bill Handel, whose humorous skewering of current events has apparently pulled in some of Howard Stern's former listeners, KFI's audience share jumped nearly a full percentage point from the last quarterly survey, averaging 4.8% of the total audience 12 and older, according to Arbitron figures released Tuesday. The ratings cover the period between March 30 and June 21 in L.A. and Orange counties.

KFI's closest AM competitors were KABC (790), KNX (1070) and KFWB (980), which finished 17th, 23rd and 25th, respectively, in the overall ratings.

The last time an AM station was No. 1 here was in early 1987, when KABC -- with a talk radio lineup headed by Michael Jackson -- tied with KIIS-FM (102.7).

"It's a huge, huge book for us," said Robin Bertolucci, KFI's program director. "Being No. 1 is great and I'm very proud of it. But I'm even prouder that we are consistently the dominant information station for talk, news and entertainment in Southern California."

Meanwhile, the latest ratings brought some slight separation among the three Spanish-language stations that have been battling for supremacy in the market for years. KLVE-FM (107.5) tied with KFI for first place overall with 4.8% of the audience, while KSCA-FM (101.9) was close behind with 4.6%. KLAX-FM (97.9) dropped to eighth place with 3.5%. In the previous ratings period, KLAX-FM was third with a 4.3% share of the audience.

The latest ratings saw the unseating of powerhouse KIIS, whose Top 40 format had taken first in three out of the last four ratings periods. It tied with KSCA for third this time around.

The fallout from Stern's departure from the terrestrial radio landscape is still being played out in the morning drive-time ratings, but some shifts have become clearer. Handel's KFI show has strengthened its hold as the most popular English-language program: With 5.8% of the morning audience, it is nearly a full percentage point above his numbers when Stern was on the air at KLSX-FM (97.1). Stern's syndicated show ended when he went to satellite radio in January.

The "Kevin and Bean" show at KROQ-FM (106.7) finished third overall in the morning ratings with 4.5% of the audience, not as dramatic a jump as Handel's but a bump nonetheless.

About the best that can be said of the show that replaced Stern on KLSX, hosted by Adam Carolla, is that it improved slightly among the target audience of men ages 25 to 54. Carolla finished 17th in that category with a 1.7% audience share. By comparison, Stern in that same category a year ago finished first with a 7.6% share.

Carolla was tapped to be Stern's West Coast replacement and has had a bumpy ratings ride. But at least he's still on the air: Stern's East Coast replacement, David Lee Roth, already has been fired because of poor ratings.

Dismissed as a passing fad when it premiered in March 2005, the "Jack" music format at KCBS-FM (93.1) continues to disprove naysayers. In the coveted 25- to 54-year-old demographic, the station was the top-rated English-language outlet with 4.4% of the audience.

"We're thrilled and totally humbled again," said Jeff Federman, general manager at KCBS and KROQ.

Another surprise was the robust showing of KTWV-FM (94.7), which jumped in the overall ratings from 11th place to fifth. The smooth jazz station, known as "the Wave," saw its average audience share climb to 4.3% from 3.3%.

"Today, given the high level of stress in everybody's life, the chill-out vibe that the Wave offers is in demand now more than ever," said Paul Goldstein, the station's head of programming. "But I think there's a misperception about us, that we are a sleepy-sounding station, and that's totally wrong. There's an energy, a tempo and rhythm that we have here that people love."


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Radio Ratings

The area's Top 25 stations and their average share of audience as measured by Arbitron for the spring months compared with the previous three-month period.

*--* Current Last Quarter 1 KFI-AM 4.8 4.0 KLVE-FM 4.8 4.8 3 KSCA-FM 4.6 4.2 KIIS-FM 4.6 4.9 5 KTWV-FM 4.3 3.3 6 KROQ-FM 3.7 3.5 7 KOST-FM 3.6 3.8 8 KLAX-FM 3.5 4.3 9 KRCD-FM 3.3 3.4 10 KBUE-FM 3.1 3.6 KCBS-FM 3.1 3.4 KPWR-FM 3.1 3.2 13 KRTH-FM 2.7 2.7 KHHT-FM 2.7 2.4 15 KXOL-FM 2.6 3.2 16 KLOS-FM 2.3 1.9 17 KABC-AM 2.2 2.3 18 KSSE-FM 2.1 2.4 19 KBIG-FM 1.9 2.1 20 KZLA-FM 1.7 1.8 KLSX-FM 1.7 1.5 22 KKBT-FM 1.6 1.9 23 KNX-AM 1.5 1.6 KJLH-FM 1.5 1.4 25 KMZT-FM 1.4 1.5 KFWB-AM 1.4 1.3 KYSR-FM 1.4 1.6


The ratings survey covers people 12 and older listening between 6 a.m. and midnight, from March 30 to June 21.

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