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RADIO

Casey McCabe gives KAMP-FM a lift

The Top 40 station is first in weeknight ratings in the L.A.-Orange County market.

August 31, 2009|Juliette Funes

Since switching from an all-talk format to Top 40 music six months ago, the station now known as KAMP-FM (97.1) has steadily climbed in the ratings, from 20th place in February to fifth in July.

But Amp Radio hasn't been able to dethrone rival Top 40 station KIIS-FM (102.7). KIIS consistently registers larger audiences and continues to rank as the most popular station in the L.A.-Orange County market.

Except for weeknights.

For the past two months, from 7 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, KAMP has not only edged KIIS but everyone else as well, finishing first in the time period with its upbeat selection of tunes by the likes of Lady Gaga, Usher, Beyonce, the Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake.

"I think that when a new Top 40 station launches, the traction is at nights just because it's a younger audience and they're the first to kind of find it," said Kevin Weatherly, program director at KAMP and senior vice president of programming for CBS Radio's L.A. stations. He also credits 27-year-old DJ Casey McCabe and the party vibe he brings to his five-hour segment.

"He is the demographic that we're targeting at night," Weatherly said. "Listeners really connect with him. He's authentic. He's not this cheesy top 40 jockey."

Originally on sister CBS station KROQ-FM (106.7), McCabe became Amp's first on-air personality in March.

"It's like calling your friend and hanging out," the Nevada native said of his job. "That's how I kind of like to approach each night. I'm hanging out with my friends."

McCabe may be the man behind the mike, but unlike traditional DJs, he keeps his on-air chatter to a minimum, connecting with the audience in more contemporary ways as he plays the music. He posts video content to the Web, chats with listeners on the phone and interacts with them through social networking sites such as Twitter.

"It's sticking to the music and being there for them, and it has kind of been [working] great right now," McCabe said.

Weatherly is hopeful that the audience for Amp (known as KLSX-FM when it was a talk station) will continue to expand.

"What happens at night is . . . a testament to McCabe and how this thing has grown in a fast and sort of natural way and people tell their friends about it," he said.

Some of those friends may even include loyal KIIS listeners. But as long as they haven't left in droves, John Ivey, vice president of programming for KIIS, said he isn't too concerned.

"That's just a quirk of nature. It happens sometimes," he said. "Stations are new, sometimes they're shiny and people check them out. As long as they keep coming back and checking us out, we're appreciative."

Although KIIS has slightly fallen behind Amp on weeknights, Ivey said that ratings are constantly moving up and down, influenced by audiences' listening habits, changing moods and changing lifestyles.

"There's so many variables and that's why we choose to look at things over a long period of time and not over a short period," Ivey said. "You have good weeks, bad weeks . . . but for us, bad is not bad."

Despite KIIS' losing a few listeners at night, Ivey is confident that the station, with its long history as a popular Top 40 outlet, has a strong hold over the rest.

"It's kind of passed down generationally at this point," he said. "We have that kind of heritage that can stand the test of time. We've had more listeners than anyone else."

Jeff Pollack, chief executive of Global Media and Entertainment, a music programming and media advisory firm, doesn't think KIIS has too much to worry about, either.

"What you have here is two extremely strong, very well-programmed radio stations," he said. "What's good for Amp is they launched strong and they're holding on to people. What's great for KIIS is they have a direct competitor and are still doing very well. They took a hit . . . but it shows you how solid KIIS is."

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calendar@latimes.com

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