Rush Limbaugh's show airs on KFI. (Associated Press )
Talk station KFI-AM (640) topped radio ratings in November, riding a stable of provocative commentators that includes Rush Limbaugh, Bill Handel and John and Ken to its second straight win, and its best showing in more than two years.
KFI took 5.6% of the Los Angeles-Orange County listening audience age 6 or older, the same figure it held in October. But the station still widened its lead over second place, pop station KIIS-FM (102.7), which dropped from 5.3% to 5% since October, according to figures released this week by the Arbitron ratings service.
In the coveted morning drive time spot, the surprise second-place finisher was Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo on regional Mexican music station KSCA-FM (101.9). Sotelo, who makes a cameo in the new film "The Muppets," jumped from seventh place in October, while swelling his audience share from 3.4% to 4.7%. Ryan Seacrest on KIIS fell from second to third, losing audience share for the second straight month. KFI retained its lock on No. 1.
KIIS had been the top-rated station in the market for most of the last three years. But, with the Occupy movement, the battle among Republican presidential candidates and other topics ripe for discussion, KFI surged to consecutive first-place finishes for the first time since August-September 2009. The station's poorest showing this year was in January and February, when it placed fourth. KFI moved to third in March, then spent the rest of the year in second, lurking just behind KIIS, until it overtook the top spot in October.
Neil Saavedra, KFI's director of marketing, compared the news events to ingredients in the hands of master chefs, arguing that the station's lineup of hosts make the most of the happenings so that they attract the interest of listeners.
"The station is in the best place it's ever been," Saavedra said.
Leaping from fifth to third place was hip-hop station KPWR-FM (105.9), with a 4.1% share of the audience in the November ratings, which surveyed listeners from Oct. 13-Nov. 9. Because Arbitron divides the year into 13 four-week ratings periods — one for each month plus a year-end "Holiday" segment — the November survey actually includes more days in October.
KPWR had been the market's top-rated station for most of 2002-05, when Arbitron used a different method to measure the radio audience, but recently had fallen out of the Top 10. However, the station — home to the music of rappers Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Pitbull and others — has made gains the last couple of years, finishing in the top five for most of 2011.
Adult-contemporary station KOST-FM (103.5) landed in a three-way tie for fourth, up from seventh place in October. It finished even with pop station KAMP-FM (97.1) and classic-hits outlet KRTH-FM (101.1), all at 3.9%.
The perennial ratings bump at KOST from switching to all-holiday music will have to wait a month, as the change to continuous carols didn't happen until Nov. 15, after the November ratings survey closed. And, for the first time, smooth-adult-contemporary station KTWV-FM (94.7) is trying to grab a slice of the holiday pie, also flipping to wall-to-wall holiday music, and getting a two-day head start on KOST.
Ratings at KTWV could use a Christmas goose; in November the former smooth-jazz station known as "The Wave" slipped to an 11th-place tie, down from eighth in October, as its audience share fell from 3.4% to 3.1%.
In the morning drive, the 6-10 a.m. time slot when broadcasters hope to grab listeners for the rest of the day, KFI snagged 7.3% of the audience, down from 7.6% in October but still far ahead of the competition. The station features local host Handel followed by the first hour of Limbaugh's national show during that time frame.
KFI won other day slots as well. The station finished first from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., when it airs Limbaugh's last two hours, then Bill Carroll starting at noon. And during afternoon drive, 3-7 p.m., KFI's popular provocateurs John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou beat KIIS 5.7% to 5.2%.