Radio Waves: October 18, 2020

September Nielsens

I have to admit, it was easier reporting on radio ratings back in the old days, when the full Arbitron “books” were released every three months. There were “Arbitrends” that came out for stations monthly, but that information was — supposedly at least — released only to subscribing stations.

Once the company changed methodology to PPM — Portable People Meter — in which stations were “heard” by a device that automatically registered listening rather than relying on someone’s recall and dedication to writing what they heard down in a book — Arbitron, now Nielsen, was able to speed the process and release full “books” every four weeks. Stations have access to information at least weekly. 

But theoretically the ratings are more accurate. I will do a story in the future on why they probably are not, for for now we’ll run with the story. The problem is, if I reported ratings every release, there would be little time or space for the real stories … like bashing corporate radio or  ad nauseam  … perhaps I can find a middle ground where the top-20 is listed monthly but the full report still comes out quarterly.

Anyway, at the beginning of the Covid-19 shutdown, listening habits were thrown into a tizzy.  As time has progressed, we’ve gotten a little back to normal and the ratings have followed suit. Some changes appear to be holding, but that may be that listeners had a chance to discover new favorites. 

So in the semi-normal ratings that were released by Nielsen for September, we had some of the usual suspects on top or toward the top, though the order has changed somewhat: KRTH (101.1 FM) was number one by a wide margin — almost a full point —  over second-place The Wave KTWV (94.7 FM), 6.5 to 5.6. If I am reading the chart right, this is KRTH’s fifth straight month at the top … I guess those ‘80s hits have been a hit.

The Wave had been hovering in the top-10 for a long time, but it appears to be a beneficiary of new listening habits, and the current rating of 5.6, 0.2 higher than in August, is it’s highest rating ever … even higher than when the station was rocker KMET.

Rounding out the top-five were My FM KBIG (104.3 FM) at 4.8, former leader KOST (103.5 FM) at 4.6, and KFI (640 AM) at 4.0.

KLOS (95.5 FM) has also benefited over the past seven months, and was right behind KFI in 6th place with a 3.6 share, barely beating out Jack-FM (KCBS-FM, 93.1)’s 3.5. Since the shutdown started, though, KLOS has beaten Jack four of five months, and tied another. Prior to Covid, Jack always beat KLOS. I will look into this for a future column.

A few stations surprised me. KKLQ (100.3 FM) — the former Sound — has apparently inspired new listeners, earning a solid 2.4 share of the audience … almost to the level the station had as The Sound. And while KROQ (106.7 FM) may be “world famous,” it is Alt 98.7 (KYSR, 98.7 FM) that dominates the alternative rock format, coming in with a 2.3 compared with KROQ’s 1.6. 

Amp Radio (KAMP, 97.1 FM), which once was within striking distance of top-40 leader KIIS-FM, is no longer even close. KIIS was 8th at 3.3; Amp was tied with talker KRLA (870 AM) at 26th with a 1.5. What happened there? And can it last? My hunch: Amp is the next format in town to change to something else.

KABC (790 AM) is staying above board with a 1.3 share; Go Country continues to prove that Emmis was wrong when that company said the format would never work in Los Angeles by earning a 2.3; KROQ’s HD-2 stream of “Roq of the ‘80s” showed up at 0.1; and AM oldies station maintained a 0.3. Not bad for a station that doesn’t cover the entire city well, and has no promotion. A big thanks to owner Saul Levine for providing the station even though he could have sold it years ago and made a lot more money.

The full story: Each rating is an estimate of listeners aged 6 and over tuned to a station between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight. Ratings are provided by Nielsen.

1. KRTH (6.5) 2. KTWV The Wave (5.6) 3. KBIG My FM (4.8) 4. KOST (4.6) 5. KFI (4.0) 6. KLOS (3.6) 7. KCBS-FM Jack (3.5) 8. KIIS-FM, KLAX (3.3) 10. KLVE (3.2)

11. KNX (3.0) 12. KSCA (2.7) 13. KRCD (2.5) 14. KKLQ (2.4) 15. KKGO, KLYY, KRRL Real, KYSY Alt 98.7 (2.3) 19. KPCC (2.1) 20. KUSC, KXOL (2.0)

22. KPWR Power 106 (1.9) 23. KBUE, KCRW (1.7) 25. KROQ (1.6) 26. KAMP, KRLA (1.5) 28. KABC, KDAY, KJLH (1.3)

31. KLAC (1.2), 32. KLLI, KWIZ (1.1) 34. KFSH, KKJZ (0.9) 36. KFWB (0.8) 37. KDLD, KEIB, KKLA (0.7) 40. KSPN, KTNQ (0.5)

42. KCSN, KYLA (0.4) 44. KHJ, KSUR (0.3) 46. KIRN, KPFK (0.2) 48. KROQ HD2, KWKW (0.1)