Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ratings Roundup Fall 2006: Part 4

For the fourth part of LTR's Arbitron ratings analysis of the liberal talk format across the USA, we take a trip down to red state country (though they are turning a rather bright shade of purple at this point). Yes, we're going down south!

And what better place to start than the southernmost commercial liberal talk station in the country? WINZ in Miami (market #12) has been relatively successful since they signed on to the format two and a half years ago. For this past fall, they have held on to their listener base and maintained a 1.5 share, similar to what they've gotten in the past year's ratings books. This puts them just a fifth of a share behind all-sports WQAM, a station that features their own liberal talker, Neil Rogers. Due to the racial and ethnic makeup of the market, The top talk station in the market is Spanish-language WAQI. Second place belongs to WIOD, the Limbaugh/Hannity station (every market has one), which finished with a 2.5 share. There is another sports station in the market, WAXY, at a 1.0, and finishing dead last is Fort Lauderdale's WFTL, which carries the likes of O'Reilly, Savage and Ingraham. They eke out a 0.3 share. WINZ has gotten more aggressive in their scheduling in the past few months, as they've dropped Al Franken, moved Ed Schultz to a live slot and began airing South Florida's own Randi Rhodes in a live afternoon slot. Mike Malloy was recently added for nights.

Up the coast in West Palm Beach (#46), Rhodes' original flagship station, WJNO, aka "The Palm Beaches' Home for Rush Limbaugh & Randi Rhodes," holds on to its top five ranking, jumping half a point to a 3.8 share. Granted, this is not an all-liberal talk station, as they do carry Glen Beck and Limbaugh in middays, but they do air Rhodes and a delay of Schultz' show in late afternoons and early evenings respectively. Rhodes has historically outdrawn Limbaugh in regard to number of listeners. The other talk stations are farther down the list, including WZZR, an FM 'hot talk' station. WINZ, WIOD and WFTL are all tied at a 1.9 share. In the fall book, WINZ more than doubled their ratings since last summer for this market.

Up the coast in Daytona Beach (#89), independently-owned WPUL is a station that carries all the Jones Radio syndicated talkers (Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Schultz), Al Franken, and evening sports show ("2 Live Stews"), Lionel and conservotalker Rollye James in overnights. They are basically a hybrid station that airs a combination of liberal talk and African-American talk. They carry no Air America Radio product. WPUL is fighting an uphill battle, as they are hampered by little promotion and a very weak 1000 watt daytime signal (32 watts at night). They are dead last in the book (as far as rated stations go) with a 0.4 share.

In Asheville, NC (#161), WPEK ("880 The Revolution") is the little station that could. They put out some pretty strong daytime power, as 5,000 watts goes a long way at 880AM. However, they are a daytimer, meaning that they must sign off the air from sunset to sunrise. Nonetheless, they're doing quite well, as they maintain a 2.6 share, good for 9th place. Ratings have improved over the past year. Local Clear Channel management have been pretty aggresive in building this station, as they carry local programming, offer podcasts and seem to do some promotion of the station around town. See what happens when management actually does something with a station besides ignore it?

Across the state, WCHL in Chapel Hill perhaps fits in best with the Raleigh/Durham market (#43). The station, which carries Miller, Schultz and (for now) Franken, in addition to lots of local shows, sports programming and Air America's weekend and overnight slate of programming, superserves the Chapel Hill area, due to its limited signal that realistically only covers the western half of the market. The station's owners, Vilcom Interactive Media, have wisely chosen to target the affluent Chapel Hill area as a local station rather than trying to fight it out with the Raleigh stations. In short, they are a no-show in the marketwide ratings book, and it doesn't really matter. WCHL is one of those stations that doesn't really cater to ratings.

In Memphis (#49), Entercom-owned WWTQ has recently taken on the call letters from its New Orleans sister station, WSMB. Unfortunately, they did not take this opportunity to update (or even clean up) their outrageously ugly and outdated website. I mean, just look at that hideous logo! And I'm sure their on-air presentation isn't too impressive either. It's a shame, since this station really puts out some serious power, with a 10,000 watt daytime signal that reaches parts of six states (not that tough in Memphis, however) and as far as Little Rock and Tupelo. Unfortunately, it's a neglected station. While they did at one time put up a few billboards and even make a few bumper stickers, the station has obviously been neglected as of late. WSMB comes in with a 0.5 share, tied with something called "Family Values Radio" (if you consider Neal Boortz, Bill Bennett and a bunch of advice shows to be 'family values'). Ironically, they are both tied for #2 in the market as far as talk radio is concerned. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. As for other stations in the market, the most successful ones are targeted toward African-Americans, which make up almost half the market population. Hopefully, Entercom gets their act together and gives this station the attention it deserves. Then again, the same company did do a half-assed job with the original WSMB, and is horribly neglecting WWKB in Buffalo. On the other hand, they're not doing too bad with KCTC in Sacramento or WROC in Rochester.

In the West Virginia/Kentucky border market of Huntington/Ashland (#156), WCMI, which assumed the liberal talk format of sister station WRVC a few months ago and expanded on it, enjoyed an actual presence in the fall ratings book, going from virtually no listeners under its previous sports format to a 0.9, edging out WRVC, which holds at a 0.6. This station flip seems to have worked, as it seperates the sports programming of the two low-powered AM stations and gives a 24/7 clearance to liberal talk in the market. So far, it seems to be paying off.

In the next and last installment of this series of reports, we'll take a look at the upper East Coast and the Northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania to Main. Look for that tomorrow.


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