I could have told the genius radio programmers here in South Florida that 1) this is NOT a sports market (Denver is a sports market. The top rated station there, multistate “blowtorch” KOA, is, and probably always will be, number one.) and 2) while we have our winger contingent, it’s not exactly a fire-breathing, right wing talk market, either. But noooo … they had to hear it from Arbitron. With the People Meter fully loaded here in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale radio market (one of the worst places in America to listen to the radio, by the way, with just a few exceptions…) we now find out a few interesting things:
#1. Clear Channel’s brilliant move to drop progressive talk and create the sixth all sports station in the market (and with zero local programming, to boot) has been … how to say … less than successful. When WINZ became South Florida’s Sports Animal in April, the move left a lot of people scratching their heads (as when WINZ dropped Ed Schultz for my preference, Thom Hartmann, or when the station inexplicably replaced liberal Nicole Sandler on the then-liberal station with … Don Imus …) And while Clear Channel is likely banking on the NFL season and Super Bowl to kick the ratings into gear starting this fall, as of June, WINZ has gone from hovering between a 1.2 and a 1.5 in its former life as a progressive talk station to a lowly, all-syndicated 0.5. And while the ratings will more than likely tick up once the football season begins, having that many sports talk stations in a market where few people even support the suckish professional teams down here just didn’t sound smart from the get-go.
#2. Sorry Rush. Right wing radio is not top of the dial. Clear Channel’s winger AM, WIOD, which has long dominated the talk market under the old Arbitron system, now has lower ratings (3.2 share) than the NPR station (3.7) which even though it’s an FM, never even rated on Arbitron back when people were keeping diaries (which reward true believers … like Dittoheads, for example…) Progressives do listen to the radio (those who haven’t given up and bought XM) and because the People Meter is designed to track what’s being heard everywhere — not just in the car — the more time Rush and Beck spend screaming about the president being a Nazi, the less likely their shows are going to be playing in places where people aren’t currently being Baker Acted.
#3. Can they get Neil back? Beasley Broadcasting’s brilliant move to dump Neil Rogers and go all sports hasn’t done much better than Clear Channel’s. WQAM ostensibly showed Rogers the door at least in part due to fear of the People Meter. But since his departure, the station’s ratings have gone from bad but stable (about a 1.4 in the “winter” book which ends in March) to a 0.7 in June. In fact, the highest rated sports talk station in the market as of June is QAM’s rival, the once lowly 790 The Ticket (WAXY), and they’ve only got a 1.1. The poor folks at James Crystal only have one sports station making the ratings grade — WMEN — and they’ve got a 0.1.
#4. Spanish-language stations that ruled under diaries, have shrunk under the People Meter. WCMQ, which used to compete with Hot 105 for number one in the market, is number 4 as of June. Not surprising, I suppose, since the Hispanic radio market is probably separated by age — with older listeners tuning in to the Spanish-language stations more, and younger listeners spread out among Spanish, hip-hop and Hispanic-flavored contemporary music stations like Power 96.
#5. People Meter says: play nice (and local). The People Meter is designed to pick up whatever is on the radio, wherever the PM wearer goes. So it’s no wonder that Lite FM, owned by Lincoln Financial, is now the top station in the market, with a commanding (for Florida) 9.1 – almost double what they use to do under the diary system. Lite music is what you hear everywhere you go — in the bank, at the supermarket, and everywhere else they haven’t bought an XM tuner or given up and started playing music off an iPod. The stations being rewarded in the brave new world of South Florida radio include hits and oldies stations like Coast FM (now the number 3 player with a 6.8 — Go Tamara!) and Hot 105 (which though it has stayed more or less stable with a growing 6.3, in my opinion thanks to the local appeal of James T, is down versus its Cox Broadcasting sister , hip-hop station 99 Jamz, which appeals to a broad swath of young listeners who can’t afford XM, and which frankly, has more local flavor than the nearly all-Syndicated Hot …) plus “move to the music” player WMIA, (former home of my favorite jazz station) which is now the highest rated station Clear Channel’s got.
Sorry, but I don’t think listeners are tuning to the AM or FM dial saying, “gee, I wish I could find some more syndicated, national content.” That’s what XM is for.
Of course, all of this could change. The low sports talk ratings could just be a summer slump that will turn around once Football season kicks in (though I doubt by much.) But you’ve got to wonder what the radio world is thinking when they seem to be catering to constituencies comprised of themselves and their conservative friends, rather than the actual marketplace they’re programming in.
Here’s part of the trends chart, From Allaccess.com:
|Station||Format||Owner||Sum 08||Fall 08||Win 09||Apr 09||May 09||Jun 09|
|WLYF-FM||AC (lite FM)||Lincoln||5.1||4.7||4.9||8.7||9.0||9.1|
|WHQT-FM||Urban AC||Cox Radio||6.0||5.7||6.2||6.1||6.3||6.3|
|WMIA-FM||Rhythmic AC||Clear Channel||2.6||2.8||2.0||5.7||5.6||5.9|
|WHYI-FM||Top 40/M||Clear Channel||3.5||3.9||3.4||4.8||5.6||4.9|
|WMGE-FM||Spanish Cont||Clear Channel||2.3||2.4||1.8||5.3||4.7||4.1|
|WBGG-FM||Classic Rock||Clear Channel||2.3||2.0||2.9||4.2||3.6||3.6|
|WIOD-AM||Conser. talk||Clear Channel||2.6||3.4||3.8||3.9||3.6||3.2|
|WSUA-AM||Spanish Talk||El Dorado||1.3||1.2||1.1||2.0||1.8||1.9|
|WRMF-FM||Hot AC||Palm Beach||0.5||0.4||0.5||1.3||1.4||1.5|
|WACC-AM||Spanish Religious||Radio Peace||1.1||1.3||1.0||0.7||0.7||0.5|
|WFTL-AM||Conser. talk||James Crystal||0.4||0.5||0.6||0.3||0.3||0.3|
I swear, someday some really smart company is going to figure out how to do radio in South Florida…