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Talk Listeners Shift; Stern Slips in Summer Ratings

Friday, October 15, 1999

     The Summer, 1999 Arbitron radio ratings, covering the months July, August, and September, were released today.

     In the most notable change, talk radio listeners appear to be switching from WABC (770 AM) to WOR (710 AM) in significant numbers.  Mainstream WOR, with a variety of programming appealing largely to older listeners, has drawn a 3.3 audience share, up from a 2.8 share in the Spring.  For the first time since the first quarter of 1998, it has pulled ahead of political talk WABC, which winds up with a 2.7 share, down from 3.1 in the Spring.  Doing especially well on WOR is John Gambling`s Rambling with Gambling, which, with a 4.6 audience share, is now the city`s #4 morning show. "Our goal is to present quality radio with a purpose", says WOR Program Director David Bernstein, "and it`s good to see that listeners are finding it valuable".  WABC`s morning entry, the Rocky Allen Showgram, has yet to catch on since its January debut, drawing only a 1.7 share, while most of WABC`s daytime programming, including Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity, are showing substantial declines in listenership.

     Maintaining its hold on the #1 overall spot, Lite-FM (WLTW, 106.7 FM), rises to a 6.1 audience share, up from 5.4 in the Spring.  Hot-97 (WQHT, 97.1 FM), which tied Lite-FM for the #1 position in the Spring, falls to a 4.8 share and the #3 position.  Its morning show has been steadily losing listeners since the departure of Dr. Dre and Ed Lover, while its evening programming with Funkmaster Flex has suffered a full 2 percentage point loss.  Moving into the #2 spot overall is Spanish WSKQ (Mega 97.9 FM), garnering a 5.1 share.

     Continuing to lead the pack during morning hours is Howard Stern on K-Rock (WXRK, 92.3 FM), although the syndicated perennial ratings winner has slipped almost a full percentage point, going from an 8.5 share in the Spring to a 7.6 share in the Summer ratings period.  It has yet to be seen whether this quarter`s decline represents a periodic dip or a sign of creative stagnation.  K-Rock`s overall ratings also declined, from a 3.8 share in the Spring to 3.6.

     In the hit music field, Z-100 (WHTZ, 100.3 FM) and WKTU (103.5 FM) stablize, in the #4 and #5 spots, respectively.  WPLJ (95.5 FM), which has been gaining audience share over the past few quarters, slips somewhat from a 2.9 share in the Spring to a 2.6 share, falling back to the #17 spot.  One possible explanation for the decline is the station`s heavy reliance on recurrents (recent hits receiving extended airplay).

     In contrast to the volatility of the first two quarters, oldies rivals WCBS-FM (101.1) and Jammin` 105 (WTJM, 105.1 FM) have settled down. CBS-FM remains at the #6 position with a steady 4.2 share, while Jammin` 105 continues to draw a 2.6 share.  Urban rivals WBLS (107.5 FM) and Kiss-FM (WRKS, 98.7 FM) are also unchanged at 3.6 and 3.3, respectively, although BLS` Doug Banks edges closer to Kiss-FM`s Isaac Hayes in mornings.

     In its debut on the quarterly Arbitron ratings, Sunny 1430 (WNSW, 1430 AM) has come in with a 0.5 audience share.  WNSW, which features an Adult Standards format, has been on the air since March.

     Individual gainers in the Summer ratings include Lisa Taylor on Z-100, moving from a 3.7 share to a 4.5 share, and WNEW-FM`s (102.7) Opie and Anthony, drawing a 3.5 share in the afternoons, up from 2.7 in the Spring.  Opie and Anthony`s gain appears to be at the expense of Sean Hannity on WABC.

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