Bill Virgin's Radio Beat April 17, 2008

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat April 17, 2008

Postby radiofan » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:01 pm

On Radio: Seattle radio sales posts gain unseen in most of nation
Area ranks 13th in metro markets


The radio industry continues to fret about its future amid an increasingly fragmented media market and competition for advertising dollars, but for the moment, at least, someone wants to buy time on stations in the Seattle-Tacoma market.

In fact, estimated gross revenues for Seattle-Tacoma radio stations hit $231.9 million in 2007, according to BIA Financial Network Inc., a media and telecom industry adviser that compiles the data annually.

That was up 5.7 percent from 2006, and the percentage gain looks even better when compared with national numbers. BIA says radio revenues were down 2.3 percent from 2006, following two previous years of increases that were less than half a percent in each.

The contrast was even sharper when comparing Seattle-Tacoma, ranked 13th in terms of radio revenue, to other metro areas, said Mark Fratrik, vice president at BIA. Atlanta was down 3 percent; Boston reported a 4.5 percent drop; and Washington, D.C., was off 7.5 percent.

The relative strength of the local economy compared with other metropolitan markets probably explains why Seattle-Tacoma was up while others were down. Seventy-five percent of radio revenue here comes from local sources, which Fratrik said is in line with other markets.

The attraction of radio to advertisers, said John Levich of Seattle-based Levich Advertising, is that "it can reach who we want to reach. It's a little easier to target (specific listener groups), with all the formats and times. You have a pretty good selection."

Even so, the Seattle-Tacoma market isn't back to the levels reported by BIA in 2003, 2004 or 2005. The recent peak was $237.1 million in 2004.

BIA is warning that 2008 could be another disappointing year nationally because of the economy, but revenue could rebound in 2009 as conditions improve and the industry finds more ways to generate income from digital outlets.

One anomaly about the Seattle-Tacoma market is the number and audience size for noncommercial stations, which also draw on marketing dollars in the form of underwriting and sponsorships. KUOW-FM/94.9, which in some Arbitron ratings quarters has topped all stations, collected $3.75 million in business support for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2007.

But Fratrik said there isn't a direct impact of that support on advertising spending at commercial stations.

While public and community stations do draw business marketing dollars (and the sponsorship messages on occasion sound much like ads), some of those sponsors, including major corporations, wouldn't necessarily buy ad time on commercial stations the way local retailers might.

The top revenue stations on the FM side, according to BIA, are KMPS-FM/94.1, KZOK- FM/102.5 and KRWM-FM/ 106.9. On the AM side, KIRO- AM/710 and KOMO-AM/1000 top the list.

In other radio notes:

Randi Rhodes has parted company with Air America, ostensibly over remarks she made about Hillary Clinton, not on the air but at a radio-station event in San Francisco. But she's joined another syndication service, Nova M, that carries another former Air America host, Mike Malloy. The switch means there will be no change for local listeners; her program will continue to air at 6 p.m. weekdays on KPTK- AM/1090.

Last week it was on an interim basis, but now it's official: Stephen Kilbreath has been named news director at KMPS-FM, handling news and traffic duties on the Ichabod Caine morning show, as well as handling the weekend public-affairs show. He succeeds the recently retired Don Riggs.

The Metropolitan Opera performs Philip Glass' "Satyagraha" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on KING-FM/98.1.

Jim Wilke's "Jazz Northwest" at 1 p.m. on KPLU-FM/88.5 features the recent world premiere of "Heaven and Hell," a work for tentet by Tom Varner, who also played French horn in the work.

This week's edition of Jim French's "Imagination Theatre," heard at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on KIXI-AM/880, includes a new Sherlock Holmes adventure.

"Voices of Diversity" at 6 p.m. Wednesday on KBCS- FM/91.3 looks at the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat, Thursdays in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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