In an increasingly crowded Twin Cities radio market, industry behemoth iHeartMedia (IHM, formerly Clear Channel Communications) added two entirely new local stations in June: Hot 102.5, a classic hip-hop format, and 96.7 Pride Radio, a dance music-themed station billed as the nation’s only LGBT station. Both are operating without local air talent for at least the remainder of the year.
In an email to Twin Cities Business, Jeff Tyler, Twin Cities market president for IHM, says that Hot 102.5 caters to a “completely unserved audience” in the Twin Cities. Pride Radio grew out of a national format that streams online. The Twin Cities was the first area in the country with an FM signal launch for the format.
The 102.5 signal is leased from Educational Media Foundation, a Christian music broadcaster, in exchange for one of IHM’s HD radio frequencies. IHM acquired 96.7 from United Audio Corp. of Rochester, which liquidated its holdings earlier this year.
iHeart now has nine Twin Cities frequencies, including KDWB-FM, K102, KFAN, KOOL 108, CITIES 97, KTLK-AM 1130 and ALT 93.3, which debuted in June 2014. At the end of 2014, iHeart owned 858 U.S. radio stations.
There may be more to come. In July, Sid Hartman reported in the Star Tribune that Minneapolis-based Pohlad Companies was shopping for a second FM signal to relocate Minnesota Twins broadcasts, which air on its modern rock GO 96.3 FM, which changed formats in January. But Joe Pohlad, executive vice president of Northern Lights Broadcasting, tells Twin Cities Business that’s not the case.
Nielsen ratings for June 2015 show an uptick for GO to a 1.8 percent share of local audiences, up from a 1.0 share that the previous classic rock format was drawing in late 2014.
Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist with Chantilly, Va.-based BIA/Kelsey, a research firm specializing in local media and advertising markets, tallies more than 50 radio stations in the Twin Cities. Fratrik sees iHeart’s latest moves as a way to test new ideas. “They’re by far the largest [radio] group,” says Fratrik. “They’re experimenting a little bit in Minneapolis.”