Tracking Twin Cities Radio Ratings

Tracking Twin Cities Radio Ratings

In this month’s episode: Sports supplants God, ‘CCO still doesn’t have a morning host, and KS95 won’t be denied.

Back in the day, the monthly release of local radio ratings was big news in a lot of American cities, including Minneapolis/St. Paul, but with the loss of media writing as a beat locally, the tracking of who’s surging and who’s sputtering largely ended. Odds are today if you don’t work in radio or media buying, you have no idea who leads the pack and who’s a laggard.

That era’s ratings relied on individuals filling out a weekly listening diary in exchange for a crisp dollar bill sent by ratings service Arbitron, a system which subsequent technology proved had overstated listenership of personality radio and understated music’s audience. Today, Nielsen Co. devices more accurately track audience, though the radio business still questions the validity of the sample.

The local October data (we’re the nation’s 15th largest media market, with just over 3 million people) is newly out and we thought we’d dig into the data for those who haven’t paid attention since Hines and Berglund were the hot morning team in town.

Publicly released ratings data still hews to total audience, while most ad buying is focused on demographic slices of that audience, slices Nielsen provides to industry customers. What’s changed is radio ownership has consolidated among three or four big players (locally Audacy, Cumulus, iHeart Media, Hubbard), and an individual station with meager ratings may actually serve a strategic purpose for its group, rather than being a format clamoring for an overhaul.

What’s also changed is the growing influence of non-commercial radio. St. Paul based Christian broadcaster KTIS is regularly one of the most listened to stations in the market (though it had a bad October), while Minnesota Public Radio’s trio of broadcast signals often approach 15 percent audience share, while its KNOW is consistently the most listened to news/talk station in the market.

The October ratings’ most notable stories:

  • Hubbard’s KS95 retained the dominance it’s shown all year, leading the market with an 8.2 share.
  • iHeart’s KFAN, the house organ for Vikings’ football and Wild hockey, took its seasonal surge to fourth in the market, jumping from a 4.8 to a 7.0 share in one month.
  • KTIS dropped from fourth in the market in September to 11th, from a 7.9 share in July to 4.8 in October.
  • Audacy’s WCCO-AM sunk to its low water mark for the year, a 4.4 share, tied for 12th with MPR’s The Current. The irony of ‘CCO, the ultimate everyman format, tied with the Current, a niche format for music elites, cannot be understated. Now six months since the retirement of morning drive icon Dave Lee, the station may finally be seeing audience erosion due to the lack of a dominant program in either AM or PM drive, or it could just be tied to the seasonal end of Twins baseball listening.

WCCO’s brand manager, Brad Lane, had no public comment on the state of the search for Lee’s replacement, but it’s common knowledge in media circles that the job has been offered to several prominent local broadcasters, all of whom showed interest but ultimately chose to stay in their current roles. TCB took a deep-dive into WCCO’s history and current predicaments earlier this year.

Rank Station Format Owner Brand Share Change from Sept.
1 KSTP Hot AC Hubbard KS95 8.2 0.6
2 KQQL Classic Hits iHeart Kool 108 7.8 (0.9)
3 KNOW News/Talk MPR KNOW 7.3 (0.2)
4 KFXN Sports iHeart K-FAN 7.0 2.3
5 KZJK AC Audacy Jack FM 5.8 0.7
6 KEEY Country iHeart K102 5.5 (0.5)
7 KQRS Classic Rock Cumulus KQRS 5.4 0.7
8 KDWB CHR iHeart KDWB 5.2 0.4
9 (tie) KTCZ Hot AC iHeart Cities 97 5.0 0.1
9 (tie) KXXR Rock Cumulus 93X 5.0 (0.2)

AC = Adult Contemporary
CHR = Contemporary Hit Radio