A number of changes are rolling across the radio dials of Boise and Twin Falls. Stations are changing hands, flipping formats, and getting new competitors.
On October 31st, KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM moved up the dial to 103.5 FM. This was the first, and for the Boise market at least, most visible part of a plan that’s been in the works since 2006.
Shortly after KSAS moved, a brand new station joined the radio dial at 102.7 FM. The station moved in from Elko, NV – getting a prized transmitter on Deer Point with full coverage of the Boise market. It took on the call letters KZMG (the long-time heritage call letters of Magic 93.1, which date back to April of 1990; the new station has no direct relation to Magic).
KZMG signed on playing non-stop music under the name My 102.7 FM — taking aim at KCIX/Mix 106 and to some degree KXLT/107.9 Lite FM. News came late last week that FM Idaho/Impact Radio would purchase the station from its current owner, giving Impact a new, full-market signal. The station should complement sister KWYD/Wild 101 with female demographics and sales efforts, in much the same way Town Square Media’s (formerly Peak Broadcasting) Kiss FM & Mix 106 do.
With recent shifts at KRVB/94.9 The River, the number of stations playing some version of pop or adult contemporary hits stands at six – KWYD/Wild 101, KSAS/103.5 Kiss FM, KCIX/Mix 106, KZMG/My 102.7, KRVB/94.9 The River and KXLT/107.9 Lite FM. You can visualize the way the stations lay out with this handy little chart:
The next piece of the puzzle is the purchase of KINF-FM from Impact Radio by Lee Family Broadcasting of Twin Falls. KINF currently serves both the Boise and Twin Falls markets, but soon will shift entirely toward the Magic Valley. Lee Family announced it would buy KINF and flip the format from talk to Regional Mexican under the name La Perrona 99.1 FM with call letters KPNA.
It’s my understanding a few more things will change up affecting some stations not listed here in coming weeks. We’ll provide an update on that soon.
Update: If it wasn’t clear which station Impact was targeting, this Facebook post makes it so:
Don Day is the Digital Sales & Product Manager for KTVB, and wrote and edited IdahoRadioNews.com for more than six years.
KRVB/Idaho’s 94.9 The River has been part of the Boise airwaves for just more than 13 years. It launched by evolving KFXJ/KF-95 in May of 2000. For quite some time, the station was thematically similar to its predecesor – and in its station imaging promoted that it played “world class rock” and sub-genres like blues, folk and reggae. Over the decade the station evolved – but in recent months has seen a fairly agressive format tweak.
Obvious changes like a new logo and tagline (“music first”) are accompanied by more subtle updates like the station’s playlist. But that playlist is really the soul of any station, and The River is flowing a bit faster these days.
A casual radio listener remarked to me that The River sounds a lot more like Mix 106 these days – and it doesn’t take long to hear the similarities. In the past week, The River played the latest track by Pink almost 40 times – a song that is at home on pop stations as much as on formats like the River.
In an interview with trade publication All Access, newly promoted program director Tim Johnstone acknowledged both the changes and the similarity to Mix – though Johnstone notes the similarities are as much drive by Mix’s deviation into his territory as anything.
“KCIX has been taking advantage of the groundwork we’ve laid for artists like The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters & Men and many of the singer/songwriters who have launched from this format,” he said. “In terms of overlap, it definitely ebbs and flows. Were in a heavy flow period currently.”
The River is one of those stations that has a unique place in the market. It might be cliche to say it is popular among North Enders – but there is possible some kernel of truth. One local agency rep once told me that it isn’t a coincidence that Subaru dealers find a good fit for their ads on The River. The station clearly drives results from many advertisers – but it has long struggled in a key area: the ratings. Numbers have bounced in the 3.0 range (12+) for the last three books – at the bottom of the pile among the FM, English-language music stations.
While no official word is available on the station’s website or social media, it appears former Miss Idaho Misty Taylor has been added to mornings alongside Boise radio stalwart Ken Bass – with Tim Johnstone segueing to a live afternoon shift. Taylor actually appeared on the Boise morning radio waves once before – about a decade ago on KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM. They tease the change here – but it’s not clear if it’s permanent.
There is a vast land of opportunity for The River. KCIX was the number three station in the book on the broad ratings measure – and was exceedingly strong with women. If KRVB can chip a few listeners away – increased ad dollars should follow.
You can scope out the 12+ results over here, but I’ve compiled a quick scorecard of winners (and losers) in areas folks care about.
KSRV/96.1 Bob FM – Impact
KCIX/Mix 106 – Peak
KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM – Peak
tie – KCIX/Mix 106 – Peak
tie – KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM – Peak
tie – KXLT/107.9 Lite FM – Peak
tie – KWYD/Wild 101 – Impact
tie – KIZN/Kissin’ 92.3 – Cumulus
KSRV/96.1 Bob FM – Impact
KQXR/100.3 The X – Journal
KBOI/NewsTalk 670 – Cumulus
tie – KCIX/Mix 106
tie – KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM
KQXR/100.3 The X
tie – KCIX/Mix 106
tie – KSRV/96.1 Bob FM
A couple of other battles of note: The country battle was a bit of a split decision – KQFC won 12+, but KIZN won among women. KAWO, which was the big story in the last book fell off a bit in most demographics.
Lite FM handily topped KJOT among Christmas stations.
The story of this book might be a collapse at KKGL. As noted above, the station was topped in mornings among men by Mike & Kate on KCIX. Traditionally KCIX is strong with women in the morning and the syndicated Bob & Tom sees big strength among men – but in this book KKGL lost significant ground – with KKGL losing well more than half of its ratings points in the daypart. In another fluke, among 12+, KJOT beat KKGL – though KJOT was fueled by Christmas music, something they can’t sustain in the spring.
For the four groups, Impact and Peak have much to celebrate. Journal and Cumulus have a few bright spots but also feel like they have some work to do I’d imagine.
It’s often said in the radio world that for a station to succeed it has to excel at the three Ms: mornings, music and marketing.
Two Boise stations that had lower-than-hoped numbers in the spring ratings book (free registration required) are working to make big changes in a couple of those areas to try and get the ratings mojo back.
The first is KCIX/Mix 106. The hot adult contemporary stalwart has seen some rough patches in its core demo and amongst total listeners of late. In the latter category, the station came in 11th – which puts it last amongst the FM stations in its cluster (behind KAWO, KSAS and KXLT, all of which also primarily target female listeners). While the demo picture is somewhat better, Mix has seen better days. One bright spot for the station tends to be mornings, helmed by Mike Kasper and Kate McGwire. The station recently dropped afternoon talent Matt Steele and filled his afternoon shift with a DJ who records his segments from a sister station in Fresno, CA.
But Mix made another major change to its programming: it has added segments from Mike & Kate across the broadcast day. Now, in addition to the traditional 5:30-10am morning timeslot, the pair are heard during middays. They announce contests, pitch to songs and more. The segments are original but likely on tape. In the evening and across the weekend listeners are treated to extended “best of” bits featuring Kasper & McGwire. The drops are usually several minutes long and include material from the weekday live version of the show.
The effect is a bit confusing at fist. The first few times you hear the segments you wonder if it is a mistake, but clearly it is not. The thought behind this might be “let’s take what is working and get the most bang for our buck.” It’s possible this will work, but is it a substitute for live, original programming? Time will tell.
The other station making big changes is KWYD/Wild 101. The Impact Radio-owned urban contemporary station picked up a new program director earlier this year and has gone about changing just about everything.
The station also had a difficult book, losing steam in both the demo and amongst total listeners. Wild burst onto the scene several years ago notching big ratings and lots of buzz in the demo. Under the direction of operations manager Mikey Fuentes, Wild saw big ratings and outstripped rival KSAS/103.3 Kiss FM and eventually helped hasten the demise of KZMG/93.1 Hit Music Now (which is now running a sports format as KTIK/93.1 The Ticket. A history of pop music stations in Boise live here).
Of late, KSAS has seen its ratings rise to the top of the heap while Wild has slumped. Part of this might be a side effect of KZMG’s transition to sports last year, as those listeners who frequented the pop hits on 93.1 may have been more inclined to gravitate toward the somewhat poppier mix on KSAS than the more urban-oriented music on KWYD.
Wild seems confident in morning man Rick Moorten. But it has gone about changing nearly everything else. The music mix has been tweaked significantly. While the station is certainly still urban-oriented, it has softened its music mix. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock you’ve heard Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” – dubbed by many as the song of the summer. But what might surprise you to hear is how many times the song has appeared on Wild 101: 470 times this year according to monitoring by Mediabase. It peaked in July when it ran on the station roughly every four hours. That pales in comparison to Kiss FM which played it almost every 90 minutes in July, but still significant for a song that has a very pop sound.
Wild also added a number of features to the format. It now starts each hour with a pair of songs it calls “old skool,” generally R&B or hip hop hits from the early 90s through mid-2000s. Songs like Baby Got Back from Sir Mixalot, Ride Wit Me by Nelly and Brass Monkey by the Beastie Boys now get dusted off and queued up at the top of every hour. It even added a program that consists of what it calls “baby making music” each Sunday night – primarily slower R&B hits of years past from artists like Keith Sweat.
Wild also revamped its imaging (the pre-recorded stuff you hear between songs featuring the station voice) to be more pointed in some instances. It will often play a quick sample of a song that may or may not be playing on KSAS while noting you don’t have to “sit through” that song to “get to” the next song on Wild’s playlist. Wild is also assailing its competition for “speeding up songs” and playing too many commercials. To that end, KWYD is playing “101 minute non-stop” music blocks throughout the day (not all the time mind you, advertisers are still getting plenty of commercial time). Without doing an in-depth analysis, this appears to be what’s known as playing with the clock. Essentially the station goes a long stretch without commercials, plays several minutes of spots, plays a few songs then another several minutes of commercials to make up for the “missed” commercial pod or pods in the 101 minute music block.
The bottom line for both Mix and Wild is simple: if the ratings go up, these were the right moves. If they go down or remain unchanged, they weren’t. WIth the fall ratings book under way, we’ll known soon enough.