The nation's largest radio station owner has aborted its planned launch of a new format for KLAC-AM (570).
Clear Channel Communications Inc., which owns eight radio stations in Los Angeles, had planned to change KLAC's "adult standards music" format (Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, etc.) into "The Buzz," an edgy talk/sports format, beginning this month. But it pulled the plug on that conversion, at least for now.
"We are in the process of putting a plan together," said Roy Laughlin, market president of Clear Channel in Los Angeles. "We just purchased the stations in September, and they are all under review."
Issues ranging from a softening advertising market to contractual problems involving the acquisition of on-air talent were cited as reasons for the delay, according to industry analysts.
"Talk radio has been more adversely affected by the softening advertising market than other formats," said Anne Thompson, a media analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. "It's a move they don't want to make in this environment because talk radio is a lower-margin business for Clear Channel, compared to standards."
Besides music, KLAC broadcasts the games of the Los Angeles Lakers and Anaheim Angels.
Thompson said the format change was designed to appeal to men 18 to 49, who tune into the station in large numbers already to listen to the Lakers and Angels.
Data from Arbitron Inc. show that in the fourth-quarter 2000 ratings period, KLAC earned a 1.4 rating, while talk-format stations KFI-AM (640) and KABC-AM (790) garnered 3.0 and 2.3 ratings, respectively.
Some industry sources said the new format may not be instituted at KLAC until after the baseball season ends in October.
Don Barrett, executive editor of LARadio.com, which tracks the performance of local stations, expects that once the station changes formats, Phil Hendrie, currently on KFI-AM (640) weekday afternoons, would become the station's signature voice as he moves to morning drive, working from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Jim Rome, currently on Fox Sports KXTA-AM (1150), would take over the 9 a.m.-to-noon slot, Barrett said. That move, however, has been questioned since Rome is the signature name on the low-rated KXTA.
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