Hip Hop Station Falls From Top Spot As Listeners Sample Its Competition

By DEBORAH BELGUM
Staff Reporter

Hip hop radio station KPWR-FM has hopped off a cliff.

Recently released Arbitron ratings show that KPWR's listening audience has plummeted from being the largest in L.A. this past summer to No. 7 for the Sept. 20-to-Dec. 12 fall period.

Analysts attributed the dramatic fall to listeners switching over to newcomer, KHHT-FM (92.3), which ranked No. 11 in its first months of operation.

"Where KPWR fell in their listening time was with men ages 18 to 24," said Mary Griswold, president of mgLA Media Research, an independent radio consulting firm. "And they were down dramatically with the number of listeners ages 25 to 34."

Many of those 25-to-34-year-old listeners wandered to KHHT to check out the station's new format, which is described as "old and new rhythm and blues selections for an adult contemporary audience."

"It is possible that people were sampling Hot (KHHT) for a while and will go back to Power (KPWR) in a month or so," said Nancy Leichter, vice president/general manager of KBBT-FM (100.3), which ranked No. 3.

(KROQ-FM, which tied with KPWR as L.A.'s top-rated station last summer, retained its No. 1 position in the fall period.)

KHHT, or Hot, hit the airwaves on Aug. 9 with its new format geared to urban adults. Previously, the station was known as KCMG-FM, or Mega radio, which broadcast rhythm and blues oldies, drawing an older audience.

But Clear Channel Communications Inc., which owns KHHT, decided to change the station's format and call letters to capture more listeners.

KPWR executives said they are not concerned by their slide in ratings or the new competition from KHHT. "You have stations like ours that have been operating in the same format for years," said Val Maki, senior vice president/L.A. market manager for Emmis Communications, which owns KPWR. "Our position is as strong in the hip hop market as it has ever been."

Analysts also noted that Arbitron Inc. which measures stations' popularity by collecting diaries kept by 1.3 million radio listeners, including nearly 7,400 in the Los Angeles-Orange County market incorporated new figures from the 2000 Census in determining who would fill out the daily listening diaries.

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