It's a new day for Spanish radio in Los Angeles: The Bogeyman who once ruled the airwaves is gone, and Tweety Bird is the new king.

For six straight years, El Cucuy de la Ma & #324;ana (Bogeyman of the Morning) was the highest-rated radio personality in Los Angeles, consistently beating English-language competitors Rick Dees and Howard Stern. But by 2003 his ratings had started to slip. Two weeks ago, he landed in 27th place.

That's when he aired his last broadcast on KLAX-FM (97.9), a local station owned by Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System Inc.

The exit of Cucuy marks a generational change in Spanish-language radio, and will benefit a rising crop of Spanish-language DJs, especially Piolin (Tweety Bird) on Univision Communication Inc.'s KSCA-FM (101.9) and Don Cheto on KBUE-FM (105.5), owned by Burbank-based Liberman Broadcasting Inc.

Cucuy, whose real name is Renan Almendarez Coello; Piolin, whose real name is Eddie Sotelo; and Cheto have targeted their acts to appeal to Hispanic males 18 to 34, the core group that advertisers want to reach on morning radio.

"Where you had one big host years ago, now you have three going for the same audience," said Adam Jacobson, associate editor at Hispanic Market Weekly newsletter in Miami. "Renan was the oldest of the three in terms of content and his ability to bring in new listeners."

For the second week of September Cucuy's last week on the air Arbitron ratings show Piolin's station came in second place, behind English-language talker KFI-AM (640) during the morning weekday drive. In contrast, Cheto finished in ninth.

"Advertisers look at those averages, and when you see them trending down that affects ad dollars," said Stella Cruzalegui, media director at Al Punto Advertising in Tustin. "So you bet on a sure horse that means Piolin."

In terms of style, Cruzalegui said Piolin emphasizes Latino pride and community events, while Cucuy is closer to a shock jock.

Meanwhile, Don Cheto "speaks to a specific audience young Mexican men who love women and beer," said Jacobson.

Shock wore off

While Hispanics found Cucuy wildly funny a few years ago, the shock wore off, Cruzalegui said, a phenomenon that mirrored the fading popularity of Howard Stern in the English-language market. In contrast, Piolin waxes sentimental on the air and has adapted his message to social conditions.

Two years ago, he urged other Spanish-language deejays to rally their listeners to a march protesting a crackdown on illegal immigration. A half-million people turned up for a march down Wilshire Boulevard. Piolin was credited as a driving force of the event.


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