After years of fine-tuning, Burbank’s MyFM finally found its groove.
By playing more new music and introducing a fresh slate of DJs, KBIG-FM (104.3), known as MyFM, has generated big revenue growth and record ratings. For the first time last month, the revamped station tied for first place among listeners in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to ratings from consumer research firm Arbitron.
Just a year ago, MyFM was in 11th place, but it has gained rapidly on the frequent market leader and its sister station, KIIS-FM (102.7), which it tied last month with a 5.2 percent share of surveyed audiences over 6 years old.
“It’s absolutely amazing. It’s a great feeling,” said Andrew Jeffries, program director at MyFM. But, he added, “it didn’t happen overnight.”
The process began in 2007 with a format change emphasizing pop and adult contemporary music, intended to boost the station’s meager ratings and vie for a larger chunk of the L.A. radio market – one of the world’s largest. L.A.’s about five dozen radio stations will bring in $750 million in revenue this year, according to industry estimates.
The station, which has historically done well with adult listeners, has gained market share in a younger demographic in part by overhauling its lineup of on-air personalities.
Earlier this year, MyFM hired former MTV VJ Damien Fahey for the midday time slot and actor Mario Lopez to take an evening slot. The new hires join Sean Valentine, who took over MyFM’s morning time in 2007 and has been building an audience opposite established competition from the likes of Ryan Seacrest on KIIS, Bill Handel on KFI-AM (640) and Kurt “Big Boy” Alexander on KPWR-FM (105.9).
Offering celebrities and other features such as weather and traffic updates are critical for local stations, which face challenges from options such as Oakland-based Internet streaming service Pandora Media Inc., which offers only music and advertisements, said Dave Van Dyke, a general manager at radio services company Radiate Media Inc. in Los Angeles.
He also noted that MyFM is benefiting from its transition to pop music, which has an inherently wider appeal than many other
“The way you perform better is to have a more listenable station,” Van Dyke said. “They’re fun to listen to.”
Prior to its 2007 format change, MyFM played a variety of retro sounds, from disco to R&B. Former DJ Charlie Tuna played
a Frank Sinatra track as the old format’s swan song.
Now, the station is far more likely to blast Katy Perry and U2 than Ol’ Blue Eyes.
In addition to boosting ratings, the change was an effort by San Antonio-based owner Clear Channel Communications Inc. to create more synergy between MyFM and two of its other L.A. pop stations, KIIS and KOST-FM (103.5).
The idea is that young listeners start with KIIS, which plays a top 40 format that is popular with the teenage demographic, said Greg Ashlock, president and L.A. market manager for Clear Channel.
MyFM is now targeting slightly older listeners who might be looking for more mellow sounds than what KIIS has to offer. In turn, MyFM listeners who want older or more soft-rock options can go to KOST, which plays music dating from Lionel Richie to Carly Rae Jepsen.
The process took some time to catch on.
“When you’re going up against the biggest radio talent in the country, you don’t come out on day one and kill it in the ratings,” Ashlock said.
Music that debuts on KIIS is meant to find its way to MyFM. But recently, MyFM has made an effort to shorten that delay to just a couple of months to take advantage of recent pop megahits. That, Ashlock said, has been a big selling point for the station.
“(Advertisers) are thrilled,” he said. “You can offer both the … younger and older end. It’s been very well received by the ad community.”
MyFM frequently sits at the top of the ratings for its target demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds. But Ashlock said winning the top spot for audiences over 6 years old shows the station’s music and talk are appealing to younger and broader audiences.
He said MyFM’s revenues have grown this year at triple the L.A. radio market rate, which is about 1 percent to 2 percent. He declined to elaborate on revenues, but stations such as MyFM are known to bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue yearly. The station’s advertisers include Meridian, Colo., satellite provider Dish Network Corp. and Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
Mary Beth Garber, executive vice president of radio analysis and insights at Miracle Mile’s Katz Radio Group, said MyFM’s strong performance and run up the ratings chart suggest to prospective advertisers that the station’s listeners are loyal and might sit through the ads rather than turning the dial.
“What you’re buying in to is the credibility and connecting with listeners,” she said. “If it’s the No. 1-rated station, it probably has an extremely strong connection (with listeners) and the receptivity to advertising is really good.”
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