Dan Kearney, CBS Radio’s newly installed L.A. market manager, is in tune with his predecessor.
Kearney took over from Steve Carver in September to become the sixth market manager for CBS Radio in Los Angeles since 2008. He’s continuing plans put in place by Carver, who had held the post since 2010, to maintain stability at a station group characterized in past years by high turnover at the top.
The goal is to challenge Clear Channel Communications. Last month, CBS Radio had three stations ranked in the top 10 in the local market by audience share, compared with Clear Channel, which had four in the top 10, including Nos. 1 and 2.
Kearney is maintaining Carver’s emphasis on ad sales tailored to each of his stations rather than selling an ad to run on multiple stations. He’s also updating the sounds at two of CBS Radio’s stations – oldies KRTH-FM (101.1) and smooth jazz KTWV-FM (94.7).
“When I took over from Steve, he had put some changes in place,” Kearney said. “I’m continuing that vision. I’m trying to provide stability.”
CBS Corp. has six stations in Los Angeles, including top 40 KAMP-FM (97.1), rock KROQ-FM (106.7), adult hits KCBS-FM (93.1) and all-news KNX-AM (1070). Analysts say high turnover at the top has been a problem.
Just a few years ago, from 2008 to 2010, L.A. market managers Jeff Federman, Dan Weiner, Roy Laughlin and Ed Krampf occupied the post, at times within just months of one another.
That’s a marked contrast with the stability at Clear Channel, which owns and operates eight local stations. That group has been led since 2001 by Greg Ashlock, its president and market manager in Los Angeles.
Its stations include talk KFI-AM (640), pop stations KIIS-FM (102.7) and KBIG-FM (104.3), and adult contemporary KOST-FM (103.5).
Ashlock did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The management turnover at CBS Radio in Los Angeles has made it hard to put a cohesive strategy in place, said Jerry Del Colliano, publisher of radio industry newsletter Inside Music Media in Scottsdale, Ariz. That’s because market managers oversee everything from ad sales to operating budgets to digital strategies.
“When you have management turmoil like that, where key decisions come down to this person and you don’t have stability or leadership, there’s no doubt that the turmoil has not helped,” he said.
The turmoil hit its peak in 2008 as the recession hit. It was a tough time for the L.A. radio market, which was losing hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue and facing new digital competition.
CBS Radio was deeply affected, with reductions in ad buys at stations such as all-talk KFWB and news KNX. Meanwhile, CBS Radio in two years shuffled through market managers Federman, Weiner, Laughlin and Krampf.
Part of the problem, said Mary Beth Garber, executive vice president of radio analysis and insights at Katz Radio Group on the Miracle Mile, is that CBS Radio has little patience for managers who don’t make sales goals in Los Angeles – which is consistently the company’s top revenue-generating market. The CBS Radio station group in Los Angeles produced about $175 million in revenue last year.
“Whereas a market manager might do extremely well in another market, there is much less patience for people to build something and change something (in Los Angeles) because it’s so much money and so much spotlight,” she said.
In 2010, Carver stepped in and focused on keeping programming and sales local. He left the post to take a job in Tampa, Fla., closer to his family.
Kearney came to Los Angeles in August from Miami, where he was a market manager for Cox Media Group. He said station-specific sales are still the core strategy. The idea is that those types of sales allow his stations to charge higher ad rates per ratings point, compared with Clear Channel’s stations, which emphasize sales across many stations at once – locally and nationally.
Still, Clear Channel remains the market leader in total revenue. Its eight stations brought in about $220 million in revenue last year. Amid a market rebound, Kearney said he’s made it his goal to change that.
“Our goal every day is how can we become the No. 1 revenue cluster,” he said.
K- and the Wave
That effort begins with bringing ratings up, and Kearney has so far focused on two stations his predecessor had already been tweaking: KTWV, known as the Wave and KRTH, pronounced K-.
Inside Music’s Del Colliano said both stations have been in need of a revamp.
“KRTH is getting better, but it has never maximized its potential,” he said. “I’ve heard that the Wave format isn’t long for this world.”
Carver hired Rick Thomas as program director for the two stations in May and changes are under way.
Thomas has been updating the music selection slightly at both stations. For example, at KRTH, which plays oldies most popular with the baby boomer set, he has been introducing more 1980s music, such as Prince, to cater to younger listeners.
The results at KRTH have so far been encouraging, Kearney said. The station ranked fifth in the L.A. market last month with a 4.2 percent audience share of people 6 and older, according to ratings firm Arbitron.
At KTWV, which plays smooth jazz and adult contemporary music, Thomas has been introducing more R&B into the mix from artists such as Alicia Keys and John Legend. Kearney said it doesn’t quite qualify as a format change, although they’re calling the new play list Smooth R&B. KTWV tied for 13th in audience share last month with its main competitor, Clear Channel’s classic R&B station KHHT-FM (92.3). Kearney said there’s still room for improvement at KTWV.
CBS’ other stations placed third, KAMP; eighth, KROQ; 11th, KNX; and 19th, KCBS, known as Jack FM.
Kearney said he’s now planning to spread awareness of the changes to its music offerings at KRTH and the Wave.
“There’s still growth there,” he said. “We need to do some more marketing and let people know about these tweaks. But I like the direction we’re going. I think they’ve made the best hire they’ve made out of the past seven.”
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