For the first time, KBIG-FM (104.3), the rock and pop purveyor nicknamed "MyFM," took sole possession of first place in the local radio ratings in April, edging ahead of sister station KIIS-FM (102.7) — the latest leg in a head-to-head battle that has had the pair jockeying for listeners since the beginning of 2012.
KBIG, which features a varied playlist that ranges from pop chanteuses Kelly Clarkson and Pink to alternative bands such as Green Day and Third Eye Blind, to hip-hop acts Outkast and the Black Eyed Peas, had previously tied with KIIS for first place last September and then again in February.
But in April, according to the Arbitron ratings service, KBIG claimed 5.5% of the Los Angeles-Orange County audience ages 6 and older, up from 5.4% in March. KIIS dropped from 5.7% in March to 5.4% in the April ratings chart, which was released Monday and chronicled listening habits from March 28 to April 24.
"Our goal is to have a nice variety on the radio station, to be not just about today and not just about the '80s, either," said Andrew Jeffries, program director of KBIG and vice president of programming in Los Angeles for Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio chain, which owns KBIG, KIIS and six other stations in the market.
KBIG was stuck in 11th place near the end of 2011, but jumped into the top five by the beginning of 2012, and moved into second place from May through August.
"Variety comes from so many different places," Jeffries said, whether through mixing genres, or eras, or artists. By borrowing from the playlists of several stations throughout the market — pop, alternative, hip-hop, adult-contemporary, etc. — the idea is it can broaden the potential audience.
"We can put a little foot into each of these camps, and be a blend of the best," Jeffries said. "Chances are we've got a bit of something to keep you happy."
The plan flies against conventional wisdom in radio, which dictates a tight focus in targeting listeners. Jeffries said that plan definitely works for other stations — KIIS not straying from the Top 40, or alternative bastion KROQ-FM (106.7) not finding room for Taylor Swift — but added, "I don't think that's the only way you can do it."
"We've had a trajectory of fantastic growth," he said. "It seems like the magic pixie dust is working."
Following KIIS in April at 4.7% was adult-contemporary station KOST-FM (103.5), also part of the Clear Channel stable, as is talk station KFI-AM (640), which tied at fourth place with Top 40 station KAMP-FM (97.1), both claiming a 4.1% share of the April audience.
Among morning shows, during the 6-10 a.m. weekday time slot when stations hope to grab and hold onto listeners, KFI reclaimed the top spot in April. In that time frame the station airs local host Bill Handel — nearing his 20th anniversary on the program — followed by the first hour of Rush Limbaugh's nationally syndicated show. They captured 5.6% of the morning audience, up from 5.5% in March.
"Not being No. 1 is the exception to the rule," said KFI program director Robin Bertolucci. In fact, KFI has had a near lock on first place in the mornings for more than four years, and Bertolucci credited Handel's program as "a solid, consistent, great, informative show."
KIIS, which features Ryan Seacrest and co-host Ellen K, had been first in March, alternating with KFI since the beginning of the year. But in April KIIS slipped to third, falling behind the duo of Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter on KROQ, who grabbed a 5.2% audience share. KIIS came in at 4.8%, followed by KBIG'S Sean Valentine and Liz Hernandez at 4.6%. Rounding out the top five was Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo on regional Mexican-music station KSCA-FM (101.9), at 4.1%.