Radio ratings: KBIG-FM and KLAX-FM distance selves from rivals

Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez
Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez at the microphone in the KLAX studio.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The new elites of Los Angeles-Orange County radio raised their stature even further in August, as both KBIG-FM (104.3) and KLAX-FM (97.9) widened their leads against rivals, according to ratings released Tuesday by Arbitron.

KBIG — the “hot adult-contemporary” station that mixes pop and rock, new and not-so-recent, and features artists such as Katy Perry, Peter Gabriel and Taylor Swift — held sole possession of first place for the third time in the last five months. But after more than a year of battling with Top 40 station KIIS-FM (102.7) for No. 1 overall, KBIG finally put some distance between itself and its sister Clear Channel station and claimed 5.9% of all listeners age 6 and older.

KIIS actually increased its audience share from July, when only one-tenth of a point separated it from first, but lagged far behind surging KBIG with 5.4% in what Arbitron labels its August survey, but which actually charted people’s listening habits from July 18 to Aug. 14.

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Meanwhile, KLAX, the regional-Mexican-music station that features Ricardo “El Mandril” Sanchez during morning drive, once again led that all-important 6-10 a.m. weekday slot, when millions of people are turning to the radio as they begin their day.

Sanchez first leapt to the top spot in June, when he bested talk station KFI-AM (640) by 5.3% to 5%. He pulled farther ahead in July, beating KFI and alternative rock station KROQ-FM (106.7) by 5.9% to 4.7%. Then Sanchez really hit the gas in August. While KFI and KROQ — the latter featuring Kevin Ryder and Gene “Bean” Baxter — remained tied at second, inching ahead to 4.8%, Sanchez pulled away with a 6.5% share of the audience.

KFI, whose morning lineup features local host Bill Handel, followed by the first hour of Rush Limbaugh’s national show, had long been the undisputed leader in that part of the day. Only three times from 2009 to 2012 was KFI out of first place in morning drive; but August marked the fifth time so far this year that the Handel-Limbaugh team was looking up at its competitors.

The August survey was the last to feature onetime ratings leader Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo on regional-Mexican-music station KSCA-FM (101.9) — albeit for only his last three weekdays on the air. The station’s parent company, Univision Communications Inc., abruptly canceled his show July 22 amid sexual harassment allegations. Since then, Sotelo has sued former colleagues and decamped to SiriusXM satellite radio.


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From 2005 to 2008, Sotelo was the one with the stranglehold on morning ratings, but lately he had resided in the lower ranks of the Top 10. But after placing 12th in January, he had been on a steady rebound, and in July, his last full month on the air, he placed fourth with a 4.3% share. In August, with Sotelo gone for most of the survey, KSCA and its morning show fell to a fifth-place tie at 3.9%, the same as KBIG’s morning host, Sean Valentine. All-news station KNX-AM (1070) placed fourth at 4%, up from ninth in July.

Sanchez’s dominance is remarkable because he had been in seventh place as recently as April, and was 10th in January.

Also, his success is noteworthy because when Arbitron changed the way it compiled ratings at the end of 2008, switching from listener diaries to automated meters that were supposed to be more objective, foreign-language stations protested, predicting their numbers would suffer. One claim: Non-English speakers carrying the Arbitron meters, which automatically detect stations within earshot of the wearer, would register English-language stations that happened to be playing wherever they went. With the old diaries, those listeners would likely have marked down only the native-tongue stations they sought out, and not inflate the numbers for the other stations they weren’t intentionally consuming.


In fact, many stations did suffer among those with the audiences considered most loyal — urban, country and foreign-language. KSCA dropped from first to sixth after the changeover, for example. Spanish broadcasters filed suit against Arbitron to halt its rollout of the new metering system, and last year the company settled a consumer-protection suit filed by California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich and San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Herrera. Arbitron agreed to recruit listeners based on addresses, and consider country of origin as a demographic characteristic, among other tweaks, which allayed many critics’ complaints.

In August’s overall ratings, the Top Five remained the same from July. Following KBIG and KIIS were pop station KAMP-FM (97.1) at 4.5%, adult-contemporary KOST-FM (103.) at 4.4% and hip-hop outlet KPWR-FM (105.9) at 4%.


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