Latest Talk Radio Ratings: Woes Of The Hitman

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The Spring 2016 Anchorage radio ratings books have been released. Who is up, who is down, and how did new KFQD morning show host Mark Colavecchio do in his first ratings period since replacing the controversial Bernadette Wilson?

Before I get into all those tantalizing details let me first give my standard disclaimer on reporting on radio and TV ratings:

Radio ratings are a bit like trying to understand the science behind a Ouija board. The numbers can be chopped up, combed over, and analysed in a manner that fairly justifies almost any conclusion. What follows is my analysis based on my own experience in radio and talking to people behind the scenes in the industry.

Radio ratings are published by Nielsen Audio, who surveys the Anchorage market twice a year, once in the spring (late March-early June) and again in the fall (mid-September-early December). The most recent ratings cover this past spring’s ratings period.

Ratings are discussed in terms of market share. For those of you not familiar with media speak, the “share” represents the portion of those listening to radio during that hour who listened to a given station. So if 1% of people listening to radio right now are listening to KBYR they would get a 1.0 share.

When it comes to news-talk radio, KENI yet again wins the beauty contest with the 12+ ratings demographic. For all listeners aged 12 and older, KENI continued a four-book trend of increasing ratings, going from a 3.6 share in the fall of 2014 to a 5.1 share this spring.

KENI’s primary news-talk competitor KFQD continued to drop from a 4.8 rating in spring of 2015 to a 2.9 share this spring.

radio ratings spring 16

That gives you a sense of the broadest possible listenership, in all demographics, all day. It is also completely disregarded by the industry for anything other than bragging rights.

For more pertinent information let’s narrow our focus to the 35 to 64 age demographic and look at how individual shows scored.

Overall, spring ‘16 was an average ratings book for talk radio. Dave Stieren, Rick Rydell, and Mike Porcaro all posted numbers abKFQDout in line with their historic averages.

Stieren returned from a series of sub-par books to post a 6.8 average share. That is a respectable number and one that station management has to feel they can live with from the 2-5 PM time slot.3014

On KENI, in the 6-9 AM slot, Rick Rydell posted an average share of 5.2, while Mike Porcaro garnered a 4.7 average rating from 4-6PM. Rydell’s number is off from his dominant 10+ shares he has been posting in recent books, but if 5.2 is your worst recent rating, you are doing something right .

Porcaro has to be pretty happy with his number. It is largely in-line with his Fall 2015 numbers, which were significantly higher than anything he had posted in recent years.

index_header2_01As usual, Mat-Su talk station KVNT didn’t show up in the ratings at all and Anchorage-based KBYR continues to lag far behind KFQD and KENI in almost all hours. The rare exception is the 8-9 AM hour, where the Michael Dukes Show on KBYR is beating KFQD with a 1.8 share.

That brings us nicely to the most interesting story from this book, KFQD’s January transition from the diminutive, conservative firebrand Bernadette Wilson to Mark Colavecchio in their 8:30-11 AM time slot.

Before Wilson was sacked she was putting up 3-4 shares pretty consistently. That isn’t the best KFQD has ever done in the highly competitive morning show time slot, but it was pretty good.

Even with three months lead time to build a new audience before the ratings period started, Colavecchio’s numbers still cratered. He posted an average 1.1 share and actually scored a 0.0 in the 10-11 AM hour. I don’t think I have ever seen a local talk show host on KENI or KFQD score a 0 in any hour.

What has to be troubling for KFQD is that none of the normal reasons to dismiss such a poor start fit for Colavecchio. This wasn’t a down book for talk radio as evidenced by the respectable ratings for other talk formats in the market. Colavecchio didn’t start his show during or just before the ratings period began March 24; it started early January. Colavecchio also isn’t an unknown radio personality listeners had to learn about. He co-hosted a popular morning talk show on rock station KWHL for many years and had previously actually hosted a talk show on KFQD, in the-the same time slot, just a few years ago.

All that said, this was still only Colavecchio’s first book with his new show, so don’t expect station management to be looking for a replacement just yet. If, however, the ratings period that starts September 8th doesn’t go significantly better, Colavecchio’s days on KFQD could be numbered.

About the Author

Casey Reynolds
Reynolds served as communications director for the Alaska Republican Party from 2008-2011. He left the Party in 2011 to host his own popular morning radio political talk show on AM750 / FM103.7 KFQD. Reynolds now runs The Midnight Sun (midnightsunak.com), crowned by the Anchorage Press as “Alaska’s best political blog.”