Spanish KLAX tops radio Arbs

Spanish-language KLAX-FM (formerly KSKQ) made history yesterday by becoming the first Hispanic radio station in Los Angeles to earn the top spot in the Arbitron rankings.

KLAX, which underwent a format and call-letter change within the past six months, surpassed perennial front-runner KOST-FM in the fall book–providing the adult contemporary station with only its second second-place quarterly finish in the past three years.

The Spanish-language station saw its ratings rise a remarkable 165% from a 2 share in the summer to a 5.3 share in the latest Arbitron survey, which tracks listeners over 12 from 6 a.m.-midnight.

KLAX recorded an unprecedented 14 hours per week of time spent listening, double the standard seven hours for the average music station.

Carl Parmer, prexy of Heltel Broadcasting Corp., which operates Spanish-language competitors KTNQ-AM/KLVE-FM, attributed the surge in listening time to a commercial-free format for KLAX.

The station dropped blurbs following its switch from a contemporary to a wide-mix format. It is still offering only limited commercials.

Still, he noted, the station’s first-place showing reflects the growing number of Spanish-language stations and the strength of the Hispanic population in Los Angeles.

“They have been under-surveyed in the past,” Parmer said.

Following the 1990 census, representation of Hispanics in the Arbitron book increased. In one recent book, KLVE tied KIIS-FM for second place.

This time out, however, 11th-place KLVE dropped slightly while 14th-ranked KTNQ slipped 22% from the previous survey.

Meanwhile, KLSX-FM’s imported New York morning man Howard Stern continued to lead the competition but, for the first time since his arrival in the market, the shock jock’s ratings declined.

Despite his heavily hyped Hollywood “funeral” for the KLOS-FM morning team of Mark & Brian, Stern fell to a 6.0 share from his peak of a 6.4 in the summer, when he took over the lead.

He still easily surpassed the KLOS team, who finished with a 5.5 share, down from a 5.6 in the summer.

As Stern goes, so goes KLSX. The classic rock station dropped from fourth to ninth place in the latest survey.

Among other stations, dance-oriented KPWR-FM rose to a 5.1 from a 4.4, while contemporary hit radio KIIS remained flat with a 4.2 (it still boasted the highest cumulative audience, with more than 1.68 million weekly listeners).

Elsewhere, oldies station KRTH-FM made a strong showing, rising to fourth from sixth place in the summer, and talk station KFI-AM gained a full point as it rose to a seventh-place showing following 15th place in the summer.

In the battle of the news stations, KNX-AM pulled off a rare win over rival KFWB-AM, due in part to the CBS station’s coverage of the World Series, baseball playoffs, USC football and basketball. KNX earned a 2.7 share, up a notch from the summer, while KFWB dropped a tenth to a 2.6.

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