KACD-FM to be resurrrected as a Webcast

First try by major owner at Web-only radio

Old radio stations no longer die–they’re just resurrected on the Internet.

Los Angeles’ adult album alternative outlet KACD-FM (“Channel 103.1”) will soon join the roster of radio stations that have lost their homes on the broadcast dial and re-emerged as a Web-only programming outfit.

The switch reps the first stab by a major group owner at launching a Web-only radio station.

As part of its merger with radio behemoth AMFM, Clear Channel is in the process of divesting KACD to meet FCC-mandated ownership limits. Once KACD’s sale to Entravision is official — sometime around the end of July –the station is set to go Spanish-lingo.

Different venue

Rather than close up shop, Clear Channel/AMFM will continue to operate Channel 103.1 with the same staff and out of the same studios — but only as a Webcast. Advertising time for the Web site will continue to be sold by the sales staff of Top 40 sister KIIS-FM as if Channel 103.1 were a regular radio station.

KACD began branding itself on-air as “Channel 1031.com” last weekend in preparation for the switchover. The Webcast will eventually be renamed “World Class Rock.com” once Web users become accustomed to the fact that they’re not listening to the 103.1 FM frequency anymore. The station’s Web site will be totally revamped for a relaunch as soon as July 10.

“Channel 1031.com” joins a number of other former L.A. radio stations that have found new life on the Web.

Former disc jockeys of heavy-metal KNAC-FM, which went Spanish in the early ’90s, later revived the call letters and format to create KNAC.com.

The programmer behind “Groove Radio,” the dance-music format found on the 103.1 frequency in the mid-’90s, revived the station (with some of the same deejays) on “Groove Radio.com.”

“But we’re the first ones to move from an FM over to the Internet directly, no break, with the same company, same studios, without moving or changing a thing,” said Nicole Sandler, KACD music director.

‘Great experiment’

“We feel if we can convert a small number of the over-the-air advertisers to over the ‘Net, we can meet the expense investment,” said Charlie Rahilly, senior sales vice president for Clear Channel’s Los Angeles operations. “We think of this as a great experiment.”

According to Don Barrett, a radio vet who closely follows the Los Angeles market, the combined KIIS/KACD sales team billed $46.5 million last year and $9.7 million just this past May, making it tops among L.A. radio stations.

Since its format launch in the fall of 1998, Channel 103.1 has never been a ratings powerhouse. The station pulled a 0.5 rating according to the most recent Arbitron figures, placing it near the bottom of Los Angeles-based FM outlets. The station’s weak signal is most often blamed for the low listenership.

“The KACD AAA format has a very loyal following but the numbers in Los Angeles have never been impressive,” Barrett said. “To think the format will grow in the embryonic stages of Internet radio may be optimistic at best.”

To make up for lost local listeners, Sandler hopes to reposition the Webcast for a global audience. Gone will be local ticket giveaways; instead, listeners will tell the station where they live before winning concert passes. Sandler hopes to take advantage of Clear Channel’s Eller Media outdoor business to promote the Web site once it becomes World Class Rock.com.

Sandler admits she lobbied hard for Clear Channel/AMFM to merge some of its other L.A. stations in order to find a home for the Channel 103.1 format.

“Maybe there is a place for us on the Internet,” she said. “We’re hoping to be on the air as long as possible to promote it.”

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