- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2002

Everyone knows 2001 was a rough year for local radio, but a new report by Chantilly media research group BIA Financial Network shows just how bad it really was.
Only three major stations urban music WMMJ (102.3 FM), pop music WRQX (107.3 FM) and all-news WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) made more money in 2001 than they did in 2000, according to BIA's estimates.
The rest of Washington's 33 major commercial stations saw their annual revenue decline, the report says.
"Before the economic slowdown began, the radio industry was hurt by an advertising slowdown. It hit them hard," says Mark Fratrik, BIA's vice president.
Talk station WJFK (106.7 FM) still generates the most revenue in Washington radio $30 million in 2001 but the station was down $3.8 million from its 2000 revenues, according to BIA's estimates.
Revenue for each of the eight Washington stations owned by Texas conglomerate Clear Channel Communications also dipped last year.
WIHT (99.5 FM), which flipped from an oldies format to a pop music format last April, saw the biggest drop among the Clear Channel stations: Its annual revenues dropped from $17 million in 2000 to $11.3 million, according to the BIA estimates.
Some analysts have speculated WIHT may flip formats again this time to an urban music format in a bid to boost revenues. A station representative says that definitely won't happen. "That speculation is 100 percent false," the representative says.
Other stations that saw declines include ABC-owned talk station WMAL (630 AM), which dropped from $16.9 million in revenues to $14 million in revenues, and Bonneville-owned pop station WWZZ (104.1 FM), which dropped from $11 million to $6.4 million, according to BIA estimates.
Bennett Zier, Clear Channel's executive vice president in the Washington area, has not seen the BIA report, but he acknowledges the radio industry suffered in 2001. Mr. Zier predicts a rebound this year, saying there is already strong evidence the economy has turned the corner.
"Washington is a growing radio market. We're very optimistic about 2002," he says.
The stations that saw their revenues rise last year recorded only modest gains.
WMMJ earned $20 million in 2001, or $2.3 million more than in 2000. WTOP generated $24.8 million, just $8,000 more than its 2000 revenues.
"The WTOP increase isn't a surprise. More people listened to news last year, especially after September 11," Mr. Fratrik says.
Although WTOP's revenues increased, its "power ratio" dropped slightly.
A power ratio is the complicated formula BIA uses to determine a station's ability to translate ratings into revenue. BIA gave WTOP a 1.88 ratio for 2001, down slightly from its 1.9 ratio from 2000.
Still, WTOP maintains the highest power ratio in Washington. WJFK, WRQX and rock music station WHFS (99.1 FM) also have high power ratios.
The worst for local radio may be over, Mr. Fratrik says. BIA is projecting Washington stations will see revenues rise an average 3 percent in 2002.
Media buyers say advertisers in recent weeks have started to place more orders for TV and radio air time.
"The business is coming back, and it's coming back stronger than people expected," says Carol Briolat, media director for the Bomstein Agency, a Washington advertising group.

O'Reilly, where art thou?
Will Bill O'Reilly's new talk show be heard in Washington?
Last week, the host of Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" announced he will begin a nationally syndicated daily radio show May 8. Westwood One will distribute the show, but the company said last week it was still trying to find a Washington station to carry it.
"Washington is an important market. We're talking to several stations there," says Peggy Panosh, a Westwood One spokeswoman.
Don't look for the show to air on talk stations WTNT (570 AM) or WWRC (1260 AM). Representatives for those broadcasters say they don't have room for Mr. O'Reilly on their schedules.

Jones still talking
Speaking of talk-show hosts without a home, sources close to former WMAL host Victoria Jones say she is talking to stations in Washington and other cities.
Miss Jones was fired last month from WMAL, where she hosted an evening talk show for two years. Since being axed, she has kept busy with her part-time gig as a political commentator.
In the last two weeks, Miss Jones has appeared on several CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC talk shows, where she has discussed everything from the Andrea Yates trial to the Fightin' Whities college basketball team in Colorado.

WTOP tops TV?
Mornings have become the new battleground in local television, with Washington's network affiliates constantly trying to outmanuever each other in the Nielsens.
Maybe they should stop worrying about each other and start worrying about WTOP.
Weekdays last fall, the all-news radio station drew an average 664,400 listeners between 5 and 7 a.m., according to Arbitron.
Meanwhile, an average 258,200 viewers tuned into the four local TV morning shows between 5 and 7 a.m. during the November 2001 ratings sweep, Nielsen Media Research says.
WTOP is planning to tweak the TV stations with a humorous advertising campaign that could roll out as early as next week.
"We're not out to poke anyone in the eye. It's a friendly competition," says Jim Farley, WTOP's vice president of news and programming.
The new ads won't be the first time WTOP has pointed out to its TV rivals that it beats them in the morning ratings.
In a radio spot that aired last year, Mr. Farley played a man who stubs his toe while getting dressed for work because he's distracted by a local TV newscast. In those spots, Mr. Farley's "wife" advises him to turn off that distracting TV and turn on WTOP.

This just in …
NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4) will air the Washington Informer Spelling Bee for the 20th consecutive year March 30 at 1:30 p.m. News anchors Pat Muse and Jim Handly will host the bee. "It's Academic" host Mac McGarry will be the pronouncer. The bee will be taped tomorrow at WRC's Nebraska Avenue NW studios.
The Travel Channel, a Bethesda-based cable TV network, got a makeover this month. It introduced a new logo and graphics, including a series of moving, wavelike bars that appear at the bottom of the screen and alert viewers to the program they are watching.
Cox Communications, Northern Virginia's largest cable-TV provider, will add two new channels to its digital lineup April 1: the family-friendly Hallmark Channel and Cine Latino, a Spanish-language movie network.

Channel Surfing is published every other Monday. Got a tip? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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