Upheaval from Journal Broadcasting; KIIM is the tops in Tucson; KWFM just keeps leaving presents on Schuster's doorstep.

Media Watch 

JOURNAL BIDS BRINKS ADIEU

Milwaukee-based Journal Broadcasting created some significant upheaval last Friday, Nov. 2, when it parted ways with Julie Brinks, its popular Tucson general manager.

Jim Thomas, the company's vice president for marketing, confirmed that Jim Prather is taking over the GM role in an interim capacity.

Journal is the most-versatile media cluster in the market. In addition to owning and operating television stations KGUN Channel 9 and KWBA Channel 58, it oversees four radio stations: KMXZ FM 94.9, KTGV FM 106.3, KQTH FM 104.1 and KFFN AM 1490/FM 104.9.

While no reason was given for replacing Brinks, who held the position for five years—since the cluster ousted Diane Frisch—concerns about the dreaded "R&R" combination (ratings and revenues) seem like a safe bet. KGUN has struggled to gain consistent traction in the market and generally lags in key ratings demos behind KVOA Channel 4 and KOLD Channel 13.

While KMXZ, known as MIXfm, remains one of the three top-rated radio stations in the market, it has more often been third, behind Cumulus' country format KIIM FM 99.5 and Clear Channel's Top 40 KRQQ FM 93.7. Further down the dial, conservative-talker KQTH at one point briefly supplanted Clear Channel news/talker KNST AM 790. But KNST, which made a simulcast move to the FM dial at 97.1, has built upon its advantage in recent ratings books.

Although the numbers for MIXfm and KQTH improved in the most-recent Arbitron ratings book, it's entirely possible the decision to make a change at Journal Broadcasting was already in motion before the numbers came out. That kind of coincidence occurs with painful frequency in the media business.


KIIM TOPS SUMMER RADIO RATINGS

KIIM FM 99.5 turned in another strong showing in the Arbitron ratings, topping the Tucson book for the summer 2012 period, followed by KMXZ FM 94.9 and Clear Channel's KRQQ FM 93.7.

Some in radio may view this as a double win for Cumulus, which owns KIIM and flipped formats at KSZR 97.5 FM to create a direct Top 40 competitor for Clear Channel's linchpin. I am not a subscriber to that philosophy, but nonetheless, the relatively modest 2.0 share generated by i97.5 could be viewed as enough to erode a bit of KRQ's listenership, and thus distance the station from its place near the top of the pecking order. The i97.5 format is not much different from the format when the station operated as Bob, then dedicated to hits from the '70s, '80s and '90s. But Cumulus is hoping that those who are tuning in now are from a different demographic, and therefore cutting in directly to the limited market share available to any specific format—in this instance, Top 40.

Historically in Tucson, that approach has bombed, but Clear Channel certainly seems concerned. It launched some counterprogramming last week, moving syndicated afternoon host Ryan Seacrest to KMIY FM 92.9 (aka My 92.9) in favor of a KRQQ DJ lineup that features Selena in midday and Chris P. in afternoon drive. In other words, Clear Channel banked on Tucson accepting the concept of a nationally syndicated afternoon entertainment/gossip-driven show for its Top 40 entity—and the move did not pay off. KRQ might be able to get away with that in morning drive, since a number of folks in Tucson remember Johnjay and Rich as a local show, even though they've been based out of Phoenix for a number of years. But Seacrest clearly has no ties to the market. And whether that worked against Clear Channel, or whether this is a Hail Mary to try to boost flailing numbers on a trendy adult-contemporary station it switched from The Mountain at 92.9 remains to be determined.

Often, banishing a show to another format or another time slot is an indication that a company just wants to run out the string on the contract. Seacrest's fit with KMIY's "hot AC" music structure seems tenuous, at best.

Elsewhere, Cumulus got more good news as classic-hits format KHYT FM 107.5 continued to gain traction in the ratings. Lotus-owned classic-rocker KLPX FM 96.1 also did well.

Spanish-language stations struggled in the latest ratings book.


MY EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT HAS ARRIVED

KWFM AM 1330 is the gift that keeps on giving.

I had concerns about the little station that next to nobody listens to on that static-laden frequency. And things were really looking bleak after it flipped formats from progressive talk to all Michael Jackson, all the time, in early October, with nary a sponsor to be found.

But over the weekend, 1330 made me happier than the kid who knows he's been nice and will be rewarded for it on Dec. 25. That's right: KWFM went from all-Jackson to all-Christmas music.

This is a move 94.9 MIXfm makes every year around Thanksgiving, and it's been a successful approach. Apparently recognizing that the buildup to Christmas seems to start earlier every year, 1330 decided on a pre-emptive strike—to get the festivities rolling shortly after Halloween.

It's also possible, given the history of that radio signal, that the Jackson thing was just the result of confusion. Maybe station execs remembered that Thriller video with all of those dancing zombies and figured Jackson was just an artist known for Halloween classics. And now that Halloween is over, it's time to lighten our spirits with some Christmas cheer.

Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, I hope 1330 plays nothing but "Auld Lang Syne," maybe interspersed with "Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg. I'm getting my requests in now.

Thank you, 1330. You're the best gift a media watcher could ever want.

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