Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NYC Radio: WBLS Revenue Spikes 76 Percent

The battle over radio audience measurement that raged five years ago when Portable People Meters replaced paper diaries—a move that minority stations said hurt their ratings—never really went away, according to crainsnewyork.com.

Radio stations that catered to blacks and Latinos said the people meters undercounted their audiences, making it harder to sell advertising. 

Last year, Emmis Communications threw in the towel on urban station Kiss-FM and leased its signal to ESPN.

But that story has yielded an interesting twist for 107.5 WBLS-FM. New York's oldest urban station—and onetime No. 1 in the market—is making more money than it has in years.

For the first six months of 2013, advertising revenue for WBLS spiked 76% over the same period a year earlier, in a market that was up 6%, according to accounting firm Miller Kaplan. Billings are still below where they were before Arbitron rolled out its people meters, but according to General Manager Deon Levingston, revenue is "on track" to match its old numbers, perhaps in the next year.

The turnaround is in large part the result of a couple of smart plays by YMF Media, a company owned jointly owned by Ron Burkle, Magic Johnson and Fortress Investment Group. Last year, YMF took over WBLS, along with other stations owned by bankrupt Inner City Broadcasting Corp. YMF also paid $10 million for the "intellectual assets" of Kiss-FM, including call letters WRKS, websites and databases. The two moves allowed the firm to fold in longtime rival Kiss-FM and make WBLS an urban radio powerhouse again.

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