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Thursday, March 29, 2001

KIII's new antenna gives them the power to regain top news spot

Also: Radio changes kill The Beat, displace The Planet and create The Bomb

KIII's 10 p.m. news broadcast is back at No. 1 after a temporary, three-month stint as second fiddle to NBC affiliate KRIS, according to the most recent Nielsen ratings.
   During the February sweeps period, ABC station KIII lead with a 36 share/20 rating. KRIS followed with a 28 share/16 rating. (A share is the percentage of all viewers watching television at that time. Ratings reflect the audience percentage of the total population.)
   The original ratings upset occurred in mid-December, when KRIS nudged KIII from the No. 1 spot it had occupied for more than 20 years. KIII general manager Bob White said his station had a huge handicap because it was broadcasting at half-power.
   The station had to broadcast at a weaker signal from a rented space while a new antenna tower was being built for the station's new studios on South Padre Island Drive. The signal didn't reach outlying areas and certain neighborhoods within city limits. Cable subscribers got the station wired in, but viewers who relied on antennas were left empty on Channel 3.
   KIII was stuck in this hard place from October to late January, which included the November sweeps period and led right up to the February sweeps period. On Jan. 22, KIII's antenna moved to its new home and the signal was restored.
  
   Just in time
   "I've never been more nervous in my life," said White. "You can only be gone so long to where people will stop looking for you. We took our blows in November and now we're back on top."
   Even though the lead was lost, KRIS news director Sandra Forero-Richards sees positive progression in the numbers.
   "When you compare year to year, we're doing very well," said Forero-Richards. "We did increase in a lot of different points from (last) February to (this) February, and also from November to February. It was disappointing obviously that we were unable to maintain our 10 p.m. lead from November. I don't have a crystal ball, but I know we'll get it back."
   Here's a rundown of the local news ratings:
  

  • 10 p.m.: Clocking in behind KIII (36 share/20 rating) and KRIS (28 share/16 rating), is CBS affiliate KZTV with a 7 share/4 rating and Univision affiliate KORO with a 6 share/3 rating.
      
  • 6 p.m.: KIII again leads (31 share/18 rating) and KRIS (21 share/12 rating) and KZTV (3 share/2 rating) follow.
      
  • 5 p.m.: KIII heads up the pack (32 share/15 rating), and KRIS (23 share/10 rating), KORO (7 share/3 rating) and KZTV (3 share/1 rating) trail.
      
       KORO general manager Araceli De Leon is positive about her affiliate's performance in the afternoons with women. A few of the Spanish language station's telenovelas all tied for No. 1 with women ages 18 to 34. The entertainment news program "Primer Impacto" is also No. 1 with that same demographic, and KORO's Saturday airings of "Sabado Gigante" also showed strong results at No. 1 with adults 18 to 34 for most of its four-hour length.
       "We did very well," said De Leon, "and I'm not surprised. When we do station promotions and ask people to call in, our phone systems are locked. ... People are watching."
      
       Radio moves
       Rarely have the radio dials been in such disarray; four stations have recently been switched up as programming directors search for the right mix for their listeners. But the storm has quieted, and here's your updated news on local radio.
      
  • FM-105.5 - This station is no longer KRAD modern rock. New owners decided a Latin-rooted pop/rock station would sell better, and KNXT Radio Next was born.
      
  • FM-102.3 - Owners killed the station, known as The Beat, and moved The Planet over from 104.5, because the frequency at 102.3 is a more far-reaching signal.
      
  • FM-104.5 - When The Planet switched frequencies, the move left 104.5 open, and the owners brought in The Octopus, generic classic rock music with piped-in DJs from California.
      
  • FM-102.9 - The Planet's move also left The Beat's crew jobless and without a frequency; they talked the owners of 102.9 KNDA into switching from Tejano to Beat-style Hip Hop.
       The changes, of course, have shaken up many radio fans. To the dismay of many modern rock fans, 105.5 is now Radio Next, a light rock station (Matchbox 20) with a Latin flair (Mana).
       "We are including some Latin music in the mix - the likes of Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony, " said Luis C. Villarreal, vice president and general manager of Rodriguez Communications in Corpus Christi.About 80 percent of the music on KNXT will be in English, Villarreal said, and the remaining 20 percent will be pop and rock en Español. The station's new Latin-tinted format is a carbon copy of Radio Next 106.1 in Laredo, also owned by Rodriguez.
       Pacific Broadcasting owns both The Beat and The Planet, and Pacific partner Rick Dames brought in the syndicated Octopus because he saw the need for Zeppelin-style classic rock in the market. The Beat was dropped because it had a higher overhead and was consistently being out-billed by The Planet.
       "It was more important for us to save (The Planet)," said Dames, managing partner with Pacific Broadcasting.
       But by offing The Beat, Pacific lost a lot of young listeners who want their DMX. When Tyris Ross (AKA Napp-1) learned that his job and The Beat were gone, he moved quickly to form The Bomb, a patchy Beat clone.
       "It's the same as The Beat, but it's more edgy," said Ross, programming director for The Bomb.
      
       The skinny
       So we're left with a clone of a Laredo station, a syndicated station from California, a Beat clone and The Planet on a more powerful, cubicle-defying frequency. I'm still left with a few beefs.
       The Octopus is supposedly classic rock, but the other day I heard them playing a track from Dave Matthews' new CD. Ross said The Bomb will be more edgy than The Beat, but all I've heard so far is the same formula used by The Beat, Z-95 and others of their kind: repetition of mainstream R&B/rap.
       Many of the remaining advertising contracts with KRAD trickled down to The Beach - some of which didn't work with the station's focus. 3-D Body Art's much-played and -lauded commercial was recently pulled from The Beach's line-up.
       The commercial for the piercing and tattoo parlor, which won the 2000 Best of Radio ADDY Award for The Beach's former owner, went like this: "Don't hate us because we're affordable. We're the best pricks in town."
       "I'm not saying anything nasty or perverted," said co-owner Jason Price. "It's just the prick of a needle. ... I won them an award with that commercial and now they're pulling it."
       Villarreal with Rodriguez Communications didn't want to comment, but said he had a problem with the language.
      
    Pop culture and media critic Ricardo Baca can be reached at 886-3688 or by e-mail at bacar@caller.com


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