KHTC-FM, the Pohlad family’s Top 40 station, will rebrand itself KTWN — or K-Twin — sparking talk that the family’s Minnesota Twins will shift there in 2013.
KHTC general manager Steve Woodbury says he’s seeking Federal Communications Commission approval for the change, confirming Radio Insight’s report. Late last month, Woodbury acquired ktwin.com as well as 963ktwin.com and 963ktwn.com.
Does this herald a move for the baseball Twins, currently under contract to Hubbard Broadcasting’s 1500ESPN through 2012? “That’s a good question, and I’m sensitive to that,” Woodbury replies. “They have a contract with the Hubbards, and I have nothing to do with the Twins.”
The Twins have publicly hankered for an FM signal, partly for signal clarity and partly because younger listeners largely bypass the AM band. However, team president Dave St. Peter says, “We haven’t even begun to get into the details post-2012. The Hubbards have been great partners, and we continue to hope to find a way to build on that partnership beyond 2012.”
So why else would Woodbury mess with the call letters? K-Twin is undoubtedly memorable — what is now KOOL-108 was KTWN-FM until the early ‘80s. “You can have some revenue issues switching [call letters], but the Pohlads said, ‘just do it, it’s good for the brand’,” he says.
Often, a new brand coincides with a new format, though KHTC switched from hip-hop just two years ago. Woodbury describes what sounds like a subtler programming change.
“I’m not owned by a large group like Clear Channel or Citadel — I can be as local as I want to be: local announcers, local news, and I can alter my music as I want,” Woodbury says. “That’s what I want to do with my morning show; that’s a real opportunity.”
Woodbury declined to get into the details, timing or talent, but there’s precedent for a music station with lots of morning news-sports-talk: KQRS, the ratings champ for the past quarter-century.
Local and national radio trends offer some encouragement. In many markets, FM stations are dumping music outright as listeners switch to iPods, etc. Locally, KQ is showing some real erosion. Among men 25-54, the station more than doubled its competition as recently as April, outpacing 93X by 8 share points. After KFAN’s August switch to FM, its “Power Trip Morning Show” is just 3 points behind Tom Barnard’s crew.
Woodbury makes it clear no current KHTC talent will lose jobs as a result of the changes. He says he actually acquired the rights to KTWN-AM and KTWN–FM from an Omaha TV station two years ago, but only rebranded the Pohlads’ 1310-AM as KTWN-AM this summer.
Unfortunately, Woodbury adds, cybersquatters still squat on ktwn.com and ktwn.net, so for now, ktwin.com, 963twin.com and 963ktwn.com will have to do.