Radio active: the Twin Cities FM dial is becoming very crowded

Radio active: the Twin Cities FM dial is becoming very crowded
Courtesy of Twin Cities Business

In an increasingly crowded Twin Cities radio market, industry behemoth iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel Communications) added two entirely new local stations this summer: Hot 102.5, a classic hip-hop format, and 96.7 Pride Radio, a dance music-themed station billed as the nation’s only LGBT station. Both are operating without local air talent for at least the remainder of the year.

In an email to Twin Cities Business, Jeff Tyler, Twin Cities market president for IHM, says that Hot 102.5 caters to a “completely unserved audience” in the Twin Cities. Pride Radio grew out of a national format that streams online. The Twin Cities was the first area in the country with an FM signal launch for the format.

The 102.5 signal is leased from Educational Media Foundation, a Christian music broadcaster, in exchange for one of IHM’s HD radio frequencies. IHM acquired 96.7 from United Audio Corp. of Rochester, which liquidated its holdings earlier this year.

iHeart now has nine Twin Cities frequencies, including KDWB-FM, K102, KFAN, KOOL 108, CITIES 97, KTLK-AM 1130 and ALT 93.3, which debuted in June 2014. At the end of 2014, iHeart owned 858 U.S. radio stations.

There may be more changes to come in the market. In July, Sid Hartman reported in the Star Tribune that Minneapolis-based Pohlad Companies was shopping for a second FM signal to relocate Minnesota Twins broadcasts, which air on its modern rock GO 96.3 FM, which changed formats in January. But Joe Pohlad, executive vice president of Northern Lights Broadcasting, tells Twin Cities Business that’s not the case.

Twin Cities Business

Nielsen ratings for June 2015 show an uptick for GO to a 1.8 percent share of local audiences, up from a 1.0 share that the previous classic rock format was drawing in late 2014.

Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist with Chantilly, Va.-based BIA/Kelsey, a research firm specializing in local media and advertising markets, tallies more than 50 radio stations in the Twin Cities. Fratrik sees iHeart’s latest moves as a way to test new ideas. “They’re by far the largest [radio] group,” says Fratrik. “They’re experimenting a little bit in Minneapolis.”

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 09/09/2015 - 11:24 am.

    Go away 96.3

    The Twins on this station are a total failure. The ballclub would never allow any other station to treat the Twins like Go has done: an FM music station that occasionally interrupts regular programming to carry a baseball game. Both WCCO and KSTP made the Twins the flagship of their broadcast schedules: pre-game, post game, and features throughout the season and during the off season. GO Twins broadcasts may maximize dollars into the Pohlad pocket by keeping it in the Pohlad family; but it is a dis-service to Twins fans and the team. Let’s hope Sid is right and third generation trust funder and new music maven Joe Pohlad is wrong: time for a new station that is actually interested in broadcasting MLB games and cares enough to have a signal or build a network that allows Twins fans to have what the had during the WCCO days: easily listen to a game anywhere in the state.

  2. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 09/09/2015 - 11:46 am.

    Violating the spirit of ownership rules

    IHeartMedia seems to be having a heyday with new FM signals since they figured out a workaround to local ownership caps. They do this by “translating” a locally-originating HD subchannel from another one of their big FM signals onto a low-power translator signal. This may be legal, but it definitely violates the intent and spirit of local ownership caps and low-power FM signal availability. And iHM doesn’t even own these translators, they lease them.

    This whole arrangement is apparently known as a “backhaul” in the industry. I’d like to see more coverage of that issue.

  3. Submitted by Jim Camery on 09/09/2015 - 01:21 pm.

    Weird, but finally competent

    The Twins don’t fit on 96.3 worth a damn, but at least they cleaned up their production values from the dead air, back-to-back repeated commercials and disorganized interviews of the 1500 days.

  4. Submitted by Mark Pfeifer on 09/09/2015 - 02:22 pm.

    New stations

    The more signals and the more formats the better! The Twin Cities was long one of the most “underradioed” major markets in the U.S.

    The reporter might also have mentioned the new Classic Hip Hop format on Cumulus’s 105s.

  5. Submitted by Carrie Preston on 09/09/2015 - 02:41 pm.

    Sports Station

    It does not make sense to me to have a baseball game on a music station. It does not help a music person or a sports fan. It completely interrupts the continuity of the station. Why not make it a sports station? Although there are other sports-themed stations, you’ve got the Twins games plus an FM signal. Better than listening to games on a crackly AM.

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