Thursday, August 4, 2016


Take the 101 – aka The Pacific Coast Highway – out of the Valley and pretty soon you will be in one of prettiest places on earth – the Southern California coast.  You may need to change your radio dial because the most of the LA stations are hit-and-miss due to the terrain. Though you are close to LA the 101 will take you through a number of exurban towns and cities, each with their own characteristics.

Most of them are great places to live but often it is challenging to make a living. I’ve heard it called “poverty with a view.” It takes a crafty vision to succeed in the noncommercial radio biz in the shadow of LA.  But, there are some stations that do very, very well and today’s post is about them.

Just west of LA, up the 101, there are three almost contiguous Nielsen Audio Diary markets with close affinity: Oxnard/Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo. In some ways these three places make a common radio market because most local stations also serve other parts of the three-county metro.  On the right is a map (courtesy of KCLU, Thousand Oaks) that shows the connected communities.

The local stations have two factors in common: They must compete with competition from LA station’s repeaters and translators; and they all hug the 101 – one of the busiest freeways in the world – from Thousand Oaks to Oxnard to Ventura to Santa Barbara to Santa Maria to San Luis Obispo.

Let’s look at the three markets individually using Nielsen Audio data from Spring 2016 compared with Spring 2016.

Note: There is more volatility in these the markets than normal.  I have no information about why the differences have happened between 2015 and 2016. Please let me know your thoughts.


KCLU AM/FM is very strong in this market. KCLU-FM is only rated station to increase its weekly listeners from Spring 2015 to Spring 2016. You will note that all of the LA stations lost a considerable number of weekly listeners.


KCLU-FM lost some weekly listeners.  KCLU-AM, based near Santa Barbara, seems to be keeping its listeners perhaps because of the increased attention on KCLU-AM to Santa Barbara news and events. KCRW and KPCC both were up fairly dramatically. KDB now is a fulltime repeater of LA.


KCBX is down a bit in its home market.  But, look at KUSC/KDB. I can’t explain this major drop in weekly listeners.  Things will be changing soon in San Luis Obispo because KCRW has acquired a primo fulltime repeater.  We reported on this development recently [link].


Finally we have a just-for-fun compilation of weekly listeners in all three markets.  Caution: There may be some duplication of listeners.

Monday-Sunday 6AM-Midnight Persons 12+
These data are provided for use by Nielsen subscribers ONLY,
in accordance with RRC's limited license with Nielsen Inc. Data Copyright Nielsen Inc. Format distinctions are the sole responsibility of Ken Mills Agency, LLC.

1 comment:

  1. There's been a lot of juggling of what outlet is on which frequency in recent years in those markets. For a long time KCLU-FM in Ventura had a slightly (and oddly) different news/talk lineup from KCLU-AM in Santa Barbara. BUT, KCLU had an FM translator in Santa Barbara on 102.3 that relayed KCLU-FM for years (and did so through an extremely rare FCC waiver that let them feed 102.3 via a T-1 line instead of over-the-air reception).

    But when the FCC started allowing FM Translators to relay AM stations, they switched the translator to repeat KCLU-AM instead, and boosted the Translator's power as well. I believe they consolidated the programming schedules around that same time. Either way, the point is that there's probably some confusion in the diaries about which "KCLU"...AM, FM or Translator...that people are actually listening to.

    Ditto for KCLU adding the new signals up in the SLO market, too. It's been a volatile time; it might explain why KCBX lost a bit of audience, too.

    Beats me why KUSC (KESC) in Morro Bay/SLO took such a nosedive, though. (shrugs) It'd be easy to point to the KDB acquisition but neither KDB nor the now-KDRW signal reach anywhere near SLO; the mountains just north of Santa Barbara block it entirely.