Tuesday, January 9, 2018


We were very pleased by the reader response to Monday’s post about the Case Study of KBCS. Several people said it provided valuable information and a fresh perspective on KBCS. 

That is our goal for the case studies and we will keep them coming.

Today we are looking at KUVO, Denver, an integral part of life on the Front Range. 

KUVO’s story offers many lessons for all station operators, particularly the new generation of LPFM community stations.

KUVO [link] today has a full-power signal atop one of the Rocky Mountains.  

It puts a decent signal into the I-25 corridor from Fort Fun to the Monument pass near The Springs. 

KUVO operates a repeater station in Vail (KVJZ) and a translator in Breckenridge. KUVO has a strong streaming audio and other digital/mobile media.

It is impossible to tell the story of KUVO without mentioning Carlos Lando, now GM of KUVO. Lando is a charter member of public radio’s Greatest Generation – the men and women who built today’s public media system.

During his 40+ years in the biz Lando has always followed the beat of the music. He is a former Armed Forces radio host who jumped on the radio bus in 1968. After his service to the country he landed at WOUR, an “underground” pioneer in central New York.

Lando came to Colorado in the mid-1980’s for an on-air gig at KBCO, perhaps the best rock station in the nation at the time. In 1987 he joined KUVO as Program Director. Carlos fell in love with jazz in the high country.

KUVO signed on in 1985 as the first Hispanic-led public radio station in the country. At the beginning, KUVO was a funky independent station serving the Latino community. CPB supported the birth of KUVO (God bless you, Rick Madden).

When Carlos became PD of KUVO, he brought in more and more Jazz programming. He focused the air sound bit by bit, keeping KUVO relevant with the community. Today you can say, truthfully, this is a TOTALLY FOCUSED format. They know who their listeners are and they want you to be one of them. Forever.

In 2013,KUVO merged with Rocky Mountain Public Media, the licensee of PBS station KRMA in Denver. I generally don’t recommend that public radio stations jump in bed with Public TV stations. In this case it has worked. KUVO continues to operate semi-autonomously. KUVO benefits from KRMA’s larger fundraising effort, statewide reach and ample cash flow.

LESSON FOR NEWBIES: Sometimes mergers with other nonprofits make sense, provided they don’t get involved in your governance.


KUVO is much smaller than Colorado Public Radio (KCFR, KVOD, OpenAir). KUVO has always done more with less, so the $1.5 million dollar annual budget gets the job done. KUVO buys very few national programs, so there are no big NPR News fees.

There is good news for KUVO in the chart on the left. The station does not rely on the licensee for operating funds and the revenue from CPB makes up a small piece of the pie. KUVO is also currently involved with a Capital Campaign – those numbers are not included in the chart.

KUVO is all about local. They make direct contact with the Jazz community 24/7. KUVO is the home for Jazz on Colorado’s beautiful Front Range. It reminds me of the night when driving at sunset on I-25 near Longmont and KUVO was playing a cut off Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.


One of the traits I most admire about KUVO is their consistent strong appeal over the years. The audience size has remained remarkably steady for the past 18 years.

The chart on the left shows how KUVO’s estimated weekly listeners have varied with different survey methodologies.


There is no doubt that you will hear what you anticipated you would hear whenever you dial in KUVO. 

The music is curated by folks who know and love every toot and rhythm. The presentation style is not that much different than what you might of heard in the 1980s on KBCO.

LESSON: This is a focused format. This is a schedule with NO “speed bumps.” Everything is designed for long time-spent-listening and KUVO IS a consistent choice for new tune-in.

On the weekend there is more great jazz plus an extra treat: Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. Too few stations play these wonderful, intimate hours of music and convo with the late-McPartland.

Piano Jazz creates a unique sonic environment, an intimacy of its own. Saturday morning is the perfect time for McPartland’s storytelling.

I have been a long-time fan of radio in the Denver-Boulder market. My first “modern” connection was in 1969 when I attended the Denver Pop Festival, the biggest rock music event in history shortly before Woodstock.

In the early 1980s my cool friend Ginger Havlat, from Sioux Falls, moved to Denver to work at the legendary KFML-AM!, the original progressive rock station. Soon after she moved to mid-days at KBCO, where I think she is still on the air today.


  1. I have listened to KUVO, and they are a great station. I was giving them a good listen before KCME signed on their Jazz translator station, and KUVO is one of the best if not the best Jazz station in the country.

    For the record KUVO does air hourly news from NPR, and does air WFMT's Jazz programming overnights. Otherwise they are about Denver and serving the Jazz musicians and fans of the mile-high city.

  2. I have a job interview and this helps immensely! Thank you!