Friday, January 19, 2018


Oklahoma population density map

One of the most interesting competitive situations involving NPR News/Talk station is KGOU versus KOSU in Oklahoma. From 30,000 feet these two stations and their programmers look very similar. 

On the ground there are important difference between the two stations.

What is at stake for both stations are members and underwriting in Oklahoma City (“OKC”), the state’s largest market and home to over 1.3 million people. The stations, and the universities they represent, are fierce competitors for donor support, athletic championships and bragging rights.

Both KGOU [link] and KOSU [link] are located just outside of the OKC metro and have built repeater stations to cover the metro. Not that long ago, KOSU opened offices and studios in a trendy part of downtown OKC. Neither station has a clear physical advantage, so the winning difference is the best programming mix.


KOSU has traditionally been the ratings leader but recently KGOU has closed the gap and now is solidly number one in OKC according to Nielsen Audio. As you can see in the chart on the left, in the Fall 2017 ratings KGOU had 30,000 more estimated weekly listeners than KOSU. KGOU is also growing faster than KOSU with 21% more weekly listeners when compared to Fall 2016.

Then there is Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second largest metro with a population around 800,000. KOSU puts a city-grade signal into Tulsa. KGOU is not present in the market. This gives KOSU many additional listeners and a statewide aura. 

When KOSU’s listeners in Tulsa are combined with the estimated listeners in OKC, KOSU has typically been top dog in Oklahoma. But, not according to the Fall 2017 Nielsen ratings.

We combined the numbers for Oklahoma City and Tulsa and created the unofficial “Oklahoma” chart on the left. The margin is close but KGOU can say (until the Spring 2018 Nielsen ratings are released) they are the number one NPR News/Talk station in Oklahoma.



The chart on the right is a snapshot of the most recent annual revenue and revenue sources for both stations. Though the two stations are similar in size, there are important differences.

One big difference is in “listener sensitive” revenue – pledging plus underwriting. 58% of KGOU’s annual revenue comes from these sources. At KOSU the same two categories comprise only 38% of the annual revenue.

Another big difference is the amount of money the licensees give to the stations. Oklahoma State gives KOSU much more cash support than what the U of Oklahoma gives KGOU.

Because of these factors, KGOU can probably be much more independent of their licensee. This may allow KGOU to be more entrepreneurial. Large amounts of licensee support leads to a fickle reality. A change in administrations can mean less money for reasons having nothing to do with public media. Large licensee support often means a station has more stakeholders, more vulnerabilities and certainly more meetings.


On the right are two charts that show both stations programming during Key Hours, the times when the majority of people listen to radio. 

Both stations are well programmed but there are important differences. Here is what see and what we recommend:

There are two obvious weaknesses in KGOU’s weekday schedule.

First is the 11am – Noon hour where there are different programs everyday. This is an obvious invitation for people to tune-out. 

Plus, it is confusing and listeners like dependability. The five programs have almost nothing in common with the lead-in or following news programs.

KGOU’s second obvious clunker is the 3pm – 4pm hour. BBC Newshour is no match for the first, fresh hour of All Things Considered. 

KOSU owns the “first in news” position, which is a powerful inducement to tune-in to KOSU. This should be easy and cheap for KGOU to fix.

KOSU’s weekday schedule is solid from 6am – 7pm. The World at 2pm is very strong lead into ATC.

Both stations lack a signature local program during weekdays. KOSU, with its bigger reach, would be the likely station to originate a Talk of Oklahoma type of program. 

Though both stations have strong newsrooms, I am surprised by the dearth of locally produced programming. 

This will cost money but the benefit of being the state’s “program of record” is too powerful to miss.

During Saturday’s Key Hours KGOU has the advantage. They are first with Wait, Wait… and first with This American Life, two guaranteed magnet programs. Plus, I really like KGOU’s switch to live and local Blues in the afternoon.  Jim “Hardluck” Johnson is a terrific host and guide and I’m sure listeners and members enjoy his show.

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