One of the reasons Colorado Public Radio’s (CPR) Classical music stations [link] have been so successful over the years is CPR's continued investment in the basics of radio.
Now CPR has upgraded the coverage of its flagship station KVOD, Denver. The change will help listeners in northern Colorado receive a more reliable signal for 88.1 FM.
|KVOD 88.1 FM COVERAGE|
The latest change is consolidating KVOD’s transmission location to Lookout Mountain, the primary tower spot for most of Denver’s FM and TV stations. KVOD’s new location provides a larger coverage area, less terrain blockage and allows 88.1 to operate at higher power. Listeners in northern Colorado and the foothills will benefit most.
CPR has taken a step-by-step approach while building all three of its programming services. In many ways Classical music has lead the way. When KCFR started on 90.1 FM in the early 1970s, it had a dual format of music and NPR News. Because NPR provided only a few hours of programming a day, KCFR played an eclectic mix of music, including Classical. During the 1980s the music evolved into only Classical.
KCFR remained a dual-format station until 2001. Then, in 2008, CPR acquired 88.1 FM from Educational Media Foundation (EMF).
The acquisition of 88.1 allowed KCFR to become a NPR News/Talk station 24/7 at 90.1. However, 88.1 had a significantly less powerful signal than 90.1 at the time. This meant some Classical fans in northern Colorado (and even the Denver metro) could no longer receive CPR’s Classical programming.
According to Sean Nethery, VP of Programming at CPR, the recent change will fix that problem:
"When we moved CPR Classical from 90.1 FM to 88.1. FM in 2008, we knew we needed to find a way to bring our Classical music service to areas of northern Colorado that were lost in the transition to 88.1 This move does just that, offering more listeners the opportunity to explore the world of classical music…”
Because CPR is building a statewide Classical music service, reaching folks in the state’s most populated areas is important.
This wasn’t the first time CPR has invested in Classical music. For many years Denver had a full-time Classical station, KVOD at 99.5 FM. Though KVOD had been profitable since 1969, the station didn’t survive the collateral damage of hyper-consolidated of ownership. In 1999 after a series of corporate owners, Chancellor Media Corporation (now part of iHeartMedia), switched the format to Jammin' Oldies.
At the same time, Chancellor moved Classical music to 1280 AM, where it might have faded away due to neglect if CPR had not acted. In 2001 CPR acquired the rights to KVOD’s format and extensive music library and moved the programming to 90.1FM displacing news/talk programming.
Then CPR made a gutsy gamble by putting news and talk programming, including the major NPR news magazines, on 1340 AM. CPR’s plan was to wait until another open FM channel could be found.
Some observers at the time questioned the wisdom of temporarily moving NPR News to AM. But, it worked because it allowed CPR to establish two discrete 24/7 programming services. Plus, the move preserved the Classical format in the market.
NIELSEN MARCH PPM RATINGS: CLASSICAL STATIONS HOLDING WEEKLY LISTENERS
The death of Classical music on the radio has been predicted for years. Though the combination of aging listeners, slashed funding for the arts and changes in the music business are all real, Classical music continues to show resilience as a radio format.
One reason this has happened is format focusing such as what KVOD did in Denver (see story above). Three decades ago most public radio stations such as KCFR had dual or even triple formats.
By focusing formats 24/7 on a single type of programming, stations increase their value to listeners. Increased value means more listeners and members.
Today in PPM radio markets, only 17% of stations have a dual format. The other 83% are now full-time Classical music stations and many are doing quite well.
Spark News tracks 25 full-time and 5 dual-format Classical stations. The total number of estimated weekly listeners to the 24 stations (where complete data was available) was 4,515,200 in the March 2018 PPM ratings. In March 2017 estimates the same 24 stations had 4,498,700 weekly listeners. This means weekly listeners to the top noncommercial Classical stations dropped less one percent in the past year.
Ten of the 24 stations (42%) gained estimated weekly listeners and 14 (58%) declined.
On the left are the Top Ten full-time Classical stations ranked by their Nielsen Audio estimated weekly listeners.
WQXR had the biggest numerical gains and KDFC has the biggest percentage gains.
WCRB had the largest numerical and percentage losses when comparing March 2018 to March 2017.
Of stations ranked 11th through 25th in weekly cume, WBJC in Baltimore gained the most estimated listeners, up a whopping 30% in one year.
WFCL in Nashville and WGUC in Cincinnati lost the largest percentages of weekly listeners.
All of the five dual-format stations had double digit losses of estimated weekly listeners when comparing March 2018 to March 2017.