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KSCA SET TO DROP TRIPLE-A FORMAT, EXECUTIVE CONFIRMS.

Byline: Fred Shuster Daily News Staff Writer

Album alternative station KSCA-FM (101.9) will switch to a Spanish-language music format as early as next month, according to the outlet's new owners.

``I've confirmed it verbally,'' said Richard Heftel of Texas-based Heftel Broadcasting Corp. ``We expect the sale to take about a month. The station will have new personalities and we're researching the specifics of the new format.''

Heftel is paying $10 million to Gene Autry's Golden West Broadcasters for the right to buy KSCA for $102.5 million. Locally, the company already operates top-rated KLVE-FM (107.5), which broadcasts romantic ballads in Spanish, and the Spanish news-talker KTNQ-AM (1020).

Ted Volk, alternative promotion head for Geffen/DGC Records, said the loss of KSCA will be ``devastating'' both to the label and local music fans. The station, which boasts a format known as triple-A (adult album alternative), gave crucial early support to adventurous new acts such as Counting Crows, the Wallflowers, Joan Osborne and the Dave Matthews Band while maintaining support for Joni Mitchell, Little Feat and other important '60s- and '70s-based artists.

``It's a real loss, because KSCA was such a great source for getting new music played on the radio,'' Volk said. ``They've broken bands for us.''

The station, which shares a well-heeled 25-to-54 listener age demographic with Santa Monica public-radio KCRW-FM (89.9), is said to gross around $7 million a year in ad revenue.

``I really like the station,'' said listener Kim Ray, a 36-year-old Van Nuys antiques dealer. ``It's sad because there's not a lot of places to hear rock music for grown-ups.''

On the Internet, a KSCA supporter sends regular updates on the state of the station to a mailing list of nearly 300 people. The latest missive urges KSCA fans to suggest the triple-A format to officials at other local radio stations.

At the station, which went on the air in July 1994, the staff remains upbeat, program director Mike Morrison said.

``One of my strategies is, if the new owners want to change format, I'd like to investigate the possibility of moving the format to another frequency on the dial,'' he said.

Morrison added that KSCA has been inundated with letters of support from listeners.

Rocker Sheryl Crow has credited KSCA and other album alternative stations around the country for spinning her debut disc, ``Tuesday Night Music Club,'' before most stations caught on. The first song ever played on KSCA was a Crow tune.

At Maverick Records, promotion head Terry Anzaldo said a triple-A format has the potential to rank among the top 10 stations in Los Angeles.

``Trends change constantly in radio,'' he said. ``We need the format in L.A. Anytime you lose a music-driven radio station, it's a loss for listeners, artists and labels. We're sad.''

In the latest Arbitron ratings survey, released Tuesday, KSCA showed little improvement and placed 31st with a 1.1 percent audience share. However, the format is a winner in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver and other cities.

Dennis Constantine, a Boulder, Colo.-based radio consultant who helped develop the format, said album alternative could make headway in Los Angeles with a large enough promotion and marketing budget.

``It's possible, but it takes a radio station that's committed,'' he said. ``I drive around L.A. and see tons of billboards for KFI, KLSX and the Wave, and it's a hard market to crack. You have to be very visible in the market. If this format had the kind of marketing KFI has, it would be much more successful.''

With the passage of the Telecommunications Act last year, radio companies are allowed to own eight stations in markets with more than 45 signals. The value of radio signals is skyrocketing as availability shrinks.

For example, oldies KRTH-FM (101.1) sold to Infinity Broadcasting in 1993 for $117 million. But in breakouts used for the recently completed Westinghouse acquisition of Infinity radio properties, KRTH's value had jumped to $380 million. The $4.9 billion Westinghouse merger, incidentally, created the world's largest radio company.

In 1989, KSCA's former owners Golden West ran an adventurous Glendale station known as KEDG - the Edge - which broadcast a similar format to KSCA to low ratings but high listener loyalty. After a few months of bad ratings, the station flipped to an easy-listening sound and changed its call letters.

At the Burbank offices of KSCA this week, music director/morning host Nicole Sandler was optimistic another local owner would eventually pick up the triple-A format.

``The thing is, we had no budget for advertising, promotion, marketing or research,'' she said. ``Everything was guess work, plus we couldn't adequately get the word out. I'm constantly meeting people who have just discovered the station.

``But there's a huge audience out there that hasn't been properly tested yet.''
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Title Annotation:L.A. LIFE
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Jan 9, 1997
Words:802
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