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Are Radio Stations Dying? Let's Take A Look At The Country's Largest Radio Stations

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

While radio stations are not in imminent danger, their economic viability has deteriorated significantly. Before we examine **five of the country's largest radio stations**, let's take a look at the state of business in general.

While radio stations are not in imminent danger, their economic viability has deteriorated significantly. Before we examine the country's largest radio stations, let's take a look at the state of business in general.

Since the advent of digital broadcasting, the area of radio broadcasting has undergone a sea change. An industry that once faced little competition, save for record players, tape cassettes, and finally CDs, is currently undergoing a massive shakeup, and it is not faring well.

Top 5 US Radio Stations

Today, traditional radio stations are few and far between, but they still exist, and they are among the country's top stations, earning a large amount of money on a consistent basis. Take note that most of them are not musical in nature.

WTOP

  • Washington’s Top News
  • Washington, D.C.
  • News Channel
  • Hubbard Broadcasting owns the station
  • Earnings in 2018: $69 million

WTOP stands for Washington's Top News broadcasts, which are available on numerous channels throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area, larger Virginia, and Maryland, including Frederick, Chesapeake Bay, and Fredericksburg, as well as all surrounding locations. Additionally, they are accessible via Alexa, HD Radio, and WTOP.com.

The station was acquired in April 2011 by Minnesota-based and family-owned Hubbard Broadcasting. However, that is far from the beginning of this station's saga.

Although it began operations in 1926, the station did not receive its call letters until 1943. Interestingly, those were inherited from a Tiffin, Ohio police radio station.

Numerous format modifications would ensue until, on March 9, 1969, the station struck gold with an all-news format. As indicated by their earnings, they are one of the most well-known news stations in the country.

KIIS-FM

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Contemporary Hit Radio
  • iHeartMedia owns this station
  • Earnings in 2018: $61 million

KIIS is a massive hit music producer, following in the footsteps of the original radio stations. They have staked a claim on Ryan Seacrest and are determined to ride his wave of celebrity as far as possible.

KIIS is a commercial radio station that broadcasts a top-40 format that is popular and well-known to the majority of individuals over the age of 20. While Ryan Seacrest is the station's current DJ, Rick Dees was a household name in the 1980s and 1990s.

Since its inception in 1961 as KLAC-FM, KIIS has encountered numerous growing pains.

Various call letters, formats, owners, and celebrity DJs followed, but KIIS has remained one of the top ten radio stations in the US for several decades and has carved out a niche for itself and its fans.

KBIG-FM

  • Los Angeles, California
  • Hot Adult-Contemporary
  • iHeartMedia owns this station
  • Earnings in 2018: $46 million

KBIG also covers the greater Los Angeles area, playing modern adult music. What is it, you may inquire? It is a contemporary music format that concentrates on popular and chart-topping music from the 1990s to the present.

At the moment, the station is known as 104.3 MYfm. In 2007, a significant shift occurred, as well as numerous format reversals. One of the most significant changes in 2007 was the demise of Casey Kasem's American Top 20 radio show.

When the program began in 1992, KBIG was the flagship station, and their long-time regular DJ, Charlie Tuna, would step in for Kasem. Even when the station was not devoted to modern music, this weekly countdown remained in place.

That is, until the 2007 reorganization.

Another show that was canceled during this time period was the nationally syndicated love song show Delilah, which featured emcee Delilah reading love letters and dedications. While Delilah retained her national syndication, LA was without the popular show until 2012, when it was picked up by another station.

WLTW-FM

  • New York, New York
  • Lite Adult Contemporary
  • iHeartMedia owns this station
  • Earnings in 2018: $44 million

Not content with being a high-earning radio station, WLTW is the country's most popular radio station. It is headquartered in the center of New York City and transmits from the former ATT Building in Manhattan's Tribeca area. Their transmitter is located on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building.

WLTW began in 1961 as WRVR and was owned by Riverside Church. They primarily aired classical music, but also included some jazz, some religious programming, and public affairs news and events. Soon after, jazz took over, gaining a sizable following but receiving dismal ratings.

However, the jazz fan base was strong. Despite being sold, the station's transition to a more modern format was delayed until the late 1970s. Even then, jazz enthusiasts petitioned the FCC to prevent the station's renewal due to their dissatisfaction with the station's new country programming.

In 1984, Viacom acquired the station, changing the call letters to WLTW and rebranding it as an easy-listening station. They gradually began to add a few contemporary, but low-key, musicians until it developed into the mainstream adult contemporary station it is today.

WHTZ-FM

  • New York, New York
  • Contemporary Hit Radio
  • iHeartMedia owns this station
  • Earnings in 2018: $42 million

WHTZ is based in Newark, New Jersey and serves the greater New York metropolitan area. It is the flagship station for Elvis Duran and the Morning Show. Its headquarters are in Tribeca, and its transmitter is atop the Empire State Building.

Along with analog transmissions, WHTZ also offers an HD radio format and streaming on iHeartRadio, which makes sense given that the station is owned by iHeartMedia.

The channel was previously aired and simulcast on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but as of June 2020, it has been removed from their radio channel. However, they can still be heard on Sirius-affiliated streaming platforms.

Often referred to as Z100, this channel was formerly the home of New York City's fourth FM radio station, which began operations in 1942. As is the case with the majority of radio stations, adjustments occurred and everything changed numerous times.

By the time the station obtained the call letters WHTZ in 1983, they had also embraced the moniker Z100. They prefer to refer to their on-air personalities as ZJs nowadays.

How Do Radio Stations Make Money?

Similar to a television audience or social media users, the listening audience is the product being sold to advertisers. Radio stations get money in this manner through advertising. Additional revenue is generated by sponsored programming and events (although this is also classified as advertising), as well as by charging callers.

Do Radio Stations Know Many Listeners They Get?

Radio listenership is quantified using an AQH, or Average Quarter-Hour, figure. This figure is calculated using the average number of people that listen to a radio station for five minutes during a 15-minute period.

Conclusion

According to Jacobs Media's tenth annual Tech survey, "almost one-fifth of weekly radio usage in the United States now occurs via digital sources." However, only 16% of respondents predict that traditional AM/FM radio will eventually be supplanted by digital media platforms.