When it comes to the most popular radio formats, Country (including New Country) has been about as steady as she goes, consistently one of the top three listener choices overall and among adults 18-34, with average share among the latter demo teasing the 8-mark for 2021 to date. Nielsen's top 25 Country stations, based on weekly cume persons 12+ using Nielsen's most recent National Regional Database (spring 2021), reflecting both in- and out-of-market on-air and streaming listening, is the focus of this week's edition of Inside Radio's “By The Numbers.”
On top is Audacy's WNSH New York, which entered the market in 2013 when operated by Cumulus Media, giving the Apple its first full-time country FM since WYNY in 1996. Programmed by John Foxx and featuring Kelly Ford mornings and Jesse Addy on the drive home, “Country 94.7” boasts a weekly cume of 903,300 and is a CMA award winner for Major Market Radio Station of the Year.
“Our station is home to talent that has an overwhelming passion for both this city and the country music genre,” Foxx says. “We’re ‘fans first' and artist-focused. We’ve spent almost a decade sharing in the love for country music with the tri-state area and Nashville and have forged incredible relationships between the artists, the music and this city.”
Hot on WNSH's heels is Cumulus' “99.5 The Wolf” KPLX in Dallas, with a 900,300-person cume. A three-time Marconi Award winner for Country Station of the Year, most recently in 2017, “The Wolf” is programmed by Mike Preston, with Brian & Tara handling mornings and Jason Pullman afternoons.
Placing third with a not-too-shabby 833,500 cume is Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters' “Go Country 105” KKGO Los Angeles, programmed by Michael Levine and featuring Tim Hurley and Adam Bookbinder in the air chair mornings, and Christine Martindale entertaining the freeway-jammed afternoon audience.
While it places just one station in the top 10 – Phoenix's KNIX – iHeartMedia leads the field with eight in Nielsen's top 25. Audacy lands six, with Chicago's “US99” WUSN and Houston's “100.3 FM The Bull” KILT in the top 10 in addition to WNSH.
Placing three stations each are Cumulus, with “New Country 96.3” KSCS Dallas in the top 10 along with KPLX. Preston, who also programs KSCS, attributes the station’s success to three factors: “First off, we are extremely consistent on the music front and really make sure we deliver on the DFW country listener expectations,” he says. “Secondly, we maintain a high promotional profile. The active promotion feel matches up perfectly with our active music position, No. 1 for new country. Another key to our consistency is having a huge heritage morning show. Hawkeye has 30+ years on the station and Michelle, his cohost, has 16 years in market and 10 on the station.”
Beasley Media Group sports back-to-back top 10 entries with Boston's “Country 102.5” WKLB and Philadelphia's WXTU. Cox Media Group claims a pair, including fourth-ranked “93Q” KKBQ Houston, and three owners – Mount Wilson, Bonneville and Hall Communications – have one station each.
Five markets earn an extra hat, boasting two stations in Nielsen's ranking: Dallas, with KPLX and KSCS; Houston with KKBQ and KILT; Phoenix, with KNIX and Audacy's KMLE; Atlanta, with iHeart's “94.9 The Bull” WUBL and Cumulus' “New Country 101.FIVE” WKHX; and Charlotte, with Beasley's “Country 103.7” WSOC and iHeart's “96.9 The Kat” WKKT.
Six stations listed also finish among their market's top five, based on Nielsen's August PPM rank of persons 6+ weekly cume: both Charlotte stations above, Beasley's WKLB Boston, Cox's “Y100” KCYY San Antonio, Bonneville's KYGO Denver and Hall's “Cat Country 98.1” WCTK Providence.
And in the 'punching above their weight” department, seven stations reach an impressive percentage of their market's population on a weekly basis. Both Charlotte stations, Beasley's WSOC and iHeart's WKKT, reach nearly one in five people in the market, while iHeart's “93.7 The Bull” KSD-FM reaches more than one in six St. Louisans. Others having big reach and placing far above their market rank include Audacy's “KFROG 95.1” KFRG Riverside-San Bernardino (rank 14, market rank 26, 23% reach), Cox's KCYY San Antonio (rank 15, market rank 25, 22% reach), Hall's WCTK Providence (rank 24, market rank 44, 29% reach) and iHeart's WGAR Cleveland (rank 25, market rank 35, 22% reach.