Hot Adult Contemporary has been, for 2021 to date, the format growth story of the year. CHR's slightly softer sister has shown steady share gains from January through August among persons 6+ and adults 25-54 – up 0.7 from January in the latter demo – based on Nielsen PPM cross-market average quarter-hour data.
Which Hot AC stations are the Stars, Mix-ing it up Now? Nielsen's top 25, based on weekly cume persons 12+ using its most recent National Regional Database (spring 2021), reflecting both in- and out-of-market on-air and streaming listening, are the focus of this week's edition of Inside Radio's “By The Numbers.”
New York claims two of the top three, with iHeartMedia's beat-powered WKTU at the top. Since the calls returned to the market in 1996, 'KTU has pumped out feel-good dance-based hits for the adult audience to great success: with a 2.5 million cume, 'KTU currently reaches one in six New Yorkers weekly. Programmed by Chris Conley, the station features “Elvis Duran & the Morning Show” alums Carolina Bermudez and Greg T in mornings, with National Radio Hall of Fame inductee and New York radio veteran Sean “Hollywood” Hamilton – who was part of the original “Z100” WHTZ lineup in 1983 at age 20 – in afternoons.
In second place with a 2.4 million weekly cume is iHeart's L.A. Hot AC “104.3 MYFM” KBIG, reaching an impressive one in five people in the market. Programmed by John Peake since 2017, “MYFM” has had Sean Valentine handling mornings since a week after the format began in 2007, while Dave Styles drives Angelenos home afternoons.
The Big Apple's other Hot AC, Audacy's WNEW, holds down the number three spot with a 2.2 million weekly cume. In the Hot AC game since 2007 – originally as “Fresh 102.7” WWFS, and NEW-FM since 2018 – 'NEW features Karen Carson, a New York radio mainstay since 1994, in mornings, and Mike Adam afternoons.
“WNEW was on the road to being a top station in New York just as COVID hit New York,” Program Director Jim Ryan says. “The dedication of the staff through the pandemic to continue to deliver great radio was unmatched. Karen and her entire morning team continued to broadcast from home with COVID, and that show and its benchmarks are one of the cornerstones of the station.”
WNEW is one of seven Hot ACs for Audacy in Nielsen's ranking, with three others – Houston's “Mix 96.5” KHMX, San Francisco's “Alice at 97.3” KLLC and Atlanta's “Star 94” WSTR – inside the top 10. Beyond owning Hot AC's top two, iHeart places four more stations in the top 25, including fourth-ranked “102.9 Now” KDMX in Dallas. Three other station groups place two: Hubbard Radio lands both of theirs – “101.9 FM The Mix” WTMX Chicago, and “KS95” KSTP-FM Minneapolis – in the top 10, while Cumulus Media has ninth-ranked WDVD Detroit, and Connoisseur Media's best showing is with Long Island's WALK-FM.
Along with New York, two other markets have two Hot ACs listed: Minneapolis with “KS95” and iHeart's “Cities 97.1” KTCZ, and Phoenix with iHeart's “Mix 96.9” KMXP and Desert Valley Media's “Hot 97.5/103.9” KMVA. And six – iHeart's WKTU, KBIG and KDMX, along with Hubbard's KSTP-FM, KLO Broadcasting's “Now 97.9!” KBZN Salt Lake City and Bonneville's “Now 100.5” KZZO Sacramento – finish among their market's top three, based on Nielsen's August PPM rank of persons 6+ weekly cume.
In addition to iHeart's KBIG, other stations reaching at least one-fifth of their market's population weekly include Hubbard's KSTP-FM Minneapolis (22%), Audacy's “Mix 105.1” WOMX Orlando (25%) and “Y98.1” KYKY St. Louis (20%), Cox Media Group's “Magic 105.3” KSMG San Antonio (21%) and KLO's KBZN Salt Lake City (21%).
One of the secrets to Hot AC's ever-growing success? “We’ve struck the perfect balance of music, hanging onto our biggest currents longer, and mixing in great library titles going back to the 90s,” Ryan says. “When our target 25-54 female audience tunes into 102.7, they undoubtedly will hear a song they know and love, which has made us a solid top five station with our core.”