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Spoken Word, Led By Washington’s WTOP, Dominates BIA’s Top Billing Stations.

BIA is out with its list of the top-billing radio stations of 2023 and a familiar set of call letters tops the tally. Hubbard Radio’s all-news powerhouse WTOP-FM Washington, D.C. is once again the top station in the nation with $66.3 million in over-the air revenue last year, down from $69 million in 2022. That marks 13 times in the last 14 years that WTOP-FM has been No. 1 on the list, beating out stations in much larger markets and delivering revenue 58% higher than the No. 2 station. BIA says WTOP-FM’s cash haul in 2023 represents nearly 29% of the total radio ad revenue in the Washington D.C. market. Along with its primary 103.5 signal, WTOP is also heard on 103.9 and 107.7 in the market and via the WTOP News app.

Joel Oxley, the longtime Senior VP/General Manager of Hubbard D.C., says they are honored to grab the peak position. “Our sales team, led by DOS Matt Mills, continues to excel at diversifying beyond radio avail business,” Oxley tells Inside Radio. “While, as a private company, Hubbard Broadcasting doesn’t divulge total revenue numbers, our digital and direct revenue now makes up over two-thirds of what we sell in the D.C. market. Our focus has always been on finding marketing solutions for clients and will continue to be in 2024 and beyond,” Oxley added.

Legendary L.A. top 40 KIIS-FM held steady in second place with $41.8 million in 2023 OTA revenue, compared to $44.1 million in 2022. KIIS-FM, which features Ryan Seacrest in morning drive, is one of only four music FMs to make the list.

Audacy began simulcasting all-news giant WINS-AM New York on 92.3 FM in late October 2022 and now WINS-FM makes its debut on the list at No. 3 with $40 million in 2023 billings. That’s up from the $32 million attributed to WINS-AM (1010) in 2022. BIA now attributes all revenue for the station that invented the all-news format to the FM signal.

In fourth place is iHeartMedia AC “Lite FM” WLTW New York at $33.3 million in OTA revenue, down from $35.1 million in 2022. The bellwether AC just notched its 19th consecutive month at the top of Nielsen’s New York ratings (6+).

Rounding out the top five is Beasley Media Group’s “98.5 The Sports Hub” WBZ-FM with $32.8 million (compared to $34.3 million in 2022). The home of the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, “The Sports Hub” is one of two sports stations in BIA’s top 10 for 2023.

iHeart’s trendsetting New York CHR “Z100” WHTZ, the home of “Elvis Duran & The Morning Show,” ranked sixth with $31.8 million, compared to $33.5 million in 2022. Hot AC sister “104.3 MyFM” KBIG Los Angeles placed seventh with $31.5 million in OTA billings.

WLTW, WBZ-FM, WHTZ and KBIG each dropped one position on the 2023 chart due to WINS-FM landing in third place after WINS-AM ranked seventh in 2022.

Rounding out the top ten are Audacy sports “The Fan” WFAN – AM & FM, steady at No. 8 with $30.4 million, compared to $32 million, in 2022; sister “NewsRadio” WBBM-AM Chicago at No. 9 ($30 million, compared to $32 million the year before); and Audacy “NewsRadio 880” WCBS-AM New York ($29.7 million), which returned to the top 10 after ranking 11th in 2022.

Format, Ownership Breakouts

Of the top 10 billing stations in 2023, six were spoken-word brands (four news, two sports) and four were music. Broken out by company, iHeart and Audacy each captured four of the top 10, while Hubbard and Beasley had one apiece.

Five of radio’s top ten revenue generators are in New York, two are in Los Angeles, and there’s one each in Chicago, Washington, and Boston.

Over-the-air revenues for the top 10 stations are down an average of 5% from 2022. Top-ranked WTOP-FM is down the least (-3.9%.)

Eight of the top ten are FM stations and two are AM. Two of the FM stations on the list are actually AM/FM simulcasts: Audacy’s WINS AM/FM and WFAN AM/FM.

BIA follows Nielsen’s Total Line Reporting (TLR) policy that allows stations like WINS-FM & AM to combine their audience share into a single number and attribute it to one of the simulcast partners. “That means we don’t separate the share of revenue between AM and FM as it’s all rolled into FM,” BIA says. Inside Radio notes that WBBM-AM, which BIA puts in the AM tally, simulcasts on WCFS-FM (105.9).

The numbers come from BIA's newly released Investing in Radio 2024, 1st Edition.

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