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The “X” Factor: Alternative's Top Performing Stations, By The Numbers.


Since the late 1970s, when stations such as Los Angeles' KROQ and Garden City, NY's WLIR-FM (later WDRE) bent rock radio into a new, punk- and power-pop-driven direction, the alternative or modern rock format has survived and thrived as each era's music trends pulled it one way or another, but always several steps ahead of the competition.


The top-performing alternative stations delivering its persons 18-49 core audience are the focus of this week's “By The Numbers” report, based on Nielsen data exclusive to Inside Radio. Nielsen ranks and provides the audience composition of the top 10 stations in the format, based on average-quarter-hour audience, Monday-Friday 6am-7pm, in PPM markets during the spring 2022 measurement period.


iHeartMedia claims five of the top 10 (actually 11, given a tie for 10th) and four of the top five, alternative stations, the highest-ranked of those being runner-up “DC101” WWDC Washington, DC. It's one of just two stations delivering a double-digit share of persons 18-49, the other the leader with a 15.3 share, Hubbard Radio' “105.7 The Point” KPNT St. Louis.


iHeart is actually the only owner with more than one station among these 11. Aside from Hubbard, also represented are Audacy with “Alt 96.5” KRBZ Kansas City, Sinclair Telecable with “101X” KROX-FM Austin, Red Wolf Broadcasting with “Radio 104.1” WMRQ Hartford, Broadway Media with “X96” KXRK Salt Lake City and Milwaukee Radio Alliance with “FM 102.1” WLUM.


Persons 18-49 account for 69.1% of listening to these 11 alternative stations, based on an average of their demo delivery. Looking at each station separately, the demo passes the three-fourths mark at DC's “DC101” (where it hits a high of 85.8%), St. Louis' “The Point” and iHeart's “Channel 93.3” KTCL Denver. While the 12-24 segment makes up 12.5% of listening on average, it's significantly larger at “Channel 93.3,” at 20.0%.


Persons 50+, meanwhile, account for an average 21.9%, although they represent nearly half (49.3%) of listening at iHeart's “The X at 105.9” WXDX Pittsburgh, and almost a third (31% for each) at its “106.5 The End” WEND Charlotte and “94.5 FM The Buzz” KTBZ-FM Houston.


The male/female balance of the 18-49 alternative audience for these stations averages at 60%/40%, with male listening in the 70-75% range at Kansas City's “Alt 96.5” and Milwaukee's “FM 102.1,” while women 18-49 make up more than half of listening at Salt Lake City's “X96” and Austin's “101X.”


While an average 62.7% of 18-49 listening to Nielsen's top 11 alternative stations comes from P1 listening, several stations claim a much higher share of dedicated listening, including DC's “DC101” (88.5%), St. Louis' “Point” (80.1%) and Houston's “Buzz” (75.4%).


The average number of daily listening occasions for these stations stands at 3.9, yet for “DC101” and Charlotte's “The End,” there's greater engagement, with averages of 5.3 and 5.0, respectively. Average daily listening occasions among P1 listeners overall moves up to 5.0, higher for “The End” (6.7), “DC101” (6.3) and Milwaukee's “FM 102.1” (6.2).


The share of persons 18-49 away-from-home listening averages slightly below PPM metros and total U.S. figures provided by Nielsen, at 73.2%, although it makes up a higher proportion of listening at Hartford's “Radio 104.1,” Milwaukee's “FM 102.1” and Charlotte's “The End,” where it's in the 81-83% range. At-home listening, averaging at 26.8%, takes up a larger share at Kansas City's “Alt” (44.5%), and Salt Lake City's “X96” and “DC101,” both at 35%.


Nearly four-fifths (79.8%) of 18-49 listening to these 11 alternative stations comes from full-time workers, based on the average, with higher representation at Milwaukee's “FM 102.1” (89.7%) and Kansas City's “Alt” (87.8%). Part-timers' share, averaging at 10.3%, is nearly three times larger at “DC101” (32.3%), while the share of core listeners in the “Other” category, at an average 9.8%, represents a much-bigger slice of the pie (26.1%) at Charlotte's “The End.”


At five of these 11 stations, there's a notable share of Black and/or Hispanic listening in the core demo. DC's “DC101” shows Blacks' share of 18-49 listening at 20.6% and Hispanics at 10.8%, compared to the market's population share of each, at 26.8% and 16.5% respectively. Pittsburgh's “The X” has 10.6% of Black listening within the core, vs. a 9.0% population share. And at Austin's “101X,” Houston's “Buzz” and Denver's “Channel 93.3,” the Hispanic share of 18-49 listening is 23.4%, 22.4% and 14.7%, compared to a 31.0%, 36.3% and 21.0% market population share.

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