Hip-hop still on top, but Emmis crowds next spots

Three Emmis Communications Corp. stations in February were near the top in local radio ratings, behind only Radio One’s No. 1 rated WHHH-FM 96.3, in the broad category of listeners age 6 and up.

While the Emmis trifecta wasn’t enough to unseat R&B and hip-hop station WHHH—which completed its recent ascent to the top in January—the fact that one local company owned the next three best-rated stations is noteworthy.

WHHH had a 7.4 share, followed by a two-way tie between Emmis’ WIBC-FM 93.1 and WYXB-FM 105.7, at 6.9. Next was Emmis’ country crooner WLHK-FM 97.1, at 6.3.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever done that [trifecta], at least as long as I’ve been here,” said Bob Richards, vice president of programming for Emmis’ Indianapolis stations.

All four stations made gains from January ratings. WHHH was up 0.4 from a 7.0 share; WIBC leapt from a 6.5 to a 6.9; WYXB went from 6.7 to 6.9; and WLHK edged up from 6.2 to 6.3.

WIBC likely got a bump from severe winter weather that drew listeners for highway condition and cancellation information.

Richards said WIBC also has seen growth in the evening between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. That’s the home of three programs: "The Dana Show," which originates from Emmis’ station in St. Louis, and WIBC’s local shows “Chicks on the Right” and "Abdul at Large."

The Emmis stations were followed by Cumulus Media’s WFMS-FM 95.5 with a rating of 6.0. That represented a Texas-sized drop from its 6.9 share in January.

The country station spent much of its time last year at the top. In fact, WFMS and WLHK have see-sawed back and forth for much of the last year.

Many WFMS personalities were displaced under Cumulus and wound up at WLHK. That helped it quickly steal some share from WFMS.

Perpetually cost-cutting Cumulus also replaced some popular evening shows at WFMS with syndicated programming.

Still, the two country stations can flip-flop in popularity in any giving ratings book. “It’s a good rivalry,” said Richards.

WHHH cites a number of changes for its rise to the top. They include reshuffling on-air shifts, adding more concert packages and local events, and by getting more involved with the community.

It also helps that hip-hop has crossed into the mainstream and beyond racial lines, said Chuck Williams, vice president and market manager in Indianapolis for station owner Radio One.

Meanwhile, in February, Emmis’ sports talk station, WFNI-AM 1070, finished in 16th place, at a 2.2 share.

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