In the biggest rivalry in town, both sports radio stations claim to be happy after the first solid ratings report.
When Sports Radio 570 AM (KISN) lost the Utah Jazz to 1320 AM (KFNZ) during the summer, the general feeling around town was that it would be tough for a market the size of Salt Lake to support two sports-talk stations.Without the Jazz, the popular thinking went, KISN eventually would be forced to change its format.
But after several months of head-to-head competition, both stations say the ratings indicate good health.
"We've more than held our own," said Chris Tunis, Sports Radio 570 sports director and morning show host. "We were encouraged. It's a nice start. It shows if you put quality programming on the air, the public will respond to it."
In a report covering the period from Sept. 19 to Dec. 11, KFNZ outdueled KISN in just one of the three main time slots, the 3-7 p.m., and it was a narrow victory at that. But David Locke, KFNZ operations director, said that's a huge win.
"We won?" Locke exclaimed. "That's unbelievable."
Asked why, he said, "Because we're three months old and they're three years old. We are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers. We've had to promote where we are, we've had to get people to switch radio stations. Those numbers are unbelievable. We're 12 months ahead of schedule, and we're getting better every day."
The one slot where KISN scored an overwhelming victory was the 6-10 a.m.
"In men (age) 25-54 in morning drive, we absolutely smoked them," Tunis said. "We pulled a 4.4 share and they pulled a 1.6." (Share is percent of audience.)
Locke said the morning numbers aren't a surprise.
"I made a mistake as a program director . . . and we've corrected that," he said, referring to the firing of former morning-show host Chris Herbst, who was replaced in mid-November by Kevin Graham and Gordon Monson.
"I bet if you could break down those numbers for the months of November and December you'd see a great change," Locke said.
In the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. slot, KISN posted a slight edge, 2.7 to 2.6. But that slot is a mixed bag locally; KISN has national programming from 10 to noon, followed by Carl Arky from noon to 2 p.m. and then another hour of national. KFNZ has a national host until noon, followed by one hour of the TV trio of Dave Fox, David James and Reece Stein (on some sort of rotating basis), and then two hours of Locke.
An hour-by-hour ratings report, which comes out next week, should give a better indication of how the local shows are faring.
In the 3-7 p.m. slot, which matches KISN's Scott Masteller and Tom Nissalke vs. KFNZ's Dave Blackwell, Ron Boone and Steve Klauke, KFNZ registered a 3.7 to 3.5 edge in share.
Masteller, who is also KISN's operations manager, declined to speculate on whether these numbers might result in programming changes.
"I really can't say right now because it's so early," he said. "But any good programmer never is happy with the status quo."
Locke, on the other hand, said he plans to stand pat.
"I still think we're going to get a lot better," he said. "We have the perfect lineup."
Masteller said if this report shows anything, it's that Salt Lake can support two sports-talk stations, which is a good thing for listeners.
"The big winner in all this is not my radio station, not the other radio station, it's the sports fan," he said. "Now they have choices."