Local Focus, Sports Keeps Radio Profitable in Arkansas

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 12:00 am  

Owners of local radio stations tend to manage their stations with a strong understanding of what their listeners like and what their market is, said Bowman, the station appraiser.

“In some ways, they’re working at an advantage because they can be hyper-local and they know their markets intimately,” he said. Big corporate station owners such as Cumulus or Clear Channel “are handicapped because of all their high debt loads. They’re not in a position to lead adroitly. “

What Works

Being a viable local radio station means community involvement, according to Bob Connell, who has owned KFFB-FM in Fairfield Bay since 1998.

His company generates annual revenue of roughly $500,000, he said. KFFB has an oldies music format.

“You’re never not working,” Connell said. Connell has specialized in “remotes,” or doing broadcasts from locations such as other local businesses and festivals. Remotes from events, such as Conway’s Toad Suck Daze, are what have maintained KFFB’s listener base, he said.

When business got tough after 9/11, Connell “hired two salesmen and we went to every festival,” he said.

“That’s how you stay popular. You have to be on the air when you want to be at home. When there’s a tornado on Easter, you’re here,” Connell said.

Crain Media of Sherwood owns seven FM stations and two AM stations in Arkansas. Owner Larry Crain Sr. declined to talk about the profitability of his stations, but he said that he, too, sees an emphasis on local content and local on-air personalities as important to the success of locally owned radio stations.

Crain Media over the past several months has partnered with New Lion Media of Fayetteville to build KKSP-FM, 93.3 (Sports 93.3 The Source), into a competitive local sports talk station with Arkansas on-air talent such as Bo Mattingly and Pat Bradley.

“To me, radio’s only viable product is local programming, local teams, local personalities, local chambers, local clubs,” said Ben Williams, general manager of KFLI-FM, 104.7 (Cool 104.7), in Searcy. “That’s what’s important to our listeners: Their local roots.”

KFLI — owned by TRM Classic Hits of Searcy, which, in turn, is owned by Terry Murphy of Searcy — is profitable and has a full-time staff of nine, Williams said.

The necessity of maintaining a profitable business is what has driven the station to increase its community presence, he said.

“We knew if we were going to be viable and profitable … we were going to have a presence in everything we thought people valued,” Williams said.

“I don’t know of any stations that are doing well that aren’t doing things that are really tied to the community.”

 

 

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