Anew ratings book and the departure of talk show host Gary McNamara and sports reporter Dave Kerner from WBEN-AM 930 dominate local radio activity.
Perennial powerhouses WBEN and WYRK-FM took a dive in the recently released spring Arbitron radio ratings. Alternative FM newcomer Alice made a stunning debut, WBLK-FM continued an impressive comeback, and 97 Rock topped the overall ratings.
The exits of McNamara and Kerner, both established personalities in this market, overshadowed the ratings numbers. McNamara has hosted a morning talk show on WBEN for the past three years. He is leaving for a bigger market to be a talk show host in Portland, Ore.
Several names have been mentioned as a possible replacement for McNamara, among them controversial talker Rich Michaels, although a WBEN source denied Michaels has been hired or is even being considered at this point.
Kerner had been reporting sports and hosting various sports talk shows at WBEN for three years. Earlier, he worked at the old WEBR-AM for nearly a dozen years. Kerner is moving to an all-sports station in Chicago, the No. 3 market in the country.
"Both of them are moving up, and though we hate to lose them, we're happy for them," said Kevin Keenan, program director at WBEN. Kevin Sylvester, who currently covers the Buffalo Bills for WGR-AM 550, will replace Kerner, Keenan said.
The personnel changes mark turmoil at WBEN, which fell from first in the winter book with a 9.5 overall to fourth place in the current book at 7.4. In recent years the station has let go such well-known personalities as weather forecaster Don Paul and traffic reporter Dave May, in addition to cutting its "Newsday at Noon" show.
WBEN, the longtime dominant AM news/sports/talk station, suffered from the lack of Buffalo Bills games during the spring book. The station had been No. 1 in the past two books.
Country station WYRK-FM 96.1 also continued its ratings doldrums. WYRK tumbled to fifth place with a 7.3. WYRK had been the No. 1 rated station for most of this decade but has been slipping in the past year.
There was positive ratings news for Alice, WLCE-FM 92.9, which debuted in May. Alice stunned its alternative competitor The Edge, WEDG-FM 103.3, by posting a better overall rating in the 12-plus age group. Alice came in with 5.1 overall rating, compared to 4.7 by the Edge.
WBLK-FM 93.7 FM, an urban contemporary station, vaulted from seventh place in the last book to second this time with an 8.4 overall share. Classic rocker WGRF-FM, 96.9, topped the ratings with a 9.6, a leap from a 6.5 overall share in the last book.
The showing of Alice is keeping local radio types buzzing.
"Alice shook up the market and we're happy," said Jeff Silver, local vice president and general manager of American Radio Systems, which owns Alice as well as WBLK and WYRK.
"Alice is filling a void in this market," Silver said. The station plays a list of mainstream modern rock songs, and downplays personality. Thus far, Alice has only two personalities on the air, Sarah Waters and Jim McGee, during the morning and afternoon.
The Edge offers an equally predictable music but has been in a steady overall ratings decline for the past year, dropping from 7.1 last spring to its current 4.7. The Edge seems to be losing its audience and energy.
The Top 10 spring Arbitron overall ratings: WGRF-FM, 9.6; WBLK-FM, 8.4; WJYE-FM 96.1, 8.3; WBEN-AM, 7.4; WYRK-FM, 7.3; WKSE-FM 98.5, 7.0; WHTT-FM, 104.1, 6.7; WECK-AM 1230, 5.9; WMJQ-FM 102.5, 5.8; WGR-AM, 5.7.