Hearne: KCPT TV’s Adult Alternative Station ‘The Bridge’ Continues to Struggle

Godzilla_king_kong_smallIt’s a jungle out here…

And when it comes to the Kansas City’s highly competitive radio market, it’s dog-eat-dog, cat-eat-mouse, King Kong versus Godzilla.  Formats come and formats go while a dozen or so stalwarts more-or-less dominate the top slots in Nielsen’s monthly rankings of stations by listenership.

And into that competitive fray as the year began – checkbook in hand – rode the smooth talkers at KCPT-TV with their  brand new bonus baby, Triple A station The Bridge (KTBG at 90.9 on the FM dial).

Given all the favorable publicity accorded the station, expectations were high.

Very high, in fact. Unfortunately, KTBG’s ratings have been low, very low.

You know, who doesn’t want something a little out of the ordinary and hip to succeed in Kansas City?

Yet nearly half a year after plowing a seven figures into purchasing KTBG from the University of Central Missouri, then investing another half-million plus to improve the station’s signal, the station continues to struggle mightily in the ratings.

For example, The Bridge doesn’t even show up on Nielsen’s 12-plus ratings chart of Kansas City radio listeners. Not so much as a mention.

Hopes were particularly high for The Bridge among area concert promoters eager to have a new soundstage from which to morph edgy, eclectic listeners into concertgoers. And at ad rates far below that of local commercial radio stations. For example, for between $250 and $500, promoters can get a pretty nice little concert promotion package from the station.

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 1.38.37 PM

Bridge Mixer Jon Hart

That’s super cheap – try seeing how far $500 goes on a commercial rock station.

But back to the ratings, just last month a local media buyer for a number of local promoters sent out an analysis of local radio ratings stating the following:

 “KTBG is not showing up because i think it takes one more month to spool up the numbers.”

Consider them spooled.

However, taking an inside peek at Nielsen’s important Adults ages 25 to 54 ratings, Monday thru Friday, 6 a.m. to midnight, reveals that KTBG is still all but pushing up daisies with a 0.2 share, ranked 34.

Zero point two, gang, that’s not even a lowly one share.

Even Entercom’s KYYS-AM “Spanish Variety” format station easily eclipses KTBG with eight times the listening audience on the lowly AM radio band. In fact, KTBG’s numbers are only slightly better than perennial bottom dweller KKFI FM .

Stations all over the country with more than 10 times KTBG’s listeners get blown up and given new formats all the time. Remember Alice?

For years Alice championed the Triple A format here in KC with marginal success. That is before switching to an adult contemporary format in February, which has sparked a steady, three month upward climb in the ratings.

A check of the younger – also important demo –  adults 18-49, Monday thru Friday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. reveals that the Bridge has yet to attain liftoff with younger listeners as well.

Obviously not-for-profit stations have the ability to put the touch on loyal listeners like Paul Wilson for “donations,” rather than just hustling radio ads like the Big Boys do.

An elegant senior man wearing sunglasses. Image shot 2012. Exact date unknown.At some point though you have to ask, how many listeners are there to solicit?

When it’s all said and done, you have to have enough warm bodies tuning in to keep things real.

And if you don’t believe me, take a look at KKFI FM if you want to see a station that has struggled mightily over the years, desperately trying to survive on grants and charitable contributions while posting piss poor ratings. Unfortunatley at this point, KKFI and The Bridge’s ratings are embarrassingly (dangerously?) close.

As for KTBG’s anticipated ratings rise (that have yet to “spool up”), at this stage of the game, it seems evident that relying on word of mouth while promoting the station on Senior Citizen TV (Channel 19) just are not getting the job done.

The $64 million question:

Is KTBG’s adult alternative rock format just plain not Kansas City’s cup of tea? Or is it a matter of the station getting off its you-know-what and promoting itself with an outlay of cash.

We’ll see….

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16 Responses to Hearne: KCPT TV’s Adult Alternative Station ‘The Bridge’ Continues to Struggle

  1. Hot Carl says:

    I think one big problem is that it’s so low on the dial. Most of the unwashed masses equate that with “boring” public radio.

  2. mike t. says:

    wish ktbg would do better, but I still can’t listen to it for very long and I tune in with more frequency than I used to because they do have a better signal now. maybe too low key? dunno. guess promotion couldn’t hurt, but 102.1 Alice did that too and they still blew it up. having said that, Alice and The Bridge are/were different animals even if both were triple A. maybe 90.9 should start skewing a little more mainstream?

    meanwhile, you reference KKFI… 25 years and counting with ‘bottom of the barrel’ ratings and some DJs that don’t know how to talk into a mic, enunciate, or conduct a live interview. (gawd, lady di… puh-leeze quit smaking your mouth. the goo in there is freakin’ palpable.)

    • Libertarian says:

      Her playlist also got very stale 4 or 5 years ago.

      I fumbled through a few interviews on the air, most recently during the Folk Alliance conference. As someone who barely made through high school, I did all right.

      Trust me-there are some long timers there that are a LOT worse at the mic than me, and I’ve probably only clocked between 100 and 150 hours or so on the air.

      When I’m on, my main goal is not to say “um”.

      • mike t. says:

        well, I’m not sure who you are, but I’ve probably heard you, lib. and, yes, I’m sure you are not the worst. avoiding “um” – unless you mean to say it – is a good idea. just watch the lip-smacking.

        (another pet peeve of mine is when DJs, on any station, open the pot and THEN take a big ol’ deep breath. whoosh!)

  3. kansas karl says:

    Interesting note KKFI has been listed as one of the best public stations in the nation……..really, Paste magazine didn’t listen, print folks must have read stuff about the station, before they awarded this prize.


    • Libertarian says:

      Community radio sir, not public radio.

      • kansas karl says:

        Good sir, I am just the relayer of information, but you remind me of the attitude that has kept KKFI barely above water, narcissistic pride in a failed project. Community, the only community is those who want to keep their “show”. The sheep with shows go along to get along, this is true of all “community” stations that follow the “pacifica” model. Many other “community” stations are thriving by actually making sure the “hosts” can speak, form a sentence/thought and have the ability to make compelling radio and that results into audience size which translates into donations and a better bit of programming for all.

  4. Paperboy says:

    Slow and steady. I think it’s going to take awhile for them to get a large fan base. They are not a commercial radio station who goes on air, commercial free, playing the same crap everyone else is playing for two weeks and then starts with the obnoxious loud voice-over car, carpet and Worlds of Fun commercials. The DJs are even worse. Laughing way too much at their non-funny jokes. I gave up on commercial radio a long time ago. I listen to the Bridge almost exclusively. I sometimes turn over to NPR for news and tune to KKFI for some shows. I think the Bridge is a great station. Do I like every song the Bridge is playing? No, but they are consistent with playing new music and I love hearing the local stuff. I don’t think there’s anyone who could say they love every song on the station they listen to. We need to give the Bridge some love. A local station trying to do good, not a corporation that owns 20 other stations that all sound the same. Besides that, they threw a great party at Knucklehead’s the other night.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m also a fan; I’ve been listening to The Bridge since they first came on the air, and I listen exclusively in the car and via an Internet radio at home. I love it. Can’t figure out why some writers on this site are so interested in calling it a failure and bashing it so frequently. Listen to it, don’t listen to it, but no need to go on and on about how no one listens to it and it is therefore the biggest failure ever. I happen to think it’s a great station, and I’m far from alone in that assessment.

      • admin says:

        I’m only just charging its “growth” in the monthly ratings.

        If it were exploding in popularity that would be the story

  5. paulwilsonkc says:

    I spend a lot of time on Pandora, but when I listen to radio, its only the Bridge. Its going to make it…. or at least I hope so.

    • mike t. says:

      that sounds suspiciously like “the most interesting man in the world”. (I don’t listen to radio often, but when I do, I listen to The Bridge.”)

  6. Sean says:

    It has no identity and is run by people who seem woefully out of touch with the audience they’re aiming for. I don’t think anyone besides Hearne wants them to fail, but it’s hard to imagine anything else if they don’t create more of a niche. Copping overplayed Buzz artists (The Killers etc.) and mixing it with easy listening for 30 somethings (Avett Bros, new Beck) is not a recipe for success in any market. The audience they’re aiming for is already small (look at the Buzz’s perennially low ratings) and they aren’t offering anything different to that same small niche audience. Imagine if KCPT showed reruns of the Big Bang Theory to attract a younger audience. Besides siphoning off a few people flipping through stations, you wouldn’t have any foothold over those already watching the same crap on any other station. That’s the equivalent of the Bridge.

    • admin says:

      For the record Sean, I’m not rooting for it to fail.

      Just following the bouncing ball

  7. harley says:

    will make it…but doesn’t need large audience.
    it can survive as long as the money flows in.
    can’t be expensive to run that station…but if it depends on donations
    it goes up against every one of million non profits with their haneds
    out in this town.
    every dog shelter/church/and other non profits out there are
    out looking for donations!!!!
    like the programs on kcpt…but they’re always looking for money.
    too many telethons!!!!

    • admin says:

      Again, my question is, with so few listeners how much money will be rolling in?

      Not that they cannot grow their audience, but I suspect that with a seven figure investment – a large chunk of it in the form of borrowed money – and the investment in moving the town, equipment, salaries, etc, that nut is a little larger than the $25 Paul Wilson sent in

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