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Thursday, August 02, 2012

News 92 FM KROI expands and rises

No doubt the fortunes of the News 92 FM KROI staff has dramatically improved this week.

After launching in November 2011, the station's staff has worked in tight quarters. From a mail room converted into a newsroom, to an on air studio that was really a small production room for Radio One sister stations 97.9 The Box KBXX and Majic 102.1 KMJQ, the staff either knows each other really well or just plain knows too much.

That's all changed with the completion of a more than $900,000 expansion project that adds a brand new studio, newsroom, offices, green room and more. Five new news vehicles have been bought to boot. The new digs went online Wednesday morning in time for J.P. Pritchard and Lana Hughes' morning show.

Doug Abernethy, Regional Vice President of the Radio One clusters in Houston, Detroit and Indianapolis (he works from Houston), says this is one of the most challenging projects he's ever tackled in his long radio career.

"We had one shot to get it right and did not spare any expense," Abernethy told in his Greenway Plaza office. "We didn't want to be handicapped by lack of capital."

He says luck came his way as the tenant next to Radio One moved out as the radio company was planning to launch the new format. Otherwise, the station would have been offsite.

Commitment is one word Abernethy said over and over to me while giving me a tour of the FM news station's upgraded work space. This especially after other FM news stations that launched around the country during the same time period as KROI's flip, have already reverted back to music formats.

"Our vital signs are very good," Abernethy told me. "We knew it would be slow growth, but we are seeing good signs."

Abernethy says the biggest challenge is getting the News 92 FM name out to Houston. In his experience, getting buzz after launching a new music format has been easier. But he adds, once people find News 92 FM on the dial, "they love us." He says the time they spend listening has been very good.

The first and only Radio One news formatted station is currently ranked in the 20th plus range ratings wise according to Arbitron's 12+ numbers. A far cry from Radio One's other stations (KBXX and KMJQ) which are usually ranked in the top three group (battling with Clear Channel's KODA). But there is hope.

Radio-Info reports today that Radio One CEO Alfred Liggins says KROI's ratings are around a one share and is, "starting to increase its revenue quite nicely."

Abernethy is excited the ad rates for the news format are higher than what the sales department could charge for the former Praise 92 gospel format. The gospel format was cannibalizing ratings for Radio One's top rated Majic 102.1 KMJQ according to Abernethy, one reason it was flipped to a new format. Some of the gospel tunes have since shifted to Majic 102's playlist.

The company moved the gospel music online and to its HD sub channel. The Yolanda Adams Morning Show is still broadcast from Houston. Abernethy adds most of the Praise employees were moved to jobs at the company's other stations.

Not only is there an increase in revenue, but there is also an increase in resources and not just with the new facility. Reporter Steve Ottesen has joined the station from the NewsFix KIAH 39 newsroom (Ottesen also formerly anchored KNWS channel 51). Abernethy says traffic anchor Lanny Griffith will also be doing more general reporting as will sports anchor Jorge Vargas. He says the station is ready for long hurricane coverage too.

Naturally being a news station, people like to say KROI is in a radio war with Clear Channel's heritage station 740 KTRH (I've had posts about this in the past). However, Abernethy is not of the same thought. He says there was a clear opening in the Houston radio market for an all news format.

"KTRH is a powerhouse in the ratings and revenue arena, they do political talk better than anyone," Abernethy said. "People try to pin us against KTRH, but we don't want to limit taking from their audience. We want all the Houston stations' listeners."

And for any criticisms of KROI's FM signal, Abernethy simply told me, "it sounds better than AM."

- News 92 FM KROI is on the air (1st hour local audio included)
- Houston getting News 92 FM - 24 hour radio news
- KTRK 13's Ed Brandon on 24 hour news radio in Houston

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