Is it any wonder that a Capitol Hill news station would finish 2016 leading the annual revenue race? Nope—not when it’s Hubbard Broadcasting’s news WTOP-FM. It’s the second-straight win for WTOP-FM; with total billings of $67.5 million ($65 million in 2015), the stellar performer was the highest-revenue-generating U.S. radio station. It’s also the only non-top-three market station on the list.
The new 2016 revenue rankings from BIA/Kelsey, which reflect over-the-air revenue only, marks the sixth time that WTOP-FM has topped the list. The all-news dynasty held the pole position for four years before iHeart CHR KIIS-FM Los Angeles supplanted it in 2014. One year later, WTOP-FM was back on top.
Apart from some minor positional changes, 2016’s tally looks a lot like that of 2015. KIIS-FM remained in second place with revenues of $65.9 million, up from $64.7 in 2015. Right behind is CHR sister “Z100” WHTZ New York, with its third-consecutive third place finish, and $48 million in billings, down from $48.8 million in 2015. Holding steady in fourth is CBS Radio’s “The Fan” WFAN-FM, the only sports station to make the chart. While down slightly from $47 million in 2015 to $46.5 million in 2016, The Fan is up significantly from 2014 when it barely made the tally at eighth place with revenues of $41.0 million. WFAN-FM’s sister “News Radio 780” WBBM Chicago placed fifth with $45 million, up from sixth in 2015 when it billed $43.8 million. Also moving up one notch to No. 6 is iHeart’s “104.3 My FM” KBIG Los Angeles. The only hot AC to make the top 10, KBIG posted 2016 revenues of $44 million, up from $43.6 million in 2015.
Meanwhile CBS’ “NewsRadio 880” WCBS slipped two positions to seventh, shedding $1 million in on-air billings to $44 million. And despite one of the biggest dollar increases in the top 10 (from $40 million in 2015 to $42 million in 2016), iHeart AC “106.7 Lite FM” WLTW New York stayed put at eighth place. CBS’ news WINS New York ($40 million) and iHeart talk KFI Los Angeles ($38 million) repeated their 2015 ranks at ninth and tenth, respectively, with both making modest revenue increases.
In fact, seven of the top 10 stations posted higher over-the-air dollars than the year before. New York captured half of the top 10 spots, followed by L.A. with three while Chicago and Washington each grabbed one. Among companies, iHeart (five stations) and CBS Radio (four) cordoned off the most positions, with Hubbard notching the big one.
Spoken word stations again dominated the tally, commandeering six positions including five for news and news/talk, which BIA/Kelsey chief economist Mark Fratrik attributed to the unprecedented presidential election, including a marathon Republican primary. “That might have affected other non-news talk stations,” he told Inside Radio. Still, many of 2016’s top billers are the same stations that controlled the list five years ago. “These stations are still providing quality programming and local information that consumers want,” Fratrik said. “Many consumers still look to local radio stations to fill their news, information and entertainment needs.”