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FM talk radio format all talked out? KLSX-FM (97.1) going top 40 Friday [UPDATED]

February 18, 2009 |  3:53 pm

Riri2 Good news for local fans of Rihanna, bad news for older talk radio listeners in Los Angeles. 

Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., boosters of urban-skewing artists such as Beyoncé, Pink and Britney Spears will have another top 40/"CHR" (contemporary hit radio) station to sing along to in their cars, as L.A.'s only "all-talk" commercial FM station now appears to be all talked out.

KLSX (97.1 Free FM) will switch formats Feb. 20 to CBS Radio's latest concept, titled AMP Radio (not to be confused with the now-defunct Amp'd Mobile, a company that heavily pushed mobile radio to cellphone users in 2006 but filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007). 

A CBS Radio news release says the new station (its tagline is "all the hits") will "combine the power of its on-air position with myriad online and digital applications creating a full 360 degree audio and visual experience."

Translation? Listeners of KLSX were probably too old.

AMP Radio originally bowed early last year as an online/HD2 station affiliated with KCBS-FM in L.A.  Apparently, the test run was successful enough to convince CBS radio executives that young, texting-and-Twittering teens -- the ones who spend money at malls while listening to music via their cellphones -- just can't get enough of artists such as Kanye West and T.I. This is despite the fact that there is plenty of competition in the space -- see KPWR (105.9), KIIS (102.7) and KDAY (93.5) -- all of which mine similar musical territory in the same market.

"Creating a successful radio station not only means focusing on what you hear over the air -- it's that, yet it's so much more and as evidenced by what we're announcing today, the possibilities are endless," said Kevin Weatherly, senior vice president of programming for CBS Radio, in a news release announcing the format change today.

On-air talent at the new AMP Radio is expected to be announced in coming weeks. "They will be added after the station launches," said Karen Mateo, vice president of communications at CBS Radio in New York.

During the last three months of 2008, KLSX averaged a 1.3% audience share among listeners 12 and older, which placed the station at No. 27 in the market. In fact, KLSX never truly recovered in the ratings after losing its major morning lead-in, Howard Stern, to satellite radio. When Stern was still on the air in late 2005 at 97.1, the station enjoyed a 2.2 share.

Despite the less-than-stellar ratings, KLSX still enjoyed a rabid fan base for several of its marquee shows, including Adam Carolla's morning show, "The Adam Carolla Show With Teresa Strasser," which replaced Stern, and Tom Leykis' widely syndicated afternoon program "The Tom Leykis Show." Both Carolla's and Leykis' shows proved popular with 25-to-54-year-old men (with Leykis' afternoon drive time exploration of all things from the male perspective, in particular, a notable hit nationwide).

Beginning next week, new episodes of Carolla's show will no longer broadcast in any market, although it is believed that "best of" shows may air in some territories. It is not yet known what will happen to Leykis' show in syndication. Leykis told the Orange County Register earlier this month that he "should have something to announce shortly" regarding the syndication of his shows.

But none of KLSX's success stories ("The Frosty, Heidi and Frank Show" also enjoyed decent midday ratings) were enough to stave off the format change. CBS Radio clearly sees an advertising opening with the AMP format, and KIIS-FM's continued success with a similar music strategy (think Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Ne-Yo) may have forced CBS Radio's hand in an increasingly dire economy.

KLSX rolled out its all-talk format in 1995; before that, it aired classic rock.

A full story is forthcoming in The Times about the switchover.

UPDATE 02/19: Carolla announced Thursday morning on 97.1 that he would start podcasting "The Adam Carolla Show" beginning Monday at adamcarolla.com. 

-- Charlie Amter

Photo: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified the call letters of 102.7 as KISS. The correct call letters are KIIS. Also, KPWR's frequency was misidentified as 106; the correct frequency is 105.9.

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