Latest ratings: Chicago radio’s country showdown heats up

Mason, Alabama and Remy

Mason, Alabama and Remy

Eighteen months after iHeartMedia Chicago launched WEBG FM 95.5 as a country music competitor to CBS Radio’s WUSN FM 99.5, it’s finally living up to its billing as Big 95.5.

In the Nielsen Audio survey released Tuesday, Big 95.5 narrowed the margin with US 99.5 to a scant 0.3 percent share among all listeners. The latest ratings report covered the period from May 19 to June 15.

Here’s the really big news: In the measurement that matters most — listeners between the ages of 25 and 54 — Big 95.5 beat US 99.5 outright from 6 a.m. to midnight and across the board in mornings, middays, afternoons, evenings and weekends. Big 95.5 hasn’t won the so-called “money demo” since March 2015, shortly after it first hit the air with a major marketing effort. This time around, Big 95.5 had very limited marketing behind it.

Steve Stewart, program director and midday personality at Big 95.5, attributed the strong showing to the station’s consistency in the face of ongoing changes at its rival. “As our awareness has grown, I think it’s fair to say that people want to listen to us more,” he said.

Stewart cited significant growth in mornings since Mason Schreader and Zach “Remy” Hoesly were joined earlier this year by Amber “Alabama” Cole. Since then, Alabama has been working two shifts — one as morning co-host with Mason & Remy and another as afternoon host solo. Sooner or later, Stewart acknowledged, she’ll relinquish the afternoon shift.

It’s been mostly under the radar since iHeartMedia took on CBS Radio for a piece of the Chicago area’s 1.2 million country music listeners, who’d been loyal to US 99.5 for 33 years. “Big 95.5 is going to be a dynamic country music leader and a breath of fresh air for country radio in Chicago,” Matt Scarano, president of iHeartMedia Chicago, said at the time.

In addition to the setback for US 99.5, CBS Radio also took a hit with all-news combo of WBBM AM 780 and WCFS FM 105.9, which fell to second place overall behind iHeartMedia’s urban adult contemporary WVAZ FM 102.7.

Here are the top 40 radio stations in the Chicago area followed by average share of listeners age 6 and older from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday, as measured by Nielsen Audio from May 19 to June 15 (followed by the previous month’s share in parentheses):

1) WVAZ FM 102.7 6.1 (6.1)
2) WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 (simulcast) 5.8 (6.4)
3) WTMX FM 101.9 5.0 (4.9)
4) WKSC FM 103.5 4.4 (3.9)
5) WSCR AM 670 4.1 (4.2)
6) WLIT FM 93.9 3.7 (3.9)
7) WGN AM 720 3.6 (3.7)
8) WGCI FM 107.5 3.5 (3.6)
9) (tie) WBBM FM 96.3 3.4 (2.7)
9) (tie) WDRV FM 97.1 3.4 (2.8)
11) WLS FM 94.7 3.1 (2.8)
12) WKQX FM 101.1 3.0 (2.6)
13) (tie) WJMK FM 104.3 2.9 (3.1)
13) (tie) WXRT FM 93.1 2.9 (2.8)
15) WOJO FM 105.1 2.8 (3.1)
16) (tie) WSHE FM 100.3 2.6 (2.8)
16) (tie) WUSN FM 99.5 2.6 (2.9)
18) (tie) WBEZ FM 91.5 2.4 (2.5)
18) (tie) WLUP FM 97.9 2.4 (2.6)
20) WEBG FM 95.5 2.3 (2.0)
21) WPWX FM 92.3 2.1 (1.9)
22) WLS AM 890 1.9 (2.2)
23) (tie) WPPN FM 106.7 1.8 (2.2)
23) (tie) WRME FM 87.7 1.8 (1.8)
25) WJKL FM 94.3 1.6 (1.1)
26) WLEY FM 107.9 1.5 (1.6)
27) (tie) WFMT FM 98.7 1.4 (1.2)
27) (tie) WMVP AM 1000 1.4 (1.9)
29) WIND AM 560 1.3 (1.5)
30) WCPT AM 820 1.1 (1.1)
31) WVIV FM 93.5 1.0 (1.1)
32) WSRB FM 106.3 0.9 (0.9)
33) (tie) WIIL FM 95.1 0.6 (0.6)
33) (tie) WLJE FM 105.5 0.6 (0.4)
33) (tie) WMBI FM 90.1 0.6 (0.9)
33) (tie) WZSR FM 105.5 0.6 (0.6)
37) (tie) WERV FM 95.9 0.5 (0.6)
37) (tie) WLIT-FM HD2 0.5 (0.4)
37) tie) WSSR FM 96.7 0.5 (0.5)
40) (tie) WFXF FM 103.9 0.4 (0.4)
40) (tie) WVON AM 1690 0.4 (0.4)

Morning drive top 10

Here are Chicago’s top 10 morning shows followed by average share of listeners age 6 and older from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio (with previous month’s share in parentheses):

1) WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 (simulcast) Felicia Middlebrooks and Pat Cassidy 8.4 (9.1)
2) WTMX FM 101.9 Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart 6.8 (7.0)
3) WGN AM 720 Steve Cochran 5.8 (5.6)
4) WVAZ FM 102.7 Steve Harvey 4.8 (5.1)
5) WBEZ FM 91.5 Morning Edition; Morning Shift with Tony Sarabia 3.7 (3.8)
6) (tie) WKSC FM 103.5 Christopher “Fred” Frederick and Angi Taylor 3.5 (3.4)
6) (tie) WOJO FM 105.1 Raul Molinar, Sylvia del Valle and Andres Maldonado 3.5 (3.9)
8) WSCR AM 670 Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley 3.4 (3.6)
9) WLIT FM 93.9 Kristina Kage 3.2 (3.4)
10) WDRV FM 97.1 Pete McMurray 3.0 (2.6)

Afternoon drive top 10

Here are Chicago’s top 10 afternoon shows followed by average share of listeners age 6 and older from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, as measured by Nielsen Audio (with previous month’s share in parentheses):

1) WVAZ FM 102.7 Joe Soto 5.8 (5.5)
2) WTMX FM 101.9 Koz (Kevin Koske) 5.1 (4.5)
3) WKSC FM 103.5 Brady Broski 5.0 (4.3)
4) WBBM AM 780/WCFS FM 105.9 (simulcast) Kris Kridel and Keith Johnson 4.7 (5.6)
5) WSCR AM 670 Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein; Cubs baseball 4.3 (3.5)
6) WLIT FM 93.9 Mick Lee 4.1 (4.3)
7) WBBM FM 96.3 Dougie Stylz and Justin Roman 3.7 (3.1)
8) WGCI FM 107.5 Tone Kapone 3.5 (3.7)
9) WDRV FM 97.1 Steve Seaver 3.3 (2.6)
10) WKQX FM 101.1 Walter Flakus 3.2 (2.7)