Country music may be hot, but in Baltimore radio baseball is sizzling.
That's the conclusion to be drawn from the spring Arbitron radio ratings released yesterday.
News/talk WBAL-AM (1090), the flagship station for Baltimore Oriole radio broadcasts, soared to the No. 1 spot in the ratings with a 9.5 audience share, up dramatically from a 7.2 share in the winter.
WBAL's showing bumped country station WPOC-FM -- which finished atop the ratings for the first time in its 18-year history in the winter book -- back to second place. WPOC finished with an 8.7 share, down marginally from an 8.9 in the winter. Each share point represents about 3,600 listeners in an average quarter hour.
WBAL's 9.5 share was the highest rating recorded by a local station since urban contemporary WXYV-FM (V-103) earned a 9.6 share in winter 1991. In addition, WBAL vice president and general manager Jeff Beauchamp said it was the best overall spring book for his station in a decade.
The extent to which the broadcast of Oriole games -- which have generated unprecedented interest because of the new Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the team's strong early season showing -- helped WBAL's ratings can be seen in the ratings for the 7 p.m. to midnight time slot. In the winter, when there were no Oriole broadcasts, the station registered a 5.8 share; in the spring, the station got a 14.2 share.
What's more, WBAL's spring rating was up a walloping 40 percent from spring 1991, when the station got a 10.5 share.
WBAL's large audience for Oriole games had a spillover effect in other time slots as well. In morning drive (6 a.m. to 10 a.m.), for example, the station got a top-rated 11.4 share, up from a 9.1 in the winter -- a showing Mr. Beauchamp attributed in part to heavy promotion of the morning show during Oriole broadcasts.
Among stations with recent changes in format, WBSB-FM (Variety 104.3), which scuttled its Top 40 format last February, grew slightly to a 3.2 from a 2.8 share, but still trailed adult contemporary competitor WMIX-FM (106.5), which had a 5.6 share. WCAO-AM (Heaven 600), which switched from country to gospel last fall, rose to a 1.6 from a 1.2.
Top 10 radio stations
The following are the Arbitron rankings and percentage audience share for listeners 12 and over for the Baltimore area's top 10 radio stations.
.. .. .. .. .. .Spring Winter
.. .. .. .. .. .1992 ..1992
1WBAL-AM (1090) 9.5 .. 7.2
2WPOC-FM (93.1) 8.7 .. 8.9
3WLIF-FM (101.9) 7.3 . 7.1
4WXYV-FM (102.7) 6.3 . 6.1
5WMIX-FM (106.5) 5.6 . 5.4
6WQSR-FM (105.7) 5.3 . 5.7
7WIYY-FM (97.9) 5.2 . 5.5
8WERQ-FM (92.3) 4.7 . 4.6
9WHFS-FM (99.1) 3.7 . 2.4
10WBSB-FM (104.3) 3.2 2.8