Pat Sajak entering Maryland radio Buyer: A company owned by 'Wheel of Fortune' host is buying WNAV-AM of Annapolis from Jake Einstein.

On the air

January 18, 1998|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Jake Einstein is getting out of the radio biz again.

The longtime guru of Maryland's alternative radio scene and former owner of both WHFS-FM (99.1) and WRNR-FM (103.1) is set to get rid of his last station, Annapolis' WNAV-AM (1430).

In fact, Einstein already has leased the station to a company headed by TV personality and part-time Severna Park resident Pat Sajak, whose Sajak Broadcasting took over operation of the station Jan. 2. Einstein expects to complete negotiations to sell WNAV to the "Wheel of Fortune" host soon.

"He spends a lot of time here, and he wanted to get into some sort of investment locally," said Einstein, adding that he was approached by Sajak last year.

WNAV General Manager Steve Hopp, who was named to the top spot by the station's new operators in mid-December, said no big changes are planned.

"I think what WNAV has been for years is a full-service radio station with a lot of concentration on local news, a community-service type of radio," says Hopp, who returns to the station where he worked from 1970 to 1995. "The music is kind of a cross between singer-songwriter and soft adult contemporary. All of that will stay in place. As far as the basics of what the station is, that will continue."

In addition to news and music, WNAV broadcasts Navy football and basketball, Bowie Baysox baseball and Redskins football.

As for Einstein, don't count him out entirely. At age 80, there's too much radio in his blood for him to stay away for long.

"You know me, I've been retired four days, and I figure another four would do me in," he says. "I'd like to come back and do something with radio, maybe in the Baltimore or D.C. area."

WQSR moves up in ratings

Bad baseball and good weather combined to drop WBAL-AM (1090) into third place among Baltimore radio stations for the quarter just ended -- its lowest position in at least six years.

The runaway leader of Baltimore's radio pack continues to be WERQ-FM (92.3), with some 9,200 more listeners in an average quarter-hour than its nearest competition. But the big news this go-round is that the runner-up isn't perennial powerhouse WBAL, but rather WQSR-FM (105.7).

Even better news for the folks at WQSR: Their Rouse & Co. morning show also finished first, among both adults 25-54 (the station's traditional stronghold) and listeners 12 and older, where they tied with WERQ.

"There's no question that Rouse & Co. had worked very hard over the past 10 years to get where they are," said Bill Pasha, WQSR's station manager and program director. "They were very excited that they were the top morning show among [listeners] 12-plus this time around."

WBAL station manager Jeff Beauchamp, however, refused to push any panic buttons. The fall ratings book, he noted, which runs from October through December, is naturally a slack period for a station that depends on Orioles baseball to draw in listeners. The station's 7.0 rating is only three-tenths of a point lower -- about 1,100 listeners -- than at the same time last year.

The ratings certainly would have been higher had the Birds fulfilled expectations and made it to the World Series.

At the same time, he noted that people traditionally tune in to WBAL's all-news format when the weather turns bad, to get information about school closings and other emergencies. The region's mild December weather may have been good news for most people, but it didn't do the station any favors.

"Would we like to maintain our summer numbers? You bet we would," said Beauchamp, whose station rode its O's coverage to a narrow win over WERQ for the third quarter of 1997. "Our toughest books are traditionally fall and winter. Listeners tend to come to WBAL for information, to find out what's going on. When the weather turns bad in the winter, our numbers usually start rebounding."

WBAL continues to win handily when it comes to casual listeners, those who tune in for as little as five minutes. According to those numbers, the station finished well in front, with 387,200 listeners -- 24,500 more than second-place WERQ. WQSR finished fourth there, with 29,800 fewer listeners than WERQ.

The biggest gains in the ratings race were made by urban gospel station WCAO-AM (600), which jumped two whole ratings points (about 7,400 listeners) from the third quarter of '97. WCAO placed eighth, the first time since the summer of 1994 that two AM stations finished in the top 10.

For all you ratings groupies out there, here's the whole enchilada: the fall '97 Arbitron rankings and audience share for listeners 12 and older for the Baltimore region's top 10 radio stations. Each share represents about 3,700 listeners in an average quarter-hour.

1. WERQ-FM (92.3), 9.8

2. WQSR-FM (105.7), 7.2

3. WBAL-AM (1090), 7.0

4. WPOC-FM (93.1), 6.4

5. WWMX-FM (106.5), 5.0

6. WLIF-FM (101.9), 4.5

7. WIYY-FM (97.9), 4.3

8. WCAO-AM (600), 4.2

9. WXYV-FM (102.7), 4.1

10. WWIN-FM (95.9), 3.4

Thoughts to salute

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