WERQ-FM, which just three months ago appeared in danger of losing its top spot among Baltimore's radio stations, has re-entrenched itself as the king of the local airwaves.
For the final three months of last year, the flagship of the Cathy Hughes radio empire attracted 30,000 listeners during an average quarter-hour period. That represents a 1,200-listener increase over July-September 1999 and -- more importantly -- 8,300 more listeners for October-December than runner-up WWIN-FM (95.9).
Those numbers give 92-Q substantially more breathing room; the station's lead had dipped to 2,200 listeners, or six-tenths of a share point.
And the news gets even better for Hughes and Radio One: they also own second-place WWIN-FM. The best a non-Radio One station could do was WPOC-FM (93.1), which finished in a tie for second place, with an average of 8,400 listeners fewer than WERQ.
"We are ecstatic to have the No. 1 and 2 stations," says Pam Somers, general manager for Radio One's Baltimore stations. "We're all going to happy hour soon."
The latest ratings also suggest WERQ has scored a hit with its morning team of Marc Clarke and Troy Johnson, which took over the crucial drive-time slot in September. Among listeners 12 and older, 92-Q's "Big Phat Morning Show" finished first with an average of 38,100 listeners, followed by WBAL-AM (36,300), WQSR-FM (35,500), WPOC-FM (33,800) and WWIN-FM (28,100).
Here's the Arbitron ratings and audience share for listeners 12 and older for Baltimore's top 10 radio stations. Each share point represents about 3,600 listeners in an average quarter-hour.
1 WERQ-FM (92.3), 8.9
2 WWIN-FM (95.9), 6.4 (tie) WPOC-FM (93.1), 6.4
4 WBAL-AM (1090), 6.1
5 WQSR-FM (105.7), 5.4
6 WWMX-FM (106.5), 4.8 (tie) WLIF-FM (101.9), 4.8
8 WXYV-FM (102.7), 3.9
9 WHFS-FM (99.1), 3.8
10 WIYY-FM (97.9), 3.7
Not quite Dave
Monday's "Backstage" edition of "The Late Show with David Letterman," with professional curmudgeon Charles Grodin interviewing Julia Roberts and Regis Philbin about their earlier appearances with Dave, was amiable enough, although a poor substitute for the real thing.
On the plus side, the show benefited from the natural charms of both Roberts (who is never more charming than when she's sitting next to Letterman) and Philbin, who may be America's No. 1 good sport. While Grodin's cynical interview style can sometimes wear thin, it did help keep the hour from sounding like a memorial service for a man who isn't dead yet.
Last night also saw a reprise of the best Top-10 list in recent memory, "The Top-10 Things that Sound Creepy When Said by John Malkovich," as read by Malkovich himself.
As for negatives, it would have been nice to see a greater selection of clips from the guests' past appearances; both Roberts and Philbin were shown in clips from only two shows each. And boy, are the band and the studio audience missed.
At least it was something different; let's hope these "backstage" shows don't go on for more than a week.
Ratings-wise, the show more than held its own, delivering numbers 15 percent higher than the season-to-date average for Monday nights and beating "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in both New York and Los Angeles. Overall, "Late Show" delivered a 3.9 rating, 10 share, compared to 5.5, 15 for "Tonight" ("rating" measures the number of viewing households; "share" is the percentage of TV sets in use that are turned to a particular show). In Baltimore, Letterman finished with a 3.7 rating, 10 share, while Leno scored a 5.6, 16.
Fans of Nestor Aparicio will need to turn on their radios an hour earlier if they want to get the full Nasty. Since Monday, the weeknight show has been airing from 9 p.m. to midnight on WCBM-AM (680) except for Wednesdays, when it will continue to air from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. until April.
Country music fans with a fondness for the old days should check out "Country BackTrax" on WPOC-FM. Beginning at 7 p.m. Sundays, Scott Lindy (who doubles as the station's program director) features country music from the 1960s through the early 1980s, including such artists as Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard.