Broadcasting Apr 23
The newsweekly of broadcasting and allied arts                                Our 42nd Year 1973

Pittsburgh stealer:
How Heftel hopes
to shake up top 40

WKPQ, the newcomer in town,
tries to grab an audience
from dominant KQV with money,
a unique logo, low spot loads

Enter WKPQ (AM); exit a relatively complacent top-40 scene in Pittsburgh. The horse race in mid-March when Cecil Heftel put his newly purchased station on a contemporary format in direct competition with ABC-owned KQV(AM) for what now amounts to 20% of the listeners that tune in top-40 radio in the nation's 10th largest market.
     Every radio station in Pittsburgh must live in the shadow of the city's only 50 kw clear-channel station, Group W's KDKA(AM), which by itself accounts for about one-quarter of Pittsburgh's listeners. Together, contemporary stations there take about a 20% share of the market - on the low side of average.
     The Heftel people say they can up that percentage just by being on the air.
     WKPQ's image is being fostered by it's national program director, Buzz Bennett, former programer of Bartell's KCBQ(AM) San Diego, which was rated number one when Mr. Bennett left; Dick Casper, former head of Bartell's radio division, who put WMYQ(FM) Miami, KCBQ(AM) San Diego and WOKY(AM) Milwaukee on the air for Bartell and now serves as executive vice president of Heftel Broadcasting, and Cecil Heftel, owner of KGMB-AM-FM-TV Honolulu and KPUA-AM-TV Hilo, Hawaii, who has been on a station-buying spree that has brought him WKPQ (formerly WJAS, an NBC-owned all-talk outlet) and four FM facilities in 10 months (he is awaiting FCC approval for two of those FM's). These three men have a reputation for high-energy rock stations, big-money promotions and high-powered selling techniques.
     Behind KQV stands the ABC radio division with all the muscle, money, expertise and reputation it has accrued from the success of it's contemporary AM operations in New York (WABC) Chicago (WLS) and Pittsburgh.
     From programming philosophies to sales techniques, KQV and WKPQ offer different fares. WKPQ's air sound, though classic in it's gushing, active presentation of the hits of the day, has come up with some novel twists. The station has changed it's on-air logo from the traditional use of call letters to the identification "13-Q." "13" is for the dial position - 1320 khz - and "Q" for the last letter of the calls. There are no jingles on the station. "WKPQ" is used only once and hour while "13-Q" is punched constantly, Dick Casper, executive vice president of Heftel, says, "It's so simple, it confounds people. It's like re-inventing the bobby-pin."
   And, ready to capitalize on one distinction, WKPQ slots it's only repeating shotgun slogan - an actuality recording of a woman saying "13-Q plays less commercials" - in close proximity to the times that KQV is running it's spot clusters. The philosophy is that listeners switching to WKPQ from the commercials on KQV will hear about the former's lower spot count.
     To top all this, WKPQ has been running a big-money contest - if a Pittsburgher answers his phone "I listen to the new sound of 13'Q: he can win several thousand dollars. The station has already given away $43,000 to six winners in about four weeks on the air.
     WKPQ is offering more music, showcased by a vintage fast talker, Jack Armstrong from WKBW(AM) Buffalo, N.Y., at night especially, to attract teen-agers, the base audience of any top-40 station. KQV commands a 35-plus share of Pittsburgh's teen-agers and the Heftel people at WKPQ want to take KQV's base away.
     What is allowing WKPQ to play more music than KQV is a commercials policy that allows only eight commercial minutes an hour. That light a spot load is practically unheard of on the AM dial. And if WKPQ can hold it at that level - the say they can - the implications for top-40 radio may be far-reaching.
     It is a well know practice for stations just beginning in a market to cut spot loads down to an almost impractical level to garner an inflated audience, which is then treated to a quickly raised commercial level once the first rating books come out. Though there may not be an AM top 40 in a major market in the country with so low a spot count, Larry Garrett and Dick Casper say they can hold it to eight commercial minutes by creating the impression among time buyers that if they do not but the station now, they may face a sold-out situation in several months. The better the ratings and the deeper the impressions, they say , the quicker WKPQ will be able to get the price up to around $100 a minute - the profit level.

     Many radio people in the Pittsburgh market privately say that WKPQ will never be able to retain it's eight commercial minutes policy. "KDKA's open rate is $106 a minute and they don't really sell them at that rate," one Pittsburgh radio veteran said. "And if you make the station hard to buy, then they'll just buy around it."
     What of KQV? "Pittsburgh radio has gone a long time without any changes," Bob Harper, program director of KQV says, "But the whole market has changed now, all in the last seven months." Besides the Heftel entrance into the market, he points to KDKA's music policy change last summer with the arrival of Alan Mitchell as program director of the station. "They're playing just about the same records as we are." Mr. Harper says. "And WTAE(AM) has been sounding a lot younger as well."
     KQV has also had to deal with a station that has been taking part of it's audience in the last year that's under the same roof as KQV. That is WDVE(FM) Pittsburgh, the ABC-owned rock FM. WDVE has come dangerously close to surpassing KQV at night. But Dwight Douglas, the programer under whose direction WDVE did so well, has gone to newly turned progressive WYDD(FM) Pittsburgh. And Bob Harper is free to admit, "I'm happy that there's a second FM rocker here now." With stations old and new after it's audience, KQV also had to deal with the fact that WKPQ hired away it's general sales manager, Gary Popkin, and two other salesman before it even went on the air. Mr. Popkin was quickly replaced by Dick Benzon, who was shifted down from his sales manager position at ABC's WXYZ(AM) Detroit, while the other two salesmen were "easily replaced" as well.
     KQV cannot be expected to stand still among all this market activity. When the sale of WJAS was to Mr. Heftel was announced, KQV picked up WJAS's Perry Marshall to do midday two-way talk. His People Poll is now the only midday two-way talk in Pittsburgh, according to Harper. (KDKA is all talk from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and music the rest of the day, except a one-hour news block at 5 p.m.)
     Bob Harper does not place an inordinate amount of emphasis on the talk segment in his fight with WKPQ. "As a music radio station, the other things are worked in to enhance the sound. But it's not paramount; it's icing," he says Perry Marshall airs only about 10 calls a day, which are taped from a larger number of callers the day before and edited. "It's still basically music," Mr. Harper adds.
     But if KQV is not standing still in the face of rating battle, neither can it be expected to change radically to combat the challenge. "Listeners sense when one radio station is watching another," Mr. Harper believes. "and that can hurt you." In an interview several months ago, ABC's director of program development, Bob Henaberry, stated ABC's policy said succinctly: "Competition is good, it's American. You can't adjust your programing on a day-to-day basis to keep up with competition. Not even on a week-to-week, or month-to-month basis ... You have to establish what you should do in a market and then do it better than anyone else. But after that, you have to ride with it."
     And that is what KQV can be expected to do, ride with it. It is, and has been, in competition with WTAE and WWSW(AM) Pittsburgh for the precious number-two spot in Pittsburgh and will probably remain with the basic format that has taken it that high. "WDVE has a demeanor on the air that says something about the radio station," Bob Harper says. "It says FM rock. The high energy of '13-Q' says something too. And our demeanor says we are a controlled top 40, which we are. There's an attitudinal difference between the 19-year-old that listens to them and the 19-year-old that listens to us, I think. But it's too early too tell who will get what. What about that older audience that WJAS had? Where are they going to go" We just haven't seen any definitive research yet."
     The American Research Bureau diaries went into the Pittsburgh market last Thursday (April 12) for the spring sweeps. The spring books in Pittsburgh have traditionally belonged to KDKA because of the beginning of the baseball season. KDKA's share in the spring book has been know to go as high as 40% and rarely lower than 33%.
     Together, KQV and WDVE share more than half of Pittsburgh's nighttime teen audience, in an average of 1972 ARB's. That, WKPQ says, speaks of a lack of choice in the market. This spring's ratings may tell at least the beginning of the story of whether Pittsburgh is in for a change.