Top 40 station KIIS-FM (102.7), which has been the dominant radio station in Los Angeles and Orange County for most of the previous three years, reclaimed sole possession of first place last month for the first time since April, according to figures released Monday.
Featuring the latest pop hits from such artists as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Justin Timberlake, KIIS claimed 5.9% of all listeners age 6 and older in September, according to the Arbitron ratings service.
Pop and rock outlet KBIG-FM (104.3) dropped to second, taking a 5.7% audience share, while rival Top 40 station KAMP-FM (97.1) took third, at 4.5%, based on the survey of listeners from Aug. 15 to Sept. 11.
Arbitron divides the year into 13 four-week ratings periods, one named for each month plus a year-end "Holiday" chart. So the September survey actually includes more days in August, a trend that will continue for the rest of the year.
Talk station KFI-AM (640), long a contender for the top spot among all stations in the Southland, and one of the most listened-to and influential talk-radio outlets in the country, dropped to 13th place in September.
KFI was in first place from January through March 2012, and remained near the top for most of last year. The station had been tied for fourth as recently as April 2013, but dropped to 12th in July.
"If you look at the monthly ratings, they're not so good," said Robin Bertolucci, program director at KFI and its sister talk station KTLK-AM (1150).
But she isn't overly concerned about the decline — she even expected it.
"Summers are never traditionally a good time for news/talk," she said, explaining that people's patterns are disrupted as they go on vacation, kids get out of school and — in a blow to in-car listening — drive less. "Even the traffic is lighter," she said.
"In the fall you get more into a regular rhythm for news/talk," Bertolucci said, noting that she's already starting to see improved weekly numbers for the station.
KFI dipped last summer as well, though not as steeply.
During September's "morning drive time," the crucial 6-10 a.m. weekday slot when stations hope to grab and hold listeners for the rest of the day, Ricardo "El Mandril" Sanchez at regional-Mexican music station KLAX-FM (97.9) took 6.9% of the audience, up from 6.5% in August.
Sanchez not only held onto the top spot he first claimed in June, but also widened his lead for the fourth straight month.
Kevin Ryder and Gene "Bean" Baxter, at alternative music station KROQ-FM (106.7), maintained their 4.8% share and second-place position from the month before, but still fell further behind Sanchez. Ryan Seacrest and co-host Ellen K at KIIS placed third, with 4.7%, up from seventh in August.
Meanwhile, the morning lineup at KFI — local host Bill Handel, followed by the first hour of Rush Limbaugh's national program — slipped from a second-place tie to fifth, dropping from 4.8% to 4%.