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CPR Kicked Denver Commercial Stations' A$$es Mornings in 2020

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brutalized traditional media, including radio, where stations facing an incredibly challenging marketplace are in a financial death match to survive. And in Denver in 2020, a public-radio giant bested every commercial rival during morning drive, the most competitive and lucrative part of the broadcasting day.

Nielsen ratings obtained by Westword show that KCFR/90.1 FM, the news arm of Colorado Public Radio, was number one in the Denver-Boulder area in two broad demographic areas: 12+ (all listeners age twelve and older) and 35+ (those age 35 and older) during the 5 to 9 a.m. weekday slot over last year as a whole. And the outlet's top-ranking performance held true for the final three months of 2020, when KCFR's lead grew even larger over its advertising-based contenders.

This finish underscores the appetite for information during an incredibly fractious and eventful year — although the appeal of such material didn't give much of a boost to KOA/94.1 FM (and 850 AM). The longtime Denver radio news leader performed in mediocre fashion by both metrics, even falling behind tiny but boisterous KNUS/710 AM from October to December.

The number of people working from home these days — and not listening to the radio while driving to work — has definitely put a damper on listenership in general. Nielsen calculates ratings by counting the average number of people tuned to a particular station for at least five minutes during a fifteen-minute period — a metric shorthanded as AQH (Average Quarter Hour). By that standard, KCFR collected an AQH of 12,600 during 2020 as a whole for 12+ listeners between 5 and 9 a.m. on weekdays — 4,000-plus more than the 8,400 registered by the top second-place finisher, KIMN/Mix 100.3.

Most of these listeners are older. KCFR's 35+ AQH in 2020 was 10,500, as compared to 6,400 for the runner-up, classic-rocking KRFX/The Fox.

Listenership overall was higher during the last three months of 2020 — no surprise, given the contentiousness of the presidential election and the subsequent fallout. KCFR's 12+ AQH for that period was 15,300 on weekday mornings, followed by The Mix with 9,000. In 35+, KCFR notched a 13,400 AQH, with KNUS rising to silver-medal status by way of 6,600.

And KOA? Its full-year AQH in 12+ was 5,900 and 5,500 in 35+ on weekday mornings — and the totals were slightly lower for October through November. That won't make it any easier to sell ads in 2021.

Here are the top five metro Denver stations by ratings in the four major categories, with the AQH supplemented by the audience percentage, also known as the audience share:

12+ Denver radio ratings, January through December 2020, Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

1. KCFR-FM, Public Broadcasting of Colorado, Inc, News Talk Information, 0.4, 12,600
2 (tie). KIMN-FM, KSE Radio Ventures, LLC., Hot Adult Contemporary, 0.3, 8,400
2 (tie). KRFX-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Classic Rock, 0.3, 7,400
2 (tie). KYGO-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Country, 0.3, 7,600
5 (tie). KALC-FM, Entercom, Modern Adult Contemporary, 0.2, 5,500
5 (tie). KBCO-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Album Adult Alternative, 0.2, 6,400
5 (tie). KDFD-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.2, 5,300
5 (tie). KJMN-FM, Entravision Communications, Spanish Adult Hits, 0.2, 4,500
5 (tie). KKFN-FM, Bonneville International Corp., All Sports, 0.2, 6,200
5 (tie). KLDV-FM, Educational Media Foundation, Contemporary Christian, 0.2, 5,700
5 (tie). KNUS-AM, Salem Media Group, News Talk Information, 0.2, 5,500
5 (tie). KOA-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.2, 5,900
5 (tie). KOSI-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Adult Contemporary, 0.2, 6,700
5 (tie). KQMT-FM, Entercom Classic Rock, 0.2, 6,000
5 (tie). KXKL-FM, KSE Radio Ventures, LLC., Classic Hits, 0.2, 5,500
5 (tie). KXPK-FM, Entravision Communications, Mexican Regional, 0.2, 5,000

35+ Denver radio ratings, January through December 2020, Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

1. KCFR-FM, Public Broadcasting of Colorado, Inc, News Talk Information, 0.6, 10,500
2. KRFX-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Classic Rock, 0.4, 6,400
3 (tie). KBCO-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Album Adult Alternative, 0.3, 5,800
3 (tie). KDFD-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information,  0.3, 4,600
3 (tie). KKFN-FM, Bonneville International Corp., All Sports, 0.3, 5,400
3 (tie). KNUS-AM, Salem Media Group, News Talk Information, 0.3, 5,200
3 (tie). KOA-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.3, 5,500
3 (tie) KYGO-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Country, 0.3, 5,200
(Eight additional stations tied for 9th place)

12+ Denver radio ratings, October through December 2020, Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

1. KCFR-FM, Public Broadcasting of Colorado, Inc, News Talk Information, 0.5, 15,300
2 (tie). KIMN-FM, KSE Radio Ventures, LLC., Hot Adult Contemporary, 0.3, 9,000
2 (tie). KYGO-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Country, 0.3, 7,800
4 (tie). KALC-FM, Entercom, Modern Adult Contemporary, 0.2,  5,800
4 (tie). KBCO-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Album Adult Alternative, 0.2, 6,000
4 (tie). KDFD-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.2, 5,300
4 (tie). KKFN-FM, Bonneville International Corp., All Sports, 0.2, 6,500
4 (tie). KLDV-FM, Educational Media Foundation, Contemporary Christian, 0.2, 4,500
4 (tie). KNUS-AM, Salem Media Group, News Talk Information, 0.2, 6,800
4 (tie). KOA-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.2, 5,500
4 (tie). KOSI-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Adult Contemporary, 0.2, 7,000
4 (tie). KQMT-FM, Entercom, Classic Rock, 0.2, 5,500
4 (tie). KRFX-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Classic Rock, 0.2, 6,400
4 (tie). KXKL-FM, KSE Radio Ventures, LLC., Classic Hits, 0.2, 5,800
(Nine additional stations tied for 15th place)

35+ Denver radio ratings, October through December 2020, Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

1. KCFR-FM, Public Broadcasting of Colorado, Inc, News Talk Information, 0.8, 13,400
2. KNUS-AM, Salem Media Group, News Talk Information, 0.4, 6,600
3 (tie). KBCO-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Album Adult Alternative, 0.3, 5,200
3 (tie). KDFD-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.3, 4,700
3 (tie). KKFN-FM, Bonneville International Corp., All Sports, 0.3, 6,100
3 (tie). KOA-AM, iHeartMedia, Inc., News Talk Information, 0.3, 5,200
3 (tie). KQMT-FM, Entercom, Classic Rock, 0.3, 4,600
3 (tie). KRFX-FM, iHeartMedia, Inc., Classic Rock, 0.3, 5,800
3 (tie). KXKL-FM, KSE Radio Ventures, LLC., Classic Hits, 0.3, 4,800
3 (tie). KYGO-FM, Bonneville International Corp., Country, 0.3, 5,400
(Six additional stations tied for 11th place)

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