Media

Denver's Most and Least Popular Radio Stations

Colorado Public Radio, at 7409 South Alton Court in Centennial, makes multiple showings on the latest Denver-area radio ratings roster.
Colorado Public Radio, at 7409 South Alton Court in Centennial, makes multiple showings on the latest Denver-area radio ratings roster. Google Maps
Despite technological changes that have revolutionized communication over recent decades, traditional radio remains a going concern in metro Denver, the country's eighteenth-largest market. But as demonstrated by the latest report from industry leader Nielsen, a relative handful of stations owned by media conglomerates dominate the scene, leaving most other signals to scramble for the scraps — and in July, many of them failed to generate enough listeners to even register in the ratings available to the public.

This last point is important. Most of Nielsen's ratings are considered proprietary, in part because they're so granular. They're broken down by age and gender, so that outlets targeting a specific slice of the audience pie — for instance, females between the ages of 25 and 54 — can tell if they're reaching these listeners and use the data to sell advertising to businesses that cater to them. Stats are also provided for each section of the day, with the mornings and afternoons the most important, since traditionally that's when people are driving to or from work.

As a result, the only ratings Nielsen publishes measure all listeners age six or older Monday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to midnight. That makes the information extremely general, since it doesn't differentiate between a station's most popular shows and those that are barely heard, or give an indication about whether the audience is so dominated by specific types of listeners that even modest ratings can pay off for advertisers.

What these ratings do reveal, however, is the overall popularity of a station — and in July, the champion was KYGO-FM, the longtime voice of country music in Denver, which is owned by Bonneville International, a media company based in Salt Lake City. The station scored a 7.6 share among listeners — more than a full point higher than its sibling station, KOSI-FM, which came in with a 6.2 share.

How many listeners do these numbers represent? That's a complicated question, and even a rough estimate requires some math.

A share is defined by Nielsen as "the percentage of those listening to radio in the MSA [Metropolitan Statistical Area] who are listening to a particular radio station." A key to the metric is "average quarter-hour persons," the "average number of persons listening to a particular station for at least five minutes during a fifteen-minute period."

In rough terms, KYGO's 7.6 share translates to 7.6 percent of Denver radio listeners, on average, from early in the morning to the witching hour over seven days — and even in the age of music apps such as Spotify and satellite radio, this figure is substantial. A 2021 Nielsen Media Research study found that 88 percent of Americans, or around 293 million people, listen weekly to terrestrial radio, the term applied to stations that reach ears by way of old-fashioned broadcasting towers. (The total is said to exceed those who use Facebook each week.) Apply that 88 percent to Nielsen's estimate of greater Denver's population, 2,796,400, and it adds up to approximately 2.46 million. Multiply the latter by 7.6 percent and the result is a KYGO audience estimate of nearly 190,000 people per week.

Music stations dominated in Denver during July: Trailing the likes of The Mountain (classic rock), Alice (adult contemporary) and KOOL 105 (a classic-hits mainstay that's one of four stations owned by billionaire Stan Kroenke's KSE Radio Ventures), the first news/talk outlet was ninth-place finisher KCFR, the flagship service of Colorado Public Radio. The nonprofit finished strong: KVOD, CPR's classical-music purveyor, settled into the eleventh slot, and two signals associated with its Indie 102.3 brand registered, too.

As for iHeart Radio, a longtime powerhouse in Denver and across the country under that name and a previous moniker, Clear Channel, it managed to slide a couple of music stations into the top ten: Channel 93.3 and The Fox. But KOA, among the most famous Mile High City stations ever, only managed to reach number 17. Freedom 93.7, which was once anchored by the late Rush Limbaugh, stumbled to number 21, and legacy station KBPI's brand of hard rock only garnered a 0.8 share, good for number 27.

Nielsen's July list for Denver includes 39 stations, and several of them are spinoffs from other outlets, such as HD2 offerings from hip-hop/R&B specialist KS 107.5 and jazzy KUVO. Three places were filled by signals from KXDP, a low-powered analog TV station whose audio can be received at 87.75 FM.

And then there are the stations that showed no 6+ ratings at all — and there are a lot of them. The Radio Locator website counts 106 radio stations "that may be within listening range of Denver, Colorado" — and "may" is the operative word, since eleven stations from Colorado Springs and five from Pueblo are featured. But the list includes sixty-plus stations that are definitively part of the market: 32 in Denver proper, plus five registered to Golden, four apiece from Boulder and Lakewood, three from Aurora, two from both Englewood and Littleton, and one each in Wheat Ridge, Timnath, Centennial, Greenwood Village, Lafayette, Watkins, Castle Rock and Parker.

The roster includes nine stations classified as "Christian" and fourteen as "Religious." None of them generated even a tenth of a 6+ share in July.

Continue to see the Nielsen ratings for Denver in July, ranked from the largest to smallest share of listeners age six and older:

1. KYGO-FM
Format: Country
Owner: Bonneville International
July 2022 ratings share: 7.6

2. KOSI-FM
Format: Adult Contemporary
Owner: Bonneville International
July 2022 ratings share: 6.2

3. KQMT-FM (The Mountain)
Format: Classic Rock
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 5.8

4. KALC-FM (Alice)
Format: Adult Contemporary
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 5.4

5. KXKL-FM (KOOL 105)
Format: Classic Hits
Owner: KSE Radio Ventures
July 2022 ratings share: 5.3

6. KIMN-FM
Format: Hot AC
Owner: KSE Radio Ventures
July 2022 ratings share: 4.9

7. KTCL-FM (Channel 93.3)
Format: Alternative
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 4.5

8. KRFX-FM (The Fox)
Format: Classic Rock
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 4.3

9. KCFR-FM
Format: News/Talk
Owner: Public Broadcasting of Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: 4.0

10. KBCO-FM
Format: Alternative
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 3.7

11. KVOD-FM
Format: Classical
Owner: Public Broadcasting of Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: 3.5

12. KDHT-FM (Hits 95.7)
Format: Contemporary Hits Radio
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 2.9

13. KJMN-FM (José 92.1)
Format: Adult Hits
Owner: Entravision
July 2022 ratings share: 2.9

14. KXPK-FM (La Tricolor 96.5)
Format: Regional Mexican
Owner: Entravision
July 2022 ratings share: 2.7

15. KKFN-FM (104.3 The Fan)
Format: All Sports
Owner: Bonneville International
July 2022 ratings share: 2.6

16. KHOW-AM
Format: News/Talk
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 2.4

17. KOA-AM
Format: News/Talk
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 2.4

18. KWBL-FM (The Bull)
Format: Country
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 2.3

19. KQKS-FM (KS 107.5)
Format: Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 2.2

20. KUVO-FM
Format: Jazz
Owner: Rocky Mountain Public Media
July 2022 ratings share: 1.9

21. KDFD-AM (Freedom 93.7)
Format: News/Talk
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 1.7

22. KUNC-FM
Format: News/Talk
Owner: Community Radio For Northern Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: 1.7

23. KKSE-FM (Altitude Sports Radio)
Format: Sports
Owner: KSE Radio Ventures
July 2022 ratings share: 1.2

24. KQKS-FM-HD2
Format: Comedy
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 1.2

25. KJHM-FM (Jammin 101.5)
Format: Rhythmic AC
Owner: Max Radio
July 2022 ratings share: 1.1

26. KBNO-AM (Que Bueno Denver)
Format: Regional Mexican
Owner: Latino Communications
July 2022 ratings share: 0.8

27. KBPI-FM
Format: Rock
Owner: iHeartMedia
July 2022 ratings share: 0.8

28. KFCO-FM (Flo 107.1)
Format: Contemporary Hit Radio
Owner: Max Radio
July 2022 ratings share: 0.8

29. KUVO-FM-HD2
Format: Urban
Owner: Rocky Mountain Public Media
July 2022 ratings share: 0.8

30. KVOQ-FM
Format: Alternative
Owner: Public Broadcasting of Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: 0.6

31. KQMT-FM-STR
Format: Classic Rock
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 0.5

32. KXDP-FM
Format: N/A
Owner: N/A
July 2022 ratings share: 0.4

33. KAMP-AM (1430 AM The Bet)
Format: Sports/Talk
Owner: Audacy
July 2022 ratings share: 0.1

34. KEPN-AM (ESPN Denver 1600)
Format: All Sports
Owner: Bonneville International
July 2022 ratings share: 0.1

35. KJAC-FM (The Colorado Sound)
Format: Alternative
Owner: Community Radio For Northern Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: 0.1

36. KKSE-AM
Format: All Sports
Owner: KSE Radio Ventures
July 2022 ratings share: 0.1

37. KXDP-FM-STR
Format: N/A
Owner: N/A
July 2022 ratings share: 0.1

38. KVOQ-FM-STR
Format: Alternative
Owner: Public Broadcasting of Colorado
July 2022 ratings share: N/A

39. KXDP-LP
Format: Regional Mexican
Owner: N/A
July 2022 ratings share: N/A
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts