PPM ratings: WBBM Newsradio 780 dominates during pandemic

Station remains on top as Felicia Middlebrooks departs

The first PPM survey released in the Covid-19 era showed Entercom’s WBBM-AM dominating the ratings as listeners are tuning in to the latest coronavirus-related information.

With the period covering March 26 to April 22, the station swept all dayparts (with the exception of middays, where WBBM finished second to WDRV-FM/The Drive.) Also benefiting were other news/talk stations WGN-AM with their highest ranking (third) since the early 2000s and public radio’s WBEZ-FM, who finished fourth overall and on top in the 25-54 demo.

Conservative talk WLS-AM also scored a ratings increase, up 14 percent from the last period.

WBBM’s morning team of Pat Cassidy and Felicia Middlebrooks helped guide the Entercom-owned station to a easy morning drive victory. But Wednesday, Middlebrooks announced her departure from the station after 36 years to form her new multimedia production company, Saltshaker Productions. She’s also launching a new podcast She Matters, focusing on issues mattering to women.

“On May 29, I’m dropping the mic, at least for daily radio news. I’m not retiring. I’m rewiring,” Middlebrooks wrote in a letter to listeners and colleagues (which you can read in full here.) “Just to be clear, I’ve been working on this next level plan for nearly a decade.  This wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, and it is MY decision.”

After several small-market radio jobs, the Gary, Ind.-born Middlebrooks was hired as an intern at CBS-owned WBBM-TV in 1982 and switched to its then-sister radio station two years later, becoming the first African-American woman in the country to co-anchor morning news on a major AM station and she lasted 36 years -far longer than most solo radio gigs in this market in any daypart. It’s her longevity and her familiarity with listeners is one of the reasons WBBM is on top in morning drive.

While it is funny in any other circumstance, the “Bye, Felicia” joke from the movie Friday should not apply here as Middlebrooks is anything but inconsequential, and she is definitely going to be missed.

Elsewhere, several music stations – The Drive excluded – had a much tougher book this time around as listeners migrated to news/talk stations. Declines were clocked at numerous AC, CHR, and rock stations not only here, but in New York and Los Angeles. However, some of those stations fared better in their key demos. For example, WGCI moved back into the top ten in 25-54s and also did well in 18-34s, while The Drive finished first in 18-34s. Regional Mexican WLEY also scored a decisive victory over rival WOJO by zooming up the 18-34 and 18-49 demo charts.

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