Critical year for KILT

Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

Not only is 2011 a significant year for the Texans, it’s a key season for CBS Radio’s KILT (610 AM).

It’s the last season of KILT’s 10-year, $70 million deal with the Texans, and renewal negotiations come at a time the economy is questionable but the NFL continues to rake in cash – most recently the eight-year, $15.2 billion extension for Monday Night Football through 2021 that was announced Thursday.

If KILT keeps the team, it most likely will do so in similar fashion to CBS’ deal with the Cowboys, in which the Cowboys control the advertising rather than a straight rights deal.

Neither KILT nor the Texas will comment on the status of negotiations or the status of other bidders, respectively.

Under any circumstances, KILT needs a big year from the Texans, and signs are encouraging.

In the August Arbitron report released this week, KILT increased its all-day share among men 25-54 by a third from last month and had doubled its audience shares in morning and afternoon drive from July.

In morning and afternoon drive, KILT hovers around the 4.0 share in men 25-54 that should be routine, and program director Gavin Spittle hopes the money the station has spent since going to a mostly local lineup with the loss of Yahoo Sports Radio is paying off.

“CBS hasn’t taken the cheap route. They’ve filled the holes,” Spittle said. “It gives us the ability to build a bench for when our weekday guys are out. People know our weekend and nighttime guys.”

It also provides options if the Texans take ad sales in house and hire morning drive host Marc Vandermeer as a full-time employee, as a lot of NFL teams have done with their play-by-play announcer.

“We hope to retain the Texans,” Spittle said. “It’s a huge priority. As for Marc, if the situation comes up we would have to discuss it, but we hope to move ahead with him for many years as well.”

Also noteworthy: KBME (790 AM) more than doubled its midday audience in men 25-54 in August.

Some of that can be attributed to the addition of Lance Zierlein, who hosts from 10 to 11 a.m., but Dylan Gwinn, Matt Thomas and Charlie Pallilo also are trending up.

But I’m starting to wonder if Houston listeners have become so jaded with Jim Rome that his midday show on KILT is now a liability against local shows on KBME, KFNC (97.5 FM) and cellar-dweller KGOW (1560 AM).

Read more at the Houston Chronicle where this story was originally published.