IN A HIGH-TECH WORLD, RADIO FARE MAKES COMEBACK: DISNEY, CBC AND OTHERS GAIN A FOOTHOLD

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Despite some growing pains in the children's radio market, advertisers are tuning in with more frequency.

Radio Disney's entry into the market may provide the name and investment that transforms radio into an important medium to reach kids and their parents.

Disney joins well-established Children's Broadcasting Co., rapidly expanding KidStar and others, in an effort to grab radio's usual 7%-to-8% share of the pie in the estimated $1.2 billion children's media market. Children's radio has been very slow to evolve. And some doubt there is room for all the players in the market.

"It could be a $70 million-to-$150 million business," says Scott McCarthy, VP-new business development at ABC Radio Networks, which brought Radio Disney to the market last November. "If it is $150 million, three players could probably survive, but if it's only worth $30 million, probably not."

HARD TO FIGURE MARKET

Chris Dahl, president of Minneapolis-based CBC, which produces the Radio AAHS format heard on 32 stations nationwide, estimates the current business as small as $4 million. His 7-year-old live, 24-hour format is the most established and has landed such advertisers as General Mills, Prudential, Southland Corp. and others. A 30-second Radio AAHS national spot costs $720 to $1,000.

After exploring the market separately back in 1991, ABC and Walt Disney Co. came in as the 900-pound mouse after their wedding last year.

The merged company brought the best-known brand to the market with a six-month test of a live, 24-hour network launched on Mickey Mouse's birthday in four markets: Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., Minneapolis and Salt Lake City. A national launch is expected by summer, however.

STILL SOME STATIC

Although it is successfully bringing new advertisers such as General Motors Corp., Hasbro and Kimberly-Clark Corp. into the market, Radio Disney is soiled by the unhappy ending of a 15-month relationship with CBC. CBC sued last September after ABC announced the launch of a competing network. A court date has not yet been set.

Fox gained a presence in radio in 1994 with a syndicated music program, Fox Kids Countdown. The two-hour Sunday show is now aired on about 200 stations and carries marketers Dannon Co., NFL Properties and Schwinn Cycling & Fitness. Rates are $1,500 for a 30-second spot.

Listener measurement has been a sticking point to bigger growth in the business, as advertisers are accustomed to using research to guide media buys.

Mr. Dahl estimates of 50 million U.S. children under 12, his stations reach 20 million of them.

"The question-at-large still exists: how to quantify?" he asks.

SIGNUP REQUIRED

KidStar, launched in Seattle in 1993, requires kids to sign up when they want to participate in call-ins and receive the quarterly publication. KidStar added San Francisco by mid-1996, but the group claims about 300,000 members and uses that information and other internal tracking to satisfy advertisers.

KidStar continues an aggressive expansion. In February, Atlanta joins as the seventh KidStar market with major markets Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington also planned for this year. KidStar spots now run $620 for 60

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