The six-month test of programming for kids 12 and under began in mid-November. The format includes top 40 music from the '50s through the '70s, and programs such as "ESPN for Kids" and "ABC News for Kids."
The other markets are Salt Lake City, Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala. A national launch is expected by next spring.
Radio Disney has already attracted such national sponsors as Toys "R" Us and Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies diapers.
Rival service Children's Broadcasting Co. airs its Radio AHHS children's format in 32 cities, including Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. A CBC partnership with ABC fell apart following Disney's purchase of Capital Cities/ABC, resulting in a CBC suit filed against ABC and Walt Disney Co. in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis last September (AA, Sept. 30).
The suit charges that ABC tried to "misappropriate CBC's unique radio programming and force CBC out of the children's radio market."
"We've been exploring children's radio opportunities since 1991 and with the debut of Radio Disney we enter a new chapter," said David Kantor, president of ABC Radio Networks.
Chris Dahl, president of CBC, said, "We created a recipe and they baked their cake to it. They're remarkably similar."
The only changes CBC plans in response to Radio Disney is increased station promotion, he said.
Radio Disney is being well-received in Birmingham, where there are no teen-oriented stations, let alone those targeting children.
"Response has been phenomenal," said Jerry Voyles, general manager at WYDE-AM.
Switched from a country format, the station is attracting diverse local advertisers.
"With Nabisco, malls, soft drinks and fast-food, we've already had a lot more advertiser response than when we were a country station," Mr. Voyles said. "Having the word Disney makes a lot of difference."
ABC is supporting the station with advertising on local TV, outdoor and direct mail.
At KKDS-AM, a six-year Radio AHHS affiliate in Salt Lake City, General Manager Ralph Carlson said he doesn't "necessarily welcome competition."
However, he added, "If Disney is successful in its test markets, it might add legitimacy to the format and be enough muscle to get Arbitron to measure kids under 12. We've been hampered somewhat, since ad agencies are enamored by ratings and cost-per-point."