Larry Cotlar has never run from a radio ratings battle, and he's not about to back away from competition with Steve Deace.
"Competition makes me better,'' Cotlar said. "It makes me work harder.''
Cotlar, who just turned 50, is a central player in the hot radio sports-talk struggle for listeners in the Des Moines market. Since Dec. 3, he's teamed with Jim Walden on the 4-to-7 p.m. show on KXNO.
Sports talk is an ever-changing thing, and the landscape underwent more movement this week when Deace, who had been fired by KJJC, began his afternoon gig on KXTK.
Deace, 28, had good ratings at KJJC and has been heavily promoted by KXTK.
But Cotlar isn't running scared.
"I know I've proven myself,'' he said. "Obviously, Deace is someone who has a following of sorts. I don't want this to sound derogatory toward him at all, but I've gone against strong competition in major markets before, and I hardly think I'm going to be afraid of Steve Deace.
"I don't worry about it. I do my own thing.'' Besides, Cotlar said he has numbers to prove that his show and KXNO are making progress.
"As far as radio ratings trends are concerned, KXNO went up in general listenership in the November-December-January period, and we were the only sports-talk station to show an improvement,'' he said. "In the audience of people 25-to-54 years of age, we went up from .8 to 1.1. That means percentage points of the audience--and you should realize that sports-talk has a narrow audience, especially when it's divided among three stations in this market.''
Cotlar said KJJC was still the ratings trend leader in that period, but added that the station's "lead is dwindling. KXTK was at the bottom.''
In the ratings trend period Cotlar was referring to, Deace was still working for KJJC.
Cotlar is a veteran of Des Moines radio, but left to do talk shows in Las Vegas, Chicago and St. Louis before coming back home.
"I was shocked when I heard that Des Moines had three sports-talk stations,'' he said.
So are more than a few other people, and some question whether all three will be able to stay in business.
"There's a lot of potential here,'' Cotlar said. "It's a real intelligent area, and people have a lot to say. And people care about more than sports.''
Cotlar said he is already doing more than sports on his afternoon show.
"I'm not going to sit and talk about football recruiting in the middle of April,'' he said. "We've already started doing other things. We have a segment called ‘What's Your Beef?' on Wednesday nights, where people can give their complaints about anything.''
He said KXNO is also including segments on movies and other forms of entertainment.