KXOL

The battle for Hispanic listeners in Los Angeles between Spanish Broadcasting System’s long-running Spanish CHR “Mega 96.3” KXOL-FM and Meruelo Media’s similarly-formatted upstart “Cali 93.9” KLLI is playing out in the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” SBS Entertainment President Alessandra Alarcón said of KXOL’s new competition. “The demand is super high, and it’s helped that the genre is blowing up right now,” she told the publication.

“Cali 93.9” debuted in July 2019, as Meruelo closed on its $35 million purchase of the station from Holdings/Grupo Radio Centro. In September the station launched “Cali Mornings” with co-hosts Carolina “Caro” Marquez and Mando Fresko, joined by sidekick Jessica Flores.

“Ever since, the upstart challenger has been gnawing at Mega’s hold on the city’s young reggaeton fan base,” Times reporter Daniel Hernandez writes. The stations are less than a half share apart in the December 2019 PPMs, with “Mega 96.3” posting a 2.1 and “Cali 93.9” at a 1.7 (6+).

Billboard VP of Latin Music Leila Cobo says there’s room for two Reggaeton stations in L.A., where the SBS “Calibash” concert “has been successful for many years,” she told the L.A. Times. “Urban music completely dominates commercial Latin music in the United States, and not just in the United States. Everywhere.”

Meruelo hired away afternoon personality DJ Eddie from “Mega 96.3” for the same position on “Cali 93.9,” who tells the Times the two similarly-formatted stations, “talks a lot about the way the music industry is evolving, how the Latino population on its own is evolving.”

Air talent at both stations speak in both Spanish and English, or Spanglish, on the air, reflecting the way many Hispanic households in the U.S. talk. Josh Kun, a USC communications professor and writer, calls it “kind of like a Dodgers bilingualism,” where non-Latinos who are native to Los Angeles pick up some words or phrases in Spanish. Kun says popular music is helping reinforce the dual-language approach. “It’s a new global pop thing, and these stations are a part of that,” Kun said.