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KISS-FM is the brand name of a Top 40 music format heard on FM radio stations in many cities in the United States and overseas. iHeartMedia, Inc. claims ownership of the KISS-FM brand and operates most KISS-FM formatted stations, though not KISS-FM in San Antonio, Texas, or KISS-FM America on TuneIn.
Origin and history
In the late 1970s, many U.S. radio stations began calling themselves "Kiss". Among these was KIIS-FM in Los Angeles, which adopted that call sign in 1975 when it became a sister station to KIIS (AM)—whose call sign comes not from the word "Kiss" but rather its dial position at 1150, with the letters "I" and "S" being the letters most closely resembling 1 and 5, respectively. Gannett, which owned the station, filed a federal trademark registration for "KIIS" in 1986, which has passed on to subsequent owners of the station. In 1997, Country Club Communications registered the only current federal trademark for "KISS FM" (which has since also been assigned to iHeartMedia); the logo registered then included a stylized pair of lips.
Numerous other stations using "Kiss" as (part of) a service mark were acquired over the course of Clear Channel's growth, among them Boston's WXKS-FM and Hartford's WKSS; however, other stations calling themselves "Kiss" which predated the "KISS FM" trademark were not acquired, such as Beasley Broadcast Group's WNKS in Charlotte. Furthermore, not all Clear Channel "Kiss" stations use the national brand: WXKS-FM, the Boston branch, has never used "KISS FM", maintaining its "Kiss 108" identity from 1979. At least one station that used a non-Clear Channel-related "Kiss" branding, WWKS in Pittsburgh, would eventually be acquired by Clear Channel itself, although that station (now WXDX-FM) would flip to its current modern rock format long before being acquired by Clear Channel.
The logo for KISS-FM was initially a blue ball with "KISS-FM" in red lettering, with yellow around the lettering and the radio frequency at the bottom in yellow. As of 2013, there are several Clear Channel stations that no longer use the aforementioned logo, such as WAEV in Savannah, Georgia. There are some stations never owned by Clear Channel that license the KISS-FM branding including the ball logo. In Milwaukee, WXSS 103.7 Kiss FM is a Mainstream Top 40 station using the KISS-FM brand. Most non-Clear Channel "Kiss" stations do not use this logo.
The process of bringing the KISS format to cities beyond Los Angeles was begun by Randy Michaels' Jacor Communications before Clear Channel bought it in 1999. Michaels, later Clear Channel's chief executive officer, and brand manager Todd Shannon likened the KISS model to McDonald's. "When you see the KIIS ball logo, there's no mistaking what you're going to get. It's a Top 40 product, but they're all localized inside," Shannon said in 2002.
KISS programming contains voice-tracked segments, music, and commercials that were broadcast nationwide across its stations. Despite having many consistencies, the brand's programming differs slightly based on regional demographics. Brand manager Diana Laird explained that the KISS station in Santa Barbara, California, for example, plays far more hip hop and dance music than the mainstream pop music that is heard in Boise, Idaho. But KISS listeners in Boise and in Medford, Oregon, have identical playlists because their demographics are similar. Similarly, the top five most-played artists for the week ending October 20, 2002, on Chicago's KISS station included Cam'ron, Eminem, and Justin Timberlake, while the same list at Dallas' KISS station featured Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer, and Creed.
On July 24, 2006, Statesville, North Carolina's heritage country station WFMX was moved to Clemmons, a suburb of Winston-Salem, and flipped to soft R&B as WMKS "105.7 Kiss-FM," the second "Kiss" to feature a soft-R&B format, after then-WKUS "105.3 Kiss-FM" in Norfolk, Virginia. WKUS would eventually change formats and move to another frequency, while the former WFMX is today WVBZ "105.7 Man Up;" the WMKS calls the latter station had picked up during its "Kiss" days had moved to sister frequency 100.3 in High Point in 2014 in a frequency swap that saw the "Kiss" name revived on the stronger of the two signals and with a CHR format.
On November 17, 2006, Clear Channel announced that the company intended to be sold to a group of private equity firms. Clear Channel announced on the same day its intent to sell off many radio stations in smaller radio markets, including some KISS-FM formatted stations. Former Clear Channel KISS-FM branded stations that have been sold and retained the KISS brand as of March 2007 include WDKS 106.1 KISS-FM in Evansville, Indiana, and KTRS-FM 104.7 KISS-FM in Casper, Wyoming.
On December 26, 2006, Raleigh, North Carolina, received a big "Kiss" when Clear Channel flipped soft-AC WRSN "Sunny 93.9" to rhythmic AC as WKSL "93.9 Kiss-FM" during the "boom era" of the rhythmic-AC format. Four years later, WKSL evolved into rhythmic CHR before being dropped altogether in November 2013 for its current country-flavored WNCB "B93.9."
On December 15, 2008, Clear Channel reached an agreement to acquire five CBS Radio stations, one of them being KBKS 106.1 Kiss FM in Seattle. In return, CBS would acquire two Clear Channel stations in Houston as an effort to expand its focus on the larger markets.
Conflict and controversy
Clear Channel has pursued legal claims against some station owners using branding similar to KISS-FM. Some stations have dropped KISS branding as a result. Examples:
- Mainstream Urban station WKYS in Washington, D.C. (owned by Radio One) used it before, then dropped it, but recently[when?] added the moniker back.
- In May 1999, Radio One station WENZ in Cleveland — acquired in a divestiture from Clear Channel – changed its format from modern rock to mainstream urban, changed its branding to "Kiss 107.9", and intended to change its call letters to reflect the change in format and brand, similar to Washington, D.C. station WKYS. Two weeks later, Clear Channel flipped the format of recently acquired WZLE in Lorain, Ohio, to "104.9 KISS-FM", with a CHR format emulating KIIS-FM. Following a legal fight with Clear Channel, Radio One abruptly dropped the "Kiss" brand in October 1999 for "Z-107.9", a reference to the WENZ call letters. WZLE itself then changed its call letters to WAKS.
- In 2001, Clear Channel went to federal court to force American General Media (AGM) to give up the "Kiss" slogan that was used as the on-air moniker for Rhythmic Top 40 KISV in Bakersfield, California. Clear Channel wanted to use the slogan for its then-recent acquisition KKXX in 2000. AGM argued they had the rights to the "Kiss" slogan three years before Clear Channel came to Bakersfield; Clear Channel said otherwise and claimed AGM used it without permission.
- In Chicago, Clear Channel sent a cease and desist letter to former CHR-Dance WKIE. Clear Channel sued WKIE and won the case, causing WKIE to drop the KISS name and rebrand itself as Energy 92.7. Clear Channel changed their Rhythmic Oldies 103.5 The Beat to CHR-Pop as 103.5 KISS-FM with call letters WKSC, with KSC referring to "KISS Chicago".
List of "KISS-FM" stations
Kiss FM in Europe
The Kiss FM name has been widely used both by licensed and pirate stations in several European countries including Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Iceland, Greece, Spain, Sweden and Berlin (Germany). An example of a station using the KIIS branding and logo is Corfu's Kiss FM 958 Corfu (Greece).
In the United Kingdom, Kiss, formerly known as Kiss FM, has become one of the biggest radio brands/networks. It started as an illegal station in 1985 but relaunched legally in 1990.
Kiss FM in Brazil
Kiss FM in Canada
In Canada, Rogers Broadcasting owns almost all the "Kiss"-branded stations except CKIZ-FM in Vernon, British Columbia where Rogers allowed it to keep brand as "Kiss FM" when it was sold to Jim Pattison Broadcasting Group in 2010.
CKIS-FM has historically been Toronto's KISS FM station; however, for several years in the first decade of the millennium, the station instead followed the famous Jack FM adult hits format. The Jack format was dropped in the middle of 2009, and KISS FM has since returned to the station, which carries a Top 40 CHR format.
The other Canadian station in a prominent market is CISS-FM in Ottawa. It is better known as "105.3 KiSS FM" and has a hot adult contemporary format. The call sign, CISS, was once used by CKIS-FM before it made the switch to Jack FM in June 2003.
On August 29, 2013, all four "EZ Rock"-branded Hot AC stations owned and operated by Rogers, CJMX-FM Sudbury, CKGB-FM Timmins, CHUR-FM North Bay, and CHAS-FM Sault Ste. Marie, rebranded to Rogers' own "KiSS" branding, discarding the "EZ Rock" branding that is currently owned by competing broadcaster Bell Media.
On February 13, 2015, Rogers re-branded 102.3 Clear FM in Winnipeg, Manitoba as "KiSS 102.3", without any change in format or personnel. The re-branding aligns CKY with other KiSS-branded hot AC stations operated by Rogers.
On February 23, 2015, Rogers re-branded SONiC Nation in Chilliwack, British Columbia/Abbotsford, British Columbia/Vancouver, British Columbia as "KiSS RADiO", without any change in format or personnel. The re-branding aligns CKKS-FM with other KiSS-branded hot AC stations operated by Rogers.
On February 25, 2015, Rogers re-branded 103.1 Jack FM in Victoria, British Columbia as "KiSS 103.1" from Jack FM Brand, "playing what we want" format into a Top 40. The re-branding aligns CHTT with other KiSS-branded hot AC stations operated by Rogers.
Kiss FM in Australia
Midwest Radio Network introduced the Kiss FM brand into Australia when it launched Kiss FM 95.3 in 1997. The 95.3 frequency was subsequently reclaimed by the Australian broadcasting regulator and auctioned off for $106 million in exchange for allowing Midwest to extend its service area into the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. At that time Kiss FM 95.3 became Kiss 107.9. In 2011 the station's name was changed to Move FM.
The Australian Radio Network (ARN) launched the KIIS brand in Australia in January 2014, after rebranding their failing Sydney station Mix 106.5. ARN, partially owned by Clear Channel at the time, poached top rating breakfast duo Kyle and Jackie O from rival 2Day FM, and launched the new positioning and music format on January 20, 2014. In the first survey following the switch, Kyle & Jackie O added 6 percentage points to the timeslot to become equal first FM breakfast with sister-station 101.7 WSFM.
In November 2014, ARN announced it was rebranding it's Melbourne Mix FM station to KIIS 101.1. At the same time, the station announced a new national drive show featuring former Nova 100 breakfast team Dave "Hughesy" Hughes and Kate Langbroek. ARN also rebranded the rest of the Mix Network as the KIIS Network, retaining each station's existing name, but changing the logo to the distinctive KIIS lips.
Kiss FM Australia is a Melbourne-based narrowcast radio station for the dance music community that was established in 2005. It broadcasts on 87.6, 87.8, 87.9 and 88.0 FM to Melbourne, broader Victoria state and Queensland via Orbit FM. It is considered part of the FM 876 Network. When ARN launched the KIIS brand in Australia, they faced a legal challenge from the management of Kiss FM. By February 2015, both parties had reached an agreement to co-exist.
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