The 10 Largest Radio Stations In The United States – Zippia (2023)

The field of radio broadcasting has seen a huge shift since the dawn of digital broadcasting. An industry that once had virtually no competition except record players, tape cassettes, and eventually CDs is now seeing a huge shakeup and it’s not faring too well.

Radio stations aren’t exactly endangered, but their livelihood is nothing like it used to be. Before we take a look at ten of the largest radio stations in the country, let’s look at what’s happening to the industry in general.

Today, classic radio stations are few and far between, but they’re still out there and these are some of the top radio stations in the country as they consistently earn a significant amount of money. Note that many of them are not music-based.

  • WTOP

    Washington’s Top News
    Washington, D.C.
    Type of Station: News Channel
    Parent Company: Hubbard Broadcasting
    Earnings in 2021: $62 million

    WTOP stands for Washington’s Top News broadcasts and can be found on multiple channels in the D.C. metro area, in greater Virginia, and in Maryland in Frederick, Chesapeake Bay, and Fredericksburg and all the areas in between. They’re also available through Alexa, HD Radio, and

    In April of 2011, the station was bought by the Minnesota-based and family-owned Hubbard Broadcasting. But that’s not the beginning of this station’s story, not by a long shot.

    It was started way back in 1926, but the station didn’t earn its call letters until 1943. Interestingly, those were inherited from a police radio station, Tiffin Ohio Police.

    Many format changes would follow and finally, on March 9, 1969, the station struck what would be gold for them, an all-news format. They’re one of the best-known news channels in the country, as evidenced by their earnings.


    Los Angeles, California
    Type of Station: Contemporary Hit Radio
    Parent Company: iHeartMedia
    Earnings in 2018: $61 million

    KIIS is a huge hit music maker, in tradition with the first radio stations. They lay claim to Ryan Seacrest and they’re willing to ride his wave of fame as far as they can.

    KIIS is a commercial radio station that sticks to the top 40 format that’s popular and familiar to most people over 20. While Ryan Seacrest is the hot DJ of the moment, the station was also home to Rick Dees, a household name in the 1980s and 1990s.

    KIIS has gone through a lot of growing pains since first signing on in 1961 as KLAC-FM.
    Different call letters, different formats, different owners, and different celebrity DJs followed but KIIS has held on as one of the top ten radio channels in the country for a few decades and has found the niche that works for it and its audience.

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    Los Angeles, California
    Type of Station: Hot Adult-Contemporary
    Parent Company: iHeartMedia
    Earnings in 2018: $46 million

    KBIG also serves the greater Los Angeles area and features hot adult contemporary music. What is that you may ask? It’s a modern music format that focuses on top and popular music from the 1990s to present day.

    The station goes by 104.3 MYfm at the present time. In 2007 there was a big switch and some format flipping. One of the big changes that happened in 2007 was the loss of Casey Kasem’s American Top 20 radio program.

    KBIG had been the flagship for this program when it launched in 1992 and their long-time regular DJ, Charlie Tuna, would fill in for Kasem. Even when the station wasn’t focused on contemporary music, they still featured this weekly countdown.

    That is until the change-up in 2007.

    Another loss during this time was the nationally syndicated love song-based show Delilah, which features love letters and dedications read by the host, Delilah. While Delilah still had her national syndication, LA was without the popular program until 2012 when another station picked it up.


    New York, New York
    Type of Station: Lite Adult Contemporary
    Parent Company: Owned by iHeartMedia
    Earnings in 2018: $44 million

    Not just a high-earning radio station, WLTW is the most popular radio station in the country. Located in the heart of New York City, it broadcasts from the former ATT Building in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. Their transmitter is perched atop the Empire State Building.

    WLTW started as WRVR in 1961 and was owned by Riverside Church. They played mainly classical music but added a little jazz and some religious programming and public affairs news and events. Pretty soon the jazz took over and it had a strong following, but low ratings.

    But that jazz fan base was solid. Even though the station was sold, the change to a more contemporary format was blocked until the late 1970s. Even then, the jazz fans petitioned the FCC to deny the station’s renewal because they were not happy with the new country format.

    In 1984, the station was then owned by Viacom, who changed the call letters to WLTW and opted for easy listening music. Slowly, over time they began to add a few modern, but low-key, musicians until it became the mainstream adult contemporary station it’s known as today.


    New York, New York
    Type of Station: Contemporary Hit Radio
    Parent Company: iHeartMedia
    Earnings in 2021: $44 million

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    Licensed in Newark, New Jersey, WHTZ plays in the New York metropolitan area. It’s the flagship station for the very popular Elvis Duran and the Morning Show program. Its studios are located in Tribeca and its transmitter is located at the top of the Empire State Building.

    In addition to a standard analog transmission, WHTZ also has an HD radio format and streams on iHeartRadio, which makes sense, since they are owned by iHeartMedia.

    The channel used to also be streamed and simulcast on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but as of June 2020, they are no longer on their radio channel but can still be heard on streaming services associated with Sirius.

    Often called Z100, this channel was originally home to New York’s fourth FM radio station which started in 1942. As happened for most radio channels, changes came along and everything changed, many times.

    By the time the station adopted the call letters WHTZ in 1983, they also switched to calling themselves Z100. Today, they like to refer to their on-air personalities as ZJs.


    New York, New York
    Type of Station: Sports/Talk
    Parent Company: Entercom
    Earnings in 2018: $41 million

    Often called Sports Radio 66 AM and 101.9 FM or The FAN, this is a New York staple and was the world’s first radio station to adopt a 24/7 sports radio format. Of course, they didn’t start out that way.

    The 660 AM frequency began as WEAF in 1922 and was owned by ATT at that time. They were soon purchased by NBC’s parent company the Radio Corporation of America and the call letters were changed to WNBC.

    While they’re known for their talk, there were times in the history of this channel that music was the focus. There seemed to be a constant flip back and forth until the sports channel was established.

    Talk on WNBC was quite popular and a lot of celebrity talk show hosts came from this channel, including Soupy Sales, Alan Colmes, Joey Reynolds, Don Imus, and Howard Stern. Some of them are much more controversial than others.

    Sports radio began on the FM sister station of 1050 in 1987 and moved to the AM station 660 the next year. That move was very controversial and complicated and at one point included a Spanish-language channel.

    Eventually, the dust settled, and a 24/7 sports news channel was established and quickly became quite popular, spawning its own celebrities and the catchphrase, “And that’s what’s happening…”

  • 1010 WINS

    New York, New York
    Type of Station: News
    Parent Company: Entercom
    Earnings in 2018: $40.5 million

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    Another New York station owned by Entercom, WINS is the oldest continuously operating all-news station in the United States. The channel adopted the all-news format in 1965. But the station goes way back to 1924 when it started with studios in the Gimbels department store and was called WGBS.

    In 1932, new giant William Randolph Hearst bought the station and the WINS call sign began. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the channel was owned by Westinghouse Electric Corporation.

    When WINS went to all-news, it was the third station in the country to attempt this programming format. While the move to all news at the time seemed very risky, it has obviously paid off for the station and continues to be a winner.


    New York, New York
    Type of Station: News
    Parent Company: Entercom
    Earnings in 2018: $40 million

    WCBS is an AM channel that is located at 880 on your AM dial. Its transmitter is located on High Island in the Bronx. With a 50,000-watt clear channel signal, it can be heard throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada at nighttime.

    This station also dates way back to 1924. At the time, it was a pioneering station in NYC and was one of the first to broadcast from remote locations. The station went through a few call letters until 1946 when it became WCBS, to coincide with their parent network the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

    Radio soap operas and talk shows were very popular on this channel initially. However, it wasn’t until after WINS switched to all news that WCBS decided to make the same change.


    Chicago, Illinois
    Type of Station: News
    Parent Company: Entercom
    Earnings in 2018: $39 million

    WBBM is another commercial all-news radio station that broadcasts out of Chicago, Illinois. It’s also another station owned by Entercom.

    They are a Class A station broadcasting on a clear channel AM frequency with 35,000 watts during the daytime and 42,000 watts at night which means there is coverage into the northern two-thirds of Illinois.

    During the day, their signal is strong enough that they also reach into large portions of Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, and Indiana. At night, they’re the strongest channel in the Midwest and can be heard across much of North America.

    WBBM is a classic analog station but it also broadcasts over HD radio and is simulcast on WCFS-FM and available online at

    First licensed in 1924, the company was founded by a 29-year old who had a simple spark transmitter set. Always a pioneer and a bit of a rebel, that same “kid,” Les Atlass, was broadcasting local election results in April of 1923 from his amateur radio station.

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    While this was not legal, he found a technical loophole as he was allowed to transmit to another amateur; it wasn’t his fault others were listening.

    A few months later, Atlass got the call sign WBBM and began officially broadcasting his radio station in 1924. By 1928, the station had begun its long association with CBS and eventually joined as a network affiliate. In 1968 the switch was made to all news and has stayed that way.

  • KFI-AM

    Los Angeles, California
    Type of Station: News/Talk
    Parent Company: iHeartMedia
    Earnings in 2018: $35 million

    KFI began operating in 1922 and slowly kept increasing power until it became one of the very first high-powered clear-channel stations in the United States. As a Class A 50,000 watt station, it can be heard throughout all of Southern California during the day, and at night it can be heard in the entire western region of the United States.

    KFI airs a talk radio format and likes to feature local hosts, but there’s a particular national talk show host that the channel may be most famous for. It aired then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats during World War II. The show is well-known as a pacifier for the country in a time of turbulence and strife.

    For a while, the station was a hybrid of music and comedic commentary but AM began to lose the pop music market in the 1980s and their ratings slipped. Eventually, they switched to the talk format that is popular on AM radio and a hit for them.

  • Once upon a time, the DJ was king. Some of them rose to national fame and became known for their ability to make or break a band. If the DJ liked the band’s sound, they’d play their music.

    Eventually, that music would catch on and, like wildfire, the band would be played across the country. Or, your music would flop and it’d never go beyond that album that got a little local radio play.

    Even more interestingly, if you go back to a time before 1976, sound recordings couldn’t be copyrighted. So a DJ went to the mall, bought a Beatles record, then went on the air and played it. It was considered an honor to be a selected artist on the radio station and free advertising.

    That began to change when radio stations, or DJs in particular, were paid to play a song to try to make it popular and the band famous. It seems like a logical step, but it was deemed illegal and got slapped with the term payola.

    As the copyright laws changed, so did the balance of power in the radio industry. Now stations had to pay for the rights to use songs and they’d typically buy catalogs of songs from the label. That was a cost-effective way to feature many different artists. When this started happening, the independent radio station began to die away.

    A company known as iHeartMedia or Clear Channel started seeing the writing on the wall and began to buy up radio stations. In 1996, Clear Channel owned 40 stations. By the end of 2019, they owned 850 stations, leaving only 82 independent radio stations left in the United States.

    Not only did iHeartRadio prompt some big changes and the decline of the fame for local DJs, but it opened the door to new ways of listening to music. If you know the name iHeartMedia, you no doubt have heard of iHeartRadio.

    Created as a way to combine radio with podcasts and music. It’s free and it can be customized by listeners, so they get to listen to whatever they want. Then the floodgates opened, and digital and streaming music began surpassing radio in popularity.

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