Robin Mitchell certainly tried to challenge KKNU with 95.3 The Moose, and as far as programming and promotion he did a fine job. However, the reason he couldn’t come close in ratings is due to ownership. Cumulus ran 95.3 as a jukebox, without any live personalities. Mitchell was the only contributor of content, with liners and promos.
In contrast, McKenzie River Broadcasting runs KKNU as a full service, live, local station. It has the consistently top-rated morning show in the market, with three solid, likable personalities who’ve been in the market for decades. They keep a warm body in the studio 24/7, their engineering is second-to-none, they pay cash for prime-time TV spots during the book, they sponsor prominent events, they spend tens-of-thousands of dollars every year on programming research.
KKNU is number one because of ownership/management’s commitment to a solid product and an investment that returns. Cumulus (and others who have tried to compete) is committed only to its own bravado.
Even if another group threw together a country format, they still wouldn’t have Barrett Fox & Berry, good management, and state-of-the-art facilities/transmission. They could put a dent in KKNU’s ratings, but I don’t think anyone is in a good position to compete with them for the long haul.