Doug Barton isn’t slowing down – rather; he’s expanding radio group
MANTI—In 1976, when Sanpete County was far more rural and wide open than it even is today, a young man named Doug Barton made a move that would forever change his life—and the lives of residents in the valley.
After studying graduate level courses at Brigham Young University, Barton set out to build a radio station in central Utah. He had originally offered to buy KSVC AM in Richfield but was rebuffed in his attempt. That’s when he decided to build a 10,000-watt AM-band talk station in Manti, KMTI 650 AM.
“When I told faculty at BYU what I was planning to do, they said, ‘Doug, you’re crazy… and even crazier if you think you can do it in Sanpete County.’” Barton said. “But after KSVC turned out not to be for sale, I came here to Manti and put this little AM station up.”
A few years after starting KMTI, Barton bought KSVC, adding to his radio holdings.
Now, 41 years later, that one spot on the radio dial has blossomed into seven unique stations that are part of a broadcasting group, Mid-Utah Radio. The group, which encompasses KMTI, KSVC, KLGL, KWUT, KKUT, KMGR, and KUTC, employs 20 people in the region and has an 80-percent market share in the cities and towns it reaches.
A market share is a measurement of how many individual listeners or viewers a radio or television station has during a given period.
Barton, who is now the third-longest tenured commercial AM/FM radio license holder in Utah, said the future is exciting and that the growth has been a long time in the making.
“Next week, we are bringing our seventh station, The Boss (KUTC FM), online for the listeners,” Barton said. “It’s all ready to go but for a few pieces of electronics. It’s going to be a classic rock station and is our latest edition to Mid-Utah Radio. Five years ago we had just five stations, so making this our seventh is a good thing. The last station we added was KKUT FM, which is a Wasatch and Utah County station.”
When it comes to the economics of radio ad sales, the addition of the two stations in the past year has been a blessing for Barton and his radio group.
“We serve 13 counties, so we serve our listeners and advertisers from as far south as Kanab to as far north as Utah County and Point of the Mountain,” Barton said. “We draw business from all those counties, and Sanpete county ad revenue is pretty stable. We’re seeing more growth from other areas, and we’re very excited that we now serve Utah and Wasatch (counties).”
Barton believes a key factor contributing to this expansion is that radio is still relevant in small-town Utah and on the Wasatch Front.
“The thing that makes radio particularly successful is that we’re affordable for businesses in (Utah and Wasatch County),” Barton added. “We keep production costs low, so it’s inexpensive, and research has shown that 80 percent of the population we reach listens to one of our stations at some point in the day. In Salt Lake City, there are too many stations, so market penetration there is far lower than what we have.”
The growth of Mid-Utah Radio has also seen five additional full-time positions come online at both the Manti and Richfield offices. Just five years ago, Barton had only 15 full-timers on staff.
Mid-Utah Radio has also grown technologically, maintaining 23 transmitter and repeater sites around the state.
Barton added that his eyes are still set to the future, with the possibility of two more stations—one on the FM band and another on the AM band—coming on line in the next five years.
“We already have a lot of sites for one owner,” Barton said. “But this growth is very good for the company. In the next few years we have our eye on even more growth and, even though we can’t say anything about it right now, it will be good for us as well.”