KPLZ-FM (101.5 FM) is a commercial radio station located in Seattle, Washington. KPLZ-FM airs an adult top 40 music format branded as "Star 101.5". KPLZ broadcasts on a frequency of 101.5 MHz with an ERP of 100,000 watts through a transmitter located on Cougar Mountain, while its studios and offices are co-located with television partner KOMO-TV within KOMO Plaza (formerly Fisher Plaza) in the Lower Queen Anne section of Seattle, directly across the street from the Space Needle.
During the 1970s, AM radio dominated the Seattle airwaves. The major country station was KAYO 1150. Top-40 stations in the city included KOL, which became country station KMPS in the mid-1970s. In 1976, Seattle was a two-station battleground between KING1090 and the legendary KJR 950. When Golden West Broadcasters bought the station, they decided to name the station KVI-FM or "The FM KVI", and flip to a Top 40 format, becoming the company's first station with the format. The first song played under the new format was "Beginnings" by Chicago. The FM KVI's first Program Director was Frank Colbourn, who relocated to Seattle from Monterey, California to sign-on the new format.
The new format quickly became very popular as AM music began to lose its audience to the FM band. Colbourn lead the station to ratings success, and earned the station twelve gold records from artists such as Stevie Wonder, Exile, and Donna Summer. However, there was some confusion between KVI (which aired a talk format), and its new Golden West Broadcasters sister station, KVI-FM. The station then, in 1978, became "K-Plus 101" and changed its call letters to KPLZ. This signaled the beginning of the end of contemporary music stations on Seattle AM radio.
In the late 1970s, while KJR and KING maintained mainstream Top-40 formats, "K-Plus" became the area's de factodisco music station. The death of disco, combined with the sign-on of Top-40 upstart KBLE-FM (now KPWK), signaled a tough ratings environment for KPLZ in the early 1980s, which slightly moved towards an adult contemporary format, using the slogan "The Music Magazine" and branding as simply "KPLZ". However, under the leadership of Program Director Jeff King, and eventually Casey Keating, the station became the city's dominant Top-40 station during the 1980s. The station moved back towards Top 40 by 1982 by changing the slogan to "Hot Hits", using the jingle package and formatics developed by Mike Joseph, who created the "Hot Hits" format in the early 1980s. KPLZ would again change monikers to "Z 101.5", before moving back to "101.5 KPLZ" in the early 1990s. KUBE struggled for a time, but ultimately adopted a Rhythmic CHR approach in early 1992. KPLZ's ratings dropped while KUBE ascended the ratings ladder, and KPLZ tried various angles of the format, such as counteracting KUBE's rhythmic direction with a more mainstream CHR direction, as well as emphasizing hits from the previous 5 years. When that strategy didn't work, KPLZ began playing more rhythmic titles by January 1993. Fisher bought the station in January 1994. On January 28, at 1 PM, KPLZ finally gave up on Top 40 and became adult top 40 as "Star 101.5." The first song on "Star" was "Waiting for a Star to Fall" by Boy Meets Girl. The Kent and Alan morning team remained intact and continue on-air to this day.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, and currently, KPLZ would be challenged by KRWM (Mainstream AC), KBKS-FM (Top 40, which shifted to Hot AC in 2016), and KLSY (AC, but flipped to Adult Top 40 in 2002, only to flip to Rhythmic AC in 2006 as KQMV). Seattle would gain a second Hot AC in March 2012, when KLCK-FM flipped formats from alternative rock. KPLZ has a more rhythmic direction as compared to KLCK, which had an alternative slant. (KLCK has since changed formats to rock, leaving KPLZ to compete solely against KBKS.)
On April 11, 2013, Fisher Communications announced that it would sell its properties, including KPLZ-FM, to the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Although Sinclair primarily owns television stations, the company intends to retain KPLZ, KVI, and KOMO. The deal was completed on August 8, 2013.