KISQ (98.1 MHz, 98.1 The Breeze), is a commercial FM radio station licensed to San Francisco, California that features a Soft AC format. It is owned by iHeartMedia. The station transmits its signal from Mount Beacon atop the Marin Headlands above Sausalito, California, while its studios are located in the SoMa district of San Francisco.
98.1 FM first signed on the air on July 17, 1958 as KAFE.
The frequency was the long-time home of KABL-FM ("Cable," denoting cable cars, a symbol of San Francisco). The station once programmed a beautiful music/easy listening format, also heard on 960 KABL-AM. By the early 1990s, the format had given way to soft adult contemporary, and competed directly with KOIT, which had successfully made the same transition a few years earlier. The format was a modest success, although it was unable to overcome KOIT's dominance in the ratings. In spring of 1993, KABL-FM re-branded as "B98" and focused on hit songs from the 80's and early 90's, while dropping the 60's and most 70's songs from the playlist. The change did not help the station's ratings, as changes would soon be made.
In 1994, KABL-FM switched to a classic hits format, playing songs mostly from the 70s. The call letters were changed to KBGG-FM, and the station rebranded as "Big 98.1". with Jay Peterson as music director. 1995, Shamrock Broadcasting of Burbank, California reached a deal to sell KBGG, as well as KNEW and KSAN, to Chancellor Media.
On July 22, 1997, after playing "No Matter What" by Badfinger, KBGG began stunting with sounds of radio tuning and ground control transmissions, while promoting a new format to come. At 1 p.m. the next day, Chancellor Media (later to become AMFM, Inc., and then Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia)) flipped KBGG to Urban AC as KISQ, "98.1 Kiss FM". The first song on "Kiss FM" was "Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind & Fire. Despite the format, KISQ leaned heavily on a format similar to a Classic Soul/Urban Oldies format, with a playlist of more old school R&B music with occasionally few new R&B songs (mostly mainstream with no neo-soul). This may have helped garner a diverse audience of blacks, Latinos, and whites who listen to R&B and this station in particular. The station's owners may have also formatted the playlist this way not only to protect longtime Urban Contemporary-sister station KMEL, which plays some old school in addition to current Hip Hop/R&B, but to differentiate itself from competitor KBLX, which plays new and old R&B. Since September 2006, KISQ has also been in competition with KMVQ, a Rhythmic Adult station, but when Clear Channel decided to gravitate most California urban AC stations to rhythmic AC stations (including KHHT in Los Angeles), KISQ retained the Mainstream Urban AC format. Mediabase began reporting the station's playlist, with newer music of those sourced from rhythmic AC stations. By 2008, KMVQ took on the Top 40 format at the time the "MOViN'" format declined in popularity, allowing KISQ to evolve its format more in a rhythmic AC direction.
By 2011, the station was described as having a Gold-based Rhythmic Oldies format, with no currents. It also began playing a few new wave hits from the 1980s from artists such as The Police and Human League. At the same time as the format adjustment, the station changed its logo to one bearing resemblance to a logo most urban oldies/rhythmic oldies used during the peak time of the format in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
In June 2015, the station added "Throwback" to its slogan while adding some classic hip hop in its playlist, removing the new wave and Disco tracks from the station (most of which moved over to sister KOSF), in order to better compete with KRBQ. The next month, the station reduced most of the classic hip hop tracks in favor of more familiar upbeat R&B and dance tracks, as well as ballads.
As 98.1 The Breeze
On April 13, 2016, at 2 p.m., after playing "Kiss and Say Goodbye" by The Manhattans and "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men, KISQ flipped back to Soft AC as "98.1 The Breeze." The first song on "The Breeze" was "Easy" by The Commodores. Core artists of the format include Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Elton John and Celine Dion.
The new format positions KISQ up against KOIT’s older demographics (KISQ registered a 2.3 share in Kiss's last book, the March 2016 Nielsen Audio PPM ratings, while KOIT had a 4.6 share).