Monday, April 27, 2009

March PPM Lifts Radio One

Radio One needed some good news, and the company got it with its Atlanta cluster’s performance in the March PPM numbers.

R1’s new Urban AC simulcast, Majic 107.5 and 97.5, jumped from 4.0% in February to 5.6% in March in the overall 12+ shares. And Gospel Praise 102.5, which moved from 97.5 to the weaker 102.5 signal in February, increased from 3.7% to 4.6%.

Until a couple of years ago, Atlanta was the first place that Radio One looked for good news. After all, the firm had created a 4-station cluster from scratch and paid pennies compared to what established signals would have commanded. The 97.5 frequency, Radio One’s first in Atlanta, involved purchasing a station at 97.7 in a small Georgia market, signing it off and building 97.5. The 107.9 signal was a move-in from the Macon market; Radio One acquired it from the now-defunct U.S. Broadcasting.

Both 107.5 and 102.5 were new signals whose licenses were initially awarded to individuals whom Radio One bought out over time. In both cases, the company employed the original license holders over a period as part of the deal. In the case of 107.5, that employee, Frank Johnson, quit his engineering job with WABE-FM to become Station Manager of Radio One’s Atlanta cluster, where he served for almost 10 years.

In our post of February 2, we predicted success for Majic based on the facts that Steve Harvey usually beats Tom Joyner and that Michael Baisden gets ratings in markets across the U.S. Radio One, however, is using two decent signals to accomplish this, each proven capable of getting ratings on its own. And that makes the billings needed to make this a sound strategy higher than they would have been with one signal.

Simulcasting 107.5 on the 97.5 signal does nullify Kiss 104.1’s signal advantage in the market’s southern environs. But Harvey and to an extent Baisden are destination shows; their fans will find them on any listenable signal. So while we still wonder whether Radio One made the correct long-term decision by using two signals for one station, the numbers would not likely be so good so quickly if Majic were on 107.5 only. And we do not blame Radio One for taking the fastest road to success in this tough economy and competitive market.

It’s interesting that while Radio One gained 2.1 share points in the March ratings versus February, Majic’s most direct competitor, Kiss 104.1, lost very little, going from 7.4% to 7.1%. And though urban contemporary giant V-103 went from 10.2 to 9.2, its March number was more representative of where it had been in the early months of PPM. In the money demo, Adults 25-54, Kiss landed in a tie for second place; Majic was fourth.

March’s higher Urban ratings could be a function of listeners sampling the new Radio One menu. Where things go from here should prove interesting and more indicative of the true picture. But Majic has made its presence known and will be a player for the foreseeable future. Subsequent PPM reports will tell us whether Praise 102.5’s ratings leap was for real.

With Harvey and Baisden the anchors of Majic 107.5/97.5, what happens from 10AM-3PM and 7PM-Midnight is not critically important. Morning and afternoon drive will lead the station to ratings glory. Carol Blackmon sounds very good in midday, but I feel Kiss, where Cynthia Young holds things down, has an edge formatically, presenting a richer sound. We’re glad SiMan has finally returned to a strong signal after performing on the weak 102.5 for years. He does an excellent job in evenings for Majic.

Gospel has historically been a tough sell to ad agencies, which envision listeners as old and poor. And while the demographics of many Gospel FM’s have dispelled this, Praise’s audience has been older than that of the typical station in the format. If Praise continues to do well on the in-town-and-west-side 102.5 signal, we wonder whether the older-and-poorer label will be more reality than perception.

Dave-FM Gets Its Act Together
It sure didn’t take long for new Dave-FM Program Director Scott Jameson to get the AAA station’s music and imaging straightened out.

Since its launch in 2004, Dave-FM’s music had been inconsistent. At first, within its “Rock Without Rules” positioning, the music was all over the place. The songs evolved into what some termed (PD) Michelle Engel’s personal playlist, and they probably were right.

Mike Wheeler, who replaced Engel, steered Dave-FM into a decidedly AAA direction, but the mix veered away too much at times.

The music now sounds great, in my opinion, and is consistently AAA. The new imaging, which I also like, is done by talent and writer Nick Michaels, who was the voice of CNN International for years.

On this past Sunday’s edition of WSB-AM’s Atlanta’s Morning News, Pete Combs interviewed AJC Editor Julia Wallace regarding the newspaper’s revamp, coming this week. When Combs broached the AJC’s new management structure, Wallace talked about a more streamlined setup. Combs said it sounded like a budget cutback to him. Wallace retorted, “I should ask you about what happened there at WSB.”

Thanks for reading. I would love to see your comments. Email me at

Link to Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Blog:

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