Saturday, August 22, 2009

Moby Network Set to Expand

When life hands us a lemon, we do our best to turn that lemon into lemonade. Few people have been more successful at doing just that than James Carney, aka Moby.

Several years back, then Kicks General Manager Victor Sansone decided that Moby’s time had come and gone, and the station did not renew the contract of its longtime morning man. Moby quickly signed with Classic Rock Z93; he had done Rock radio in Texas. But his equity in Atlanta was in Country, and the Z93 audience did not accept him. Moby became a major market talent, and a good one, without a gig.

Moby, at the outset teaming up with former Kicks PD Neil McGinley, pitched his morning show to Country stations on the fringes of the Atlanta market. Bingo. Before long, two big FM signals, WNGC in Toccoa and WTSH in Rome, recognized a bargain when they saw one, and snatched the show. Instantly they had one of the best and most recognizable morning shows around.

Today the Moby in the Morning network is up to 11 affiliates; the show circles the Atlanta area and is heard on other stations in Georgia, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Someone with the network apparently paused and took inventory. They had an excellent morning show. They employed one of Country radio’s best PD’s, Dene Hallam. They leased satellite space 24/7. They already had hired United Stations to expand the affiliate list. And a couple of major market-caliber personalities just happened to be hanging around Atlanta. Realizing some big revenue potential was sitting at their feet did not require consulting a brain surgeon.

If it were not for radio’s current budget crisis, I would have been amazed that Sandy Weaver has not been on the air for the past 17 months. In the late 70s, while GMs and PDs were still debating whether females should be hired for a shift, Sandy Weaver was already proving that a woman could be one of the top personalities in radio with her nightly work on DC’s Q107. When a format change at Top-40 WAVA made doing Country her next step, it was absolutely no problem. After briefly doing morning news on WMZQ in Washington, Weaver became co-host of the morning show.

I came to Atlanta in March, 1994. I remember standing in the old Oxford Books in Peachtree Battle during May of that year, and reading in Billboard that Sandy’s husband had been transferred to Atlanta, so the couple was headed our way. I told an out-of-town radio friend, and he said, “You’ll be hearing her soon in Atlanta.” Weaver’s versatility has been demonstrated by her Atlanta career stops: B98.5 (AC), Kicks 101.5 (Country), Peach/Lite 94.9 (Soft AC) and Eagle 106.7 (Classic Country).

Sandy has the kind of talent that attracts stations to her, and she will be handling middays on Moby’s expanded network. That will leave her time to continue with her voice business, Voicework on Demand. Slam Duncan, an Atlanta native who came to 94-9 The Bull from Nashville’s WSIX, will be the afternoon personality. While not a Moby or Sandy Weaver, Duncan has proven he’s up to the task of holding down a drivetime shift.

The programming will be live, and picking up the network or part of it would seem an attractive proposition to stations in medium and small markets. Of course, this type of thing is a dual-edged sword; it will provide superior programming to stations that cannot afford it but also will eliminate jobs. Voicetracking and satellite formats are as much a product of technology as consolidated ownership.

It all starts on Monday, August 31.

Cox Closes the Loop
Since the GM level was eliminated at Cox Radio/Atlanta earlier this year, the buck was kind of stopping with Marc Morgan at Cox corporate. Recently, however, Morgan became much less visible at Digital White Columns, as rumors swirled regarding an impending promotion for him.

That prompted me to ask a question of one of the Cox/Atlanta Sales Managers. How long can the cluster go on without one leader? After all, Dan Kearney is the Market Manager of Sales and Tony Kidd is the Market Manager of Programming. The Sales Manager responded that this was the new Cox Radio paradigm, one head sales manager and one cluster programming chief. Okay, I know Bob Neil has things formatted to the point where little question exists about what Sales can do and what Programming can do, and the two departments are pretty much autonomous. But there just might come a time when an overall manager is needed to resolve something.

My question was answered last week as part of the overall Cox Media Group reorganization when Atlanta became one of four markets under the purview of Rich Reis, Senior VP of Radio Operations. Supervision from afar seems right since Kearney and Kidd are both among the best in the business.

Roddy Freeman

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