Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are The True Oldies Here To Stay?

Randy Cook is set to join his longtime radio partner, Spiff Carner, on the True Oldies 106.7 (WYAY-FM) morning show starting October 12. I heard it said that adding Cook to the show will not do anything for the station. Is that correct? More importantly, what’s the station’s future?

Will the re-pairing of Randy & Spiff lift the station’s ratings? Probably not except possibly as the result of some initial curiosity. As observers are saying, if you want oldies, 106.7 is your station no matter who is on the air. Will any staff benefit or get hurt by the change? Freddie Brooks, who has been doing the show with Spiff, should be the happiest about this because, after some initial doubt, he has been told that afternoon drive will be his alone. Spiff Carner, who has been working without a contract, might have gotten inflicted with a case of sibling rivalry; the doctor ordered a new contract and a raise. That’s an expensive prescription for Citadel, and whether they fill it is anyone’s guess.

Is True Oldies 106.7 needlessly spending money based on PD Mark Richards’ personal fondness for Cook and Carner? (He was their boss at Fox 97.) My opinion is the positives outweigh the negatives. Acquiring the Randy & Spiff brand should engender positive attitudes and loyalty among listeners, who have known the duo for years. The biggest benefit, however, should be bringing in advertisers who want to be associated with Randy & Spiff. That could make the dollars invested by Citadel pay off, especially if the guys agree to the proverbial sales calls.

From our perspective as radio junkies, airing Randy & Spiff makes True Oldies 106.7 a better station. That’s mostly because it’s created another live, local shift in afternoon drive and a break from all-Shannon-all-the-time.

True Oldies arrived at Atlanta’s 106.7 for three reasons. First, Citadel CEO Farid Suleman was a financial person whose background landed him as Mel Karmazin’s money man at CBS Radio. In 6 years at Citadel, whose stations were not in major markets, he apparently never learned what a flanker was. The fact that he didn’t, however, turned out to be academic when Clear Channel, lusting for billings like those of Kicks 101-5, ignored WYAY’s role in the ABC cluster and took 94.9 country. Second, the True Oldies format gave Imus a distribution channel in the Atlanta market, very important to Citadel when selling his show nationally. (WYAY has since been rescued by WCFO-AM.)

The biggest reason by far for flipping 106.7 to True Oldies was it would be dirt cheap to run. Citadel’s ongoing financial challenges have been well documented. True Oldies would bill less than Eagle, but operating it would cost far less.

True Oldies was created by Scott Shannon, apparently as a labor of love. Its first affiliate was on Long Island. Who knew it would be perfect for a key Citadel business objective, saving money? Citadel stations gave True Oldies mass distribution across the country in (former ABC) markets as large as the Windy City.

The radio industry has been waiting for Citadel’s other shoe to drop. Sooner or later—and later is defined as January, 2010—Citadel will need to pay down some debt. And, the consensus seems to be the company will be forced to shed stations, specifically some former ABC properties in large markets. If at all possible, Citadel would likely hold on to its legendary anchors, WABC and WLS for example. That would seem to make Atlanta’s non-legendary former ABC stations ripe for dealing.

A rumor that Bonneville will buy certain Citadel stations has persisted over the past several weeks. You can bet if Bonneville purchased WKHX and WYAY from Citadel, oldies would be a blast from the past. True Oldies has a 55+ audience and is hard to sell to advertisers. Moreover, Bonneville prides itself on its programming and would likely create a new format for 106.7.

WYAY is a move-in, but the signal is pretty good. Though not as intense as the original Atlanta FM’s, WYAY’s 60 dBu (city-grade) signal, transmitted from Loganville east of Atlanta, goes as far west as Douglasville. The station is capable of being competitive.

I am not saying Bonneville will purchase Citadel’s Atlanta stations or that they will even get sold. That Citadel would part with stations in other markets instead is quite possible. And, no one knows for certain that the company will sell stations at all.

Sooner or later, however, some owner will program a younger-skewing, not-canned format on 106.7. The signal is just too valuable. In the meantime, let’s welcome back the Randy & Spiff team and look forward to hearing folks like Gramps and Ed the Mechanic. Bill Hoger might even show up.

95-5 The Bizzeat
Every station we listen to occupies an image in our mind that’s probably molded by a combination of music, personalities, imaging, processing and everything else that goes out over the air. And, like with every other station, I have a mental image of 95-5 The Beat (WBTS-FM).

Each station is different from every other station in my mind; some are more different than others. But, my mental picture of The Beat is very different from anyone else. A big reason is the unique sound of the jocks.

Does anyone else agree with me that the fulltime jocks on The Beat are white people who are trying to sound like black people? CJ really honed that skill while at Hot 107-9, and Mami Chula, who hails from Wichita, Kansas, has become quite accomplished at it. Even afternoon driver Maverick, who was on the original Q100 staff, is mastering the art.

Okay, maybe I’m going a little too far. Maybe vaunted consultant Steve Smith, architect of the station’s current formatics, wanted to create a unique sound, and part of that was having jocks come across as novel while consistent with the music and the pace of the station; and was not trying to make them sound black. Remember it was Smith who dropped The Beat’s hit-music positioning and changed it to the unabashed “Atlanta’s new #1 for hip hop.”

The CHR/Rhythmic format was originally developed at stations such as B96 in Chicago to target young white people after hip hop burst into the mainstream. Over time, different degrees of CHR/Rhythmic stations have emerged. One of Steve Smith’s big successes was Hot 97 in New York; while defined as Rhythmic CHR, distinguishing the station from Urban was subjective. Even Big Boy’s Neighborhood, hosted by an African-American personality, has been added at a number of CHR/Rhythmic outlets that seemingly target a Caucasian audience.

Atlanta’s 95-5 The Beat shifted to CHR/Rhythmic from CHR/Pop in 2001 when Q100 signed on. Since then, the station has never attracted a mostly-white audience. In the July Arbitron PPM, 46% of its audience was African-American, 15% was Hispanic and 40% was “other,” meaning whites and Asians.

I certainly do not mean any disrespezzy to Smith. The Beat is considered a success though Smith has had some much bigger winners in other markets.

Roddy Freeman

Thanks for reading. Feel free to email any comments to roddyfreeman@bellsouth.net. I would love to hear from you.

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

1 comment:

  1. Since when has Mark Richards had personal fondness for anything? He is a most disingenuous person and would just as soon lie to you as shake your hand.
    He'd throw R&S to the wolves in a heartbeat if it meant keeping HIS job.