Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Atlanta’s CHR Face-Off

Star 94 (WSTR-FM) had a tumultuous 2008 and early 2009. The station brought back JR Ammons to be PD, and he made a number of changes. Q100 (WWWQ-FM) recently altered its music clock, most likely in response to summer gains by Star 94.

At this point, both of Atlanta’s CHR stations have their product in place, and it’s probably an appropriate time to take stock of where they are.

Atlanta, much to the frustration of CHR devotees, is an unusual market in that both stations go head-to-head on the adult side of CHR. Star 94 and Q100 leave out a slew of songs that are monsters nationally, and they both continue playing certain songs long after they are hits, at least in other markets. Q100 has a more liberal policy at night, when some Hip-Hop is added.

Q100 was the winner among Persons 12+ in the October PPM, continuing the trend of the past few months. Q100 had a share of 3.4%, ranking #12, while Star 94 was listened to by 3.1% of the audience, landing in a tie for #15. In Adults 25-54, one of the demos that really matter, Q100 was significantly ahead with 4.3% of the listeners versus Star 94’s 3.2%, with the stations coming in at #7 and tied for #14, respectively.

The total week (6AM-Midnight) 25-54 numbers make it appear that Q100 is beating the pants off Star. And that is the case in morning drive. The Bert Show on Q100 absolutely devours Star 94’s Cindy & Ray. In Adults 25-54, the shares were 6.7% for Q100 and 2.8% for Star. In middays, things are much closer with Q100 somewhat ahead, probably a result of its stronger lead-in. In afternoon drive, things are tight, with Q100 holding a slim lead over the syndicated Ryan Seacrest on Star.

The Morning Mess on Star 94 and the absence of Steve & Vikki from morning radio for 6 months last year gave The Bert Show a great opportunity which it capitalized on. Had Star 94 immediately replaced Steve & Vikki with Cindy & Ray, the station might be in a better position today. But, it is what it is.

So what do you do if you’re Star 94? The answer is probably not a lot. The station still has brand equity in the market and is competitive after 10AM. The product is still saleable. A format change seems out of the question.

I continue to feel Cindy & Ray is the right morning show for Star. C&R reestablished Star as an Adult CHR after it had gone off track for over a year. Moreover, changing morning shows again would convey an aura of uncertainty, both within the station and among listeners, and would give competitors a convincing argument to advertisers.

When Cindy & Ray moved to mornings, Star found a way to make giving away $1,000 a day sound like a major deal. Maybe an exclusive C&R giveaway of some sort would help. Perhaps the show’s content can be spruced up. In any case, changing morning shows is not an option for Star.

While Star 94 is an Adult CHR and apparently wants to reinforce that position, I fail to understand its aversion to anything leaning the least bit rhythmic. The station waited until Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” hit #1 before adding it. And I still have not heard Britney Spears’ “3,” which is #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Neither of these songs is anywhere near hard-core Hip-Hop. Maybe Star associates playing Kanye West and Flo Rida last year with down ratings, and Flo Rida might have been pushing it a bit. But Kayne’s “Stronger” was a pop song that seemed perfectly appropriate. Star had far bigger problems than that at the time.

What about Jason DeRulo’s “Whatcha Say,” the #1 song in the country? Where are Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” and Jay Sean’s “Down,” both of which are played by Q100 all day? Yes, they lean rhythmic but are huge national hits being played by virtually all CHR’s in other markets. Perhaps not coincidentally, when Star 94 was more aggressive with new music last spring, ratings were higher.

Here’s a question for both stations: When should a big song be dropped? “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon was a smash that crossed over into multiple formats, even Adult Alternative. It’s still #20 nationally but on the way down. Yet Star 94 and Q100 play it like it’s still at the top of the chart.

I am also a bit puzzled regarding how songs from a year or two ago are among the most played on Atlanta’s CHR stations. Q100 is probably slightly guiltier of this. But I may just smash the radio if I hear “Sorry” by Buckcherry on Star one more time.

Since the Star 94 brain trust is probably not singing my praises right about now, I might as well add that bringing back jingles would brighten the station. I also would love to hear Chase Daniels, who has proven he can entertain, in place of Seacrest. By the way, I will not be going anywhere near Maggiano’s for lunch in the foreseeable future.

Despite what you have just read, Star 94 is in a much better position than a year ago. Of course, mornings will continue to be a challenge. But with a few tweaks, Star could be able to make the battle tighter.

Thanks to Jonathan Hirsch, who helped with his CHR insight and music expertise.

Thank you for reading. Follow us on Twitter at, and we’ll follow you back. Email your comments to

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

No comments:

Post a Comment