A month has passed since B98.5FM shocked Atlanta's radio community by abruptly terminating Steve & Vikki with 4 months left on their contract. The dismissal ignited an explosion of rumors across the market, one of which was that Vikki Locke might return as a solo act. That, I might add, seemed the most improbable of them all.
On March 8, Vikki did indeed make her way back into the control room without her longtime partner and friend, Steve McCoy. She signed a 1-year deal that will take her through June, 2011.
My most pressing question was why Steve & Vikki were not allowed to finish the 4 months left on their contracts. After all, word had leaked out that their termination coincided with Cox's decision deadline for its right not to renew. So it seemed to be all about money, a veritable bundle of which was sitting in the ensuing contract. Was Cox trying to lower the duo's value by knocking them off the air? Did the station fear they would sputter unsavory words?
The next nugget to surface was that Cox had been analyzing the PPM ratings minute by minute, and finding talk segments were not the ticket to morning glory. Of course, we have to consider that Cox's Bob Neil was probably predisposed to chatter not working. But, we now had a plausible explanation for the show's premature death.
I expected Vikki's new show to be music intensive, calling it a "Kaedy Kiley special" right here in these pixels. B98.5 would have a big name to lure listeners and would let Vikki do her proverbial "Quickies from Vikki."
That was not what played out, however. Instead of the "Steve & Vikki Show," we got the "& Vikki Show," with plenty of talk punctuated by telephone calls. Instead of Steve McCoy, Vikki had a supporting cast of producer Will Gara and assistant producer Jessica Forkel.
I was not liking the show and felt Steve's absence had taken its soul. The overarching question was one that I thought had been answered. Why was Steve not permitted to work through his contract? What was that stuff about PPM numbers? Did someone at Cox have a problem with Steve (who's reputed to be a great guy by the way)?
Fast forward to week 3. The show was streamlined and coming together. Talk and spots were surrounded by two dead-segued songs. Talk was lengthy but had a defined limit. I doubt the new talk segments have the bandwidth to accommodate both McCoy and Locke.
Questions still remain, however. While talk has been cut back, it's still plentiful. So if talk hurts the PPM numbers, is the station okay with being hurt just a little less? Is a certain amount of talk okay before ratings take a dive? (I've seen a study showing talk on a music FM immediately chases listeners, but whether that's true for morning shows is a question.) Moreover, why Vikki over Steve? Will she work for less than Steve? Were Steve and station management doing some of that ultimate fighting, PPM style? And from where within Cox have these decisions come?
This is all a bit too heavy for me. Excuse me while I turn on B98.5FM, listen to Jordan Graye and ease my mind.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/