When V-103 chose not to renew the contract of morning show drag queen Miss Sophia (Joe Taylor), the radio community began to speculate why. Then the announcement that midday host Elle Duncan would move to mornings in a new role prompted additional conjecture. Some of the theories seem to make more sense than others, but let's take a look at what the pundits were saying.
V-103 needed to inject some youth into the morning show. Frank Ski and Wanda Smith are in their 40's as was Miss Sophia. Nevertheless, the morning show is a dominant #1 in 18-34. The lovely Elle Duncan is in her 20's so perhaps the station is being proactive and protecting its turf. Yet the only Urban competitor targeting the 18-34 demographic is Hot 107-9 (WHTA-FM), which, with the syndicated Ricky Smiley, has little chance of stealing anyone or anything from V-103.
The morning show needed more sports. V-103 has admitted that the Frank & Wanda Show has been a little sparse in this area, which is of interest to many listeners. And Elle Duncan is said to know sports, which will now enjoy increased coverage. However, wanting more emphasis on sports was not a reason to release Miss Sophia.
Elle Duncan was not yet ready to be a solo show host. I tend not to agree with this one. V-103 is a big-sounding station, and in a sense, Elle sounded overmatched in bigness. But, I loved Elle's bright voice. Importantly, she sounded unique, a quality associated with everyone on V-103. Keep in mind the morning show is a promotion for Elle.
Miss Sophia had no support except for Wanda Smith; Frank Ski got an earful on the streets. This is possible but consider that before coming to Atlanta, Frank Ski had a similar character on his show in Baltimore, Miss Toni, so he knew what to expect from Miss Sophia. And, Atlanta is a more gay-friendly town than Baltimore.
V-103 did research, and the results were not positive. If Sophia were widely disliked, I doubt he would have stayed for 4 years, which consisted of multiple contracts. Many listeners are not fond of Frank Ski but apparently listen anyway. The ratings are the bottom line and are huge.
Miss Sophia turned down a 2-year contract. A blog entitled AllRadioNews.com is reporting that Sophia turned down a 2-year deal because it disallowed his doing any outside appearances. The blogger does not identify himself, but former longtime V-103 morning man Mike Roberts told me that the author is a friend of his and "tends to be pretty plugged in." While this could be factual, I wonder why V-103 would not want Sophia doing appearances since they would be promoting the station. Even if Sophia's appearances tended to be raunchy enough to embarrass the station, the crowds attending would perceive them as just delightful.
Ramona Debreaux is the odds-on favorite to win middays on V-103. Ramona held down the slot in the months between Porche Foxx's departure and Elle Duncan's coming. She fits the demo and lifestyle, and is well known from her years at Hot 107-9. Other possible candidates are weekenders Shay Moore and Sytonnia. Moore has a long stay doing middays at Urban KRNB-FM in Dallas on her resume; Sytonnia has handled middays at Orlando's WJHM-FM.
Too Much Heat From Radio One
Since the FM translator on 102.9 signed back on under Radio One ownership, it's duplicated the programming of the company's Hot 107-9. As a long-term strategy, this of course would make no sense since the new signal is completely contained within 107-9's primary coverage area. So I have to assume that Radio One has plans for its precious new Atlanta baby.
I had thought Radio One would have had a well-reasoned business plan when it purchased 102.9, and maybe it did. The company, however, is being mum regarding any potential format. Some say Radio One should be excused if it did not have a plan since the signal was a virtual steal. Radio One did indeed get a terrific deal. The company had previous owner Extreme Media, or former Radio One executive Steve Hegwood, backed up against a wall. Hegwood had been hiding behind the Extreme Media name, having appointed his nephew CEO. Radio One sued Hegwood for stealing proprietary mixes from the company, and he did not appear to have a case. Radio One dropped the lawsuit as part of the deal for 102.9.
The 102.9 signal is strong across most high-density African-American neighborhoods and therefore has potential as an Urban station. Radio One has the Hip-Hop, Gospel and Urban AC genres covered with its Hot 107-9, Praise 102.5 and Majic 107.5/97.5, respectively. The Smooth Jazz format is pretty much extinct. Urban Talk is a possibility although WAOK-AM has Syndication One hosts Al Sharpton and Warren Ballentine tied up. If Radio One cannot find an Urban format for 102.9, the company's best strategy might be to sell the signal for a hefty profit.
Where has the time gone? Darik is coming on with the Text Top 5. Excuse me while I run to my radio.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV Blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/