Monday, July 26, 2010

Q100 Hits Atlanta

Q100 (WWWQ-FM) will not be celebrating its 10th anniversary until January but already has made plenty of history.

Prying the 100.5 frequency, Q100's original home, from Anniston, Alabama and moving it to the Atlanta market had taken 16 years.  For the first 10, super radio broker Tom Gannon tried to claim it for Sandy Springs.  Later, Susquehanna Radio picked up the ball and sneaked it across the goal line.

The new station was licensed to College Park, but the antenna was attached to the existing tower atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta.  The power was 3,000 watts, but the antenna sat almost 1,000 feet above average terrain.  The low wattage provided instant ammunition for the competition's sales teams to bring to uneducated media buyers.

In FM, height is as important as wattage.  Q100 actually was equivalent in coverage to 25,000 watts at 328 feet.  While covering most of the market well, the station did have a directional antenna that produced a null, an area into which signal strength was limited, in heavily-populated Gwinnett County, northeast of town.

Brian Philips had already accrued quite a reputation as a programming visionary.  He had been the architect for Atlanta's hugely-successful 99X and had resurrected Susquehanna's Dallas Country station, KPLX-FM, as The Wolf.  Philips was tapped to create Q100 and selected Ed (Mr. Ed) Lambert as Program Director.  Today, Philips is President of cable network CMT.

Q100 was something that Atlanta had not heard in years, a genuine straight-ahead Top-40 station.  In fact, the last such outlet also had been owned by Susquehanna, Power 99 (WAPW-FM), 99X's predecessor on 99.7.

Star 94 (WSTR-FM) had been winning the young CHR audience by default until 95-5 The Beat (WBTS-FM) signed on in 1999 with a format that emphasized the dance side of Top 40.  With the debut of Q100, The Beat decided the mainstream CHR category had become just a little too crowded and segued to Rhythmic CHR.

Philips assembled a blue-chip air staff of Tracy St. George, JoJo Morales and Suzy Tevares in addition to Mr. Ed.  For mornings, Philips struck gold.  He heard something in Bert Weiss, Kidd Kraddick's co-host on Dallas' 106.1 Kiss FM (KHKS).  Bert would go on to be one of the business' most successful morning talents ever, up there with Gary McKee in the Atlanta market.  Philips plucked co-host Jeff Dauler from Philadelphia's Q102 (WIOQ-FM), and despite the long-distance paring, Bert and Jeff had good chemistry.

Early on, Melissa Carter, morning news person on sister 99X, replaced Lindsay Brien, the Bert Show's original reading-challenged newscaster.  Melissa became a major member of the cast.  Much later, Jenn Hobby, part of a short-lived morning show on The Beat, became the fourth member of Bert's contingent.

In its first year, Q100 gained little ratings traction and did not hit revenue targets.  Budget cuts became inevitable; the contracts of JoJo Morales and Suzy Tavares were not renewed; station voice Sean Caldwell was replaced by Jeff Berman.  (Some felt Caldwell sounded too Hot AC for Q100.)  Susquehanna, a privately-held company, showed enormous patience with the station.  If one of the major public conglomerates had owned it, we probably would not have Q100 today.

As 2002 unfolded, The Bert Show began to grow its ratings.  Dylan Sprague was hired as PD, replacing Lambert.  Dylan, now in Denver, was a much better PD than jock but put himself on in afternoon drive.  Q100 was sounding good but was a mainly one-daypart (morning drive) station in terms of ratings.  Eventually, some audience started building outside of morning drive.

The big breakthrough came in October, 2005 when Q100 increased its power to 12,500 watts at about the same antenna height from the same location.  Susquehanna had convinced Clear Channel, owners of a Greenville market station on 100.5, to allow the increase in return for a bundle of cash.

Q100's new signal traveled farther and more strongly into Gwinnett.  Following the wattage boost, Q100's cume--number of different listeners in a week--grew exponentially.  Average quarter hour ratings remained a challenge but also increased.  In some ratings periods, Q100 was close on the heels of Star 94.

As 2005 came to a close, middayer Tracy St. George, the sole remaining jock from day one, accepted a position in West Palm Beach.  Dylan Sprague replaced her with the equally competent Brittany, who is still in place today.

Join us next week for part 2 as Q100 changes hands...and then makes history one more time.

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  1. I enjoy your column every week! Thank you for keeping us up-to-date with the inside skinny on Atlanta radio.


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