Monday, August 2, 2010

Q100 Follows a Legend

Last week, we reviewed how the 100.5 signal came to Atlanta and Q100's formative years, culminating with a big power increase in 2005.

Also in 2005, Susquehanna Radio, which had no successor to retiring primary owner Louis Appel, sold its radio properties to a consortium of three companies, one of which was Cumulus Media Partners, controlled by medium-market owner Cumulus.  CMP was to operate the former Susquehanna stations.  Cumulus, known for running stations as inexpensively as possible, sat at the opposite end of the spectrum from Susquehanna, which enjoyed a reputation of investing in its product and caring about its people.

When Cumulus took over in Spring, 2006, the company implemented major staff reductions, which included longtime Atlanta General Manager Mark Renier, who had risen to Senior VP, Regional Manager at Susquehanna.  Cumulus retained Q100 PD Dylan Sprague (and much-honored 99X PD Leslie Fram) but brought in Rob Roberts, a leading CHR PD, from Clear Channel's Y100 in Miami to oversee both stations.

Cumulus CHR stations across the U.S. had some similarities.  One hallmark was the 10-in-a-row sweep that kicked off prior to the top-of-the-hour.  Another was a liberal use of recurrents and fairly-recent gold.  Even with the hiring of Rob Roberts, one had to wonder whether Q100 would be squished into the Cumulus mold.  Until then, Cumulus had owned CHR's in markets such as Montgomery and Fayetteville.  Would the same kind of music clock succeed in Atlanta and Houston?

Before long, the Cumulus version of CHR radio was on the air, and a quick casualty was nighttime personality Geller.  Geller entertained, and music on his show was secondary.  He could not operate under Cumulus' tight talk restrictions.  Geller departed before finding another job but today thrives at Raleigh's G105.  Eventually, Dylan's contract was not renewed.

Cumulus tried to revive legendary sister station 99X, even bringing back Sean Demery for mornings, but the Alternative format had pretty much run its course.  In early 2008, Q100 made history one more time, when it moved to the 100,000-watt 99X facility at 99.7.

Bert Weiss now had a major platform befitting his show's success and quality.  Furthermore, primary competitor Star 94, dominant for so long, had made some major mistakes in 2007 and 2008.  With the powerful 99.7 signal, which is transmitted from arguably the best FM site in the market, Cumulus and Q100 were going for the kill.

The new Q100 at 99.7 came out of the box with a quick score, handing Star 94 a defeat in the PPM ratings at the start of 2009.  However, Star made some changes and, despite Q100's dominant morning show, regained the lead in early summer, 2009.  The Star 94 victory really reflected how poorly programmed Q100's music had become.

In part 3 next week, we look at the evolution of Q100's music from the station's sign-on through today.

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