Monday, December 20, 2010

Atlanta's Station of the Year: 94-9 The Bull

This year's decision was a difficult one.  Radio One's Praise 102.5 (WPZE-FM), guided by Derek Harper, continues to amaze.  Its little 3,000-watt signal from Ben Hill notwithstanding, Praise lands near the ratings tip-top every month.  It defies the PPM's law of gravity by taking a time-spent-listening route to big ratings despite a low cume.

Praise is a state-of-the-art Gospel station in its formatics, imaging and promotion.  In fact, its on-air vocabulary no longer includes the word Gospel; Praise defines itself as Inspirational.  Led by evening personality CoCo Brother, it connects the dots between Gospel and Hip-Hop.

Praise 102.5 was a feisty contender for Station of the Year and certainly merits honorable mention.  When all was said and done, however, we selected 94-9 The Bull (WUBL-FM).  Going against one mighty tough competitor, Kicks 101-5, The Bull has strut impressively to the top of the Country hill among the key demographics of 18-49 and 25-54.

What really tipped the scale was how The Bull got the job done.  When ratings adversity struck at the end of last year and continued into 2010, management had the fortitude to stay the course, a characteristic not often associated with owner Clear Channel.  Management's aplomb paid off handsomely.

Early this year, I named The Bull as one of 2010's questions, saying it had dinged Kicks to the best of its ability but needed a strategy to get to the next level.  In another column, I declared The Bull had hit a wall, and Kicks had won the battle.  But I was wrong, as the station picked itself up and resumed its onward march.  By Fall, The Bull was beating Kicks in the money demos though Kicks still won in Total Persons and older listeners.

Although The Bull signed on around Christmas 2006, the station as we know it was re-launched under Clear Channel/Atlanta President Melissa Forrest and Regional VP Clay Hunnicutt in November 2008, and then molded to perfection by PD Scott Lindy.  Lindy is credited with bringing in Jason Pullman to host mornings with Kristen Gates, who was already in place.

In a move that surprised even the jaded radio community, Lindy was released in August.  Rumor was he said something that angered a higher-up.  Many thought the termination was a knee-jerk reaction, but I don't have the facts and therefore cannot comment.  Happily for Atlanta listeners, Lindy quickly landed at Star 94, where his presence is being felt on the air.

As the 2011 chapter opens, Clear Channel has turned to a programming chief with a stellar background and reputation, Dan Persigehl.  His missions at The Bull are to keep the station on course and make it even better.  The heavy lifting has already been done.

So to the management and staff of 94-9 The Bull, congratulations on being named Atlanta's Station of the Year.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and happy New Year to all.  This is our last column for 2010.  I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about in 2011.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Season of Hope for Rock 100.5

Rock 100.5 (WNNX-FM) signed on with a world of promise.  After all, it seemed to fill the void left by the legendary 96 Rock.  And it had a proven marquee morning show, The Regular Guys.  Yet that promise has never been fulfilled.

Braves baseball gave the station a nice kiss, but ratings have fallen since the season ended.  Some attribute the decline to Rock 100.5's schizophrenia.  Since its inception in 2008, the outlet has toyed with Active Rock, Triple A, 80's Rock and Classic Rock.  These days, the 100.5 airwaves are filled with older Rock, including some heavy stuff.  The station is playing AC/DC, Guns N' Roses and Red Rider along with the more dulcet tones of Boston and Journey.

Some say owner Cumulus Media Partners should give WNNX some time to establish itself with one musical style before moving to another.  In any case, Rock 100.5 had its head handed to it by Triple A Dave-FM (WZGC-FM), though a hot Falcons team could have something to do with that.  Project 9-6-1 (WKLS-FM) is in command with young white males.

Rock radio's growth over the years was one reason why CHR evolved from a mass-appeal format to a niche one.  Recently, however, CHR has taken charge in markets across the U.S. while Rock shares have withered.  Three Rock stations in Atlanta appear to be one too many.  What are the choices for WNNX?

Adult Contemporary has been the most mentioned alternative for 100.5.  However, Cumulus would not dare cannibalize Q100, which plays a fair amount of Hot AC.  Moreover, Star 94 and B98.5, though quite different, are both in the Hot AC space.  The only hole in the AC genre would be Soft AC.  That's a possibility, but it's not especially compatible with baseball, a significant part of 100.5 for at least 6 months.

Speaking of baseball, what about using 100.5 as a simulcast of 680 The Fan (WCNN-AM)?  Dickey Broadcasting would have to go into a telephone booth, change into its Cumulus cape and write itself a sweetheart lease.  Yes, The Fan already has an FM simulcast with the 93.7 translator.  But 100.5 would give the station marketwide coverage on FM.  However, the value of 93.7 is more commensurate with The Fan's billings than the bigger 100.5 signal.  If the Fan AM/FM simulcast was the final nail in the coffin for 790 The Zone, resulting in more dollars going to The Fan, perhaps a 680/100.5 simulcast would be the way to go.

An option that I like and feel could work for WNNX is the "Jack" (or "Charlie") format; in other words, "we play what we want."  It leans to the male side, and its playlist ranges from George Michael to Depeche Mode to Prince to Stevie Wonder.  Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7 (WYAY-FM) and 97-1 The River (WSRV-FM) would be the closest competitors, but neither has the musical breadth of Jack.  And the fact that no jocks are needed lands Jack in Cumulus' wheelhouse.

But wait.  There's another possibility.  Rock 100.5 can sit tight and enjoy this magical season, sitting by the fire with some eggnog and Black Sabbath; and hope for a blessing in the new year.  As 2010 comes to an end, WGST has added live and local shows in both drivetimes.  Several weeks ago, I wrote a column wondering why, since the new talent will cost the station money but not increase ratings due to signal limitations.  And a big ad campaign is slated for January according to sources.  Clear Channel is spending a boatload to bring WGST back from the dead.

The investment in WGST has prodded the logical speculation.  Does WGST plan to simulcast on FM?  I have heard rumors that Clear Channel corporate has mandated this; and that Premiere Radio, CC's syndication arm, has blocked stations near Atlanta from talk programming not currently aired in Atlanta.  Everyone at or anywhere near Clear Channel, including the bartender at Uncle Julio's, is vehemently denying this.  If someone within Clear Channel made a decision to invest sizable dollar amounts in the 640 AM signal, that someone has made a big mistake; especially since WSB recently pulled numerous talk listeners away from the AM band entirely.

Back to the eggnog and the fire.  If WGST did add an FM, it would have to be one of the big ones, namely 96.1, in order to compete with WSB.  And if that happened, Rock 100.5 could expand its musical horizons and really become "Atlanta's Rock Station."  Reality hits in January.  Until then, it's the time of year when dreams can come true.

Thanks for reading.  Join us next week for our Station of the Year.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

It Was Cold Turkey For 106.7

The warning signs were there.  True Oldies 106.7 (WYAY-FM) had dropped the moniker during its local hours and replaced it with "Atlanta's Greatest Hits."  Then the station hired Tripp West as afternoon driver in place of Freddie Brooks.

Being identified as Atlanta's Greatest Hits in the drivetimes and True Oldies during the rest of the hours was a little disconcerting.  And the station had to be aware of that.  More importantly, the dichotomy suggested the station wanted to distance itself from the "O" word, which connotes older folks to advertisers.  And Tripp West gave 106.7 a younger voice in afternoons.

These signals suggested change was afoot at the Citadel station.  Just 3 weeks ago, I predicted several moves, including local midday and evening voices as well as a shift to more 70's and 80's in the local hours.  The predictions proved correct except for the evening voice, which still could very well happen.

I was not expecting what happened next.  But during Thanksgiving week, Scott Shannon and his True Oldies syndication were ditched in one fell swoop.  In fact, Shannon expressed his dissatisfaction on the air nationwide, pushing Citadel/Atlanta to pull the plug immediately.  I thought Shannon and his heavily-60's format would be downsized little by little.  I'm guessing 106.7 still clears the spots from the syndication.

Was this a good move?  The original True Oldies 106.7 was parked there to save money on programming and talent; and to provide an outlet for the syndicated commercials and Imus.  That a big Atlanta signal was being propped up this way did not thrill me.  So I'm glad Citadel is spending some money on a real station.

The PPM numbers among Persons 6+ were down the past 3 months after being pretty good.  But the real problem was the demographic that real oldies attract, 50+.  Ad agencies, right or wrong, rarely target the demo.  Most major market Oldies stations have evolved into Classic Hits, emphasizing 70's and 80's songs along with limited iconic 60's.

The change puts WYAY in direct competition with far more players for ratings and billings.  Whether Oldies fans stay, given the absence of an alternative, remains to be seen.  The station has shifted from the path of least resistance to one with plenty of ratings obstacles.  At the same time, the product is more saleable and will compete for dollars in a much bigger arena.  So the jury is out.

Other Atlanta stations are not likely overjoyed by the change.  97-1 The River (WSRV-FM) is probably the most vulnerable because of its emphasis on the 70's.  However, The River's music is kind of a soft version of Classic Rock while 106.7 plays a broad array of Top-40 from the era.  Both WSRV and WYAY have about a 55%/45% male/female composition.  Other stations that could see some effect include B98.5, Kiss 104.1 and Majic 107.5/97.5.

Classic Hits stations (which 106.7 will not be called because of The River) have had success in a number of other markets.  This gives us one more station to watch as we sail into the first year of the new decade.

The Fan's New Companion:  A closely-knit family is one of life's greatest pleasures.  The Dickey family obviously believes this as Cumulus Media, largely owned by the Dickeys, and Dickey Broadcasting are cuddling up closer than ever.  In October, 680 The Fan (WCNN-AM), owned by Dickey Broadcasting, moved from Piedmont Center to the Cumulus/Atlanta facility on Johnson Ferry Road.  And now, a new Cumulus translator at 93.7 is simulcasting 680 and in the process of being sold to Dickey Broadcasting.

This had been expected for some time and is a terrific enhancement to the AM.  The signal is close to being a full Class A FM (lowest full FM classification) and covers most of the market nicely.  It will bring The Fan to areas such as Marietta that 680 misses at night.  Unless a major FM signal flips to Sports, which I doubt is in the cards any time soon, 680 The Fan should do nicely.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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