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.

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