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.

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