Monday, April 18, 2011

Quest For Mom Heats Up

Consolidation has meant less competition, but it's also caused clusters to think more strategically.  It ushered in flankers, designed to ding a sister station's direct competitor, or to protect a cluster's queen from a would-be flipper in another cluster.

The best competition, however, is still straight-ahead warfare among the big guns.  No one gets killed, the national deficit does not grow, and the price of gas doesn't increase.  Atlanta moms are fortunate that such a conflict is taking place before their ears.

CHR Q100 (WWWQ-FM) has had record ratings in the past 2 PPM reports.  Star 94 (WSTR-FM), with PD Scott Lindy guiding its foray into Hot AC, shot up last month.  And B98.5 (WSB-FM), historically the market's AC leader, took a small step back after emerging from its annual holiday panacea.  Moreover, Atlanta's Greatest Hits 106.7 has taken partial aim at B98.5.

In the past month, B98.5 has added veteran Kelly Stevens to Vikki Locke's morning show and brought back the B Money Buzzer; and has now introduced a 90-minute music sweep at 4:25PM, all in addition to its famed 98 at 9.

Star 94 launched its "Commercial-Free Ride at 5," an hour without a stop set, about a year ago.  Then Q100 countered with the illusion of a commercial-free 5 o'clock hour, a clever move by PD Rob Roberts.  With Star now encroaching on B98.5's historically steady ratings, the Cox AC has moved to defend its brand.

Cox Media Group has a few heavyweights honing in on its prized Atlanta AC.  Former Cox/Atlanta Market Manager Chris Wegmann once told me that B98.5 was Cox Executive VP Bob Neil's favorite station (which is interesting since Neil lives in Florida).  Tony Kidd is Cox/Atlanta's VP/Programming and one of the craft's masterminds.  Then comes B98.5 PD Cagle, who has a long history of programming success despite having just one name.

The new 90-minute strategy is also a nod to the PPM in two ways.  First, music stations in music-intensive hours get their best ratings during long music sweeps.   Second, more continuous music could earn the station a spot in more workplaces, where PPM magic tends to happen; B98.5's new music sweep starts while the workday is still in progress.

Star 94 has brought back its "Win Your Life Back" match game.  So we have interesting, Win Your Life Back, versus easy, the B Money Buzzer.  Win Your Life Back also encourages more involvement with the station's assets, but money is money, and the B Money Buzzer gets people listening, the end objective of both contests.

It's nice though, that in this time of corporate consolidation, Atlanta's soccer moms are being treated so graciously, getting showered with money, prizes and a heaping helping of music.

The Mysteries of Bert
Over the past 10 years, Atlanta has had one of the top morning personalities in the country, Bert Weiss.  And during those years, I've wondered about a few things regarding Bert and his career.

Did Washington radio's Jack Diamond just have a knack for recognizing great potential, or was it merely a coincidence?  Bert started as the producer of Diamond's morning show on KSON in San Diego.  In 1989, when Diamond returned to his hometown of Washington to host mornings at the new Mix 107.3, Weiss made the trip with him.  But Bert was still Jack's producer and became really good at saying his name but not much else.

After Bert joined Kidd Kraddick at Dallas' 106.1 Kiss FM (KHKS), he blossomed into a premier morning talent.  Then Weiss moved back to DC, this time as a seasoned personality on the "Jack & Bert Show."  Q100/Atlanta's first PD, Brian Philips, now President of CMT, tapped Bert as morning man, and history is still being written.

It took Bert more than 5 years to become more than a producer and around 15 years to become a main host.  So was Bert a late bloomer?  Or did the scarcity of major market morning slots hold him back?  Was being a personality his career goal when he first joined Jack Diamond at KSON?

Happy Easter. The next column will appear in 2 weeks.  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, April 11, 2011

As The V-103 Turns

If a diamond is forever, the on-air time span of a radio personality is the polar opposite of that gleaming jewel.  Even at #1 rated V-103 (WVEE-FM), things evolve over time.  It seemed like award-winning morning host Mike Roberts would be there forever, but he eventually yielded the seat to Frank Ski.

Ever since Ryan Cameron signed with the station for afternoon drive 6 years ago, many have predicted he was the future replacement for Frank Ski.  Yet Ski, along with co-host Wanda Smith, has kept the ratings up.  He has signed two contracts since Cameron arrived, the first a 3-year deal and the latest rumored to be shorter.

Many are still placing their money on Cameron as the morning host in the not-too-distant future.  Other rumors are swirling about the makeup of the V-103 air staff in the coming years.  The striking thing about these rumors is that they sound logical.  And that makes me wonder whether logic or something more is behind them.  One person told me that he had inside information.

Rumor #1 is Ryan Cameron taking over mornings with Elle Duncan.  This cogent little theory makes some but not total sense.  Ski has been in mornings for 13 years, and the show could be ready for some fresh blood.  Moreover, Cameron has always been perceived as a star, and his afternoon drive show has the elements of a successful wake-up program.  However, Frank Ski, the lightening rod that he is, still has huge ratings.  And Cameron is not much younger than Ski.  The station could save some money depending on how they filled Cameron's current shift, but as the economy comes back, that might be a moot point.

Rumor #2 has evening jammer Greg Street being pushed out in favor of Lil Bankhead and DJ Infamous, now heard on weekends.  It's been 6 o'clock and time for Street to rock for many years now.  In fact, hiring him in 1995 was considered a stroke of genius from former Program Director Tony Brown, who saw the direction that Urban music was about to head.  Street left after several years for Dallas' K104 but returned to V-103 in 2006.

Street's leaving in the short-term future seems the most reasonable of the rumors.  When he arrived, he was the young Hip-Hop guy.  Now he's entertaining the kids of his original listeners.  Just how long can somebody maintain Street's frantic on-air pace?  If Street did leave, I don't know that Lil Bankhead and DJ Infamous would necessarily take his slot, but it's possible.  After all, Hot 107-9 (WHTA-FM) has the Dirty Boyz, who do a slam-bang job in evenings.

Rumor #3 is the most intriguing to me.  It says that Kenny Burns, make that "Lifestyle Specialist" Kenny Burns, will move into afternoon drive after Ryan Cameron replaces Frank & Wanda in the morning.  Like the first two rumors, this one has some logic behind it.  Burns recently started a show on V-103 airing Saturdays and Sundays from 2-6PM.

Burns is displaying some talent and competency on his weekend shows, but he doesn't sound quite ready for prime time.  And while he could be coached into a star personality, I wonder about the true logic of this one.  For one thing, why would Burns want a full-time job at V-103?  He's already accomplished so much--introducing the Notorious B.I.G. to the world, promoting acts such as Jay-Z, founding a visionary clothing company.  For another, would he have time for afternoon drive and its inherent obligations, including appearances?  Furthermore, would Burns be willing to be critiqued and coached?

True or not, the rumors are interesting.  Rarely does a station's talent lineup allow a glimpse at its possible future like V-103's.  Based on V-103's history in the Atlanta market, one thing is for sure.  The station knows that resting on its laurels is not in its DNA.

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, April 4, 2011

A Myth Examined

Atlanta was an "underradioed" market for obvious reasons.  When frequencies were allocated way back when, this was a medium market.  Atlanta exploded in the past 35 years.  And, like its physical infrastructure, its radio infrastructure was not equipped to handle the growth.  Meanwhile, the Atlanta radio spectrum had been closed in by Birmingham, Chattanooga and other nearby markets.

In 1994, the Sunday Journal-Constitution contained an article about the low number of radio stations for a metro of Atlanta's size.  The story stated this would not change.  It could not have been more wrong.  Over the next several years, 9 FM signals and an AM were added to the dial.  This was in addition to the stations that had already "moved-in," 97.1, 106.7, 104.1 and 104.7.  The path for the post-1994 additions had been cleared by the FCC around 1989, when the move-in rules were relaxed.

Just weeks ago, I heard a speaker at a seminar mention that Atlanta has a low number of radio stations per capita compared to other markets.  And 2 years ago at an ABAC (Atlanta Broadcasters Advertising Club) luncheon, during a presentation about PPM, an Arbitron representative talked about Atlanta having a lower station density than its population merits.  So are we still underradioed?

I counted the number of stations that target Atlanta and show up in the Arbitron ratings.  The number that I came up with was 29.  I then did the same exercise with the other 9 markets that make up the top 10.  The results were: 1) New York - 33; 2) Los Angeles - 38; 3) Chicago - 34; 4) San Francisco - 23; 5) Dallas/Fort Worth - 31; 6) Houston - 36, 8) Philadelphia - 27; 9) Washington - 27; 10) Boston - 25.  That averages out to 30 stations.

My conclusion is Atlanta is no longer an underradioed market.  I wish the Underradioed Committee would call a press conference and make it official.  While the market has virtually as many stations as others its size, it does have a distinct division between the Haves and the Have-Nots.  In fact, Atlanta probably has more Have-Nots than any other market.

Have-Nots is an exaggeration.  By Have-Nots, I mean Atlanta-oriented stations that, well, are not really in Atlanta.  The Have-Nots are not bad and in fact do pretty well in cars.  But, they have occasional holes and some problems inside buildings.  Those stations break out into two types.

First are the move-ins, also called rim shots, which are still licensed to locales such as Gainesville and Athens.  They must still city grade their respective cities of license, but they have moved close enough to Atlanta to target the market and grab a share of the ad dollars.  Examples are 97-1 The River and 104.7 The Fish.

Second are the lower-powered outlets with antennas just outside Atlanta.  Examples are Majic 97-5 and Praise 102.5.  (Those two stations are different classes, a C and an A, respectively, but that's getting technical.)

The real Atlanta FM's--92.9, 94.1, 94.9, 96.1, 98.5, 99.7, 101.5 and 103.3--certainly hold a signal advantage; they are solid across the market.  And two johnny-come-lately signals, 100.5 and 107.5, were fortunate enough to build their antennas close in, giving them good penetration where most of the population lives.

The ratings reveal the Haves have an easier time attracting an audience.  You could arguably say that a station has to be one of the "real" ones to make it into the top 10, unless the station targets African-Americans.  The reason that Praise 102.5 (WPZE-FM) can continually be a top-5 station is its audience resides close in.  So (the equivalent of) 6,000 watts from its Ben Hill transmitter site do just fine.  That signal would never work for a general market station.

No matter that not everyone has a full signal.  Atlanta is no longer an underradioed market, and that's worth celebrating.

Alpha Needs a Platform
The kickoff of B98.5's Vikki & Kelly made one thing obvious.  The return of Kelly & Alpha is not in the cards any time soon.

Kelly & Alpha was B98.5 FM's morning show for 9 successful years until being displaced by Steve & Vikki.  K&A were able to do a personality morning show within the station's tight format restrictions, a feat not easily accomplished.  And, the two co-hosts had chemistry and complemented each other.

I'm happy Kelly Stevens landed back at B98.5 in such a successful way.  But Kelly's "other half," Alpha Trivette, still needs a place to ply his craft.  Alpha is a talented entertainer who, in addition to being a radio performer for 25 years, has been an actor, writer and speaker.  He has also done radio in Denver, Tampa and Kansas City.

If you or someone you know in any field is looking for a talented communicator, contact Alpha Trivetta at or 678-361-5844.

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: