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?
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