Monday, June 6, 2011

Project Gets A Real Morning Show

Project 9-6-1 (WKLS-FM) has hired a morning show.  Not a producer who wanted a shot at being a host; and not a sidekick who was promoted after a budget cut.  Kidd Chris (aka Chris Foley) is the real thing.  He has years of morning show experience at WYSP-FM in Philadelphia and KUFO-FM in Portland, OR.  He also has been a regular contributor to the Howard Stern Show.  Chris became available when KUFO was blown up for a news/talk format.

That said, Kidd Chris is a shock jock and has a reputation as a one-trick pony.  And hiring Chris does not mean Clear Channel is shelling out big bucks.  Radio does not have a slew of openings for someone with Kidd Chris' unique qualifications.  Nevertheless, he should be a good match for Project 9-6-1's young male audience and the station's best chance at snagging Regular Guys devotees.

Clear Channel has a history of poor decisions with its Atlanta cluster, but a good deal of the drama had seemed to stop under current President/Market Manager Melissa Forrest.  Then we learned last Friday that Operations Manager Dan Persigehl was suddenly gone.  Of course, the stations--specifically 94-9 The Bull--had been enjoying forward momentum last year when the cluster made one of its bad decisions.  It released the best Program Director in the market for what was rumored to be a "heat-of-the-moment" reason.  He has since gone on to hoist a competitor to new ratings heights.

Clear Channel's highest-ranking stations in total (6+) audience are #15 and #16, respectively.  Project 9-6-1 does well, however, in its target audiences of Men 18-34 and 18-49.  And that gets the station on buys for beers, cars and other manly goods.  It does not lift Project to a spot among the market's highest billers.

Not many Active Rock stations are in the upper echelon for ratings and billings.  Baltimore's 98 Rock, Tampa's 98 Rock and Detroit's WRIF are exceptions.  Project 9-6-1 has one of the market's giant signals, which gives the station top 10 potential with the right programming.

Clear Channel has chosen to enjoy the station's success with young men and forgo a real battle for the top.  And at this point, I agree with them.  Establishing a new format and fighting for ratings dominance is an expensive and unsure proposition.

The cluster's best shot for a top-10 station at this point is 94-9 The Bull (WUBL-FM).  The Country outlet had made it to the mountaintop last year, beating heritage Kicks 101-5 in the demos that matter.  Then suddenly, it fell backwards.  Some attribute the plunge to the departure of PD Scott Lindy.  Others note that Arbitron replaced 23 PPM panelists at one time in October.

The Bull sounds the same as in its recent heyday to me, and the music is still programmed by Lance Houston.  The station was Dan Persigehl's primary responsibility; in addition to being the cluster's Operations Manager, he served as PD of The Bull.  He was unable to move the needle during his brief tenure.  Bringing The Bull back is the logical next step to a respectable presence for Clear Channel/Atlanta.

Wild 105.7/96.7 has really come together under new Program Director J.B. Wilde.  It sounds better than the former 95-5 The Beat but unfortunately will not approach The Beat's ratings because of its signal.  We have talked about this ad nauseam, but Wild could easily break a 3 share in 6+ by moving to the 105.3 signal; its current signals are of less than listenable quality in Atlanta.  Although Clear Channel cites the Hispanics in Gwinnett that Wild attracts on 105.7, they make up too small a portion of the station's audience (approximately 24%) to get Wild on Latino media buys.

El Patron (WBZY-FM) would benefit from the Hispanic ratings and billings in Gwinnett that it now abdicates to Davis Broadcasting's La Raza (WLKQ-FM) and La Mega 96.5 if the signal relocated to 105.7.  With such an easy way to lift the ratings and billings of two stations--Wild and El Patron--I'm at a loss as to why Clear Channel does not switch the frequencies.

With Kidd Chris in mornings, Project 9-6-1 should continue to perform well under PD Chris Williams.  The next "project" for CC/Atlanta is bringing 94-9 The Bull back to ratings prominence.

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