Monday, August 15, 2011

Climbing Radio's Ladder

Radio is a business in which the old axiom, "bad things happen to good people," applies more often than we would like.  That makes it a special pleasure to congratulate several people with ties to Atlanta radio on upward career moves.

In Jay Dixon's case, another saying--"every cloud has a silver lining"--comes to mind.  Cox/Atlanta surprised the industry last month by eliminating Jay's position as Program Director of Kiss 104 (WALR-FM).  He had moved to Atlanta 7 years ago after successfully programming Cox's 98.7 Kiss FM in the Birmingham market.  Jay had kept Kiss 104's ratings in the top 5 among 25-54 throughout his stay until recently, when the station started skewing older.  However, the audience's aging was a result of Cox's decision not to include current product in Kiss's Urban AC mix.

Immediately prior to Jay's departure, Kiss 104 finally reinstated currents and recurrents.  I doubt the modification, which included dropping the jingles, had anything to do with Jay's leaving, but I am not privy to politics inside Digital White Columns.  The fact that Jay's boss, VP Programming Tony Kidd, is one of the country's top Urban programmers probably made the PD position vulnerable when budget considerations mandated a cutback.

Very quickly, New York's 98.7 Kiss FM (WRKS), snapped up Jay Dixon as its new PD.  It's a homecoming of sorts for Jay, who once was the outlet's Creative Services Director.  The station, owned by Emmis, needs the help.  In the early 90's, 98.7 Kiss FM was the market's #1 station but has seen its ratings fortunes slide in recent years.  Part of that is due to the PPM, but Kiss is now New York's distant #2 Urban AC station.  My guess is Jay will have more autonomy in New York than he had in Atlanta, and an opportunity to make a real difference.

Jay is very knowledgeable and talented as well as great guy.  He has earned his stellar reputation, and I wish him the best.

I have written more than once about "That Guy Kramer," the morning show at Panama City's Island 106 (WILN-FM).  Steve Kramer, who started his radio journey as an intern for Q100/Atlanta's Bert Show and then moved to CHR 97.3 Kiss FM in Savannah, proved himself a talented and skillful morning host.  Kramer, along with co-hosts Miguel Fuller and Holly O'Connor, led Island 106 to unprecedented ratings heights in their 4 years there.  The show was perfect for CHR yet not at all juvenile.  Early this year, I expressed surprise in this column that they were still in Panama City.

Last week, That Guy Kramer took a big jump from market #234 to market #20, when it became Play 98.7/Tampa's (WSJT-FM's) morning show.  Play 98.7 is a still-developing Hot AC owned by CBS.

In Tampa, Steve, Miguel and Holly are gunning for MJ Kelly, CHR 93 FLZ's morning icon.  MJ has owned the market for years and shows no sign of waning.  And they are not alone; Cox's new Hot 101.5 wants to take the CHR crown away from FLZ.  Play 98.7 has a small signal disadvantage in the eastern part of the market, with less wattage and antenna height than 93.3 and 101.5, and a tower at the western end of the market, mere blocks from the Gulf.

Several years ago, 98.7 got huge ratings when it was Rhythmic CHR Wild 98.7 (WLLD-FM).  Wild's success prompted CBS to move the station to the much more powerful and centrally located 94.1 signal, where it has continued to thrive.  The last format on 98.7 before Hot AC was Smooth Jazz.

I believe the talent of That Guy Kramer will shine through, and the show will excel in Tampa as it did in Panama City.

Atlanta is the home of Lincoln Financial Media, owners of Star 94 (WSTR-FM), 790 The Zone (WQXI-AM), and clusters in San Diego, Denver and Miami.  Along with CEO Don Benson and VP, Engineering Barry Thomas sits the company's head programmer, John Dimick.  Last week, John was promoted to SVP, Programming & Operations.

John is smart, driven and nice, and he is a student of radio.  He knows the PPM methodology like the back of his hand, and uses that knowledge to give his stations an edge.  He is also a member of MRC, the Media Ratings Council.  Congratulations to John on his well-deserved promotion.

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  1. I agree with you, Andrew. Leslie's new position was announced after this column was published.