Monday, October 3, 2011

Will Our CHR Deprivation Roll On?

The past two true CHR stations in Atlanta were owned by Susquehanna.  Of course, Q100 (WWWQ-FM) remains a CHR under Cumulus but not quite of the ilk favored by the format's avid fans.

Being CHR-deprived is nothing new to Atlanta.  The market was without the real thing from 1992 to 2001 and has been again since 2006.  It's unusual in this age of the PPM for a market not to have a true CHR.  And it seems especially odd for a company that does the format so well, Clear Channel, to own two full-powered Atlanta stations that rank below the top 10 yet have no CHR.

Life is more satisfying with the glass half full so I look at a few recent developments with a glimmer of hope.  Cumulus owns CHR's around the country, but the product is pretty bad in the eyes of purists like me.  Legitimate dance and hip-hop hits are ignored, and the airwaves are full of 5-year-old Nickelback, Daughtry and Justin Timberlake.

In truth, Q100's music has made some big strides in the past 2 years and seems its most current since the Susquehanna days.  Cumulus inherited one of the country's best morning shows, The Bert Show, but has a sound not usually associated with CHR the rest of the time.  Call it bland or call it adult.  The pleasant-sounding Brittany handles middays, and the mechanical yet effective Johnny O holds forth in afternoon drive.  Evenings feature the Cumulus super-saver, the syndicated Billy Bush.  Fortunately for Q100, evening CHR listeners do not have a ton of choices.  Propelled by Bert, Q100 is a huge ratings force in the money demos.

Radio people tend to blame the uninspiring sound of Cumulus' CHR's on SVP/Programming Jan Jeffries.  He has a certain way of programming CHR's, and it's pretty distant from say New York's Z100.  Since the recent hiring by Cumulus of much-honored consultant Mike McVay, whose title is the same as Jeffries', a rumor has surfaced that Jeffries will be relegated to programming head of the company's new Chicago cluster, part of the Citadel acquisition.  Two weeks ago, Jeffries' move to the Windy City was announced but so far, stations have been told he will remain involved with Cumulus' CHR and Rhythmic formats.

If the Jeffries rumor is true, which I believe it is, CHR devotees could breathe a sigh of relief that Cumulus might not destroy the excellence of the former Citadel CHR's, such as 95SX (WSSX-FM) in Charleston, SC.  I'm hoping it would signal a Cumulus shift to the new Cox paradigm of returning autonomy to the local level.  But don't be surprised if Charleston is soon grooving to the sounds of Billy Bush.

Q100 in truth might be wise to stick to what it's doing.  Although B98.5 and Star 94 edge it out in 18-49 and 25-54 during middays and afternoons, Q100 dominates in mornings, making the total station a viable option for buys targeting those demos.

To demonstrate dissatisfaction of Q100 among youngsters, Rhythmic Wild 105-7/96-7 hovers not far from straight-ahead CHR these days.  That it's doing so well among 18-34's is impressive given the weakness of its signal where much of its available audience resides.  Q100 could easily erase Wild by moving younger but probably would sacrifice adults at the same time.

One thing that would really shake things up--and that's a tremendous understatement--is a format flip of Clear Channel's 96.1 to CHR.  Over the past 2 years, I have advocated first getting 94-9 The Bull (WUBL-FM) into the top 10 before even thinking about a change at Project 9-6-1, which does well among the men 18-34 crowd.  But the way things are looking, The Bull is not about to hit ratings pay dirt again any time soon.

The Bert Show itself could scare off such a flip.  Clear Channel would have the difficult task of finding someone who could compete.  Q100 could react by sliding younger.  Program Director Rob Roberts proved himself in the format during his lengthy tenure at Miami's Y100.

Stay positive is my mantra.  At this point, I grasp onto any straw that makes me think real CHR might be returning to Atlanta.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:

1 comment:

  1. Roddy - forgive me if I seem to step over a line here. Back in the early 90s I was programming a CHR in a college town. I modeled the station's sound after Power99 in Atlanta. I immediately hit brick walls with the station's GM, sales manager and consultant:

    * "We're not playing enough rock," claimed the GM and insisted I pepper in classic rock tracks from Boston, Styx, and Allman Brothers.

    * "We need more male listeners," insisted the sales manager, who also claimed the artists we played were too young and ethnic.

    * "Our music has too much sexual innuendo," remarked the consultant while handing me a list of songs by Boyz II Men, B52s and Madonna he felt should be off limits.

    I recall once getting really reamed over the phone for playing Techno artist Rozalla's "Everybody's Free."

    What all of this, along with blog posts like yours, have told me is radio is too often run by conservative men afraid of anything young, hip and ethnic. Deregulation has made it worse. Expecting these types to do CHR right is like asking a vegan to grill you a steak. How can you expect them to do something they are inherently against?

    Well, what do I know anyway? I'm not in radio anymore.