Monday, November 7, 2011

The Curse Of The Z Ninety-Threeno

I have not been one to believe in the supernatural.  I love watching the paranormal on TV and in the movies.  But when it comes to curses or people who claim to be psychics, I tend to dismiss them.

I have to admit, however, that in the 90's and early this century, I started wondering if the Curse of the Bambino had some merit.  After all, the Boston Red Sox, so dominant in baseball's early years, had not won a World Series since 1918.  Fortunately for my sanity, the Red Sox took the World Series in 2004.

Recently, I had a bit of a relapse.  I am again starting to think curses could be real.  I've been wondering whether the 92.9 frequency in Atlanta is cursed.  All the Red Sox did was sell Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.  Z93, however, veered away from a highly successful Top 40 format into an abyss and has pretty much remained there for 25 years.  And with one of the market's monster signals, that seems difficult to do.

Over the July 4 weekend in 1975, I visited Atlanta for the first time en route to New Orleans.  I looked forward to seeing a Braves game and driving past the legendary White Columns on Peachtree.  What I anticipated most, however, was listening to Z93 (92.9 WZGC-FM), which had been getting loads of press in the trades.

Z93 kept me hooked; I changed the dial just once to check out WQXI-AM, then programmed by Scott Shannon.  On the return trip, I heard Z93's Dan Mason doing Boogie Checks on his evening show.  He was then the station's Program Director.  Today of course he is President of CBS Radio.

When Dan Mason left for sister station WPGC in Washington, he was succeeded as PD by John Young, another savvy radio man.  Young kept Z93 a blue-chip product, and when star morning duo Ross & Wilson left for New York's WABC, he lured Steve McCoy from Nashville for AM drive.  That started McCoy's 30-year run as a top-rated morning man on 4 Atlanta stations.

After about 10-years as a top-rated CHR, 92.9 went through a succession of owners--General Cinema, First Media, Cook Inlet Partners, (the pre-CBS) Infinity, CBS--and a sequence of formats--CHR Rhythmic, Classic Rock, Classic Hits, Rock and now Adult Album Alternative.  In the late 80's, the new Power 99 replaced Z93 as the leading CHR and hired Steve McCoy for mornings.  Someone had put the curse on 92.9.

WZGC has had its moments in its post-Top 40 era.  In 1999, consultant Alex DeMers was brought in and divided the classic rock music clock into "7-song super sets."  Ratings took off for a while.  Under PD Scott Jameson, 92.9 in its current incarnation as Dave FM nicely climbed up the ratings ladder a couple of times.  The latest climb, early this year, fooled me.  I thought the station had found a way to make its unconventional Triple A format work in the Atlanta market.  But that darn 92.9 curse had just been in a teasing mood.

As the early 2000's unfolded, I felt 92.9 should flip to Urban AC.  Its superior signal probably would have put a quick end to Kiss 104.1 (WALR-FM), a move-in with its transmitter in Newnan.  It would have enabled CBS Radio to grab a really big portion of the Urban ad dollars in Atlanta, dominating both the younger and older demos.  That move likely was never considered because the CBS brass feared cannibalizing V-103 (WVEE-FM).  My retort is wouldn't they have rather cannibalized V-103 than let Kiss do it?

That opportunity is long gone.  Kiss 104.1 has increased from 60,000 to 100,000 watts and is attempting to move closer to Atlanta.  Radio One has launched and established Majic 107.5/97.5 as the market's second Urban AC and is about to turn on 107.5's more powerful signal.  Yet other possibilities are out there--a young, exciting CHR or a Soft AC, for example.

WZGC's October PPM numbers were at the point where something has to give very soon.  In recent weeks, Dave-FM made some music tweaks, decreasing its 90's songs and adding classics that go back as far as 40 years.  What will happen in the next several weeks?  Will it be as little as bringing Steve Craig on as a personality?  Or will it be a wholesale format shift?

Like the Boston Red Sox, 92.9 needs to score big, and break or disprove the curse. Management could try the traditional methods, such as uncrossing oil, visiting a witch or walking backwards while chewing Juicy Fruit.  However, the 92.9 curse goes back so many years and is so powerful, a new format that would shake the foundation of Atlanta radio seems the only real solution.

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


  1. A good alternative - move the Dave "Roots" format from HD-2/web to the analog/HD-1 broadcast.

    I find myself listening to HD-2 more than the main broadcast (except when they f**k it up over the weekend with the Falcons broadcast).

    Roots has an Americana mix that would be a welcome alternative to modern "country" (really just pop music with a Southern accent), c**k rock, and teeny-bopper filler.

    Come on 92.9...take a chance with something TRULY different!

  2. With the most loyal radio audience being the over-40 demo, why not go 70s-based "classic hits," using the Z93 branding and legacy. Being Q105 again has worked well for CBS-sibling WRBQ Tampa.

  3. Moring radio in Atlanta SUCKS for anyone who's not into Country, Urban/hip-hop or Latin music. Well, it may very well suck for those listeners too, but that's their problem since I don't listen to those stations.
    The Regular Guys, Kidd Chris, Jimmy and Yvonne... ALL of them chatter too much!! Why can't we have a format where it is simply music, with traffic and weather every 10-15 minutes and news once or twice an hour?

  4. Great post Roddy and Drachen, you nailed it! Atlanta has pathetic classic rock radio and needs a station that talks less and plays more music that isn't off a short playlist loop. Step out a little and play some deep cuts. 40 years of great music in the rock/alternative genres and we have to hear songs played over and over every two hours? Steve Craig is closer but JACK.FM in Detroit and X106.7 in San Antonio mixed with WKIT in Bangor, Maine (of all places) would be a hell of a lot closer to what Atlanta should have.