Monday, December 17, 2012

V-103's Frank Ski Calls It A Morning

They say the years fly by when you get older, and apparently they know.  It seems like yesterday when V-103 threw a client party at Sambuca in Buckhead to welcome Frank Ski and give a send-off to departing morning man Mike Roberts.

When I moved to Baltimore in 1988, Ski was doing evenings on CBS Radio's Urban station, also V-103 (WXYV-FM).  He had come there from his first radio job at Baltimore AM Hip-Hop outlet WEBB.  I did not care for Ski, but someone smarter than I saw something in him and moved him to mornings, alongside current V-103/Atlanta newscaster Jean Ross.

Radio One's 92Q, V-103/Baltimore's Urban competition, went on the attack. V-103, long the market's #1 station, started eroding.  CBS Radio fired Ski, who immediately was picked up by 92Q.  It was not long before 92Q dominated the Baltimore market and pushed V-103 out of the format.

That will not happen in Atlanta, where V-103 has deep roots in the community, a mammoth signal and an air staff the likes of the New York Yankees.  The enormously-talented Ryan Cameron will slide into Ski's chair, and V-103 will not miss a beat.

The station will replace Cameron in afternoons with Big Tigger, said to be a favorite of V-103 PD Reggie Rouse.  Big Tigger worked for years at sister Urban WPGC in Washington but was fired last year.  Rouse has proven a skilled programmer, but hopefully Big Tigger has substance.  Another Rouse favorite, Osei the Dark Secret, did not fare so well in middays on V-103 several years ago.

Talent manifests itself in different ways.  When Ski left Baltimore for Atlanta, I read of the emotional bond that his 92Q audience had with him; that he did his final broadcast outside the building, where listeners expressed their love and wished him well.  When he first opened the mic in Atlanta, I thought V-103 had lost something in the way of talent.

I've always felt Mike Roberts, Ski's predecessor, had much more natural radio talent, meaning voice, delivery and sense of timing.  But Ski more than made up for that in a number of ways.  He was passionate, opinionated and inspirational, and had a work ethic second to none.  He was always out in the community.  Frank Ski touched many lives during his days on V-103.

Ski was both loved and disliked.  And his co-host, Wanda Smith, who started during Mike Roberts' tenure, added hilarity.  That all translated to #1 ratings.

So what's next for Frank Ski?  He reportedly decided to leave V-103 because he felt the time had arrived for the next step in his career, a syndicated morning show.  One thing is for certain: No one station is going to give him the huge platform and salary that he enjoyed at V-103.

How realistic is syndication for Ski?  With the Urban and Urban AC landscape filled with Steve Harvey, Tom Joyner and Rickey Smiley, breaking in could prove difficult.  Some have predicted that with the recent addition of a daytime TV show, Harvey will find doing his radio show a bit of overload.  But I have heard nothing about the subject from Harvey himself.

Tom Joyner is getting older along with his audience.  Yet I am unaware of any retirement plans.  If either Harvey or Joyner did step down, Frank Ski could prove an excellent replacement.  If they did not, Ski's best hope would be replacing Joyner on stations in a number of markets.  I am unaware, however, of the contractual obligations of Joyner's current crop of stations.

Whatever the future holds, I wish Frank Ski the best.  He made a mighty contribution to Atlanta radio and to the Atlanta community.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year.  We will be back in January.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, December 10, 2012

101.5 Kicks It Up A Notch

The market has talked very little in recent months about Atlanta's Country battle between Kicks 101-5 and 94-9 The Bull.  The competition for big numbers among B98.5, Q100, Star 94 and Power 96-1 has grabbed most of the attention.  And we have seen the end of Dave FM and the launch of The Game.  The Country format in recent years has been relegated to below the top 10 stations, far different than a decade ago.

Kicks and The Bull, nevertheless, are locked in a knock-out, drag-down ratings battle.  Kicks wins Persons 6+, but Adults 25-54, the "money demo," is neck and neck.

After beating Kicks in all but the oldest demos a couple of years ago, The Bull took a little tumble back to the second ratings tier.  Several months later, for no apparent reason, Kicks lost a chunk of its audience while the Bull stayed the same.  The result was Kicks was still ahead but not by much.  And it's been that way since.

Two weeks ago, Kicks 101-5 made some news when Jenn Hobby, who had announced her departure from Q100's Bert Show, agreed to move down the hall for middays on Kicks.  To make room for Jenn, midday personality Sari Rose was released.

When Cumulus took over Kicks following the Citadel acquisition, it ended the relationship with station voice John Wilyard.  I liked Wilyard because he made Kicks sound big and unique.  The speculation was Wilyard's departure happened for financial reasons.  Wilyard's replacement did a decent job but sounded like a cookie-cutter voice you would hear on medium-market Country FM's across the U.S.

Just prior to the Jenn Hobby announcement, Kicks handed its voice duties to the renown Pat Garrett, said to be a favorite of Cumulus SVP/Programming Jan Jeffries.  Garrett, who became a leading imaging talent via the Urban/Hip-Hop route, has clients in virtually all formats.  His delivery on Kicks is a little more reserved than I associate with him, but he brings some distinctiveness back to the station.  Of course, The Bull's voice, Cousin Deke, is likewise distinctive and also entertaining.

The Bull also made a change last week when midday personality Tim Michaels got caught in the latest Clear Channel nationwide blood bath.  The new lineup is Jason & Kristen in mornings; Madison Reeves voice tracked in midday; and Lance Houston, also Music Director, in afternoon drive.  Another master voice-tracker, perhaps Angie Ward, who seems to be on every CC Country station I tune in, will handle evenings.

Among Adults 25-54, Kicks had been comfortably ahead in mornings but was overtaken by The Bull in the October PPM ratings.  Kicks added listeners in November, but so did The Bull.  I feel Kicks, with heritage personalities Cadillac Jack and Dallas McCade, has a bit of a talent edge; though Jason & Kristen on The Bull are talented in their own rite.  I'm wondering if the Kicks morning decline has something to do with where people leave their dials the night before.

Midday is a tough daypart to predict.  Jenn Hobby has never done a music show or even run a board.  Yet I fully expect her to make Kicks sound great.  In her stints as a morning co-host on 95-5 The Beat and Q100's Bert Show, hearing her has been such a pleasant way to start the day.  However, her competition, Madison Reeves, excels as a voice-tracker in multiple formats.  Madison of course could be at a disadvantage for not being live and local, but I doubt many listeners will notice.  Kicks could win the daypart if it capitalized on its live edge.

In afternoon drive, Kicks 101-5's Mike Macho is one of the market's top talents and sounds great on the air.  However, The Bull's Lance Houston, also Music Director, has been no ratings slouch, coming close to Macho in 25-54 average audience and edging him out in weekly cume.

Evenings are the poster children of the Cumulus and Clear Channel syndrome.  Kicks features the syndicated CMT Live with Cody Alan, and The Bull presents a voice-tracked music show.  Listening levels fall off the cliff after 7PM, but I personally much prefer a local-sounding music show, even when it's voice tracked.

In average 25-54 ratings at night, The Bull has been dominating although Kicks comes close in weekly cume.  A voice-tracked music show might give Kicks 101-5 a stronger lead-in to the next morning, but Cumulus is in a dilemma here because CMT Live needs an Atlanta affiliate for national sales.

The cumes indicate most Country listeners tune to both stations.  Keeping them tuned in longer appears to be the challange.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, December 3, 2012

B98.5's Tentative Waltz With Christmas

Most everything in life goes through cycles, including Christmas music on the radio.  When I was a kid, stations added a little Christmas music after Thanksgiving and increased the songs as the big day approached.  No one went all Christmas until Christmas Eve.  Then, throughout the 1970s and '80s, few stations played any Christmas music until shortly before the big man in the red suit took flight.  In the 90s, Christmas songs began a comeback, especially on Soft AC stations.

Around 1998, and the exact year escapes me, Atlanta's Peach 94-9 played a lot of Christmas music.  And ratings shot through the roof.  The following year, the station announced it would go 100% Christmas after Thanksgiving.  Again, the results were astounding.  Christmas music brought bigger audiences, which justified higher ad rates.  Advertisers loved it because it put people in a buying mood.

I don't know the extent of the Peach scenario being played out in other markets at the time, but observers around the U.S. took notice.  Within a couple of years, AC stations everywhere went totally Christmas songs.  And ratings hit record levels.  Stations in other formats ran for cover until the season passed and things returned to normal.

Then, the madness began.  In markets with two AC's, being the first to go all Christmas music became a matter of life and death.  The thinking, of course, was that if your competitor went Christmas first, you lost the Christmas audience.

The problem was if you flipped to 100% Christmas too early, you would alienate your listeners.  I clearly remember an October Saturday when the temperature was in the mid-eighties, and Peach 94-9 was having a "Holiday Music Preview Weekend."  Deciding the right time to switch was the stuff that sent PDs to the loony bin.

For a few years, B98.5 just stuck with its regular format and let Peach 94-9 hand it a ratings spanking.  As to why, my guess is former Cox Radio President Bob Neil stayed steadfast to his beliefs in how an AC should sound, at all times.  Suddenly, around mid-decade, B98.5 surprised everyone including its sales staff, who could have been selling it, by going All Christmas.  And it's been that way since then, until this year.

In 2011, we saw an end to much of the insanity.  With the exception of a smattering of stations switching early to get noticed, most AC's went Christmas during Thanksgiving week.  In this market, 104.7 The Fish has also been playing all Christmas music starting just before Thanksgiving.  And The Fish's more religious tint has given Atlanta listeners a nice choice.

This year, the Christmas cycle has been on the downside nationally; Christmas stations number a little less than a year ago.

B98.5 is in an interesting position.  While it's in an all-out race with Q100 and Star 94, neither of those stations is likely to play significant holiday tunes until right before Christmas day. In fact, last year Star 94 felt B98.5's Christmas programming would give it an opportunity to showcase its regular playlist, which it did with surprising success.  Finally, B98.5's 2011 Christmas ratings peaks--and two PPM reports included Christmas weeks--were the lowest in its history.

In walks new B98.5 Program Director Chris Egan to a question just as maddening as when to flip to Christmas in the insanity years.  I have not been privy to Egan's thinking, but the chronology of events suggests some indecisiveness at Digital White Columns.  In late October, a salesperson called me about advertising in B98.5's All-Christmas programming for a Christmas-oriented event that I work on.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, another salesperson informed me that B98.5 would go 50% Christmas on Black Friday and ramp up to 100% over the ensuing weeks.  It's not impossible that the sales staff was not told of programming's plans, but on this important subject, it's hard to imagine they were not told anything.

Right at Thanksgiving, I heard from a reliable source that B98.5 had again changed plans and would initiate its ramp-up with 4 Christmas songs an hour.  This proved to be true over Thanksgiving weekend--but surprise of surprises--the number decreased to 1 an hour last week.  Whether this was the plan all along is possible but does not seem likely.

Any hesitancy notwithstanding, keeping Christmas music to a minimum at this late date was a gutsy decision.  B98.5's ratings have been excellent, and its October PPM numbers were the best in years for regular programming.

Apparently Egan feels protecting his regular numbers is more important than the Christmas audience bumps.  Of course, the danger is that regular AC listeners who prefer the sounds of the season will move to The Fish or even 93.3 The Joy FM.  But with both of those stations leaning a bit more religious, B98.5's bet might prove to be one worth making.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, November 26, 2012

How Is The Game Plan Working?

With 92-9 The Game (WZGC-FM) having settled in, it's time to step back and take a look at Atlanta's first full-market Sports FM.  Loyal Sports Talk listeners tend to be passionate about the format and know what they like and don't like.  I am not one of those ardent All-Sports folks, but I'll do my best to give you my take.

The Game has some very obvious and very big advantages over its direct competition.  It's on a mammoth FM signal from the best transmitter site in the market.  I like its processing; it sounds just right for the format to me.  The station is live and local at night and on weekends, making the competition akin to daytime operations.

The Game's framework is not as relaxed and less Atlanta-centric than 680 The Fan and 790 The Zone.  Shows such as The Fan's Rude Awakening and The Zone's Archer and Bell are just so comfortable sounding, and entertaining as well.

Morning drive on 92-9 The Game is well done.  Rick Kamla does a nice job of running things, and Randy Cross adds insight and talent.  I have a hard time, however, getting myself to think of CJ Simpson as a sports expert.  Her Atlanta radio experience has been on Hot 107-9, where she specialized in being a white woman sounding black, and on 95-5 The Beat.  (It's nice to see that her former other half on The Beat, Murph Dawg, wiggled his way onto The Game for a weekend show.  I'm sure his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Dawg, are proud.)

The Jerome & Jamie Show in middays is my favorite on The Game.  Jerome Jurenovich seemed kind of formal on the Braves pre-and-post game shows on Sports South, but I find him knowledgeable, entertaining and appreciative of his callers.  He and former Falcon Jamie Dukes have jelled nicely.

I'm still forming my opinion of the afternoon show, Game Time.  Carl Dukes is a capable host, and former Pittsburgh Steeler Kordell Stewart, he of the sometimes controversy, offers informed comments.  I have not yet embraced the sound or commentary of Rachael Baribeau, but maybe she'll grow on me.

Mac McDonald and Jason Goff, who handle early evenings, are both seasoned broadcasters who sound solid.  In late nights, I really enjoy Jim Murray's sincere, conversational style.  He transferred from within CBS Radio's Sports station chain, and he contributes both logic and expertise.

I have always been a fan of longtime Atlanta sports broadcaster Mitch Evans, who is buried in the wee hours. And 92-9 The Game was wise to bring in Atlanta favorite Bob Neal for his college football and other expertise, and his commanding sound.  Finally, I'm liking those jingles.

Interestingly, almost everyone who commented about The Game on Rodney Ho's AJC blog and on a local radio discussion board has been negative.  I personally think 92-9 The Game will be a success, but growth will come slowly and require patience on the part of management.

Major spoken-word stations, even the legendary WSB-AM, have added or moved to FM along with many of their listeners.  But, I think this situation is somewhat different.  Going back to how passionate Sports Talk listeners are, I feel that loyalty to The Fan's and The Zone's hosts and greater local emphasis will initially outweigh the FM band and signal advantages of 92-9 The Game.

Before long, however, I believe the forces of a full-power FM signal, and live and local 24/7 will win out.  The Game PD Terry Foxx has done it before with CBS's 93-7 The Fan in Pittsburgh.  And CBS Radio has been too successful with FM Sports outlets to fall on its face.  But the company had better have patience, and they probably will.  Think of how Dave-FM was a dead station walking for months and months.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Clear Channel/Atlanta Leaves Us Hanging

Clear Channel/Atlanta has given me the same feeling I had watching the crane in Manhattan dangling from its lower half after Hurricane Sandy.  How will this thing end up?

Clear Channel made a bold move about 6 weeks ago, flipping 96.1, one of its two big Atlanta signals, to CHR.  The move was questioned in many quarters.  After all, it put CC on a collision course with Atlanta's Wall of Women, the fortress constructed by B98.5, Star 94, Q100 and even 104.7 The Fish.

I can see Clear Channel's point-of-view, however.  The company has 2 big signals here, 96.1 and 94.9, and neither had been able to crack the top 10 in Persons 6+.  CHR is a PPM-friendly format that has the potential to lead the ratings pack.  At this point, with CC/Atlanta having played a distant second fiddle for years, why not go for it?

There also was the undercurrent, the groundswell of popularity for Wild 105.7/96.7 as that station was crawling from Rhythmic toward mainstream CHR.  And this was being accomplished on signals that were hardly listenable in highly-populous parts of the market.  Young people were ripe for the picking.  Moreover, Q100 leaned to the adult side of CHR.

Power 96-1 is a Rhythmic-leaning CHR that doesn't touch the more adult hits unless they are huge.  That begged the obvious question: What's next for Wild?  How could a Rhythmic-leaning CHR and a CHR/Rhythmic co-exist in the same cluster?

Concurrent with the launch of Power 96-1, Wild purged its playlist of the more pop material.  Yet it still plays some songs also aired by Power.  Cases in point are Rihanna's Diamonds, Chris Brown's Don't Wake Me Up and Flo Rida's Good Feeling.

Let's take a look at Wild 105.7/96.7 in its current form.  Its format is pure CHR/Rhythmic with no mainstream pop product.  It competes with a powerful Rhythmic-leaning CHR within the same cluster that plays some of the same songs.  It gave its morning show to its new competition, and it promotes that competitor on the air.  Its afternoon personality Joe Breezy was blown away, and it lost 45% of its average audience in the month since Power launched.

The official Clear Channel position is that Wild is still #5 in its core 18-34 demo, and that it will complement Power 96-1, giving CC ownership of the 18-34 audience.  But, I have to wonder.  For one thing, if the 96.1 flip was intended to get a CC property into the market's ratings elite, why not allow Power to pick up Wild's listeners?

I'm anxious to find out whether Clear Channel/Atlanta has taken any smart pills.  I've long advocated a move of El Patron from 105.3 to 105.7 based on the novel concept that a station should have a good signal where its target audience lives.  Back when Viva first signed on, the station was on 105.3, and management moved it to 105.7 for the purpose of competing in Gwinnett County.  Viva, a station with the wrong Hispanic format for Atlanta, had ratings far above what El Patron does today on 105.3.

That would leave 105.3, an excellent signal in most of the market, open for a new format.  Given its considerable full class C competition, 105.3 would need to take on a somewhat niche format and be run economically.  But Clear Channel could add a successful operation to its roster if 105.3's new format was selected and run wisely.

Time will tell whether current Clear Channel/Atlanta management will transform the long-underperforming cluster into a winner.  A lot of us are wondering whether another shoe will soon drop.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Q100 Opens Its Checkbook, Power 96-1 Has A Ball

With Atlanta's CHR war in full effect, we can step back and take in how Q100 and Power 96-1 have positioned themselves.

For Q100, the strategy has been to sound its absolute sharpest, and to give away cash, lots of it.  The music, which also pits Q100 up against Hot AC Star 94 and AC B98.5 to an extent, has stayed the same.  Since Cumulus acquired Q100 and modified the playlist, I had longed for a CHR that played all the hits, and without several Hot AC recurrents in rotation.  Some of the songs notwithstanding, Q100 is a fine-sounding radio station, at least from 6AM-7PM.

When Power 96-1 hit the air in late August, I was excited the market now had a true CHR that played all the hits.  Well, not so fast.  Power does indeed play rhythmic and dance songs that the more-conservative Q100 shuns.  But it separates itself musically from Q100 by staying away from the more adult product, such as Train and Adele, except for massive hits, as Neon Trees, Taylor Swift and Pink have at the moment.  I personally prefer a balance, but Clear Channel has obviously put some thought into its plan of action.

Power 96-1 is going after the younger portion of the CHR demo while Q100 is broader.  I can visualize a help-wanted ad for Power 96-1: "Personality wanted.  Must have just one name."

I've said it before, but while Elvis Duran's morning show works in a lot of markets, it's unlikely to challenge Q100's Bert Show.  It's apparent Clear Channel is serious about turning Power 96-1 into a market force, and they are doing some smart things.  But beating Q100 would have to start with a live, local morning show.  Hopefully Elvis is a placeholder, and Power 96-1 is doing an exhaustive search.

Ryan Seacrest in middays accomplishes two things for Clear Channel: It gives the syndicated show an affiliate in the #9 market and provides free programming to Power 96-1.  Seacrest does well at CHR's with no direct competition and also at New York's Z100.  Z100, however, has huge heritage in that market.  Whether Clear Channel gets away with it here is a question.

In middays, Seacrest slows down the pace of Power 96-1.  Yet it's possible Power's playlist will be enough to draw the demo's younger end.  However, the show has no appeal to me, especially with Jeff Miles going against it on Q100.

Miles, on Atlanta's 95-5 The Beat and then Q100 in its early days, had been displaced on New York's WPLJ-FM and returned to the market a few months ago.  In his time away from Atlanta, Miles became one of the country's premier personalities.  His Q100 predecessor, Brittany, was excellent, but Q100's getting Miles just prior to the 96.1 flip was fortuitous.

Power 96-1 has imported its afternoon and evening personalities, Sonic and Maddox (formerly Lunchbox), from CC stations in San Diego and Florida, respectively.  Both sound good but are a step down from the CHR format's top talent, such as New York's JJ Kincaid and DC's Toby Knapp.

Sonic fits in well, but I much prefer Q100's Johnny O, who has broader appeal.  Johnny O has always sounded very good but almost too straight and authoritative for CHR.  Those traits are what makes him so effective filling in on countdown shows.  But his attempt at personality came across like NBC's Brian Williams telling us about the latest exploits of Lindsey Lohan.  Lately, however, Johnny has been opening up and melding his excellent voice with a conversational style, and sounding his best as a result.

Power 96-1's evening jock, Maddox, fits the evening CHR paradigm but lacks the high energy of the leading CHR night slammers.  He has been interacting with listeners briefly on some subjects but might want to feature nightly topics and take listener calls.  If he was able to master the energy part of the equation, he should be able to compete well against Q100's syndicated Perez at Night.

Power 96-1 did have a major momentum builder fall into its lap.  Jingle Ball, a star-studded concert hosted by numerous Clear Channel CHR's across the U.S., has added Atlanta in December.  And Power 96-1 is riding the wave.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Is All-News 106.7 Here To Stay?

The following column was written last Monday evening, the night before the departure of Program Director Marshall Adams was announced.

The opportunity to create an All-News station came at the right moment for Cumulus.  Just as the company was digesting the Citadel acquisition, CNN Radio, based in Atlanta, ceased operation.  That made a lot of quality news people available for a reported cents on the dollar.  Moreover, a Program Director highly qualified to build an All-News station, Marshall Adams, was looking for a new place to ply his craft.

The idea of Cumulus launching a format that's probably the most expensive was a little hard to fathom at first.  We then heard Atlanta would be a hub for feeding All-News programming to Cumulus stations around the country, lowering the format's overhead.  Whether that eventually happens remains to be seen.

My assumption was All-News 106.7 would be an inferior product, but I was wrong.  Marshall Adams did not disappoint and put together an excellent station.  In addition to hiring a fine staff, he's been incorporating outside resources--FOX 5, Radiate Media, ABC News and the Atlanta Business Chronicle--to their maximum effectiveness.

The reality, however, is that All-News 106.7 has so far garnered a PPM 6+ share of 1.5% and skews heavily to 50+.  Its share is unlikely to go much higher in the short term.  Billings are said to be greater than Atlanta's Greatest Hits, the former iteration of 106.7.  But that's not saying a whole lot for All-News 106.7's life expectancy.

On day one of All-News 106.7, Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey came on the air and smugly said Cumulus was not the first company to think of doing All-News on FM in Atlanta, but was the first to get it done.  He added the company planned to launch All-News operations in other markets.  For that to really happen, 106.7 is going to have to generate more in the way of ratings and revenue, even if the plan was to amortize Atlanta talent across the U.S.

Are Lew and John Dickey schizophrenic?  They want to run stations as cheaply as possible to the point of ruining legendary former ABC News/Talk stations.  For example, Sundays on WABC/New York are primarily infomercials.  Then they turn around and create a station with a format that's the most expensive to run.  I doubt they're schizophrenic.  So what was the motivation to start All-News 106.7?

Could Lew and John possibly have big egos?  Cumulus has a prestigious All-News station in its home market.  All-News 106.7 has shaved a little off News/Talk WSB's PPM share, pushing the station off its lofty perch.  In the world of Cumulus, those things are good for the soul.

All-News can be a compelling sell to advertisers.  As opposed to music formats, which can be used as background, All-News listeners pay attention and are more likely to catch what the commercials are saying.  And unlike music stations, where commercials are aired in long stop sets in order to maximize music sweeps, spots on All-News stations are aired much more frequently and accepted by the audience.

All-News stations tend to bill more than their ratings seem to merit.  In fact, according to the latest study by Miller, Kaplan, Arase, which measures radio station revenue, All-News has the highest Power Ratio--percent billings share divided by percent ratings share--of any format, with a 200 index.

All-News is not a format that can be successful when large-scale staff cuts are made.  There is no CMT Radio Live or Perez Nights available for All-News outlets.  And the local side of the news is always of tremendous importance.  It comes down to a choice between doing the format right or not doing it.

The feeling here is that All-News 106.7 ratings and billings will have to increase for the format to stay for the long term.  Cumulus is not known for its patience, and unlike young-oriented music outlets, All-News stations take time to build an audience.  For now, the station seems to be going full speed ahead.  Time will tell whether All-News 106.7 will be a long-term part of the Atlanta radio landscape.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Slow, Painful Death For WGST

I remember as a kid, having a conversation with friends about how we would prefer to die.  Yes, boys talk about the strangest things before the years when the subject changes to girls.  But, I recall all of us wanted to die quickly rather than suffer for a long time.

When I moved to Atlanta in 1994, WGST was a very viable competitor.  Just a year or so later, the decline began.  It was a function of improvement in WSB, signal, population changes, the shift away from AM, and a string of bad decisions by management.  In recent years, WGST was left twisting in the wind.

The format change to ESPN Deportes was a good decision, and I'll tell you why later in the column.  If nothing else, WGST as a talk station was finally put out of its misery.

Under visionary Program Director Eric Seidel, WGST was a top-tier station.  Even with the loss of Neal Boortz to WSB in 1992, WGST remained strong.  Seidel had recognized Sean Hannity's potential and hired him from Huntsville to replace Boortz.  The quick-witted and entertaining Tom Hughes anchored the morning news block.  Rush Limbaugh was king of the midday ratings, and Kim "The Kimmer" Peterson kept listeners laughing on their ride home.  Dennis O'Hayer anchored an evening newscast, 60 at 6.

WGST had become the Braves flagship in 1992, the first year following the famous worst-to-first run, replacing WSB, which had not expected the team's ascent.  WGST leased an FM on 105.7 northwest of Atlanta.

In 1994, WSB was edging out WGST in ratings, but WGST reportedly outbilled WSB; the Braves were probably responsible for that.

WGST's decline started in 1994 after Program Director Greg Moceri rebuilt WSB.  Finally getting its act together again, WSB started climbing back to the top.  While WGST was still an excellent-sounding station, it had a major problem; its nighttime AM signal covered little more than Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead clearly.  Atlanta's population had become so spread out that WGST-AM had become virtually a daytime station.  Its saving grace was its small FM, which covered the market's northern environs.

Also in 1994, WGST was dealt another blow by the surging WSB.  The Cox station dug deep into its pockets to outbid WGST for Braves play-by-play starting with the 1995 season, which turned out to be the year that the team won the World Series.  (When WGST announced the change, I remember Tom Hughes joking it was because he refused to wear his hair like Don Sutton.)  So now the market had a vastly better-sounding WSB with a big signal day and night plus the Braves.  By 1995, WGST was sliding but still had respectable ratings.

The next blow to WGST came in 1997, when Sean Hannity resigned to join the brand new Fox News Channel.  Hannity had held his own against Neal Boortz.  However, Hannity's replacement, Ian Punnett, was not able to successfully fill Hannity's shoes.  Around the same time, Eric Seidel was replaced by Nancy Zintak, who had worked for him.

In response to sliding ratings, WGST General Manager Bob Houghton brought in acclaimed ad man Joey Rieman to create a new image for the station.  Rieman came back with "Planet Radio."  A news staff cutback and talent revamp accompanied the new moniker.  Punnett was moved to mornings with co-host Trevor Johns, replacing the fired Tom Hughes.

The ratings disaster that followed was blamed on the Planet Radio imaging, but I wonder how much it really had to do with the tremendous improvement in WSB, the loss of the Braves and Sean Hannity, and the new schedule that kicked off the day with a weak morning show.  The Planet Radio moniker was quickly dropped, and Fox 5 sports anchor Jeff Hullinger took over mornings; WGST saw a small rebound.  Morning anchor Tom Hughes was rehired 3 years later.

With WSB now dominating the market, WGST was holding its own in the second ratings tier as an AM-FM combo with still salable numbers.  But, then came the knockout punch.  Now a Clear Channel property, WGST was able to move its FM antenna to Sweat Mountain in Marietta, improving the signal.  The move could have led to making WGST more competitive again.  But Clear Channel, under Market Manager John Hogan, drooled over having another profit center and split the FM off from WGST-AM in 2001.

The split left what was now primarily a daytime station on AM.  This is when WGST started its years of withering on the vine.  The fact is an AM station that for all intents and purposes is day only cannot be left on its own.  As ratings and revenue sunk to all-time lows, WGST shedded its local personalities, as Tom Hughes and Kim Peterson ended their careers.  The station later hired Randy Cook to anchor mornings, but the dye had been cast.

The last bad decision regarding WGST was made about 2 years ago.  Management apparently did not understand that WGST-AM did not have the tools, an FM or at least a full-market night signal, to go it alone.  Clear Channel invested in live and local talent in both drive times, with Rob Johnson and Dave Merlino in mornings, and Rusty Humphries in afternoons.  At the time, I wrote that unless WGST added an FM, the result would be more expenses with the same ratings and revenue.

With ESPN Deportes, WGST is bolstered by an FM partner.  Whatever small audience it picks up could be added to El Patron's numbers and sold as a combo for a slight increase over El Patron's rates or provided as bonus.  In any case, WGST will serve a purpose and be very inexpensive to run.

We do mourn the loss of WGST as a News/Talk station.  It has a rich history in the Atlanta market.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, October 1, 2012

92.9, 97.1 & 100.5 Look for Male Companionship

It's too bad eHarmony does not allow radio stations to sign up.  The website's compatibility test would be a big help to 92.9 The Game, 97-1 The River and Rock 100.5.  All three stations are trying to pick up men, many of whom became available when they and their favorite station went their separate ways.

Not that the market's females are exactly settled in.  With all the recent changes, the instability of relationships for Atlanta's women has been on the rise.  But their uncertainty pales compared to men.

92-9 Dave FM had the most dual audience of the stations in the Rock genre, with men and women divided about equally.  Where are the former Adult Album Alternative listeners likely to settle?  It's difficult to say, but based on music, I would not be surprised if both genders landed on Star 94.  In fact, I think that Star 94, during its revival as a Hot AC, put the nails in Dave FM's coffin.

Star's playlist was heavy on the Nickelback, Train and Kings of Leon type of sound, acts that straddle the Hot AC/AAA border.  For a while, Star 94 was doing its Big 90s Weekend, which brought over a lot of men under the radar.  The sweet spot for both 92-9 Dave-FM and Star 94 is 35-54 so both men and women could be moving 1.2 megahertz to the right.

Luring some former Dave-FM listeners is not out of the question for 97-1 The River.  Though The River is older and more male than Dave, both stations are on the softer side of Rock.  The River does, however, throw in an occasional Led Zeppelin or Def Leppard.  Its classic hits have had little in common with Dave FM's AAA except for a fit of experimentation early this year by former Dave-FM PD Scott Jameson.

Rock 100.5 has seen a lot of iterations in its 5-year life but seems to have finally perfected the recipe.  The station is Classic Rock based, with a harder edge than 97-1 The River.  And the Classic songs include an occasional 80s heavy metal band, such as Metallica.  Added to the mix are some titles from the 2K decade and the 90s.

Rock 100.5's music has little similarity to either Dave-FM or Project 9-6-1 though it leans a little toward the Project taste.  And like Project 9-6-1, Rock 100.5 has a compelling morning show.  Just the availability of unattached men and the market's limited Rock choices could benefit the station, which has been on a ratings upswing.  Of course, Cumulus created 98-9 The Bone to grab disenfranchised Project 9-6-1 listeners, and whether they run to fetch the small FM translator signal remains to be seen.

Where 92.9 The Game will get its audience will be interesting.  Undoubtedly, the All-Sports share in the Atlanta market will increase.  And CBS has done too well with the format to fail, especially on that big signal.  So from where will The Game's audience come?

What portion of its First Preference listeners will come from the All-Sports AM's, 680 The Fan and 790 The Zone?  I expect The Game's PPM shares to exceed The Fan and The Zone combined, and if I turn out to be correct, many probably will come from WSB, the Rock stations and other places.  The All-Sports format has a higher male audience composition than any other format; 89% of 680 The Fan's listeners are male, as are 88% of 790 The Zone's audience.

With WGST's former listeners now added to the mix, watching the market's new relationships will be more intriguing than speculating about Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel.  How things ultimately shake out is anyone's guess.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Power Surge Hits Q100

Q100 had been Atlanta's only CHR station, and since moving to 99.7 early in 2008, has been a ratings steamroller.  Yet, Q100 in the eyes of many is not a true CHR station.  Its delivery leans adult, and it mixes in softer recurrents with today's CHR hits.  If you like Coldplay's Paradise and Jason Mraz's I'm Yours, you'll probably love Q100.  Conversely, the station doesn't play some of the hip-hoppier CHR product.  Q100's music overall has had more of a CHR identity in recent years than in its early days under current owner Cumulus.

What's behind this strategy for Q100?  A couple of reasons are plausible.  The station pretty much held the market's young people captive; they had nowhere to turn for the more rhythmic CHR product until recently.  So with little chance of losing the young, why not pick off some older folks from Star 94 and B98.5?  That would add more attractive and therefore more lucrative demos while increasing overall ratings, which made perfect sense.

Another likely reason was that's how Cumulus SVP/Programming Jan Jeffries designs CHR stations.  Recurrent is the byword.  Jeffries installed the same kind of sound at Houston's KRBE, a pure, high-energy CHR before Cumulus took over.

After Cox's 95-5 The Beat was eliminated in August, 2010 in favor of a WSB simulcast, Clear Channel brought The Beat's successful CHR/Rhythmic format to 105.7 and later added 96.7 south of town.  Wild 105.7/96.7 got respectable ratings but not as high as The Beat.  That was to be expected since Wild was on signals that were hardly listenable in major parts of the market.

When JB Wilde joined Wild as PD in 2011, he started moving the music toward mainstream CHR.  As the station became more and more Pop yet retained a Rhythmic tint, ratings increased to surprisingly high levels given such meager signals.  Wild's audience growth sent a message that the market's young people wanted a pure, high-energy CHR that played all the hits.  Clear Channel apparently picked up that message and launched Power 96-1.

With Power 96-1 in its formative stage under PD Rick Vaughn, it's hard to say how it will perform.  However, Q100 has little to worry about for now.  Power 96-1's syndicated morning show, Elvis Duran, will never come close to beating The Bert Show in this market.  And mornings set the course for the rest of the day.  I have to believe that Clear Channel knows this and is thinking about a local morning show, but hiring one that works will be dicey.  And getting mornings right will be critical to Power's success.  This is not Project 9-6-1, and not being a top-10 station would mean failure for a full-power CHR.

Power 96-1 might get away with the syndicated On-Air with Ryan Seacrest in middays (although I can't listen to it) if the show is surrounded by great content.  Clear Channel runs Seacrest on many of its successful CHR's.  In Atlanta, Seacrest is opposite one of the best midday personalities in the country, Jeff Miles, on Q100.

Listening to Q100 makes me think that PD Rob Roberts has been working with Miles and afternoon driver Johnny O to add personality to the station, a welcome change.  Q100 has also countered the Power launch with its Mad Money contest.

Afternoons and evenings on Power 96-1 have a quintessential CHR sound, contrasting with Q100, which sounds excellent in its own rite.  The shifts are being voice tracked by JJ Kincaid and Mo Bounce, respectively, who handle the same slots on New York's Z100 (and sound much better on Z100).  Clear Channel is rumored to be hiring live Atlanta-based talent for these shifts.  (Today, afternoon drive is being voice tracked by Sonic of Channel 933 FM in San Diego.)  Live and local in evenings could give fits to the syndicated "Perez Nights" on Q100.

Both Clear Channel and Cumulus are employing a roadblock strategy, using flankers to own more of the CHR base.  Clear Channel has removed the mainstream material from Wild 105.7/96.7 and apparently plans for the station to coexist with Power 96-1 as a Hip-Hop outlet aimed at suburban white kids.  Cumulus has added The Q100 20 on its 97.9 translator, ostensibly to protect Q100 from Power by having a very tight playlist of youth-oriented hits, some of which are too rhythmic to get airplay on Q100.

When things settle down, here is what I expect to happen early on:  Power 96-1 will pick off some of the 12-34 demographic from Q100, and a good deal of the very young demos from Wild 105.7.  The 12-34 group tends to move quickly after a format change, and Wild is constantly promoting Power on its air.

I believe that Power 96-1 will trail Q100 badly in mornings and middays, and Power's numbers will become somewhat competitive in afternoon drive and evenings.  Of course, all bets are off if Power 96-1 hires the right morning show.  And while Power 96.1 probably will steal from Q100 and its own Wild the most, the fact that another big signal is going after almost the same audience will likely cause some erosion at Star 94 and B98.5.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Power 96-1 Blasts Off

The week of August 27 was full of surprises for Clear Channel's Atlanta staff.  First, they learned the cluster was getting a new boss, Matt Scarano.  Matt had been Director of Sales at Clear Channel/Chicago and at one time was General Sales Manager at Kicks and Eagle here in Atlanta.  Then, maybe not quite as much of a surprise, WKLS flipped from Active Rock Project 9-6-1 to CHR Power 96-1.

With the launch of Power 96-1, Atlanta finally has something that virtually every other large market has, something Atlanta has been missing for the past 7 years, a high-energy CHR that really plays all the hits.  CHR has been my favorite format throughout my radio-listening life, both for its excitement and its music; I still get mesmerized by those hooks.

Clear Channel is serious about this one.  They put Power 96-1 on one of their two major signals and moved a blue-chip program director from Chicago's 103.5 Kiss FM, Rick Vaughn.  They added state-of-the-art CHR imaging by Scott Matthews and Melody Sharp.

Last week, I talked about how Atlanta's Wall of Women, the ratings fortress constructed by Star 94, Q100 and B98.5, probably kept CBS's WZGC away from a flip to CHR.  Did Clear Channel just decide to forge ahead without much thought, similar to the company's launch of 94-9 The Bull 5 years ago?

Atlanta has been a market of frustration for Clear Channel, especially for CEO John Hogan, who made his name here.  CC has two super (full class C) signals in Atlanta, 96.1 and 94.9.  Yet with the exception of a brief stay there by 94-9 The Bull a couple of years ago, Clear Channel has not been able to get these stations near the top 10.  Maybe that was reason enough to go for it with a format that's been flying high in other markets.

While the Wall of Women has been standing tall, a look at the PPM reveals an undercurrent.  Clear Channel's Wild 105.7/96.7, which had been moving from CHR/Rhythmic toward CHR/Pop over the past year, was grabbing Total Persons shares in the mid-3s despite signals that are hardly listenable in many places.  In fact, an average of the July, June and May PPM's put Wild in a tie for #7 among women 18-49, just a smidgen behind the Wall-of-Women stations.

That accomplishment on weak signals suggested that Atlanta was starving for a real CHR on a major station.  Q100 has enjoyed the luxury of attracting both the lower and upper ends of the CHR demo by melding current songs with recurrents such as Breakeven by the Script and It's My Life by No Doubt.  Conversely, Q100 leaves out some CHR songs that it feels could drive away older listeners.  And Q100 has a more adult delivery, with the exception of evenings, compared to a typical high-energy CHR.

Now, it's a little hard to be objective since I had been repenting for whichever of my sins had caused the market to have no real CHR.  Yet the above two points seem to justify Clear Channel/Atlanta's entry into the format.

Will Power 96-1 win?  How is Q100 likely to react?  And what will be the effect of Power 96-1 and Wild 105.7 coexisting?  I don't know the answers but have opinions, which I will tell you in the next issue of Atlanta Airwave Action.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, September 10, 2012

WZGC & Atlanta's Wall Of Women

Why it took so long is anyone's guess.  But CBS Radio finally ran out of music-adjustment options for its floundering 92-9 Dave FM (WZGC) and announced a flip to All Sports.  Why All Sports, and was it a prudent decision?

This year, it's been "keep it simple" for CBS Radio.  Under President Dan Mason, stations that needed a format change have flipped to either CHR or All Sports.  CHR has been soaring, which I attribute to the PPM and the current popularity of the music.  And it's a format that lends itself to syndicated morning shows, voice tracking and other money-saving devices.

The All-Sports format got going in 1987 at WFAN-AM in New York.  I don't know who was the Thomas Edison of the All-Sports format, but he deserves to be richer now than he probably is.  The format was destined for a high power ratio, meaning percent of ad dollars relative to audience share.  What has made the format so powerful is that big ratings are not necessarily needed for big billings.

All-Sports radio is a natural for beers, certain cars, shaving supplies and other manly goods because of its pure audience. And the format sells listeners who live the sports lifestyle, lending itself to advertising packages that incorporate sports-oriented promotions.  In the late 90s when 790 The Zone was billing huge despite small ratings, much of its revenue came from promotions that accompanied the on-air component.  Moreover, sometimes All-Sports stations have big men 18-49 or men 25-54 ratings that are masked by a low 6+ number.

Top management and owners of companies tend to be in the heavy sports demographics.  Even management at larger, sophisticated firms, who should know better, want All-Sports stations on their buys for the ego injection they get when they hear their commercials on the radio.

All Sports on FM is a fairly recent phenomenon, and CBS Radio has led the charge.  In a format whose AM's have often lacked big ratings, All-Sports FM's have bucked that trend.  In Detroit, CBS's WXYT-FM is #1 or #2 in Persons 6+; in Boston, Entercom's WEEI-FM is #8 while CBS's WBZ-FM is #12; the 2 stations combined would be #2 with a 7.6 share.  In the Pittsburgh market, CBS's KDKA-FM comes in at #6 with a 6% share.

With CBS Radio doing well in both of its format flip options, which was right for Atlanta?  I have no inside knowledge of the decision process.  But I have to guess that when CBS looked at the market, the company realized that with CHR, it would plow head-first into Atlanta's Wall of Women, the female fortress made up of Star 94, B98.5 and Q100.  Only Q100 is defined as CHR; Star 94 is Hot AC while B98.5 straddles the border between Hot AC and AC.  But the three stations fight tooth and nail for the lucrative women 25-54 demographic.

Does that mean CBS could not win with CHR?  Not necessarily.  CHR tends to be a little younger, and Q100 is programmed to capture both the lower and upper ends of the young women demo.  A strictly CHR playlist and delivery might have forced Q100 to adjust one way or the other.  However, trying to break through the Wall of Women could have been a very expensive war with an uncertain outcome.

Is All-Sports a slam-dunk for WZGC?  Many consider Atlanta to have a far less rabid sports base than the cities where the format enjoys big ratings.  That reputation probably comes from Atlanta's support of its professional teams; college seems to be a different story.  And Atlanta's sometimes lackluster attendance for its pro teams could result from so many residents hailing from other markets.  Succeeding with All-Sports might simply mean hitting the right balance of professional and college programming.

WZGC's All-Sports competition is on AM with the exception of 680 The Fan's translator at 93.7.  But other markets have shown that in All News, News/Talk and All Sports, being on FM does not always mean beating the long-established AM's in the format.

We wait with anticipation as CBS Radio rolls out the market's first full-power FM All-Sports station in October.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2012

AAA Returns On September 10

I am pleased to announce that Atlanta Airwave Action will be back on September 10.  I have been enjoying a much-needed summer break.

In the past, AAA has been published every Monday evening with the exception of holiday weeks.  That of course required writing the column each week whether or not anything of importance had happened.  Being "forced" to deliver a column every week meant having to come up with one in quiet weeks.  By Saturday morning, if I had not written AAA, I had to think of something and create a column.  This resulted in a bit of burnout, but I felt if people looked for AAA and did not find it, they would stop looking.

Going forward, I plan to write Atlanta Airwave Action in the weeks when a situation merits it.  Of course, I will post the column on Facebook on the Monday evenings when a new one is available.  The best way to keep up with new issues of AAA is by following us on Twitter at

Thanks for your support!  I will see you soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Break

This week begins a hopefully short hiatus from Atlanta Airwave Action.  Needing to have a column ready every week tends to take a toll.  And at this time, I need to step away to thaw out.

I do want to thank everyone for following AAA.  The blog now gets over 6,500 page views per month.  Since I began the column about 3 and a half years ago, it's attracted more than 110,000 page views.  I can tell from the email that it's well read across Atlanta radio.

I want to add a special thank you to Rodney Ho of the AJC.  Rodney keeps a link to Atlanta Airwave Action on the right of his Radio & TV Talk blog and has occasionally included a link to AAA in the body of his column. has provided our largest single source of traffic.

Have a wonderful summer, and we'll talk soon.

Roddy Freeman

Monday, June 11, 2012

WSB To Raise Cain

It had to happen eventually.  As Neal Boortz entered his 60's and then mid-60's, observers were wondering when he would finally hang up the headphones.  More than that, they wondered what WSB would do to replace him.

The answer came last week.  Boortz, 67, will step down on Inauguration Day, and his considerable shoes will be filled by Herman Cain, 66.  What will be the fallout?

Atlantans--and WSB in particular--have been fortunate.  Star talk show hosts are difficult to develop or find.  Yet two unique and talented talkers, Neal Boortz and Clark Howard, were already in the market.

Former WSB General Manager Marc Morgan might not have had the vision of past WGST Program Director Eric Seidel, but he did have access to the Cox checkbook.  Morgan lured Boortz and Howard to lead WSB's renaissance.

Neal Boortz is a compelling talent.  On the air, he espouses individualism and advocates that people are a product of the choices they have made.  He does not tow the standard conservative line.

I long ago gave up trying to figure out what talk-show hosts really believe.  But, I know this.  Boortz understands that he is an entertainer, and that his job is to get ratings.  He knows how to push the right buttons to evoke emotion in listeners.  He will not easily be replaced.

Boortz is not perfect.  At times, I find him trying to take a mundane occurrence and turn it into controversy.  And sometimes, he is unduly insulting to callers whom he feels are ignorant.  But his success speaks for itself, and he has been a tremendous part of the Atlanta radio landscape.

When Herman Cain left his evening show on WSB to run for president, few gave him a chance of doing more than selling some books.  But the initial refusal of many Republicans to rally around Mitt Romney resulted in unexpected exposure for Cain.  And when the accusations hit, the previously little-known Cain became a household word.

After Cain suspended his campaign, WSB brought him back to do commentaries.  From the promotion that WSB gave his return, you would have thought he had won American Idol.  The station realized it had a star on its hands.  But, his presidential spotlight will a short-lived phenomenon.

Will Cain, who is also taking over the Boortz syndication, be able to hold Neal's audience?  I think that's unlikely.

When WSB conducted research recently, Cain's name recognition was virtually 100%.  That's great, but after the novelty wears off, his broadcast ability will make or break the show.

Cain is smart; his career of leading companies proves that.  But he is not like Boortz, who makes tuning out a difficult proposition.  He does not have the talent to elicit feelings and keep people on the edge of their seat.

We of course will monitor how things develop.  I do not expect Cain to work out long term, but frankly, finding someone who could follow Boortz without a ratings blip would be daunting, to say the least.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Majic 107-5 Making Ratings Magic

Derek Harper is one of my favorite people in Atlanta radio.  He has been Program Director of Majic 107-5/97-5 and Praise 102-5 since Operations Manager Hurricane Dave Smith blew into town in 2009.  Derek joined Radio One/Atlanta back in 2005.

Derek has some personality traits that I love, especially in this day when many local PD's just routinely implement what corporate dictates.  He has passion for and takes pride in what he does.  Derek is a cordial person but is not shy about letting me know when he feels wronged.

A couple years ago, Derek felt I had ignored Praise 102-5, the small-signal Gospel station that soared to PPM heaven.  I admitted I had sinned and repented by writing a blog post about the outlet.

Early this year, I wrote about 107.5's new, more powerful signal.  In the column, I mentioned that Cox's Kiss 104 had pretty much dominated Majic in the ratings, and that I did not expect the new Majic signal to change that.  I attributed the market's preference for Kiss to the station's music-intensive format, which the PPM seems to favor.

Oops.  I received an email from Derek, reminding me that Majic 107-5/97-5 had been consistently beating Kiss in the money demo, persons 25-54.  In fact, the ratings pushed Kiss, which had shifted to "old school" when sister station 97.1 became Jamz in 2001, to resume playing current product.  Derek ended his email by saying, "Dominant stations don't change their music format."

Okay; point well taken.  But I told Derek that 25-54's importance notwithstanding, I was talking about total listeners 6+, which Kiss had been winning handily.

Majic has been creeping up in the ratings and in April, tied Kiss among total persons.  Well, Derek's email arrived.  It read, "On behalf of my staff, I'd like to thank you for the motivation.  We're determined to remove all doubt about which station is the dominant Urban AC."  Attached was a PPM overview.

Having spent my career in the ad business, I grudgingly agreed with Derek that 25-54 is the holy grail so I took a look.  Majic won the demo in April, but the race was close.  Across all dayparts from Monday-Sunday, 6AM-Midnight, Majic edged out Kiss in average audience by 4%.  In 25-54 weekly cume, however, Kiss won by 2%.

The Urban AC race is, as political pollsters like to say, within the margin of error.   And frankly, so much of Majic's fate is shaped by its syndicated drivetime shows, Steve Harvey in mornings and Michael Baisden in afternoons.  Harvey just had the #1 movie in America, and topics like the Trayvon Martin case are tailor-made for Baisden.

In recent months, pundits have wondered how long Steve Harvey will keep his radio show, given he recently signed as host of a new syndicated TV talk program.  If Harvey did give up radio, it would throw a monster wrench into Majic (and lots of other stations).

Majic 107-5/97-5's local dayparts both feature veterans and sound good, with Carol Blackmon in middays, another important PPM daypart, and SiMan in evenings.  The formatics are solid.

The new signal from (as Radio-Info poster Jabba17 calls it) the Gwinnett-is-Great site is excellent.  I have driven it through Midtown and Downtown as well as south of town, and experienced no FM multipath whatsoever, just a solid, clear signal.  And of course that reminds me of how redundant the 97.5 simulcast is, in a market where FM signals are worth so much.  But that's another subject for another time.

I do want to give Derek Harper his props.  Majic has been going nowhere but up this year.  And he's done a spectacular job with Praise 102-5.  But the Urban AC competition is just getting revved up.  Both Majic and Kiss are going at it, and with Majic's recent gains, it's a fairly even match.  Of course, we'll keep our eyes on it.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

All News 106.7: Rating the PPM Possibilities

Atlanta's brand new All News station, 106.7 (WYAY-FM), is headed our way.  Predicting its ratings success is difficult since there is a lot that we do not yet know.  I do have some questions, however, the answers to which will help me better predict.

On the surface, Atlanta has a gaping hole for the All News format.  Yet in this age of focus groups for everything, has Cumulus actually researched the station's potential success?  I ask this for several reasons.

Local TV news in this market is basically apartment fires and shootings.  Will All News 106.7 have the staff to cover those things?  As far as national and international news, I wonder about the market's appetite for this.  Yes, WSB's political talk shows get big ratings, but is that the same thing?

News/Talk WSB has the news image in the market and has held it for more years than I care to think about.  Yes, I realize that after Atlanta's Morning News shuts down at 8:30, WSB becomes mainly a talk station.  However, news is done live and local for 24 hours.

WSB does not have the number of news people it once had, but it has enough to send reporters to local stories.  And under the Cox Media Group umbrella, the station has additional resources with WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Will 106.7 be able to overcome the WSB news mystique?

NPR station WABE-FM is not exactly a slouch when it comes to news, with which it fills the two drive times.  Although national product consumes most of the news blocks, WABE has very able local news anchors in Steve Goss for mornings and Dennis O'Hayer in afternoons.  Can 106.7 lure Atlanta's true opinion leaders away?

Successful News and News/Talk stations tend to have first-rate, well-known morning hosts, and WSB's Scott Slade is one of them.  Within a day's drive from Atlanta, Harley Drew on WGAC/Augusta and Jim Turner on WDBO/Orlando are other examples.  Of course, WSB's mornings are tremendously enhanced by folks such as Bob Coxe, Marcy Williams, Captain Herb Emory and Kirk Mellish.  Will All-News 106.7 be able to establish, or be willing to pay for, a top-notch AM drive show?

Is Cumulus putting All News on the right signal?  The 106.7 signal is much bigger than 100.5.  But 106.7 transmits from about 30 miles outside Atlanta, and a lot of that signal goes over sparsely-populated terrain.  While 106.7 can be received in cars over a much larger area, 100.5 has at least as strong a car signal in places where the All News audience tends to drive.

What about delivering listeners at work?  No, All News 106.7 will never be the station voted #1 for the most music while you work.  But All News would be a top listening choice in certain types of businesses, types that have an affinity for steel buildings.  And 100.5 gets into buildings in Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and Perimeter much better than 106.7.

How successful will the sales staff be?  A funny thing takes place in radio.  Music stations with older demos have a heck of a time selling to agencies; hence we have almost every station going after 25-54.

With All-News, however, AM stations like WCBS and WINS, and WTOP-FM lead the country in billings, their mature skew notwithstanding.  That has a lot to do with the prestige of these stations among management types.  If any station in Atlanta comes close to this scenario, it's WSB.  I wonder whether 106.7's older demos will make the station a hard sell.

Cumulus has announced that entertainment will be part of the programming.  When Merlin introduced All News FM stations in New York and Chicago, the company tried to do an "All News Light" thing to attract younger people than traditionally listen to All News.

The result was a disaster, and the stations are still scrambling to create a product competitive to their All News rivals.  Of course, we know nothing about how All News 106.7 plans to integrate entertainment into the format.

Maybe all of the above is just a smokescreen for my true underlying reason for skepticism.  Cumulus owns the station, the same Cumulus that runs everything as cheaply as possible.  CHR might be an easy format to voice track; All News is not.  According to the company, the station will be live 24/7.  In this case, that should be affordable since the rumor is the same Atlanta people will anchor the news on Cumulus News/Talk properties around the country.

The successful All-News brands around the U.S. have a drive for excellence and go at it with great fervor.  And they employ a big staff to attack every story aggressively.  They pay attention to little things like which background music plays behind each type of report.  And they invested years and lots of money before the product grew to what it is today.

Is Cumulus capable of pulling this off?  I'm just askin'.

Thanks for reading.  AAA will be back in 2 weeks.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cumulus/Atlanta Set To Make News

Bread and butter, bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, peaches and cream, love and marriage.  They all go together.  Cumulus and All News?  Not so much.  Yet Cumulus is about to launch an All-News operation in Atlanta, one of the few major markets that does not have one already.  So it sounds pretty logical at first.

Getting to the point of making last Friday's announcement was quite a journey.  (No, not that Journey.)  From day one of Cumulus ownership, I have suspected "Atlanta's Greatest Hits" would be short-lived on WYAY-FM (106.7).

My suspicion started with the firing of Randy & Spiff, the two guys most associated with oldies in Atlanta.  It continued when Tripp West filled in during mornings, and Cumulus made no attempt to develop a morning show; and when Tripp's afternoon drive shift was held down by Fred McFarlin.

WYAY seemed to be in a holding pattern.  The word around town was Cumulus would flip the format after the move to the Johnson Ferry complex in March.  The station's air staff was told absolutely zilch, of course.

As the supposed studio completion date approached, the jocks learned that only a new Kicks studio had been built.  WYAY's air talent continued to be the lone wolves at the Interstate North facility.

Cumulus Corporate announced to its Atlanta management that Rock 100.5 (WNNX-FM) would be moving to 106.7.  Rock 100.5 salespeople then repeated this to agency buyers.  A 680 The Fan simulcast seemed a likely possibility for the 100.5 signal.

Meanwhile, SweetJack call handlers moved into the Interstate North space.  ABC Radio Network's operations people were rumored to be relocating from Dallas to the facility as well.

About a month ago, I received a call from a friend who is an Atlanta radio veteran.  He related that Cumulus had been talking with news people from WABE-FM, the market's NPR station.  I dismissed this as being simply rumor.  Then a salesperson at News/Talk WSB commented, "We know they're coming after us.  I know for a fact they've talked to all the former CNN Radio people."

I wondered what was going on but still thought plans for Rock 100.5's move to 106.7 were intact.  But at some point, they apparently changed.

Next I heard that the Cumulus/Atlanta engineering team of Mark LeMuth and Tim Stephens showed up at the Interstate North complex and were hurriedly working to refurbish the former Kicks board, which had been slated for the morgue.

Two weeks ago,'s Lance Venta announced that Cumulus had purchased the domain ""  Later that week, Cumulus reserved similar domains for each of its Atlanta frequencies except 97.9.  The company in all likelihood was blindsided by Venta's acumen and not ready for the word to get out.

Like another Radio-Info poster, I felt reserving the domains had been a head-fake in preparation for the move of 100.5 to 106.7.  In reality, I was the one being head-faked.

Columnist Jerry Del Colliano wrote that Cumulus was thought to be building a news hub in Atlanta, and that an Atlanta staff would replace local personnel at Cumulus news/talk stations around the country.  So that was the reason for talking with the former CNN Radio anchors, I thought.

Suddenly, stockpiles of new equipment and a throng of workers started showing up at Interstate North.  Word leaked out that the pressure was on to have everything up and running by May 1.  And of course, WYAY was still pumping out Atlanta's Greatest Hits.  I had wondered why the format flip had not yet occurred.  I finally came out of my trance and realized this All-News thing was really going to happen.

Next week, I will tell you how I expect the new All-News 106.7 to perform and why.

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

B98.5 Makes Itself Whole Again

B98.5 FM has made some adjustments as its quest for women against Star 94 and Q100 heats up.

The Cox AC has been a pretty steady performer over the years.  The station competes for a lucrative audience, and it's always been in the thick of things.  But this year, B98.5 has found itself being the #3 station of the three vying for the demographic, an uncharacteristic position for the outlet.

In the mid-90's, radio in Atlanta was a different world.  Things rarely changed and for good reason.  The market had 9 fewer FM's than now, and consolidation had not yet happened.  With radio ad dollars escalating and an underradioed landscape, owners were raking in the dough.  Even lesser-rated stations had much bigger shares than now.

B98.5 was doing something that I thought strange and not the best idea.  Guided by Program Director Phil LoCascio, the station was in effect running two formats.  During weekdays, it was a highly structured AC station under the close scrutiny of Cox Radio President Bob Neil.  On weekends, it shifted to All 70's or as I called it, "the Donna Summer format."

B98.5 mixed 70's into its weekday playlist, but weekends were different.  Saturday and Sunday had a disco-oriented sound, and I surmised LoCascio wanted to make them different to make them special.  However, B98.5's bipolar disorder resulted in sounding like two separate stations.  But that didn't matter tremendously; Atlanta radio was a fat cat at the time, and B98.5 sat behind Peach 94.9 and ahead of Star 94 in Arbitron.  With its profitable female target audience, B98.5 was earning a healthy living.

In the late 1990's, Star 94 started surging.  A lot had to do with the comeback of CHR music, and some had to do with PD Dan Bowen's arrival at Star.  Bowen cleaned up the formatics and made the station tighter.

B98.5 dropped its 70's weekends, with General Manager Marc Morgan announcing that people would always know what to expect when tuning to the station.  For some time, the new ratings order of the 3 fairly-direct competitors was Star 94, B98.5 and then the former leader, the late Peach 94.9.

In 2010, still in a strong position, B98.5 started presenting some occasional theme weekends, which were fun.  Eventually, every weekend became a Big 80's Weekend.  Like with its 70's weekends years ago, the music was vintage 80's but different from the 80s played during the week.  But I felt it was at least more compatible with the station's weekday sound this time.

By 2011, new Star 94 PD Scott Lindy had led his station to reclaim its position as a ratings leader.  When the departure of Cox's Bob Neil paved the way for autonomy at the local level, PD Cagle brought B98.5 into the modern era, eliminating 70's and adding current product, to better compete with Star.  Its positioner became "your favorite songs from the 80's, 90's and now."

After Star 94 launched its Big 90's Weekend last year, B98.5 started alternating the Big 80's Weekend with its new Retro Weekend, featuring the 80's and 90's.  While the music was distinctive yet compatible with the weekday mix, my feeling was B98.5 was grappling with how to counter Star 94.  Would listeners wonder whether the Retro Weekend, devoid of currents, was the "80's, 90's and Not Now Weekend?"

B98.5's changes, musically pretty dramatic, initially reaped rewards as ratings jumped.  In 2012, however, after a lower Christmas ratings spike than in past years, the station has slid to third place among the 3 main competitors, with its soaring midday numbers keeping it as high as it is.

B98.5's latest moves appear to be a reaction to the ratings and continued uncertainly regarding weekends.  The AC brought back 98 minutes of music at 9AM but is calling it "the Workday Kickoff" rather than its famous former name, "the 98 at 9."

A commercial-free hour was added at 4:45PM, a scant 5 minutes before Star 94 starts its "Commercial-Free Ride at 5."  That reminds me of the old Top-40 strategy of starting the news 5 minutes before the competition; in that case, listeners would leave but return 5 minutes later.

A couple of weekends ago, B98.5 made itself whole again by dropping its themed weekends and becoming "80's, 90's and now" all the time.  Themed weekends in the AC format are a tough row to hoe.

Competition is good, and with consolidation, listeners get too little of it.  We'll see where things go from here.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cumulus Puts Stamp On Kicks

With Kicks 101-5 settled in its new state-of-the-art studio in the Johnson Ferry complex, we now know what the Country station will sound like under Cumulus ownership.  There are pluses and minuses.

The audio sounds incredible.  When I thought about a station's audio, things like processors and exciters came to mind.  I have to admit I never realized what a difference a board could make.  The music, jock talk and commercials on Kicks all have a phenomenal resonance.

Throughout my life, I've been on various kicks, be they a short-term infatuation with a certain car, hobby or anything else.  And for the past few weeks, I've been on a, well, Kicks kick.  I tune in no matter what or who is on just to hear the audio.

Kicks also has a new station voice, straight out of the Cumulus library.  Former Kicks voice John Willyard made the station sound big...and unique.  Though the new voice guy makes Kicks sound like a lot of Country stations, he fits the format to a tee and sounds good.  PD Mark Richards has always been a magician with formatics, and the imaging product sounds terrific.

That said, Kicks' imaging gives the station a contemporary, upbeat sound but not the aggressive tenor that I associate with a Country outlet intent on burying the competition (like 93-7 K Country in Gainesville/Ocala).

The biggest change, and probably the biggest question, has been replacing the local evening talent with the syndicated CMT Live with Cody Alan.  Cody does have some broadcast talent, and listeners get to hear music news and celebrity interviews.  But to me, the show does not have the tightness and energy needed to win.  A significant amount of Kicks imaging is lost.

One interesting fact is Kicks is the only major market station on the Cody Alan roster.  Yes, the station list claims a Chicago affiliate, but that signal, in an outlying area of the TV market (DMA), makes it to nowhere near the Windy City; same with the so-called Mobile-Pensacola affiliate.  Listening levels fall off a cliff after 7PM so CMT Live should not do much to affect Kicks' overall performance.

Shortly after the Cumulus acquisition of Citadel closed, Music Director and imaging wizard Mike Macho was handed afternoon drive.  Kicks now has superior talent in both drive times though mornings have the challenge of winning back younger people who defected to 94-9 The Bull.

Also early on, Cumulus management directed Kicks to incorporate classic Country songs from the past 2 decades.  Approximately 5 or 6 are played each hour.  I like the inclusion of the older product and feel it adds depth.  The positioner remains "Today's best Country hits."

The next change, which appears to be in the works, is the Cumulus hallmark of heavy voice tracking.  In the near future, Kicks 101-5 probably will have 3 live weekday shifts with a possible fourth on weekends.  While Cumulus is the poster child, other stations, even Cox's B98.5 FM, do the same.

Last weekend, afternoon driver Mike Macho also appeared on Saturday evening and Sunday (Easter) morning.  The weekend shifts were likely both tracked.  Kevin Steele, Chris Carter, Rob Lee and occasionally Kim Fitz have been doing live weekend shows.  I wonder whether that will soon be coming to a close.

The Cumulus version of Kicks 101-5 is a good one.  Yet I'm a little disappointed it doesn't have the hawkish drive in its DNA to dominate.  Kicks has the programming and air talent to pull ahead in the Country war but needs a little fire in the belly.

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lincoln Financial To Add FM Signal

Two rumors were making the rounds last week as 2 applications to the FCC regarding an FM translator at 94.5 came to light.  The first application stated the signal would rebroadcast the HD2 channel of WSTR-FM, and the second was for a move into Atlanta.  The signal is currently owned by Edgewater Broadcasting, which purchased hundreds of FM translators for the express purpose of selling them.

The applications were discovered by poster Rick Rose, who watches the FCC database for changes.  The story was published by and embellished by AJC Entertainment Reporter Rodney Ho in his blog.

The first rumor seemed to be the obvious explanation, that Lincoln Financial would use the 250-watt signal for its AM Sports station, 790 The Zone.  Dickey Broadcasting's 680 The Fan has been solidly besting The Zone in ratings although 790 has remained competitive in the key 25-54 demo during the day.

While 680 The Fan has 50,000 watts in the daytime and 790 puts out 28,000, signal is not really an issue in daylight hours; both stations dispense plenty of power.

Nights are a different story.  Though it misses virtually everyone to the northeast of its Peachtree Corners transmitter and all of north Cobb County, 680 sends a powerful 10,000-watt signal southwest through Atlanta.  The Zone, on the other hand, powers down to 1,000 watts at night with a very directional antenna.  Its area of clear coverage in this time of extra-crowded AM frequencies is very small.

The Fan added an FM translator signal at 93.7 last year.  The 250-watt signal, emanating from the Richland site on Briarcliff Road, does relatively little to fill in areas missed by the AM but provides an option to people who listen only to FM.  In terms of nighttime AM range, The Zone needs an FM far more than The Fan.

The second rumor is that former Radio One programming executive Steve Hegwood is aggressively looking for an FM translator to replace 102.9, which he lost to Radio One in a lawsuit.  Hegwood is the person who traded the 97.9 translator to Cumulus for a class A FM station in Albany, GA.  I have to admire Hegwood.  Several years ago, he lost his radio stations to foreclosure, then lost 102.9, but is already back as an owner.

Hegwood, however, cannot simply obtain a translator signal and broadcast on it.  FCC rules require that a translator "translate" another station.  According to the rumor, Hegwood would lease the translator from LFM and use Star 94's HD2 signal as the main station.

The first rumor sounds far more logical than the second.  I am not totally sure, however.  Lincoln Financial is in the very rare position for a radio company of having no debt.  That means any profit generated by 790 The Zone goes straight to the bottom line.  And despite its low ratings, the station is said to bill some nice cash and throw off millions in profit.

LFM might feel leasing the translator to Hegwood would generate more additional revenue than simulcasting The Zone.  That's a long shot but possible.

Another factor could have an effect on 790 The Zone.  I do not know what Cumulus/Atlanta is planning for the 100.5 frequency, but one reasonable possibility is a simulcast of 680 The Fan.  That could be a game changer.

I predicted a watershed year for changes in Atlanta radio, and so far nothing has happened.  But something will very soon.

WABE Ready for Blast-Off
WABE-FM, owned by the Atlanta Board of Education and the market's NPR affiliate, will be turning on its new 100,000-watt signal in the next 2 weeks.  By moving to the former WPBA-TV position at the top of the original New Street tower, WABE will be increasing both its wattage, from 96,000, and antenna height, from 822 to 1,096 feet above average terrain.

WABE should have as good a signal as any other Atlanta FM.  WPBA-TV, Channel 30, relocated to a new tower next to the original concurrent with the digital conversion.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

WYAY Staffers Get Surprise

Since the Cumulus acquisition of Citadel last fall, air staffers at Kicks 101-5 and Atlanta's Greatest Hits WYAY thought studios for the two stations were being built at Cumulus' Johnson Ferry complex.  About a month ago, the WYAY programming department was blindsided by the announcement that no studio for them had been constructed.  Cumulus had built out the new Kicks studio and a production room.

The WYAY air staff was to stay behind at the Interstate North facility, which has become a lonely place.  Having been told nothing else, the staffers started thinking the worst about their future with the station.  Not unexpectedly, rumors started flying.  The announcement was the impetus behind my column of March 12, entitled The Cumulus/Atlanta shuffle.

What will take place is anyone's guess.  But you can bet something will.  And I expect it to happen by mid-April.  Fasten your seat belt.

Kicks 101-5, meanwhile, has moved into its new studio.  The inaugural broadcast was on Saturday, March 24 at 6AM, hosted by Kevin Steele.  The new board puts out some mighty awesome sound.

Several months ago, I heard that Star 94 would be moving into the former Citadel space on Interstate North Parkway.  That made some sense since it was a fine facility and probably far less expensive than Star's longtime Buckhead home; and because Star 94 GM Rick Mack spent years there as Kicks/Eagle Director of Sales.

I have learned, however, that the space will be reconfigured, and SweetJack, the Cumulus version of Groupon, will settle into part of it.  Speculation regarding the remainder of the facility is that Cumulus will shift ABC Radio Networks operations there from Dallas, TX.  By the way, if I hear that horrendous SweetJack commercial many more times, I just might kick the radio.

Star 94 Kicks It Up a Notch
Joe "The Voice Guy" Szymanski has been handling Star 94's imaging for the past several years.  Now, PD Scott Lindy has added a second voice to his high-flying station, and it's a female counterpart to Syzmanski.  The talent behind the voice is Rachel McGrath, like Lindy a former employee of Clear Channel/Atlanta.

Rachel is sounding great, and the station's male/female balance seems just right.  Of course, a woman's voice blends perfectly into the format of Star 94.

One voice missing from Star 94 is that of Joe Rosati, who had handled Saturday evenings.  Rosati was voice tracked from Detroit, where he was working middays on Channel 9-5-5.

Saturday evenings at Star are now being done by Lloyd the Utility Man.

The Big Gun Starts Talking
WGUN-AM (1010) has been pretty much in a perpetual state of flux.  After dropping its brokered shows and nostalgic music, the station made an ill-fated attempt at R&B oldies, which left WGUN with no revenue.

The Rivers family is now attempting to unload the 50,000-watt station, which is in essence a daytimer.  (It's on at night with 78 watts.)  The family felt the station would be more attractive to prospective owners if it had a talk format.  So WGUN has now converted to Progressive Talk.  Selling the station for any significant amount will be anything but easy.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Many Lives of Dave-FM

Do you believe in reincarnation?  I've never been able to come to terms with the idea that I may someday be a cow.  But I have to say that 92-9 Dave FM is starting to make me wonder.

How many different forms can Dave FM take?  When the station launched in 2004, it was Rock Without Rules.  Next came Radio Without Rules.  Then suddenly, it was just plain Dave FM.  Last fall, it borrowed from Chicago's 93XRT and became Atlanta's Finest Rock.

We have witnessed a parade of program directors.  It started with the highly-regarded Michelle Engel, who crossed the country from Seattle hoping to guide the new Dave FM to great things.  Next arrived another well-thought-of and experienced PD, Mike Wheeler.  And now, Scott Jameson, with more than 10 years of rock success in Indianapolis under his belt, guides the ship.

The music has been all over the place.  It started with a bright mix of Rock targeting adults and kind of veered to Michelle Engel's personal favorites.  (She loved The Police.)  Mike Wheeler gave Dave FM some direction and made it a Triple A station.  Then Scott Jameson installed an AAA playlist similar to the country's leading stations in that genre.  Toward the end of last year, currents were decreased, and a perplexing mix of Classic Rock going back to the 60's was intermingled.  Now Dave has returned to a more typical AAA playlist.

We certainly cannot leave out the cavalcade of morning shows: Barnes & Firfer, Holly Firfer (with her studio announcer Orff), Orff & Firfer, Orff, Zakk Tyler, Orff, Jimmy Baron, Jimmy & Yvonne, The Steve Show.  And of course, mornings have gone back and forth between personality and music intensive, not that any of the personalities had that much leeway.

What does the Dave FM brand mean to listeners?  Could they be confused?  Why does the station seem like the Eveready Bunny?  That signal is too big for Dave to be mired in the high teens among adults 25-54, its good qualitative notwithstanding.  Put bluntly, isn't it time to blow up the station and start from scratch?

CBS Radio Market Manager Rick Caffey seems to make big decisions when he has to.  So why is Scott Jameson still programming Dave FM?  I attended a luncheon at which Caffey told clients that after an exhaustive search, he found the best person to program Dave in Jameson.  Had he told his bosses that and therefore is reluctant to fire Scott?  Does each new music modification buy Jameson some time?  Is V-103 billing so much that it compensates for Dave?

Several months ago, Caffey dismissed Dave FM's General Sales Manager, John Riemenschneider.  Would terminating both his sales and programming heads put Caffey directly in the line of fire?  Does he feel firing Jameson would make no sense when 92.9 might flip in the near future?

92-9 Dave FM does boast the Rick Caffey hallmark of personalities in all dayparts.  Steve Craig, Mara Davis, Sully and Margot all entertain.  Mara is one of the market's premiere personalities, and Margot makes the station sound like a real AAA.

In mornings, which Dave has never been able to get right, Steve Craig is able to make a music-intensive show sound like a personality one through his incredible knowledge of music.  Adding news and bringing in Mitch Evans, one of the market's top sports talents, have been a plus; but I doubt it's enough to lift ratings in mornings.  Dave would need to create a real morning show, a huge challenge.

So life and Dave FM go on, with Steve Craig wondering whether he has a job; and me wondering how long CBS will allow 92.9 to languish at the bottom of the barrel.

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