In the radio business, every year is full of action. After all, when one station goes up, another goes down. In a market of Atlanta's size, not everyone can have a salable product. And that means things change and heads roll. Mitt Romney is getting attacked for being part of Wall Street. He should be thankful he wasn't in the radio business.
This year, more things than usual seem in flux. Seismic shifts do not usually happen this early in the year. Broadcasters know that Christmas music plays havoc with ratings and tend to wait a couple of months before making big changes. The following is a list of things that I am wondering about as we move into 2012:
Billings - Ad billings should be up for a couple of reasons. For one, the economy seems to be turning around. Moreover, this is a political year, and some races will be hotly contested. Keep in mind Atlanta radio will get little or no money from the biggest race of all, the presidential election; since Georgia is not a state that will be in play.
Clear Channel Rumors Dead - Rumors about possible Clear Channel changes got hot and heavy last month. Usually, where there's smoke, there's fire. However, Clear Channel/Atlanta President/Market Manager Melissa Forrest told the AJC's Rodney Ho that El Patron is staying where it is at 105.3. Without that move, it's unlikely the other rumor, about News/Talk WGST, was true. While I feel the cluster could easily increase revenue by making some relatively minor changes, I trust Melissa and believe CC's Atlanta stations will stay as they are for now.
The Dave FM Guessing Game - 92-9 Dave FM started 2011 on an upswing, then drifted back into the doldrums. History repeated itself as the station canned another morning show, Jimmy Baron and Yvonne Monet. Popular Atlanta personality Steve Craig is filling the slot for now as Dave FM once again reverted to music-intensive mornings. The unconventional AAA station also made a significant music adjustment, decreasing 90's and adding songs going back as far as the 60's. CBS Radio Market Manager Rick Caffey, known for his decisiveness, has been very patient with the format and Program Director Scott Jameson to this point. I wonder what's in store for the powerful under-performing signal in 2012.
The Future at V-103 - As V-103 sits on its perch as the market's #1 station, PD Reggie Rouse has had an uncanny knack for knowing what's around the corner. He has stocked the station with talent waiting in the wings. Frank Ski still turns in high ratings with his morning show, which he hosts with Wanda Smith, though not as high as in years past. Since the day he arrived, Ryan Cameron, whose contract is ending, has been rumored to be Ski's eventual replacement. I'm wondering if Rouse would use such a change to move self-proclaimed lifestyle specialist Kenny Burns from weekends into afternoon drive. Keep in mind this is all my own speculation.
Navigating the Cumulus Maze - With the acquisition of the former Citadel stations, Cumulus/Atlanta has two big billers in Q100 and Kicks 101-5. Yes, Kicks' ratings have eroded, and we can expect some tweaks, but the station is still solid. I wonder, however, whether the cloud company will continue to live with the poor performance of Atlanta's Greatest Hits WYAY and Rock 100.5.
WYAY/106.7 is a move-in transmitting from Loganville but has a huge signal. Rock 100.5's coverage is smaller, but the station emanates from the top of the Westin downtown, throwing a solid signal over almost the entire metro.
WYAY sounds like it's in limbo, with Tripp West hosting a music-intensive morning show. Since its launch in 2009, Rock 100.5 has been anchored by The Regular Guys in mornings and has shuffled through various iterations of Rock, none of which has worked. My guess is not much will change until the Kicks and WYAY airstaffs, now the only employees at the former Citadel facility, move to Johnson Ferry, which probably will not happen before April.
An FM for The Zone? - Radio One is rumored to be hawking its FM signal at 97.5, currently doing a redundant simulcast with 107.5. The company also owns a translator at 102.9, for which it cannot figure out a use.
in 2006, Lincoln Financial attempted to sell its stations but ended up shedding only its Charlotte properties. Since then, Lincoln has been rumored to be a willing seller at the right price, but its commitment to the Falcons made me wonder if attitudes had changed at the Philadelphia headquarters.
If Lincoln Financial is thinking about holding on to its media division for the long term, and Radio One is truly looking to sell 97.5, Lincoln might want to jump on a rare opportunity to snag a much-needed FM for 790 The Zone. The 97.5 signal is not ideal but is more substantial overall than the 93.7 translator that duplicates 680 The Fan. And the combination of 97.5 and 102.9 could significantly boost The Zone's sagging fortunes.
It's time to fasten our seat belts, sit back and enjoy the ride.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/