Rock radio has seen better days. In the era of the PPM, Rock on Atlanta radio is splintered into several iterations. Not one station under the Rock umbrella made it into the top 10 among Total Persons 6+ in December.
The overall Rock genre includes Project 9-6-1 (WKLS-FM), 97-1 The River (WSRV-FM), Rock 100.5 (WNNX-FM) and 92-9 Dave FM (WZGC-FM). Two of these stations are doing okay: In its target demos of men 18-34 and men 18-49, Project 9-6-1 is in a first-place and fourth-place tie, respectively. In morning drive, it's in the fourth and seventh spots, respectively. While its strength in those demos will not produce quite the revenue associated with such a giant Atlanta signal, it's likely making good money. And given Clear Channel/Atlanta's current posture of trying to keep things calm and build a respectful operation, keeping it as is makes perfect sense.
The River makes it into the top 10 for men 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54. It's been held back a little by mornings, but it's done decently since its launch. Although it has a huge signal, its distant transmitter location near Chateau Elan causes some holes in the Atlanta area. But the Atlanta signal is not bad, and Cox Media Group is hoping to move the tower to Sugar Hill, closer to Atlanta.
The other two stations in the genre, Rock 100.5 and 92-9 Dave FM, are really in the ratings dumps. I will mention that The Regular Guys, Rock 100.5's morning show, does respectably in its target demos at #6 in Men 18-34 and #8 in Men 18-49. Outside of mornings, Rock 100.5 is pretty much on life support. And 92-9 Dave FM is near the bottom of the barrel across the dayparts.
When should a format get blown up? Ratings are a factor, but sometimes it's possible to resurrect a station. However, when listeners become confused about what the brand stands for, it's hard to mount a comeback. And I am one confused listener when it comes to Rock 100.5. The station came out of the gate with much promise early in 2008, especially in light of grabbing The Regular Guys for mornings. But that promise never was realized.
In terms of music, Rock 100.5 has had one constant; it's been Rock. It launched with a mix of Active and Classic Rock, moved to "Quality Rock"--kind of AAA--and then to Classic Rock and then Mainstream Rock. Last weekend, the station was Active Rock with different imaging, was Mainstream Rock on Monday and then shifted to Classic Rock on Tuesday, where it remains. In fact, the station's new positioning is "Atlanta's Classic Rock."
Although I wonder whether Cumulus will live with the poor performance of Rock 100.5 and 106.7 WYAY, the company faces some challenges. New Senior VP/Programming Mike McVay has been visiting the Interstate North facility, where the Kicks 101-5 and WYAY talent have been stranded on the island, and Johnson Ferry, home to Q100, Rock 100.5 and almost everyone else. McVay has been getting to know his programmers and talent, giving them guidance and making some tweaks. I get the impression that he's trying his best to make the current programming, or variations of it, work.
Changing a format is expensive, and so soon after its Citadel acquisition, Cumulus is in a cost-cutting mode. Then there's the little matter of The Regular Guys having just signed a new 3-year contract. TRG could work with only so many formats, all of them male-oriented. The show does bring in money, but what about the rest of the day? Some people blame the signal, but while it's not one of the huge Atlanta blasters, it covers virtually all areas that need to be with enough strength to penetrate steel buildings.
Over at Dave FM, where the ranking among Adults 25-54 wallows in the teens, I have to wonder how long Market Manager Rick Caffey and CBS Radio are going to allow this to go on. Program Director Scott Jameson knows the best way to keep his spirits up is to concentrate on his work. And his current mission is to come up with ideas to build a morning show around Steve Craig.
Cumulus apparently has cast Rock 100.5's lot to Classic Rock for now. The type of Rock played by the station has been more unpredictable than what Newt Gingrich will say in a speech. I have to believe that something will happen with 92-9 Dave FM.
So we wait.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/