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.
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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/