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.

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