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: