Monday, February 18, 2013

Atlanta Urban Radio At Peace With Itself

Urban is the category that dominates the Atlanta radio ratings.  As the new year unfolds, I find it hard to foresee any significant changes in Urban programming and audience rankings.  In fact, all of the major players sound like a heated battle is the furthest thing from their mind.  Each station just does its usual thing and makes money.

V-103 has been at or near the top seemingly forever.  The CBS Radio-owned station has a lot going for it, starting with a huge signal from the market's best transmitter site for Urban coverage.  It also has heritage and deep roots in the community complemented by a pool of superior talent.

When morning man Frank Ski decided to leave to pursue his next dream, V-103 just slid Ryan Cameron into the slot.  The result was an instantly-established morning show with one of the format's best personalities.  Cameron's move opened up afternoon drive, and PD Reggie Rouse had the solution in his pocket, Big Tigger, who previously worked for Rouse at WPGC-FM in Washington, DC.

I have mixed feelings about Big Tigger.  At times, he gets into a CHR-like "screaming" delivery and at other times stays more grounded.  He does, however, have loads of personality and that big New-York-Yankees-of-Atlanta-radio sound associated with V-103.  I expect him to come close to the super ratings that Cameron pulled.  In 25-54, Cameron was able to open some daylight between V-103 and the #2 station.

V-103 has brought back its "Big Money Kitty" and has some billboards around town promoting Cameron, to head off any possible road bumps during his initial weeks in mornings.

The 2 Urban AC choices, Kiss 104 and Majic 107-5/97-5, both enjoy big ratings success, and neither exhibits the killer instinct of stations at war.  Cox's Kiss wins the Persons 6+ race, and Radio One's Majic edges out Kiss in 25-54.  Last year, Majic boosted its 107.5 signal by increasing both its wattage and height from its new "Gwinnett is Great" site off I-85.

Both stations kick off the day with syndicated shows, Kiss with the aging but still effective Tom Joyner and Majic with Steve Harvey.  When Harvey signed to do a daily TV show, some wondered whether he would continue with radio.  But he dispelled any doubts by signing a new contract with Clear Channel a few weeks ago.

Kiss is somewhat more in control of its destiny than Majic, having local jocks in all dayparts outside morning drive.  Majic, on the other hand, turns over afternoon drive to the syndicated Michael Baisden, who has been winning the daypart in 25-54.  I expect little in the way of change for either station this year.

A number of years ago, when former Radio One Regional VP Bruce Demps gained oversight of the Atlanta cluster, he set out on a mission to make Hip-Hop Hot 107-9 more competitive with V-103.  Well, that was never going to happen for a host of reasons.  Yet Hot 107-9 continues to fare very well, snagging around a 5% share among Persons 6+.

The station, younger in appeal than V-103, manages some pretty amazing 25-54 numbers, especially in mornings and evenings.  While upstart Urban translator Streetz 94.5, programmed by the respected Steve Hegwood, has been showing up in the PPM, its effect on Hot 107-9 has been negligible.

The one Urban station that took a little stumble last year is Praise 102.5.  When the Gospel outlet had a run in the top 5, I was surprised in light of its limited signal, equivalent to 6,000 watts at 300 feet from its tower across I-285 from Greenbriar Mall.  The signal, however, is good where the station's target audience tends to reside.

Still achieving respectable ratings, Praise's programming, guided by PD Derek Harper, is state-of-the-art, and owner Radio One is likely satisfied.

Urban Radio in Atlanta scores big ratings and revenue but does not sound like it's highly motivated to win.  Every major player does what it does and seems satisfied with its ratings and billings. I would prefer a more spirited competition, but making money softens the motivation for having fire in the belly.

Thanks for reading.  AAA will be back in 2 weeks.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cumulus/Atlanta In Perpetual Construction Zone

When the new 98.9 The Walk signed on last week, I remembered a story about legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver.  Pat Kelly, one of Weaver's players, led a very religious life.  One day, Kelly said to Weaver, "Boss, you need to walk with the Lord."  Weaver replied, "I'd rather walk with the bases loaded."

98.9 The Walk is now part of the Atlanta radio landscape.  Launching the station on its 98.9 translator was one of two moves made by Cumulus/Atlanta last week.  The other was melding music of the displaced station, 98.9 The Bone, with Rock 100.5's Active playlist.

The result is a younger, harder-driving Rock 100.5, still anchored by The Regular Guys in mornings.  The iconic Axel Lowe, who hosted AM drive on The Bone, is back on Rock 100.5 doing afternoons, where he was when the latter station first launched.

The merging of the playlists was a smart move, if a smart move and a no-brainer are not an oxymoron.  Although Rock 100.5 had grown recently in its primary male demos, it recognized that disenfranchised Project 9-6-1 listeners were there for the taking.

Cox Media Group's 97-1 The River had pulled in former Dave FM listeners, who tend to be older.  By going younger, Rock 100.5 can complement, rather than half compete with, The River.  The Regular Guys are still compatible with the format.

Going back to its days housing CHR Q100, the 100.5 signal has never racked up big Persons 6+ shares.  I still believe the signal, though covering less geography than most Atlanta FMs, is big enough to get more in the way of ratings.  Except for a slight null in Gwinnett, it comes in well among almost all of the metro population.

98.9 The Walk promotes itself as "positive and uplifting radio."  It seems to be a mix of non-drinking, non-womanizing Country songs, by artists such as Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, and Christian Contemporary tunes by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Mercy Me.  The Walk, which is automated, touts its family-friendly environment.

The Cumulus strategy with The Walk seems to be to shave a little off Salem's 104.7 The Fish in order to make the full-power WFSH-FM less competitive with Q100.  Will it work?  Probably not, and The Walk could possibly steal a few listeners from Cumulus' own Kicks 101-5.  But the 98.9 signal is very limited; what is on it will make little difference in the whole scheme of things.

I would have loved for Cumulus to have put Classic Country on 98.9 and then greatly helped Kicks 101-5 by moving CMT Live with Cody Alan over to the new station.  The show would still have an affiliate in the #9 market.  But that happening was as likely as Matt Scarano talking to Rodney Ho.

Cumulus' 97.9 translator is another story.  It's virtually a class-A FM signal in strength, not powerful enough to attract a large audience but sufficient to bring in a few dollars if run inexpensively.  I doubt 97.9 will remain "The Q100 20 at 97.9" for long.  This translator could be used to for Adult Album Alternative, which could nick The River's ratings, or even for 70s and 80s Oldies (called Classic Hits in most markets but not here because of The River).

Since last year, the Cumulus/Atlanta cluster has seemed to be in constant flux, and I doubt we have seen the last of the changes.  Clear Channel has been close behind in terms of flips, and I have a feeling we will see some more action there this year.

Thanks for reading.  I would love to hear from you at  Follow us on Twitter at, and we'll follow you back.

Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:
Atlanta Radio Insider: