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.

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

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