Six months have passed since CBS Radio introduced its newest entry to Atlanta, 92-9 The Game (WZGC-FM). And so far, we are seeing little sign of ratings traction.
CBS took quite a risk by installing the expensive All-Sports format in this market. Succeeding would require that the format's audience share grow significantly.
Until 92-9 The Game's sign-on, the shares of both Sports stations together hovered around 2 to 2.5 in Persons 6+. The Game would need to increase that share to 4 or so, and hope either 790 The Zone or 680/93.7 The Fan threw in the locker room towel. That would give 92-9 very competitive shares in its target male demos.
CBS Radio has done just that in several markets, doing it in Pittsburgh with a product created by The Game's PD, Terry Foxx. The two glaring exceptions are the Dallas market, where an AM station, 1310 The Ticket, dominates the CBS FM entry, 105.3 The Fan; and DC, where CBS's 106.7 The Fan (WJFK-FM) and Red Zebra's WTEM-AM slug it out for small shares.
Atlanta sometimes gets a bad rap as a sports town, and that's been hammered into the mindset of many residents. So the idea of a successful FM Sports station here met with some skepticism.
This is not Pittsburgh, Boston or Baltimore, home of rabid fans and, not coincidentally, markets where ratings of Sports FMs have soared. So I wondered whether 92-9 The Game could increase the format's slice of the pie. But, I never thought the new station would have trouble jumping over The Zone and The Fan.
Six months after its launch, however, WZGC is #3 out of the 3 Sports stations, getting beaten by two AMs, one of which simulcasts with a low-power FM translator. The other, 790 The Zone, throws an interference-free signal over a very small area at night. Moreover, the total Persons 6+ share of the 3 Sports stations in February was 2.5, just about where it had been with 2 stations.
Several months ago, I wrote a column on 92-9 The Game's prospects. I commented that Sports radio fans are passionate about the format, including the hosts. For that reason, I suspected pulling The Zone's and The Fan's bases away would take more time than in the music station world, but that eventually, WZGC's powerful FM signal would win out.
Although The Game's small share was basically carved out of the other two Sports stations, I expected a little more of 92-9 by now.
While I am more of a music radio person, I've listened a lot to 92-9 The Game and think the product is good. The format was well thought out, and the hosts are of high quality. In the early weeks, I found the afternoon drive show hard to listen to. The hosts seemed to be stepping on each other. But I tuned in recently, and the problem had been eliminated; the show was much more listenable.
The complaints that I have heard from others are the hosts do not sound like they are rooting for the Atlanta teams, and too much coverage is devoted to out-of-town organizations.
That occurred to me a couple of weeks ago during late evening host Jim Murray's lengthy lament about New England's loss of receiver Wes Welker to Denver. However, I enjoyed Murray's honesty. Formatically, the only thing that makes me wince is the annoying sweeper that another Sports Flash is coming up in minutes.
With 92-9 The Game entering its second 6 months, I have both good and bad news for 680 The Fan and 790 The Zone. The good news is the daylight hours are increasing, enabling them to keep their more powerful and less (and non) directional daytime signals on longer. And the Braves season is fast approaching, providing The Fan with a shot in the arm.
The bad news is that 92-9 The Game is not going away any time soon. CBS has invested so heavily in the station that it has no choice but to be very patient. Its 24/7 live-and-local boasting has required paying for a personality at 4AM on Sunday morning. I can imagine every iteration possible being tried before any thought of a format change enters anyone's mind.
With warm weather coming, The Game plans to showcase its talent with personal appearances around town. And some tweaks are probably on the way. The Braves and then the Falcons are about to become hot topics again. The rest of the year will be telling for 92-9 The Game.
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Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog: http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk/.
Atlanta Radio Insider: http://atlradioinsider.blogspot.com/.