Atlanta radio reminds me of the Middle East, especially the stations targeting women or African-Americans. The companies do not like each other, but they continue doing what they do. And there is a fragile peace. I understand Jimmy Carter is standing by just in case of a flare-up. And no, I don't mean the Jimmy Carter who appears on the Kicks morning show.
When Israel carved out its land in 1948, its neighbors did not exactly shower the new country with welcoming gifts. And when Power 96-1 staked its claim in the already hotly-contested women's space, B98.5, Q100 and Star 94 did not roll out the red carpet.
After the original Power 99 went away in 1992, Atlanta was without a straight-ahead CHR station for 9 years. Star 94 was an Adult CHR and in the late nineties started dominating. Then in 1999, Cox launched 95-5 The Beat as a CHR just a bit to the Rhythmic side. In 2001, Q100 signed on from a new Atlanta signal at 100.5, finally giving the market a real CHR again. That pushed The Beat to full-scale Rhythmic CHR.
The Beat and Q100 at 100.5 hurt Star 94 at the edges, but the station held strong in its core of women 25-49. Cumulus' acquisition of Susquehanna in 2006 again made Atlanta a market with no mainstream CHR that played all the hits. Under the cloud company, Q100 shifted to an Adult CHR, in some aspects bordering on Hot AC territory. In 2008, Q100 moved to the powerful 99.7 signal.
With Q100, Star 94 and B98.5 presenting different shades of the music that young women in several demos favor, Clear Channel jumped into the fray last August with Power 96-1, Atlanta's first true CHR in 6 years. The company had already been attacking at the younger end with success on weak-signaled Wild 105-7/96-7, and now decided to go full force. We can also add The Fish, which has been cooking as of late, to the mix.
When Power 96-1 launched last year, I penned my thoughts. On one hand, Atlanta had been starving for a real CHR, as evidenced by the ratings of Wild 105-7, a signal that's hardly listenable in a lot of the market. And Power's closest competitor, Q100, was a haven for recurrents, a trait of the Hot AC format, and even occasionally threw in older product, such as Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol.
Power 96-1 was competing against one of the best morning shows on radio, the Bert Show on Q100, with the syndicated Elvis Duran at least initially. Moreover, Power was further cheapening its sound by filling middays with the syndicated On Air with Ryan Seacreast. I wrote at the time that Q100, despite spanning the spectrum from young CHR to Hot AC, should be fine unless Power 96-1 hired a live and local morning show.
Its non-local programming in mornings and middays notwithstanding, Power came out of the box strong, even edging out Q100 and Star 94 at the end of the year. How much of that was sampling is hard to say. Well, Q100 still plays Viva La Vida, Hey Soul Sister and My Life Would Suck Without You. And they play individual hit songs for months on end. In the January PPM, however, Q100 and Star 94 both edged out Power.
Power 96-1 PD Rick Vaughn reached out to potential morning talent for their packages a few months ago. But Elvis and his New York processing remain for now. It's kind of like Iran. Are they building up to a local morning show, or are they just enriching their knowledge of the kinds of shows out there? Hiring a good local morning show would likely ignite a war for Atlanta's women.
Speaking of Power 96-1, Sonic in afternoon drive sounds decent, but he could do so much more than just send shout-outs. In evenings, Maddox has been getting better but is not at the level of energy and command that I expect from CHR night slammers in major markets. I like the station's imaging and rhythmic-leaning music selection.
If Power 96-1 stays as it is, the uneasy peace among the competitors will probably remain in place. But, if Power continues to develop, including adding a local morning show, repercussions among the stations could be substantial. (With Wild 105-7 and Power 96-1 being somewhat redundant, a format change at Wild could have the same effect.) Jimmy Carter would be on his way. And Hillary Clinton would probably be close behind.
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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/.