Monday, April 8, 2013

Clear Channel/Atlanta Picks The Best Alternative

It's hard to imagine that Clear Channel thought CHR/Rhythmic Wild 105.7/96.7 was going to coexist with its new CHR, Power 96-1.  Atlanta is not New York, where CC pulls off that kind of thing with Z100 and 103.5 KTU.

CHR/Rhythmic attracts a lot of Hispanic listeners, and Wild was the market's #2 station for Latinos.  Yet its Hispanic numbers were not nearly enough to propel the station's ratings, as that audience does for KTU in the heavily-Latino New York market.  And when it came to most other listeners, they were going to choose the big Power 96-1 signal over Wild's slightly more rhythmic format that was a hard pickup inside the Perimeter.

Prior to Power 96-1's launch, Clear Channel had seemed to recognize that Wild's soaring 18-34 ratings, as Wild evolved closer to the Rhythmic/Mainstream border, indicated a hunger for a full-power CHR.  Consequently, CC created a Rhythmic-leaning CHR, and Wild constantly promoted its new sibling.  Why not help Power 96-1 move into the ratings elite by eliminating Wild and attracting its former listeners?  Yet it appeared Clear Channel felt Power and Wild could both succeed.

As Wild 105.7/96.7's ratings continued to slide, it was just a matter of time before Rhythmic/CHR would be ditched in favor of something else.  That happened the week before last when Radio 105-7 was born with an Alternative format.

Format change decisions can be tough or easy.  Clear Channel took a risk when it flipped 96.1 to CHR, throwing it into a fray with powerhouses B98.5, Star 94 and Q100.  Ratings frustration, the company's success with CHR in the PPM era and Wild's growing audience were probably behind that move.  And Power 96-1 has shown some good early results.

The choice of Alternative for 105.7 was, well, easy is being kind.  No brainer is more like it.  It's analogous to Rock 100.5 adding Active Rock to its mix following the demise of Project 9-6-1.  The changes at 92-9 Dave FM and translator 99X left the FM band devoid of Alternative product.  The one market sector that 105.7's signal does forcefully penetrate is the northern environs, which has a high incidence of the Alternative demographic.

While not knowing exactly how Radio 105-7's playlist will ultimately shape up, we are guessing it will emphasize current product along with a healthy dose of gold from the 90s and 2000s.  In its initial days, the station concentrated on highly familiar gold and recurrents with a spattering of songs now charting, in order to build fast cume.

In the niche world of music radio, format labels are sometimes blurry.  Today's Alternative format consists of straight-ahead Alternative (Thirty Seconds to Mars) and Adult Album Alternative (Mumford and Sons).  A lot of AAA eventually makes its way to Hot AC and even CHR stations.  Examples are Radioactive by Imagine Dragons and My Songs Know by Fallout Boy.  I personally think of Portland, Oregon's Live 95.5 as Hot AC with a slight lean to Modern AC.

Radio 105-7's framework is adult oriented.  Atlanta is fortunate the Clear Channel station has 3 live and local jocks in this day and age.  The best news is Aly, formerly middays on Project 9-6-1, has been hired and will handle morning drive.  She's one of the market's very best personalities.

The stations that might forfeit audience to 105-7 are those that picked up former Dave FM and 99X listeners by default, 97-1 The River, and to some extent Rock 100.5 and even Star 94.

Will Radio 105-7 amass big ratings? No, but it could show up decently in 18-34 and possibly 18-49.  Moreover, the station can do very well without big ratings.  First, the signal does not have the dollar value of a full class C, such as 96.1.  So the station's somewhat smaller revenue should be proportionate to its monetary worth.  Second, Radio 105-7 has format exclusivity.

Would the station achieve better ratings if it were on the more powerful and larger-reaching 105.3?  I ask this realizing the thinking was that the Alternative audience tends to reside in the northern suburbs.  But, my answer is still yes to an extent.  Would El Patron get higher numbers if it moved from 105.3 to 105.7, which throws a strong signal into Hispanic-heavy Gwinnett?  Most definitely.

I guess now is not the time to execute two complicated and confusing moves, when Hispanic ad billings are still way down.  Despite those thoughts, the flip to Alternative was an excellent decision by Clear Channel, which has now made two major and prudent format changes in 6 months.

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

1 comment:

  1. Roddy, great article. Some sense fell over CC and Alternative returned to the airwaves. However, what will they do with 96.7? Keep it simulcasting or will a new format also appear?!

    I don't know about you, but Classic Hits would be nice.