Monday, June 24, 2013

Changes Hit Star 94 & B98.5

It seems like just yesterday when we considered Star 94 and Q100 to be direct competitors.  B98.5 was out there somewhere doing its own thing.  Then B98.5 added current material, and things began to evolve.

These days, Arbitron's PPM shows Q100 as the youngest of the 3 stations, with its women 25-49 pretty evenly dividend between 25-34 and 35-49.  Both B98.5 and Star 94 are top heavy on the 35-49 side.

B98.5 has held the upper hand over Star 94 in the battle for women during recent months.  And it has not helped Star 94 that Power 96-1 makes a decent showing in the 25-49 demo.

To my surprise, B98.5 had planned to retain the Vikki & Kelly morning show.  The station extended Kelly Stevens another year about 4 months ago, with Vikki Locke's deal set to be renewed by July 1.  However, a few weeks ago, Vikki gave notice of her resignation and will move back to Ohio to be with her ailing dad.  Station brass decided against pairing Kelly with someone new so he will be leaving morning drive on B98.5...for the second time.

While B98.5 searches for a replacement show, I do not expect the bottom to fall out.  The Cox Media Group outlet has been playing 10 songs an hour in morning drive, and the PPM will likely continue to smile upon the station.  B98.5 has been through a slew of morning shows in my time here, but ironically, I feel the duo most effective in injecting personality while staying within format confines were Kelly (Stevens) and Alpha (Trivette).

B98.5 finally filled its 7-10PM slot with Cami LeBlanc.  I think Program Director Chris Eagan discovered Cami addressing her graduating class at a middle school.  (That was a joke.)  She had been a traffic reporter for 104.7 The Fish.

The usually steadfast Star 94 has had its share of tremors in the past 2 months.  First, evening jock Orff was mysteriously canned and replaced with Sari Rose.  Then Chase Daniels, a key piece of the station's foundation, resigned and is headed to mornings in Indianapolis, where he will reunite with his former boss at Star 94 and WAPE in Jacksonville, JR Ammons.

A major accomplishment for PD Eagan is he has smoothed out B98.5's music.  When former PD Cagle shifted to "80s, 90s and now," some of the "now" songs went too far to the rhythmic side.  B98.5's current-song playlist is similar to Star 94's, and the station augments with music test winners from the 80s, 90s and 00s.

The music adjustments combined with some formatic alterations has B98.5 sounding its best in years.  Some of the formatic elements, including the top-of-the-hour ID, the sweepers and the stop-set timing, make me wonder whether Star 94 PD Scott Lindy feels like he's programming two stations.

B98.5, Q100 and Star 94 all vie for the market's women in the money demos, with B98.5 presently winning, Q100 not far behind, and Star 94 in a little slump.  As I think about the respective playlists of the three stations, I have to conclude that Star 94's is the most conservative and borders on boring.

I like the aura of "the mom's station" that Star 94 has created.  Along with its positioning of "today's hits without the rap," however, I wonder if Star has gone too far to avoid any hint of Rhythmic.  The today portion of B98.5's playlist seems adventurous compared to Star's.

Going back a couple of years, I remember trying to figure out why Star 94 was not playing David Guetta's Without You.  Yes, it's a Rhythmic leaning song but nowhere near offensive to a mainstream female audience.  And there are other upbeat songs that I feel would be acceptable to Star's listeners, such as Don't You Worry Child by Swedish House Mafia.

There is Usher--and I realize the name alone conjures up thoughts of Rhythmic and Hip-Hop.  But I see nothing in DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love that would sour Star listeners.  I remember the station, which then leaned more toward CHR, played Usher's first hit, Yeah, back in the mid-2000s.  Another boat that I think Star 94 is missing is Hall of Fame by The Script.  Okay, I know the song contains rap, which Star says it doesn't play, but it's not rap rap, if you know what I mean.  And Star already plays the Irish group's Breakeven in its recurrents.

B98.5 has a huge advantage in that it's widely perceived as the station to play in offices, stores and restaurants, producing a significant PPM windfall.  Star 94's playlist is similar to other Hot ACs, but I feel its music needs to pop a little more to compete with B98.5.  I do recognize that Star 94 Program Director Scott Lindy and Music Director Michael Chase see music research to which I am not privy.

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Link to Rodney Ho's AJC Radio & TV blog:


  1. Hey Roddy, would you be able to make a blurb about the new radio message board for the Southern states. The link is at:

    It would be greatly appreciated!

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