Radio executive Steve Hegwood tried to launch a hip-hop station on 102.9 in 2009.
It was quickly shut down by his former employer Radio One, where he had been operations manager. Radio One filed a lawsuit accusing him of breaching his employment contract and stealing Radio One property (including remixes created by DJs at Hot 107.9). In the end, as part of the settlement, Radio One purchased that 102.9 signal, which now plays a simulcast of Hot 107.9.
[UPDATED Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 3:35 p.m. to include comments from Hegwood]
Three years later, Hegwood has found another FM translator to give Atlanta another hip-hop voice: Streetz 94.5
Hegwood, who worked two stints at Radio One (1995-2001, 2006-09), has owned other radio stations, including one in Arkansas. But he said in an interview Wednesday that he loves Atlanta and was seeking a footprint here. He acknowledged he made some mistakes the first time around but given the legal settlement, couldn’t comment any more.
This time, he sought Christian broadcasters who owned the FM “translators” the Federal Communications Commission cleared three years ago. Journey 97.9 and the simulcast of 680/The Fan at 93.7 are translators, meaning they have to be emanating from another existing signal. They aren’t very powerful but if targeted correctly, can be viable.
Hegwood met with Edgewater Broadcasting, which owned a 94.5 FM signal near Social Circle. He spent the past two years getting FCC clearance to move the signal closer to downtown. Now he says he has a signal that covers inside the Perimeter well and decent swaths outside the Perimeter as well. He said he’s buying the signal from Edgewater with a group of investors that include New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony. (He knows Anthony’s wife La La from radio circles.)
He also needed a home to “translate” from. Fortunately, the FCC gave radio stations HD channels. Lincoln Financial, which owns Star 94, had a spare HD channel to lease to him.
Formatically, Streetz is going directly after Hot 107.9, owned by Radio One. Hot has been on a major roll lately, its audience steadily growing. In May, the station was ranked No. 2 among 25 to 54 year olds, behind only V-103 (which plays a broader mix of R&B/ hip-hop) and its best performance in its 17-year history.
The Streetz music mix, heavy on Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and T.I., is similar to that of Hot. Hegwood said there will be no “dayparting,” meaning what you hear during the day is what you’ll hear at night. He said he is playing less R&B, more straight rap. And he hopes to add more Atlanta artists once he hires a station manager to look at the music mix.
Over the next 60 to 90 days, he will be hiring sales people and on-air staff. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you think you’re qualified. You could also try to hit him up at Twitter @stevehegwoodatl or@streetz945atl. He plans to make this an active station that hosts and sponsors community events, not a low-cost jukebox like Journey 97.9.
In a bit of gamesmanship, Hot 107.9 has grabbed the url www.streets945.com (type in that URL and you’ll get redirected to Hot’s website) and the Facebook page Streetz 94.5. (The actual Streetz Facebook page is Streetz 94.5 Atlanta).
Hegwood doesn’t have millions to promote the station through billboards and traditional media. So he’s banking on social media and selective ad placement on websites heavily read by Atlanta hip-hop fans such as mediatakeout.com. Advertising on air began Wednesday.
Competitively, the other five radio stations targeting African Americans (Hot, V-103, Praise, Kiss, Majic) are doing well in this market. “There are 1.4 million African Americans here,” Hegwood said. “There’s room for us.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk