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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Winners and losers in Atlanta radio with all the changes

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Getty Images

Phew!

It’s been a whirlwind month in Atlanta radio for rock and pop radio listeners, unprecedented in the amount of change in such a short time.

Lets’ review:

- Hard rock station Project 9-6-1 last week became top 40 station Power 96.1 on one of the most powerful FM signals in metro Atlanta. (Clear Channel today announced it is making a Project station available on its phone app “I Heart Radio.”)

- Alternative rock station 99X at 98.9 on Saturday turned into a hard rock station 98.9/The Bone on a signal that doesn’t reach much beyond the Perimeter.

- Journey 97.9 on Tuesday transformed itself into a Q100 “spinoff” featuring the top 20 songs from that station on a signal comparable to that of 98.9.

- In a few weeks, adult rock station 92.9/Dave FM will switch format into a sports talk station on one of the stronger signals in the area.

- And back in May, the oldies station Atlanta’s Greatest Hits dropped its format to be All News 106.7.

So who are winners and losers if things don’t change yet again?

WINNERS

- Fans of top 40 radio. Clearly, the options to hear Flo Rida, Rihanna and Karmin have gone up since two more top 40 stations have appeared on the dial. We now have at least five stations playing a variation of current pop music, some with more of a rock/pop lean, some with a hip-hop feel: B98.5, Star 94 and Q100 plus newbies Power 96.1 and Q100’s 20 at 97.9. Wild 105.7/96.7 has started to veer more hip hop but still plays some top 40 songs. It’s fair to say Atlanta has never had this many choices on the top 40 front.

- Sports talk fans. There’s a reasonable debate about whether Atlanta is a good sports town outside of football. But for more than a decade, it has successfully sustained two AM sports talk stations – one which added a modest FM signal in 2010. But can Atlanta sustain three sports talk stations? Folks who love to listen to guys (and the occasional woman) gab about the Hawks, Falcons and Dawgs now have more options than ever thanks to CBS Radio and 92.9.

- Elvis Duran and Ryan Seacrest. Elvis Duran, the syndicated New York talk show host, had been on the weaker Wild 105.7/96.7 signal and gradually building a faithful audience seeking an alternative to the Bert Show on Q100. Now he’s been placed on the more powerful Power 96.1 signal and will face Bert on an even playing field. Seacrest, the ubiquitous media mogul and “Idol” host who began his career as a teen-ager at Star 94 in the 1980s, joins the mid-day slot in syndicated form, a place he held briefly a couple years ago on Star.

- Rock 100.5 and 97.1/The River. Fewer options for rock fans has to help the two remaining big-signal rock stations. It certainly can’t hurt them. Ratings-challenged Rock 100.5 could especially use the boost.

- The Regular Guys. With Project’s year-old Kidd Chris gone, the male-leaning veteran Regular Guys show on Rock 100.5 may be able to draw back some of its listeners who have left the past couple of years.

- Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, Sirius XM, your iPod. Alienated FM radio listeners are going to other options. And there are plenty, especially on your smartphone. Arguably, the fact so many rock fans were already going in this direction may have hastened the demise of stations such as Dave.

LOSERS

- Rock radio fans, especially those in their 30s and 40s. While classic rock fans can still enjoy the River and Rock 100.5, if you’re into acts such as Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers, Cake, the Talking Heads, Jack Johnson, INXS, Dave Matthews Band, and Weezer, your options are or will soon be virtually gone from the FM dial in Atlanta.

- Pop fans who like songs from the 1980s and 1990s. Lovers of pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s are already bereft of FM options since Atlanta’s Greatest Hits went away in May. No Beatles. No James Taylor. No Bee Gees. B98.5 plays a few 1980s and 1990s cuts. Star will throw in an occasional nugget from the 1990s. But if you just want to listen to songs from those decades alone, Journey was it.

- Kidd Chris. After 15 months in Atlanta, he was starting to build momentum for younger males. New morning shows typically take two or three years to really get going so he was well on his way. The death of Project cut him off at a key moment.

- Most of the staff at Dave FM. With fewer rock options in this market, this makes it just much harder for on-air staff such as Steve Craig, Margot Smith and Rich Sullivan to find another job in Atlanta. Mara Davis, given her heritage in town, may have the easiest time landing somewhere else.

- Wild 105.7/96.7. The station was doing very well on a medium-sized signal, a top 5 station among 18 to 34 year olds. Even though Wild has gone more hip-hop in the past week to try to take away listeners from surging Hot 107.9, Clear Channel has turned Wild into a “flanker” to Power rather than its primary focus. That means resources that might have gone to Wild in terms of marketing and sales will likely be diverted to Power.

- Q100 (potentially). Q100 is a dominant top 40 station in town and has been for years. Power’s music mix is clearly targeting that station, even more so than B98.5 and Star 94, which skew older.

- 790 the Zone. This station does not have an FM signal and its night signal is tepid. It’s already at a disadvantage with 680/The Fan, which also airs on 93.7 and has a stronger night signal. So with 92.9 coming aboard, the Zone is immediately in trouble. (The Zone is available on the Star 94 HD-2 channel if you happen to have HD Radio.)

- FM radio in general. These changes in general result in fewer options on the FM dial. There’s no doubt many peeved listeners are going to seek friendlier climes and spend less time with old-fashioned free radio.

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

244 comments Add your comment

FormerRockJock

September 5th, 2012
10:11 am

First! and all of the above couldn’t be truer! Glad I have a CD changer in the car as the FM will be used less and less as time goes by!

ddd

September 5th, 2012
10:13 am

What’s your analysis / reporting tell you about why CMG, CC and Cumulus are seemingly ignoring upwardly mobile adults who listen to DAVE type music (if not the actual station)? Any insights into what the programming heads in town are saying. Is the pie of young kids that big that they can afford to dismiss smart music fans with money to spend?

Also, does WABE have legs with classical? I’ve heard rumors they are considering a format flip to attract younger audiences?

Iamkellyp

September 5th, 2012
10:23 am

With the demise of Dave FM, who is going to be playing ANY new, more alt type music and older alternative music. There is no one now playing The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Avett Brothers, The Cure, Smith’s, etc.

SP

September 5th, 2012
10:24 am

What’s happening with Axl? Will they keep him on the Bone? God, I hope so. Radio in Atlanta sucks. Anyone have recommendations for online alternative and rock stations? Hate you Clear Channel!

Rodney Ho

September 5th, 2012
10:26 am

@ddd WABE has been trying to balance its smaller (but very wealthy, older) classical audience with its broader news/talk audience. Will they ever drop classical? That debate has been going on for decades. So far, they have held firm and doing very well.

As for the folks who like Dave-FM music, well, yes, that demo is being effectively abandoned by the big companies. My theory is that type of listener is already wandering off to other options such as Pandora, Spotify and Sirius/XM, which is why Dave’s ratings took a nosedive the past 18 months. So who left who first?

Rodney Ho

September 5th, 2012
10:27 am

@Iamkellyp. If you were thinking of going to Sirius/XM, now sure seems to be the time if you want to listen to those acts on radio. Or go on your smartphone apps. Lots of options there.

Wink

September 5th, 2012
10:28 am

Radio stations are being run by people who want to be perceived as “hip”. It’s not glamorous to cater to an older crowd. The thing is the younger Top 40 audience has no allegiance to radio. They can get their music from other sources. Adults 35+ (especially women) want to turn on the radio and get back to doing other things (work, etc). Someone is going to lose this battle. Some of the Q100 listeners will wander around the dial to sample the other choices. Star 94 has to figure out what to do with their morning show. B98.5 needs to return to its former glory as a soft rock powerhouse. A true radio programmer would let the Top 40 stations fight over the scraps and come up with something different.

newsfan

September 5th, 2012
10:42 am

You forgot one other “winner.” People who are news junkies. People in their cars that travel Atlanta roadways. With the addition of all news at 106.7, you can actually get real time traffic 24-7. And you can hear news anytime!

ddd

September 5th, 2012
10:42 am

Agreed, Wink. Something different and smart would stand out in this nonsense. For the time people spend in their cars here, having umpteen ways to hear Katy Perry seems a bit of overkill.

Disgusted

September 5th, 2012
10:45 am

Never wanted to, but looks like I’ll have to get subscription radio to listen to anything worthwhile while driving.

Thanks Clear Channel, it’s always good to know what big business thinks of my demographic.

BTW

September 5th, 2012
10:48 am

Before you all go give money for XM, why not explore any of the free or low cost Apps. With all due respect, satellite radio ain’t all that. There are better, less expensive ways.

World's Second Oldest teenager

September 5th, 2012
10:49 am

I listen to Scott Shannon’s True Oldies format on the internet at work (late ’60’s/early ’70’s is the all time best era in music radio) and when I am driving, I listen to local sports talk or Sirius/XM’s ’60’s, 70’s or “first Wave” (’80’s new wave/alternative) stations. Unfortunately, none of those exists on local radio here. In addition to those formats, if I were to listen to a contemporary format, I would want one that features songs that are edgy AND have great melody. The latter trait is very hard to find on radio today. The closest thing would be a contemporary alternative pop format, but none of these many Top 40’s we have now seems to want to do that. When I was in L.A. in 1982 and 1983 we had three FM top 40 stations and three AM’s and they all embraced the “new wave” alternative pop sound of the day.

Alan

September 5th, 2012
10:52 am

Any one have a guess why cumulus.com station portfolio has 97.9 fm listed as 99x?

Rodney Ho

September 5th, 2012
10:53 am

@Alan I presume nobody has updated that website. 99X used to be at 97.9.

fes

September 5th, 2012
10:57 am

I’d be curious to find out if Clear Channel, Cumulus, etc are shareholders of Sirius XM. They seem to drive people towards satellite radio a lot lately, and I wonder if it’s because they want share prices to increase.

Sports Fan

September 5th, 2012
11:01 am

You are forgetting another loser in this whole whirlwind of radio shake ups. This town will not support three sports talk radio station and you would assume that the weaker of the 3 signals will get hurt the most. The new Dave on FM will be able to be heard clearly all over Atlanta and even into Athens. 680 The Fan during the day can be heard in pretty far outside of the city but at night you lose the AM signal and the FM you still have to be fairly close to the Perimeter. The Zone a weak signal during the day and night why would people struggle to hear anything on it when you can pick up 2 others clearly. It seems like it will be only a matter of time before The Zone is a loser in the Sport Talk World

Jennifer

September 5th, 2012
11:01 am

Does Atlanta really need five pop stations? Especially one cycling the same 20 hits over and over again? Oddly enough I switched over to Journey last night because both B98 and Star 94 were playing Adele. I like Adele, but I don’t need to listen to her 3-4 times an hour since I listen to the radio for variety. The two country stations are just as bad. So basically Clear Channel and Cox just gave a big zerbert to their listening public. I don’t want to switch to satellite, an Ipod or search out other alternatives – I like FM. Just wish FM liked me….

bill hogue

September 5th, 2012
11:03 am

You would think a city the size of Atlanta would have better stations. Since moving here in June I have been very disapointed especially with the rock stations!

Rodney Ho

September 5th, 2012
11:05 am

@Sports Fan. Thanks. I added 790/The Zone. You are right on that one.

Sam I Am

September 5th, 2012
11:07 am

If my car had an AUX cable plug for my smart phone, I would never use the radio, especially with apps like “TuneIn”.

AllNews 106.7 is getting on my nerves, because many of their news readers cannot read!

Raven333

September 5th, 2012
11:11 am

Any word on the fate of 92.9 and 96.1’s HD radio channels?

Michelle

September 5th, 2012
11:11 am

Atlanta radio: as Keith Kalland used to say, “Stick a fork in it. It’s done.”

Melissa

September 5th, 2012
11:17 am

Good summary, Rodney. The message of it sucks, but it’s clear Atlanta radio has sucked for a long time. This just makes it even worse.

CaribouRancher

September 5th, 2012
11:26 am

Boy Michelle, I really do miss Keith Kalland and “The Kimmer”.

Mark

September 5th, 2012
11:28 am

I’ve been in ATL for over 30 years and am continually amazed and disappointed over the lackluster radio choices in Atlanta. Other markets seem to figure it out – what can’t we? For those familiar with WDVE (102.5) in Pittsburgh, you know what a great radio station is.

jd

September 5th, 2012
11:31 am

First and foremost, we really lost when we lost the KIMMER. I do think Atlanta can handle an Oldies station, and most of Atlanta would love to have Randy and Spiff back. Depending on their on air personalities, yes, it looks like DAVE fm could give 790 a run for their money…I personally hope Nick and Chris switch to DAVE FM, other than that I have no desire to listen to anybody on 790. One obvious area to target in sports talk would be the time when 680, inexplicably, goes syndicated…I always turn off any station that isn’t local.

Tyrone

September 5th, 2012
11:33 am

Add Braves fans who prefer to listen to the games on AM to the losers list. 680 is anemic on the outer fringes of metro Atlanta. Next time the radio broadcast contract comes up for renewal they need to switch back to WSB-750.

USCLady

September 5th, 2012
11:33 am

I am so sad that Dave FM is leaving the airwaves. Yes, I am a middle age woman who still likes a new sound but not top 40. I like hearing my favorites like The Who, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, but also like Mumford & Sons, etc. Dave FM plays what I like. Alternately, I listed to XM radio in the car most of the time but catch Clark Howard mid-day. I have to pick a new morning show and it will be most likely 97.1 The River. Atlanta also needs a solid classic jazz station, not contemporary jazz. I get my jazz on the internet from 2 stations in Carmel and San Mateo. As a former radio industry person, I see the Top 40 and sports stations battling for share and someone will fall. There are not enough ad dollars and a faithful audience to go around. Too saturated in these 2 genres. Also, hope Dave FM’s DJs get new jobs as they do a great job!

JMac

September 5th, 2012
11:43 am

Gave up on Atlanta radio a couple of years ago when I complained the first time about not being able to listen to Bruce Springsteen on the River, and again when 106.7 got rid of Scott Shannon. I believe Atlanta radio listeners must have a musical IQ of about 5 out of 100. This city has the worst radio choices of any city I have ever been in.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Motocross Survivor

September 5th, 2012
11:49 am

Radio in this town sucks, and always has pretty much, and I’ve been listening in here for 35 years+. Actually though, the old Album Rock (the original 96 Rock) wasn’t bad, but it’s LONG gone.

steve

September 5th, 2012
11:58 am

my sources tell me jimmy baron is on the move.

SteveC

September 5th, 2012
11:58 am

How odd. Now that I have more disposable income than ever, I have ZERO stations on the FM dial worth listening to.

Satellite Radio Fan

September 5th, 2012
12:01 pm

Scrap it all and go with Sirius. Guaranteed you’ll find something you like.

Schlep

September 5th, 2012
12:01 pm

Been here since 79 and Atlanta radio has never been great with music stations. Never found one with really the right mix for me. It was fun early on with stations sponsoring happy hours and raft races. Now they broadcast from car dealerships.

Albert

September 5th, 2012
12:04 pm

ZERO stations on the FM dial, SteveC? Perhaps if you listened to classical music on radio, you’d find something worth listening to. As long as we have that, radio does not suck.

Liam

September 5th, 2012
12:08 pm

The biggest losers in ATL are the fans that go see shows like Godsmack, Warped Tour, Iron Maiden, etc. Without the big power modern rock format stations in the area, we aren’t going to get good tours in on a regular basis.

Hersy

September 5th, 2012
12:15 pm

I love DaveFM. You keep talking about how strong it is, but I can barely pick it up in my car at work in Gainesville, so it’s not THAT strong. So now I have to pay for satellite radio or go buy a smartphone to hear good music? No thanks. I’ll just utilize my CD player.

rob

September 5th, 2012
12:19 pm

Rodney, you didn’t mention that 790 can be heard on one of Star 94’s HD FM channels. That’s how I get better reception.

cindiluhoo

September 5th, 2012
12:26 pm

Life and Radio listening does NOT stop at 40. Those of us in or 50’s and 60’s would really like something to listen to other than Top 40, Country and News; or do we not count? With a city as big as the Atlanta area you would think everyone would have something to listen to. Come on, there was music before the 80’s.

OTP

September 5th, 2012
12:33 pm

It is strange to me, as the population gets older, (and usually has the money), they would cater to the very young audience. I long for the days of Quixie, 96Rock, and Z93!

alan

September 5th, 2012
12:35 pm

Radio in Atlanta has not been the same since 96 Rock left. Sad to see all the good rock stations
go but siriusxm is taking over and as it has already been said, you will find your listening pleasure
there.

hoodtechie

September 5th, 2012
12:36 pm

when will atlanta bring back a jazz station,all the other radio stations are replaying the top 30 songs for their station repeatly anyway.thank god for satellite radio.

Joe Stockton

September 5th, 2012
12:41 pm

The real problem is all the stations are owned by the few corporations.

Clear Channel is especially horrific! How many times have they shuffled their channels round? They kill a format on a station and then 6 months later put nearly the same format on a different station. And Cumulus, Cox and CBS react to Clear Channel and shuffle what they do.

Typical corporate insanity chasing the magic bullet trying to keep Wall Street excited as they drive the business into the toilet in the long term. Pitiful!

Alan

September 5th, 2012
12:45 pm

And the winner is Sirius XM.

Ima Hogge

September 5th, 2012
1:09 pm

Would also like to see 88.5 FM re-claim it’s real alternative format and begin playing some of the well-known ’90’s and early ‘00 era alternative bands that they introduced in the first place before the “suits” commercialized the format. It’s nice every once and a while to hear a band that I am familiar with. I understand introducing new artists but to do it 24-7? There’s no opportunity to hear anything more than once, which can be frustrating.

Sage of Bluesland

September 5th, 2012
1:20 pm

I agree on one of the “Winners” being sports-talk fans, as competition is good for those who have become complacent. I have alternated back and forth between 680 and 790 over the years–and will give the new station a try.

680 is practically unlistenable; 790 upped their game after nearly circling the drain–but their arrogance always gets the best of them and turns me off.

Here’s to a good third option and maybe some of the frauds like Perry/Belue/Kincade will be finally off the air…I can only hope….

Suggestion Box

September 5th, 2012
1:30 pm

A few ideas:
1. Try a format similar to the Classic FM that succeeds in the UK. Play “the hits,” favorite movements, etc. The days of the pretentious NPR hosts playing 30 minute symphonies is history.
2. 790 will likely be the one hurt most by Dave Sports. I prefer 790’s morning show (esp. when Steak is off) but the signal is pathetic. The rest of 790’s lineup is lame.
3. Not since Clear Channel threw WGST under the bus – and forced Hughes and the Kimmer into retirement – has there been a really listenable AND entertaining news-talk station in the ATL. The 106.7 effort is game but tedious.
3.

Shannon

September 5th, 2012
1:36 pm

But some how Moby survived. What a sorry excuse for air time.

V103 SUCKS!!!!!1

September 5th, 2012
1:51 pm

AND THEY LEFT THE V103 IN TACT ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!! I ONLY LISTEN TO THEM FOR THE COMMERCIALS.