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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...
City & State or ZIP

2012 Atlanta radio year in review: hello the Game, Power 96.1, All News 106.7; goodbye WGST, Project, Dave, Frank Ski

FrankSki-profile

Frank Ski's final day at V-103 was Dec. 20 after 14 years on the station. What's his next move? We shall see in 2013. CREDIT: Frank Ski

2011 was a quiet year in Atlanta radio. No major format changes. A handful of personality changes. Not too much action.

But 2012 was all about crazy upheaval, easily the most changes on the dial in a calendar year since I began covering radio in 2001.

At least five AM/FM radio station formats disappeared and several new ones appeared. Pop, sports talk and news fans benefited. Rock and 1980s/90s nostalgia fans? Get thee to Pandora or Sirius/XM! And the biggest morning show in town ended on Dec. 20.

In no particular order, here were the biggest stories of the year:

A big goodbye: Frank Ski and Wanda Smith ended their 14-year reign at No. 1 at V-103 after the two sides couldn’t agree on a new contract. They brought the station a steady mix of humor, pop culture, spiritual vitamins and serious discussions. Hometown favorite Ryan Cameron takes over the morning slot next week.

power-961- Power on: Clear Channel Atlanta, seeing how popular top 40 has become, decided to dump its successful rock format Project 96.1 for top 40 Power 96.1. Why? Higher potential for big ratings. Clear Channel ran a huge ad campaign and brought Justin Bieber to Philips Arena for a big Jingle Ball. And so far, it has certainly succeeded, beating its closest rivals Q100 and Star 94 in what is now going to be a rough-and-tumble battle in 2013.

- End of the project: Power’s gain was Project’s loss. The edgy rock station, targeting young men 18 to 34, survived nearly six years. It was the baby of Chris Williams, who ended up moving to Cincinnati with Clear Channel and convincing his morning host Kidd Chris to join him. Chris was just starting to gain traction in Atlanta when he was pulled after just 15 months on air.

Rush Limbaugh is now on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB after a long run at the now defunct 640/WGST-AM. CREDIT: AP

Rush Limbaugh is now on AM750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB after a long run at the now defunct 640/WGST-AM. CREDIT: AP

- WGST signs off: Back in the 1990s, WGST was a serious competitor to what was then WSB-AM (and now 95.5FM and AM750 News/Talk WSB). But when GST lost its FM simulcast in 1999, the station lost many of its suburban fans and slipped further and further behind the news/talk race. In 2006, it dumped key local talent, including the beloved Kimmer. For many, it’s been a shadow of its former self for years. Clear Channel officially threw in the towel in September and turned the station into ESPN Desportes, a syndicated Hispanic sports talk station.

- Rush moves up the dial: WGST’s departure allowed WSB to pick up GST’s strongest asset, syndicated talk show behemoth Rush Limbaugh, who joined WSB in early October and helped pump up ratings immediately. The tradeoff for WSB: moving popular hometown consumer expert Clark Howard into evenings.

- A long goodbye: In June, syndicated talk show host Neal Boortz (heard locally on WSB) announced his retirement from radio after more than four decades but gave himself more than seven months notice. His final day will be January 21, 2013, after Pres. Barack Obama is sworn in to a second term. Herman Cain will replace him.

- Another long goodbye: adult rock station Dave FM announced its departure in late July, with a pending sports format forthcoming. But it wouldn’t officially change for nearly three months. Management gave the jocks a rare opportunity to say goodbye in late September, a classy move few DJs ever get to do. But as of this month, nobody locally has swooped in to take over Dave’s mantle. In the meantime, Dave jocks Rich Sullivan and Mara Davis are seeking new climes while somehow, the ousted program director found a job overseeing three stations in Minneapolis. (Steve Craig is working part-time right now with 97.1/The River.)

- Bring on the Game: 92.9 on Oct. 24 became 24/7 local sports talk, with a mix of outsiders and locals. Ratings have been modest so far, but the station has yet to launch a big marketing campaign. CBS hopes to eventually overtake the two existing sports talk stations 680/The Fan (with 93.7 FM, too) and 790/The Zone due to its relatively big signal. It’s way too early to tell if this expensive gamble will pay off.

2 Live Stews remain on the sidelines for now but will likely find a home in 2013, perhaps at the Game. CREDIT: The Zone

2 Live Stews remain on the sidelines for now but will likely find a home in 2013, perhaps at the Game. CREDIT: The Zone

- Silenced. The 2 Live Stews, who started a decade ago at nights on 790/The Zone, saw its influence at the station wane the past two years as new management changed the station’s direction. After losing syndication, Doug and Ryan Stewart soon lost their local show as well. And nearly four months before their contracts were up, the Zone simply took them off the air in September. This was merciful because with their six-month non-compete clause, they could return on a rival station (the Game perhaps?) in March instead of July.

- Ray who? In one of the most mysterious firings in recent radio history, Star 94 canned Ray Mariner, long-time morning co-host with Cindy Simmons in May. I still have no idea why.

- Hurt feelings: Star in November hired a replacement for Mariner, Jimmy Alexander from D.C. What made this strange? Alexander is close friends with Bert Weiss over at rival Q100. Bert felt hurt because Jimmy didn’t tell him ahead of time about the news. Bert read it here. They eventually cleared things up. (Bert also went into therapy about his drinking spells and blackouts though he doesn’t think he’s an addict.)

- Hobby goes Nashville: Jenn Hobby left Q100’s Bert Show after nearly a decade with the show and is pregnant with her first child. She quickly segued to be solo mid-day host on country station Kicks 101.5, a studio across the hallway at Cumulus.

- All news, all the time: For the first time ever, Atlanta has an all news FM talk station at 106.7, debuting in May. It has picked up a modest but growing fan base, picking up many reporters from the shuttered CNN Radio operation, plus former Bert Show host Melissa Carter. Atlanta’s Greatest Hits, which played hits from the 1960s through the 1980s, died as a result.

- Journey’s journey was short: Journey 97.9 debuted in 2011 but lasted less than 15 month, ending its run in September. The station was a mix of pop music from both the 1980s and 1990s with Rick Dees at the syndicated helm. But with the advent of Power 96.1, Cumulus Media has (presumably temporarily) created a Q100 spinoff station playing the top 20 current hits only and nothing else. I can’t imagine this will be around long.

Rashan Ali found a new morning host at Streetz 94.5. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Rashan Ali found a new morning host at Streetz 94.5. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

- Hip hop arrival: The modest signal 94.5 picked up a new format hip hop station Streetz, directly competing with Hot 107.5/97.5. Former V-103 and Hot jock Rashan Ali is now morning host there.

- Bad to the Bone: With Project gone, Cumulus in September changed once dominant alternative rock station 99X at 98.9 to 98.9/The Bone, which is a merger of Project and 99X. But Cumulus is hedging its bets by keeping the 99X website alive so it might not be gone quite yet.

- Miracle survival: B98.5 morning host Kelly Stevens was driving to work in August going south on 400 when a drunk driver hit his vehicle head on. Miraculously, he survived with a mashed up knee and elbow but no life-threatening injuries. He was able to get back on air a couple months later, getting engaged and married quickly to his girlfriend once he said he realized how precious and short life can be.

- Sirius XM update: As Atlanta stations disappeared, many people are finding the option of paying $14.49 to $17.49 a month more appealing. And Sirius/XM is gaining popularity nationwide with a record 23.4 million subscribers through the end of September with an outside shot of hitting 24 million by year end. (I don’t have local numbers.)

- Pandora update: While growth is strong, this service is reliant on advertising and harbors very high costs for royalties. It recently saw its shares plunge after it came in short on revenue for the third quarter and warned that it may have struggles moving forward. But with the ubiquity of smartphones, hundreds of thousands of Atlantans now use the service on a regular basis and even drawing local advertising.

- Bah humbug? B98.5 decided not to go all Christmas after eight years. The new program director cited research, that its now more youthful fans didn’t want to hear Dean Martin, Andy Williams and the Carpenters all the time. And the ratings boost last year for Christmas music was the lowest in many years. 104.7/The Fish became the lone all-Christmas station between Thanksgiving and Dec. 25.

- UPDATE: Someone below noted one bit of news I forgot to mention: Kelly McCoy left B98.5 in April after 27 years there. That’s a virtually unprecedented run at one station.

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117 comments Add your comment

Highlander

December 28th, 2012
7:22 am

Good write-up, Rodney! It was definitely hard to keep track of all the changes in Atlanta radio this year. And we’re left with just so much pablum!

dagadawgs

December 28th, 2012
7:41 am

In summary, there is entirely to much pop garbage music in this town. 98.9 the Bone comes in within 50 feet of the station. XM here I come

Oxwinkle

December 28th, 2012
8:03 am

What Matt “The Monkey” Scarano did to WGST makes Nancy Zintak (Planet Radio) and Randall Bloomquist (Reign of Stupidity) look like programming geniuses.

jv

December 28th, 2012
8:12 am

3 things: WGST was doomed once they fired Kimmer; who was the greatest! We need an oldies station, with Randy and Spiff. The game is awful.

TG

December 28th, 2012
9:05 am

I had forgotten about the Stews leaving also this year. Wow, it really was a year of transition for Atlanta. Some good, some not so good. While V-103 and Q-100 I think will be okay with the new faces of their morning programs, I think the biggest loser this year was WSB. They are losing Boortz (who is mildly tolerable) and basically Clark Howard (how do you marginalize a hometown STAPLE like Clark Howard???) in favor of more trash right-wing garbage.

Snorgleburp

December 28th, 2012
10:43 am

Lowest common denominator garbage music for the seething masses.

FM Fats

December 28th, 2012
10:52 am

No need to program the second tier of presets in my car.

G

December 28th, 2012
12:25 pm

As bad as many of the shows are on 92.9, the Stews will be welcomed.

TRUTH

December 28th, 2012
12:28 pm

OMG, they couldn’t agree to a contract with Frank & Wanda??!!! (shudders….) Good riddance!! Ryan has been waiting to get back on mornings!!! And the ATL wants him back…. Frank Who?

missnadine

December 28th, 2012
12:36 pm

I am way beyond the years of a typical top 40 listener, and I have found myself drawn to kicks more and more, especially since it has added some earlier tunes. It seems to be easy listening in the car, and they don’t play the same 10 songs over and over. What may surprise people is that Jenn Hobby is not nearly as annoying as she was on Q100. She no longer ends all of her sentences on a high note for one.

PM

December 28th, 2012
12:45 pm

WGST was at its best LONG before they ever had an FM side. I’d suggest the best of GST was during the time they moved from 920 down to 640 and then for a few years after. They slugged it out with WSB in a way nobody now could ever imagine. They began to decline when they lost Boortz and Howard and went into freefall when Jacor got bought out and Planet Radio flopped. Then they got the Braves back but just in time for it to no longer matter. Having that FM side was already what I would call a hail mary and they missed the net. Likewise, losing the FM side wasn’t the end either. Just another nail in the coffin.

Hey!

December 28th, 2012
1:08 pm

LOL @ missnandine

Jen was annoying to me too!!!

Jack Diamond

December 28th, 2012
1:12 pm

One thing didn’t change — Wendy is still out of radio!

ylojkt

December 28th, 2012
1:15 pm

Why would anyone listen to the pop drivel played on the airwaves? Atlanta radio is dead to me since the Project left.

Chris

December 28th, 2012
1:16 pm

Worst move of the year was DaveFM going to an all sports format. Not that a sports format is bad but that one is. That is the worst sportstalk station I have ever heard. If done right it can be entertaining and fun, not like that garbage they are putting on the air

joe

December 28th, 2012
1:35 pm

The new sports talk on 92.9 is the WORST ever broadcast. No way it survives…they’d be smart to rebrand and relaunch Dave before springtime.

Tancred

December 28th, 2012
1:42 pm

All I can say is I’m glad there still are alternatives to commercial radio here in The ATL. Big shout outs to WRFG, WREK, WRAS, and all the college stations out there. As Aliien Sex Fiend used to sing, “Ignore The Machine.”

Cari

December 28th, 2012
1:58 pm

I got a new car in October and I’ve not set one station on the radio dial. With Dave’s departure there is nothing to listen to anymore. All 2012 did was weaken and already very weak radio market. Mara and Sully on Dave and Axel on the Bone were (are) the only bright spots in this dismal market. So happy I can stream WHFS via Radio One and Pandora in my car. With this ability I’m not even signing up for satellite.

HEHAHHH

December 28th, 2012
2:09 pm

HEY THE FISH IS STILL PLAYING CHRISTMAS TODAY 12/27/2012- HOW BOUT THEM APPLES MR. SCROOGE B98.5?????

David Puddy

December 28th, 2012
2:10 pm

Haven’t decided who’ll I’ll tune to regularly to be tortured on a regular basis….Herman Cain or Chuck& Turnoff. Any opinions?

OTRFAN

December 28th, 2012
2:17 pm

Still hoping we can get and Adult Album Alternative station here in ATL…but doubtful, ATL isn’t the hip city it thinks it is…

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
2:24 pm

I’ll keep flipping between Arch&Bell and Chuck&Chernoff, and hoping to catch Barnhart and Durham when they grace 790 with an appearance

Bill

December 28th, 2012
2:26 pm

I love how this article promotes WSB as this great station, with the addition of Rush. Not to mention how All News 106.7, a major format change, is below Bert’s drinking problem. Who the hell cares?

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
2:34 pm

The Stews were good, but their schtick got old. The Game (which isn’t as bad as comments here suggest, although fans of DaveFM are probably irreparably biased against the new format) doesn’t need their constant bickering, self-promoting, loving-up of the Lakers/Heat, etc.

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
2:37 pm

What ATL really needs is a Jack-FM station…

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
2:38 pm

…and an FM affiliate (or stronger signal) for 790 so we can hear the games after dark.

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
2:42 pm

(sorry for the multiple short posts, but for some reason the longer combined comment won’t publish)

G

December 28th, 2012
3:01 pm

Just for the record, I’m not a former Dave listener so I’m not negatively biased to 92. I’ve been trying to give it a chance because I’m a regular sports talk listener. There’s too much “playing radio” among most of their shows. They just need to be real about their positions on topics. Their Saturday AM college football show is decent.

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
3:01 pm

Finally, can’t Lincoln finally put Steak Shapiro and particularly Beau Bock out to pasture! Bock has been canned so many times that he had to start his own station (with Shapiro and Saltzman), but I’d rather listen to the endless and indistinguishable pop of PinkKaty Manij-a-Beiber than the so-called Dean’s tired, bitter act.

Tim

December 28th, 2012
3:03 pm

I like the show with Carl, Rachel, and Kordell on 92.9 The Game. What’s so great about the other two stations?

Why are there no Blues stations on the radio? I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors on Wednesday night. They did a tribute to Buddy Guy and the music was phenomenal. I’d love to be able to listen to a Blues station.

LPT

December 28th, 2012
3:03 pm

The Bert Show needs some new blood fast! I listened before they went on their holiday break…. and they are flailing. Its a hot boring mess. They’ll never make it with the 3 they have left. I like her but Kristen doesn’t mesh well with Bert and Jeff. She sounds out of place. Jen filled in those blanks. But now that she’s gone…. And those stale bits. They better get Melissa Carter on the phone but fast!!!

G

December 28th, 2012
3:06 pm

THE BEST thing about 92 is the strong signal. Kind of like the stinch of a landfill.

ATL4LIFE

December 28th, 2012
3:10 pm

I will miss Frank Ski, but not Wanda. I think his morning show was better during the first five or so years when he became the morning host Vee. I love it when he would play new music from just released CD’s, he would play some of his mixes, also, he stopped with the frequent serious “Michael Baisden” type discussions that he had frequently. Frank is a good DJ, I just wish he hadn’t have gotten away from what made him hot IMO. I hope to hear from him again on another station here in Atlanta; I just hope he doesn’t bring Wanda with him.

Ryan Cameron could not have been a better replacement. That’s my homeboy, and he gone keep it live on Vee.

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
3:21 pm

Jerome and Jamie are the best sports-talk option from 1- to noon, although that isn’t saying much (vs. Cowherd and Dan Patrick). The noon-2 slot is dead air on the Fan and Zone unless Wes and Tony are on 790.

We don't know Jack

December 28th, 2012
3:21 pm

sorry: 10-noon

Jack Diamond

December 28th, 2012
3:58 pm

Beau Bock is still alive?

DWW

December 28th, 2012
4:41 pm

I will miss Frank & Wanda. They made my day. The morning show will not be the same. I will not be listening to Ryan Cameron. Didn’t like him on at 2:00. He talks too much.

Tee

December 28th, 2012
4:49 pm

2 Live Stews morning drive on The Game……the current show SUCKS!!

God-awful

December 28th, 2012
5:22 pm

And once again, The Regular Guys survive due simply to the incompetence of their competitors. I would’ve bet money that they wouldn’t be able to last beyond their current contract, but now I think one day we’ll be listening to 80-year-old Larry and 80-year-old Eric ask 80-year-old Southside about his 20-year-old nursemaid / diaper-changer. And they’ll still think they’re doing great radio.

Atlanta is without a doubt the worst market in the known universe.

Your Name Here

December 28th, 2012
5:26 pm

At least no one commenting in this thread has had the total lack of taste as to suggest that Power is an improvement over Project.

ExATLradiolistener

December 28th, 2012
6:27 pm

7 years ago I thought that paying for radio was crazy and the subscription was too high. I can easily say that you get a lot of product for about 55C per day. (what is 55C today?) All music stations on Sirius are COMMERCIAL FREE! Get satellite radio and you will be glad while these Atlanta stations change and change searching for the perfection they will never achieve at your expense (being forced to listen to yet another Tom Shane or D.Gellar commercial)

Disgusted

December 28th, 2012
6:37 pm

I hope the Game does not pick up the Stews — the Game is a station that actually talks about sports — not the schtick we had on the other 2 sports stations.

Cannot stand the Stews. They do not even talk sports.

Disgusted

December 28th, 2012
6:40 pm

I like the show with Carl, Rachel, and Kordell on 92.9 The Game. What’s so great about the other two stations?

Absolutely correct — they are far superior to what is on the other 2 stations.

The Game is giving me what I want in sports talk.

I do not want 24/7 college football — cannot stand Kincaide and cannot stand Mike Bell and Chuck Oliver.

grip

December 28th, 2012
7:06 pm

Disgusted,you have to be joking!! 92.9 is a joke, they talk increasingly bad about the ATL sports fan, claim the falcons are not legit, and hardly anyone that works their has legit ATL ties, you and that sorry station can go back to what ever city they came from……….with out the stews they have no shot of making it here in this city!!! I promise you their ratings are bloody horrible……..RODNEY could you PLEASE report the horrible rating that I’m sure 92.9 has earned. thanks………

grip

December 28th, 2012
7:12 pm

Jamie Dukes is LEGIT!!!!!

TooSlim

December 28th, 2012
7:57 pm

RE;Tim- if you want to hear the Blues, it’s on EVERY morning from 6am. to 10am. on WRFG 89.!!! Good Morning Blues!!!

David Puddy

December 28th, 2012
8:03 pm

“I do not want 24/7 college football — cannot stand Kincaide and cannot stand Mike Bell and Chuck Oliver.”

You didn’t mention Matt Turnoff. Certainly you don’t consider he and his ‘talk really, really fast schtik’ as anything but horrible talk radio, right? He’s the worst I’ve heard in several major markets. I’ve navigated to 92.9 since they seem to have reasoned discussion of current sports news and don’t act as if they’re splitting the atom like Turnoff comes off. He is such a joke.

Jeff Dauler

December 28th, 2012
8:22 pm

You forgot to mention that I became the world’s fattest triathlete this year.

Matthew Lane

December 28th, 2012
8:44 pm

@Disgusted, you have to be kidding. The afternoon show on 92.9 is terrible. So is the show that’s on after it. Chuck and Chernoff are great

Julian

December 28th, 2012
8:54 pm

Really sad about Dave FM, and due to their departure, I’ve gone all XM all the time.