Mark Richards, one of the longest-running program directors in town, is out at country station Kicks 101.5.
He survived two regime changes. He joined the station early 2003 when ABC owned Kicks, survived the switch to Citadel in 2007, then lasted another 16 months under the latest Cumulus ownership change. While the station has been the dominant country station in Atlanta for much of the past decade, 94.9/The Bull has given Kicks a serious kick in the rear the past six years. For a brief time, the Bull even pulled ahead of Kicks. But for the most part, Kicks had kept an edge among older listeners while the Bull does better among younger country music fans.
That makes sense, since Kicks is the longer-established player and plays more 1990s music.
Based on Arbitron calculations I just did today, Kicks averaged a 3.7 share while the Bull averaged 3.3 in 2012, excluding the final three weeks of the year. Among 25 to 54 year olds, Kicks averaged 3.9, ahead of the Bull at 3.5. Among 18 to 34 year olds, the Bull averaged 3.94, just barely edging Kicks’ 3.9. Cadillac Jack and Dallas McCade at Kicks won the 25-54 battle in mornings in 2012, but Jason Pullman and Kristen Gates at the Bull won among 18 to 34 year olds.
John Dickey, who runs programming for Atlanta-based Cumulus, was a little more exuberant about Kicks’ performance vs. the Bull: “We’re smoking them. We’re playing better music. We’re a bigger brand. The Bull s in the rear mirror.” (He said he didn’t know Richards very well but will find a replacement soon.)
Richards declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements he signed with Cumulus while exiting the door. He did apologize for his general avoidance of me the past decade, saying he worked for companies that restricted his ability to say much to the press.
“One of the smartest programmers in the business,” wrote Bill Celler, who worked at Kicks as a jock and online expert for many years, via Facebook. “Had his finger on the pulse of what it took to create and maintain a successful brand, not to mention just a great guy to work with and for.” (Celler, by the way, is now quality control manager for International Security Management Group, which staffs places with uniformed guard service. He also does Sunday morning traffic on All News 106.7.)
“He lasted longer than I thought he would,” said Steve Mitchell, a former radio jock who worked under Richards for five years until 2008, when Eagle 106.7 was blown out. Mitchell now runs his own video production company. “They probably kept him around for the transition.”
Prior to his time at Kicks (and for a time, Eagle), Richards ran oldies Fox 97.1 from 2001 to early 2003, when that station changed to an R&B format for three years.
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