This was posted Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Atlanta radio in 2016 saw major morning show changes at all four pop stations, a change of venue for the Breakfast Club and a Donald Trump-fueled ratings bonanza for News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB.
Here are some of the top stories from the year:
Ch-ch-ch-changes: All four pop stations saw shifts in their morning shows. In January, the Bert Show on Q100 replaced Jeff Dauler with Brian Moote. In February, B98.5 swapped out Jeff Elliott with Tad Lemire, keeping Melissa Carter. The same month, Power 96.1 dropped Scotty K and Bret Mega despite strong ratings. The pair got a gig in Dallas and are now heard remotely on Q100 on weekends. PK and Denise took over in March with Riley Couture, who was moved to late mornings in September, swapping with Terry J. In March, Dauler – who left the Bert Show in November, 2015 – started on Star 94.1 in March with former Bert Show castmate Jenn Hobby. Star also dropped what had been its morning show Drex, Cassiday and Tingle midyear after moving them briefly to afternoons.
Jenn Hobby’s baby cancer scare: At a mere 10 months, Jenn Hobby’s second daughter Reese was diagnosed in August with a cancerous tumor, a shock to her and her husband. Fortunately, after chemotherapy treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Reese appears to be on the road to recovery.
Breakfast Club changes homes: Syndicated New York morning show the Breakfast Club moved from Streetz 94.5 to the new 92.3/96.7 The Beat. Streetz replaced them with relative radio newbies Yung Joc and Mo Quick.
Ed Lover comes to Atlanta: Boom 102.9 added a new Atlanta-based syndicated show featuring “Yo! MTV Raps!” host Ed Lover and hip-hop legend Monie Love in January. The station also took over Majic’s southern signal at 97.5. But seven months later, Radio One decided this was hurting Majic too much and gave the signal back.
Amazing ratings: WSB pulled in its best ratings ever, courtesy of a contentious but fascinating presidential campaign. Its ratings rose 23 percent year over year. News/talk NPR station 90.1/WABE also saw a 13 percent jump in ratings year over year with its second full year of news/talk in the mid days bearing fruit, bringing in bigger and younger audiences than when it aired classical during the day. (A more complete 2016 ratings review of all major radio stations in town is forthcoming.)
99X revival: The once influential alternative rock station 99X – which rode high in Atlanta in the 1990s into the 2000s – lost steam as the format faded away. For more than three years, the station was defunct. But Cumulus brought it back at 98.9 earlier this year and it is not a nostalgia fest for fans of the original music. (Radio 105.7 plays plenty of ’90s era Live, Everclear and Sublime) Rather, it’s heavily focused on current alternative rock such as Head and the Heart, the Strumbellas and Cage the Elephant.
Strange departure: Michael Graham decided to throw gasoline and light a match on fellow talk show host Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson on the way out the door at NewsRadio 106.7 in May. Graham, in a spoof commercial, painted the Kimmer as racist drug addict who has engaged in bestiality. The Kimmer didn’t take this lightly. “Everybody hates him!” the Kimmer said of Graham. “Nobody wants to work with him…He’s finally he’s out of radio again.” Good news: Graham’s replacement Shannon Burke gets along with the Kimmer and has significantly better ratings than Graham.
Frank Ski returns to Atlanta airwaves: While the V-103 weekday line-up remained stable this year, the station brought back Ski but as a part-time weekend jock and weekday fill-in host. Ski left V-103 after 14 years as morning host at the end of 2012 in search of a syndicated deal but was never able to put a deal together to his liking. He did work at WHUR in D.C. for a couple of years before returning to Atlanta full time in the fall of 2015. He continues to DJ at clubs as well.
Also back from a long break: Former V-103 host Porshe Foxx returned to radio at the new Old School 87.7 after an eight-year absence from the air. The populalr host had drinking issues and a DUI that led to her first departure in 2005. A second stint there lasted less than two years. Old School, which plays plenty of 1970s through 1990s R&B, debuted in January and now pulls in passable ratings.
Big change at Tom Joyner’s show: Former Atlantan J. Anthony Brown departed Tom Joyner’s morning show in December after 20 years. He wanted to do a weekend syndicated show and couldn’t come to an agreement with Joyner’s syndication company. For now, Joyner will rotate five comics, including Arsenio Hall and Sherri Shepherd.
Game shift: Randy Cross, one of the original members of 92.9/The Game, was replaced in March by John Michaels, a sideline reporter for the Atlanta Falcons Radio Network since 2011 and former 790/The Zone personality. (Ryan Stewart, formerly of the 2 Live Stews, and Dave Archer tried out.) Mitch Evans also lost his late-night spot in May without explanation.
Hot exposure: Hot 107.9 showed up plenty of times on reality TV this year. Smiley now shoots “Rickey Smiley For Real” on TV One, with frequent visits to his studios at Hot 107.9 headquarters in downtown Atlanta. Bravo “Real Housewives of Atlanta” castmate Porsha Williams is part of “Dish Nation,” shot at Smiley studios with most of his team. J-Nicks, part of the Durtty Boyz, joined VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” this past season. Ms. Juicy, a member of Rickey Smiley’s syndicated show heard on Hot, is a full-time cast member of Lifetime’s “Little Women Atlanta.” And hip-hop legend Jermaine Dupri used Hot liberally on the second season of his hit Lifetime show “The Rap Game.” And speaking of Durrty Boyz, half of that team ET recently left with plans to join the Beat. Hot’s ratings shot up 18 percent this past year and the boss Dave “Hurricane” Smith was promoted to vice president.
Erick Erickson’s anti-Trump campaign: Erickson, a conservative host on WSB, publicly condemned Donald Trump as a candidate, upsetting some listeners. At the same time, he couldn’t support Hillary Clinton either. Right after the election, he wrote a New York Times editorial “eating crow” for predicting Trump’s loss. He finished with this: “Those of us who opposed him should pray for him and give him a chance. But conservatives should realize they won a battle, but are losing a war for ideas. They need to begin again to reach across the aisle and go outside Washington. An honest conservatism willing to help the next president, but also hold him accountable when he advocates bad policy, will be the conservatism that helps temper tribalism and unite the country.”
Look who’s going to be a daddy: Rock 100.5 morning host Steve “Southside” Rickman, a long-time bachelor and man about town who got married in 2014, is about to become a father. He made the announcement in October. He noted this is the first time he ever got a woman pregnant. “I’m lucky,” he said, noting that he has also remained disease free.
And look who’s married: 94.9/The Game morning host Jason Pullman got hitched last month to Taylor Grace Adkins. He was over the moon. “She is just as sweet as she is beautiful,” he wrote. “I actually call her ‘Sweet T.’ ” Dauler got married to Callie Riggs in October.
And look who’s getting married: Kristin Klingshirn of the Bert Show got engaged to her long-time partner Bart Mattingly and is set to get married in 2017.
Radio hangs in there: Despite the growth of streaming audio, traditional AM/FM radio (mostly FM) remains a viable business. According to Edison Media research, 78 percent of in-car audio listening is to AM/FM, well ahead of CD/downloads (17 percent), Sirius/XM (15 percent), streaming audio (5 percent) and podcasts (1 percent.). “AM/FM radio still has the wheel,” Edison Research Director of Research Nicole Beniamin said. “It’s free, convenient and a lifelong habit.”
More and more streaming: While CD and download sales droop, the music business is finding some solace in monthly subscription sites like Spotify, iTunes and Tidal, which are now a solid alternative to radio (but more an alternative to one’s old CD/download collection.) Streaming revenue grew 57.4 percent overall to total $1.61 billion, up from $1.02 billion in the first half of 2015, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
Podcasting continues to grow: While still a niche product, podcasts are now an ever-growing part of people’s audio diet. About 27 percent of millennials listened to a podcast last month vs. 24 percent of Generation X and 11 percent of baby boomers, according to an Edison Research study earlier this year. Atlanta’s How Stuff Works now has some of the most popular podcasts in the world, especially its “Stuff You Should Know.”
WSB, B98.5 and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are all part of Cox Media Group.