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Monday, December 18, 2006

12/19: Lite moves to 96.7

Chuck Deskins, the Clear Channel market manager, just told me that Lite isn’t completely out. Clear Channel is moving Lite to its very weak south-skewing signal 96.7. (I can’t hear 96.7 from my downtown location but it becomes much clearer south of I-20.). Currently, it’s simulcasting Viva 105.7.

He said Lite 96.7 will launch in the next day or two but without Steve Goss or Randy & Spiff. And it will air Christmas songs through Christmas so if you are on the south side, you have that option. Anybody north of I-20, you’re outta luck on that front.

Although he said Lite 94.9 was doing fine from a revenue standpoint, “we think there is more out there meaning potential audience and more revenue for us in the country arena.” TV ads will start as early as Tuesday and billboards will begin appearing possibly before the year’s out.

For air talent, Deskins said “we’re in full recruitment mode.” He said he’s considering both local-only talent and syndicated talent for all four major dayparts.

And why dump Christmas a week early?

“It was a tough decision. We’ve been doing Christmas music for a long time. We felt there was enough Christmas music in the marketplace. Our listeners could find Christmas music if they chose do to dhat. We wanted a little earlier start to tell the Atlanta market, we’re in the country business.”

Management considered “creeping into the format” by sticking with Christmas for a week and promoting the new Bull. But they decided to jump right in instead.

The Bull’s target audience is going to be women 35-54, older than Kicks, slightly younger than Eagle. He said it will end up about 60% female. The slogan: “The biggest hits, the biggest stars.”

But by including the Braves in the package, isn’t that a mismatch?

Deskins rationalized it this way: “It’s a family sport. When you look at country music, it does skew female. It’s about 60/40. But we feel that baseball and country music in Atlanta, Georgia is perfect. We’re not going to forget the men on the radio station. “

And not being the programming guy (Clay Hunnicutt, vp of country programming for Clear Channel, is helping out on that front), Deskins wasn’t sure if they’d play the Dixie Chicks or not. (Deskins, who joined Clear Channel Atlanta just a few months ago, has more of a sales background from Tampa.)

So far, after looking over seven hours and more than 100 commercial-free songs, there’s no sign of the Chicks on the playlist. But the Bull is now playing one or two xmas songs an hour. Although the first hour looked a lot like Kicks, subsequent hours (with songs by Ronnie Milsap and Mel McDaniel) revealed it’s slightly older than Kicks but still younger than Eagle.

If you want to see the hour-to-hour songs from the Bull, the best place to go is www.yes.com Type in WLTM-FM for now though they are now under new call letters of WUBL-FM.

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12/18: Yogi leaving Viva 105.7

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Yogi (Juan Tapia), one half of the Viva 105.7 morning team, is leaving the station at the end of the week. His attorney Jamie Hernan said he just “needed a change in environment.”

Yogi & Panda filed a civil lawsuit against the Regular Guys and their employer Clear Channel for invasion of privacy in October after Larry Wachs of 96rock’s the Regular Guys taped their conversation in a public restroom and aired it. But they dropped the lawsuit to go after Wachs in criminal court, a case that is still pending. The Regular Guys were subsequently fired.

They’d been together four or five years, including time in Los Angeles. But they have now decided t o go their separate ways, Hernan said. “Yogi isn’t comfortable being there but Panda is sticking it out,” Hernan said. Yogi is going to a Dallas Hispanic station, he added. I’m going to try to talk to Yogi later today.

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12/18: Skip & Pete staying on Braves radio through 2009

Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren are committed to announcing Braves telecasts on the radio at least through 2009, the Braves announced today. The Braves also say they support the move from 96rock (now Project 9-6-1) to 94.9/The Bull, the new country station on the FM side. (Braves will continue to air on WGST-AM on the AM side.)

Derek Schiller, Braves senior vice president of sales and marketing for three years, said Clear Channel consulted with the Braves about the potential changes and moving the Braves FM simulcast to 94.9 instead of 96.1 He said they did some research and looked at research provided by Clear Channel and decided it was worth the risk.

“We felt like it was a good fit,” Schiller said. “We felt like the country format, whilie not traditional in this marketplace for the Atlanta Braves, is something we’re looking forward to and hope it matches with the likes and interests of the majority of our fan base.”

Despite all the turmoil at Clear Channel Atlanta, Schiller said he’s confident that John Hogan, vp of programming for Clear Channel out of San Antonio, fully supports them. In fact, he negotiated the deal. Insiders at Cox Radio, which used to air the Braves, said Clear Channel paid so much, there’s no way they could be making money and in fact are losing millions. Clear Channel has declined to comment about that and Schiller didn’t express an opinion about the deal’s profitability on CCU’s side. 2007 will be the third year of a five-year deal.

AJC writer Tim Tucker also found out Skip will be virtually entirely on radio and Pete will hardly ever been heard on TV. Here’s the story.

Here’s the press release:

Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame Broadcasters Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren

Sign Up With Braves Radio Through 2009

Duo will be heard locally on 94.9 The Bull

The Atlanta Braves and Clear Channel radio announced today that Braves veteran broadcasters Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren will helm the radio airways through 2009. The two will be heard around Metro Atlanta on Clear Channel’s 94.9 The Bull, the new home of the Atlanta Braves. Clear Channel announced earlier today that Braves games were moving from Project 9-6-1 to 94.9 The Bull. Regionally, the duo can be heard on the Braves Radio Network on over 150 stations across the Southeast.

“We are thrilled that Skip and Pete will continue announcing Braves games for a long time,” said Derek Schiller, Braves Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “They have been the voices of the Braves for over 31 years and continue to be our fans favorites.”

Caray and Van Wieren, who together were inducted into the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame in 2004, will enter into their 32nd season of Braves announcing in 2007.

“Given the opportunity to sign these two legends is a no-brainer,” said Chuck Deskins, President and General Manager of Clear Channel Radio Atlanta. “They are an institution not just in Atlanta, but in baseball.”

The Atlanta Braves, a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., is Major League Baseball’s winningest franchise since 1991.  Since then, Braves teams have earned a record 14 consecutive division championships, five National League pennants, and a World Series title.  Based in Atlanta since 1966, the Braves franchise is the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball.  For more information on the Atlanta Braves, log onto www.braves.com.

Clear Channel Radio is a leading radio company focused on serving local communities across the U.S. with more than 110 million listeners choosing Clear Channel Radio programming each week. The company’s operations include radio broadcasting, syndication, and independent media representation. Clear Channel Radio is a division of Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (NYSE:CCU), a leading global media and entertainment company. More information on the company can be found at www.clearchannel.com.

Contact: Beth Marshall, Atlanta Braves

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12/18: Xmas Lites out, country Bull charges in

So the rumors were true: 94.9 is now country. In effect, the Grinch took away Christmas music a week early. (Your other options: 104.7/The Fish and B98.5)

After playing Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” at 11:54 a.m., 94.9 did a strange feint by playing the Moody Blues’ “Your WIldest Dreams.” Then they segued into a promo in which they said they had a Christmas present they had to open up early: 94.9/The Bull, a full-on country station. They then sampled several artists, from Carrie Underwood to Lonestar to Sugarland.

“Finally you have a choice! 94.9- the Bull!” the promo says. The first Bull song out of the gate: Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” followed by another hometown group Sugarland and the act’s hit “Something More.” Then another hometown boy, Travis Tritt with “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.” Then the first non-Georgia act, Keith Urban, slides in with “Who Wouldn’t Want to Be Me,” a song that does reference Georgia.

The next six: “The Way You Love Me” by Faith Hill, “Somethiing Like This” by her hubby Tim McGraw, then “As Good As I Once Was” by Toby Keith, “Be My Baby” by John Michael Montgomery, Kenny Chesney’s “Summertime,” Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.” It’ll be interesting if they choose to play the Dixie Chicks, who have been banned from Kicks and Eagle. So far, it sounds like a straightforward, top 40 country station with no particular lean toward men or women.

The Bull Web site is now alive — again.

This means we now have three metro-wide country stations, along with Eagle 106.7 and Kicks 101.5, both owned by ABC. The Bull music mix the first hour is very much along the lines of Kicks’ playlist.

“Kicks has been the country leader in Atlanta for a long time,” noted Cox Radio market manager Chris Wegmann. “It’d be interesting to watch to see if they can make inroads against Kicks… Country radio fans are very loyal.” He said that Cox’s B98.5 will naturally benefit from Lite’s departure, becoming the default “in office listening” station.

Victor Sansone, general manager at Kicks and Eagle, said he wishes his competitor “moderate success.” “They play a good game over there,” he said. “We’ll be tough. So will they.” Given the way ratings work, we won’t know how much headway they’ll make with country at least til later in the spring. His company ABC is in the midst of being sold to Citadel so perhaps Clear Channel smells weakness.

Christmas has been a boon for Lite over the past six years but ratings when Lite has not been playing Christmas were relatively poor this year, hurt partly by the arrival of 97.1/The River.

Why would they dump Christmas a week early and peeve tens of thousands of Christmas fans who now see 94.9 as a three-decker saurkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce? With so many people listening to 94.9 who normally wouldn’t be listening (especially men), this is a way to draw Kicks and Eagle fans who wouldn’t have otherwise known about it. And the Arbitron ratings book ended on Dec. 13 so the station has already gotten the ratings it needs for the fall book out of Christmas.

Randy and Spiff, whose final shift was today before their vacation, knew it was over this morning based on what they said, though they never explicitly said goodbye.

In thanking everyone for raising $250K-plus for the Make-a-Wish Foundation over the weekend, Spiff said at 8:40 a.m., “We owe our listeners everything.”

Randy said: “More money came out of Atlanta from individuals than ever before.”

“We thank each and every one of you for the Make a Wish kids — and for us.”

“We’ll probably be off for awhile,” Randy said.

“So check us out on randyandspiff.com,” Spiff said, helpfully plugging a site that is unrelated to the station.

I reached Carner at his home while he was sifting through emails from concerned fans: 300 already. “I answer three and five more come in,” he said. His message to the fans:

*”We’ve been here since 1989. We’ve really bonded with our listeners. Randy’s been through three adoptions. They’ve accepted them. I’ve lost a wife and remarried and got a new family. They’re always there for us. We’ve had more fun than they had. We really had. We want to thank them for every minute of every day we’ve had with then. Hopfeully, we’ll have some more.”

randyandspiff.jpg

Randy and Spiff started their Atlanta career in 1989 at Fox 97.1, the oldies station, moved to Cool 105.7 in 2003, then to Lite last year. Goss has been at Peach/Lite for more than 25 years.

steve goss.jpg

Lite started as Peach, an easy-listening station in 1972 before seguing in the 1980s to soft rock. The Peach name was dropped in 2002 for the more generic Lite, a name used nationwide among Clear Channel soft rock stations.

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