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2015 Atlanta radio ratings recap: V-103, Power, the Game, Fish have great years

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Tuesday, December 29, 2015

V-103 returned to the top of Atlanta radio ratings this year after slipping to No. 2 in 2014.

The comeback was impressive, bringing the R&B/hip-hop station back to its normal perch with ratings numbers rarely seen in the top 20 markets. The station averaged an 8.7 share in 2015, 9.2 among 25 to 54 year olds and a whopping 10.84 among 18 to 34 year olds.

V-103, which celebrated its 40th anniversary, built upon a stable line up and the Ryan Cameron/Wanda Smith combo found its footing in its second year.

Overall, this was a great year for any format targeting African Americans. Despite the arrival of two new classic hip-hop stations, six of seven other stations that draw heavily black audiences saw their shares grow in 2015 vs. 2014. Those would be V-103, Kiss 104.1, Hot 107.9, Streetz 94.5, Praise 102.5 and WCLK. The only station in the "urban" format to lose share was Majic 107.5/97.5, which may have suffered the most from the arrival of classic hip-hop stations OG 97.9 and Boom 102.9.

My 2014 Atlanta radio ratings review

News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB may have lost the top spot but actually grew audience year over year. The hot political season courtesy of Donald Trump didn't hurt.

Several stations saw trends continue from 2013 and 2014. Those that moved up over two consecutive years: WSB, Christian pop Fish 104.7, top 40 Power 96.1, sports talk 92.9/the Game, hip-hop Streetz 94.5 and jazz station WCLK 91.9. Those that have dropped two years in a row: pop station B98.5, top 40 Q100, rock 97.1/The River, R&B Majic 107.5/97.5, rock Radio 105.7, news/talk WAOK.

Several stations went away: sports/talk 790/The Zone, alternative rock X107.1 and country Nash ICON 98.9. Old School 99.3 lost its signal over the summer because of interference with an outlying station.

This breakdown covers the first 48 weeks of the year through the end of November into early December, provided by Nielsen Audio.  Given all the vacation time and Christmas music in December, I am excluding that four-week period from this compilation.

Let's break it down by format:

R&B/hip hop: V-103's resurgence featured a 26 percent growth in audience year over year and topped the chart in all key demographics and time slots. Kiss 104.1 (+3%) came in third again with a solid year. Hot 107.9 (+4%) showed power mostly in the final four months, finishing on a high note in  November with a 5.6 share, its best monthly performance since July, 2012. Streetz 94.5 (+9%), the scrappy hip-hop start up, keeps building audience finishing 10th among 18 to 34 year olds, impressive considering how modest the signal is. Majic 107.5/97.5 (-15%) bottomed out with a 3.7 share (13th place) over the summer but rebounded in the fall, averaging a 5 share over the past three months, moving back into the top 5.

There were three classic hip-hop stations when the year started. (Old School 99.3 lost its signal mid year because it was interfering with an existing signal.) By May, they had peaked with a collective 2.7 share. The two survivors (OG 97.9 and Boom 102.9) have had fairly stable ratings for much of the year, proving that the format may have longer legs than many had expected. In November, the two drew a collective 2.1 share.

The seven R&B and/or hip-hop stations drew a combined 27.9% share in 2015, up from 24.3% share in 2014.

News/talk: WSB (+3% with a 7.47 share) is the king by a wide margin, drawing a bigger audience than all its rivals combined. WABE-FM (2.68), which switched to a full news/talk format during the day in January, suffered a major 21 percent fall off from 2014. The arrival of WRAS's news/talk programming (with its modest 0.48 share) doesn't explain the entire drop off. NewsRadio 106.7 (-8%) was ranked 21st. 640/WGST-AM showed some signs of life on the AM side, up to a 0.43 from 0.3 in 2014. 1380/WAOK-AM (-68%) fell off sharply again and Nielsen didn't even report any discernible listeners for some months.

Pop: Despite some slippage, B98.5 (-13%) remained a top 5 player and the most popular of the four pop stations. But rival Power 96.1 (+25%) continued its growth spurt that began in 2014.

Power remains No. 2 behind B98.5 overall but actually beat B a couple of times in monthly results. In the key 18-34 demo, Power's morning show featuring Scotty Kay and Riley Couture grew 45 percent year over year in its second year of existence, an encouraging sign for a new show.

Q100 (-2%) was flat among all listeners but jumped ahead of B98.5 in 2015 among 25 to 54 year olds and grew sharply among 18-34 year olds. Q100's Bert Show was the top morning show in town among 25 to 54 year olds and 18 to 34 year olds, edging out Ryan Cameron on V-103. (Warning sign: the Bert Show's first month without Jeff Dauler in November showed a sharp drop though it's not fair to make any strong judgment calls based on four weeks of ratings.)

Star 94 (+2%) was flat for the year but showed growth starting midyear when new management and ownership took over, edging into the top 10 among 25 to 54 year olds.

Country: 94.9/The Bull (-17%), which ran roughshod over Kicks 101.5 (+6%) in 2014, hit a road bump midyear. Averaging a 5 share the first seven months, the Bull averaged a mere 3.8 share over the past five, falling out of the top 10. Kicks, which was once the country leader in ratings, edged out the Bull two of the past four months. It's a close race again.

Sports talk: With the Zone gone, Atlanta is back to two sports talk stations. In its third full year, 92.9/The Game (+61%) grew sharply, with its numbers especially strong during football season. I can't post the ratings for the Fan (93.7/AM 680) because the station does not subscribe to Nielsen, but the station was more or less stable year over year. Though its overall numbers are far below that of The Game, blame that on its weak night signal (on the AM at least). During the day, the Fan frequently beats the Game, with Buck & Kincade and Chuck & Chernoff drawing more listeners than Rick & Randy and Dukes & Bell.

Rock: This was a bad year for rock stations in Atlanta. (Has everyone who likes rock gone to Spotify?). Collectively, the three stations drew an 8.6 share, less than V-103 on its own and down 16 percent from a year earlier. All three stations lost share.

Classic hits station 97.1/The River (-19%) was still pulling in a 5 share and sixth place in July but fell off sharply in the fall, down to a 3.4 in November, ranked 14th. That's less than half of its share in January 2014 (7.1) when Rock 100.5  switched to a format very similar to that of the River.

But copying the River has not helped Rock 100.5 (-8%). The transition to the current Bailey & Southside show from the Regular Guys a year ago has been rough. The morning show's 25-54 share fell 18% year over year and its 18-34 share an even more alarming 44%.

Radio 105.7 (-16%), which focuses on alternative rock, has steadily lost audience share since its debut in 2012 and ranks 16th overall. It remains a top 10 performer among 18 to 34 year olds.

Christian: Fish 104.7 (+6%) jumped to fifth place overall for the year despite an unusually weak November (4.3 share, ninth place). Rival Joy 93.3 jumped 25 percent to a 1.01 share. Gospel station Praise 102.5 (+16%) also rebounded in 2015 after a relatively weak 2014 and finished 11th overall.

Other: El Patron 105.3, the Mexican music station, was flat year over year, ranked in a tie for 18th. La Raza 102.3 fell by two thirds to a modest 0.34 share, competing with a new Latino Tropical station at 87.7 WTBS-FM. And Clark Atlanta's Jazz station WCLK (+18%), which turned to smooth jazz from more traditional jazz in 2013, keeps building audience with the modified format.

Kiss, WSB, B98.5. and the River and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are part of Cox Media Group.

The top 35 stations of 2015

1- V103, R&B/hip hop 8.65 (2. 6.8) trend: way up

2- WSB, news/talk 7.47 (1. 7.3) trend: up

3- Kiss, R&B 6.75 (3. 6.55) trend: up

4- B98.5, adult pop, 5.49 (4. 6.31) trend: down

5- Fish, Christian pop, 5.34 (8. 5.03) trend: up

6- Power 96.1, top 40, 4.96 (11. 3.98) trend: up

7- Majic, R&B, 4.48 (7. 5.27) trend: two

8- Bull, country, 4.47 (5. 5.39) trend: down

9- Q100, top 40, 4.34 (9. 4.44) trend: down

10- River, classic rock, 4.33 (6. 5.33) trend: down

11- Praise, gospel, 4.31 (12. 3.73) trend: up

12- Hot, R&B/hip hop, 4.27 (10. 4.09) trend: up

13- Kicks,country, 3.74 (13. 3.53) trend: up

14- Star, top 40, 3.55 (13. 3.48) trend: up

15- WABE, news/talk, 2.68 (15. 3.41) trend: way down

16- Radio 105.7, rock, 2.43 (16. 2.89) trend: down

17- 92.9/The Game, sports talk, 2.2 (22. 1.37) trend: way up

18- (tie) El Patron, Mexican, 1.83 (18. 1.86) trend: down slightly

18- (tie) Rock 100.5, classic rock, 1.83 (17. 1.98) trend: down

20- Streetz, R&B/hip-hop 1.76 (20. 1.62) trend: up

21- NewsRadio 106.7, news/talk 1.56 (19. 1.7) trend: down

22- 680/The Fan, sports talk (ranked 21 last year) trend: down slightly

23- OG 97.9, classic hip-hop 1.27  (new, no comparison to last year)

24- WCLK, jazz, 1.18 (23. 0.99) trend: up

25- Joy 93.3, Christian pop, 1.01 (25. 0.8) trend: up

26- Boom 102.9, classic hip hop, 0.73 (a new station, no comparison from 2014)

27- WTSH, country, 0.63 (not ranked last year)

28- WRAS, news/talk/music 0.48 (31. 0.41) trend: up

29- WGST, news/talk 0.43 (34. 0.3) trend: up

30- La Raza 102.3, Mexican, 0.34 (24. 0.93) trend: way down

31- WWGA, classic hits, 0.31 (not ranked last year)

32- The Bear/WBTR , country, 0.27 (36. 0.28) trend: flat

33- Chuck/WXKT, pop/rock hits, 0.24 (39. 0.18) trend: up

34- Nash ICON 0.18 (29. 0.68 when it split the year as oldies) trend: way down and the format has already changed to adult contemporary in December

35- WAOK 0.13 (30. 0.40) trend: way down

Top 10 radio stations, 25-54

1- V-103 9.15

2- Kiss 5.73

3- Q100 5.66

4- WSB 5.51

5- B98.5 5.26

6- Hot 4.9

7- Power 4.81

8- Majic 4.66

9- Bull 4.58

10- Fish 4.07

Top 10 morning shows 25-54

1- Bert Show, Q100, 8.95 share

2- Ryan Cameron with Wanda Smith, V-103, 8.8

3- Scott Slade, WSB, 7.5

4- Steve Harvey, Majic, 5.11

5- Tom Joyner Morning Show, Kiss, 4.93

6- Kevin & Taylor, Fish 4.79

7- Ricky Smiley, Hot, 4.78

8- Melissa & Jeff, B98.5 4.54

9- Morning Edition, WABE, 4.23

10- Scotty Kay and Riley, Power 96.1, 3.82

Top 10 radio stations, 2015, 18-34

1- V-103 10.84

2- Hot 7.06

3- Q100 6.77

4- Power 6.73

5- B98.5 5.6

6- Bull 5.53

7- (tie) Fish 4.42

7- (tie) Radio 4.42

9- Star 4.02

10- Streetz 3.84

Top 10 morning shows, 18-34

1- Bert Show, Q100, 10.72

2- Ryan Cameron, V-103 10.54

3- Scotty Kay & Riley Couture, Power 5.84

4- Rickey Smiley, Hot 5.83

5- Jason Pullman & Kristen Gates, the Bull 5.69

6- El Show de los Patrones, El Patron 5.15

7- Melissa & Jeff, B98.5 5.12

8-Kevin & Taylor, Fish 4.42

9- Aly, Radio 105.7 4

10 Morning Edition, WABE 3.46

SOURCE: Nielsen Audio

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.