V-103 has been a powerhouse for much of the past two decades, virtually always at the top of the ratings, often by wide margins. Its huge number of loyal listeners were the envy of any station in any top 10 market. Over the years, it has successfully fended off aggressive attacks from rivals on the younger (Hot 107.9) and older end (Kiss 104.1, Majic 107.5 and Praise 102.5).
In the year-end 2013 Nielsen ratings, the station remains No. 1 among all listeners, 25 to 54 year olds and 18 to 34 year olds. It finished with a 7.8 share.
But not all is copacetic.
Last year, V-103 finished with an average of 7.8 share, a drop of 14 percent from 2012. The gap between V-103 and the No. 2 station was nearly two shares in 2012. By 2013, the gap had closed to less than a share. Ratings really only started slipping off mid year. In the fall, Hot 107.9 became the top station among 18 to 34 year olds four months in a row. 95.5 FM and AM750 News/Talk WSB landed at the top of the overall ratings for three months before V-103 bounced back a bit in November.
There are a few possible reasons why V-103 became more vulnerable. One: Frank Ski's departure and his replacement Ryan Cameron. Ski and his partner Wanda Smith were the rock at the station for 14 years. They maintained strong ratings numbers consistently with a show that blended humor and substance. His listeners were familiar with Cameron, a huge success as a morning host at Hot for years who held fort in afternoons for much of the past decade. For several months, Cameron held Ski's numbers. But when he added Mo Ivory and Kendra G, the chemistry seemed off and ratings slipped off sharply, especially among younger listeners. (Year over year, the morning show's 18-34 ratings were 22 percent lower than that of Ski and Smith in 2012.)
Last month, V-103 ditched Kendra G and Christopher "Crash" Clark and brought back Smith to the morning show this week.
Looking deeper into the numbers, V-103's 25-54 demos dropped just 4 percent year over year while 18-34 demo fell 10 percent.
The arrival of Streetz 94.5 in 2012 may be hurting V-103's younger listening. While V-103 used to be the best second choice for younger hip-hop fans on the FM dial, Streetz is clearly diverting some of that listening.
Black listeners also have plenty of morning options, including Steve Harvey at Majic, Rickey Smiley on Hot and Tom Joyner on Kiss.All three of those stations have been gunning after V-103 for years. They provide easy alternatives if a listener is turned off by Cameron's show for any reason.
But don't count V-103 out. The station did show some bounce back in November after some worrisome fall numbers. It's possible the slip off was an anomaly. The station is often compared to the New York Yankees for a reason.
Here are format breakdowns:
R&B/hip hop: As mentioned earlier, V-103 remained on top but lost a bit of audience. Kiss swapped places with Majic but both remain formidable competitors. Majic is now the No. 3 station in the market (with strong growth from Harvey's morning show) and Kiss No. 4. Streetz, in its first full year on a very modest signal, saw its ratings jump 50 percent. Hot, with Streetz's arrival, slipped 12 percent overall but its 18-to-34 numbers went up six percent, which is impressive given Streetz's new presence.
Pop: B98.5 remained the top dog among all listeners and 25 to 54 year olds, with its push for a younger sound helping improve its overall ratings by about 20 percent. It's the No. 5 station in the market, No. 4 among 25-54. Q100 is the most popular station among pop stations with 18 to 34 year olds and in the mornings across the board with the Bert Show. Star 94 slipped 21 percent year over year with a greater drop among 25 to 54 year olds than 18 to 34 year olds. Power 96.1, in its first full year, lagged behind the other three stations among 18 to 34 year olds, 25 to 54 year olds and overall.
News/talk: WSB is the big dog as usual, with a 6.95 share, up slightly from 2012. 90.1/WABE had a relatively weak 2012 but jumped 33 percent year over year to a 3.2 share. (Especially impressive: a 5.6 share in the mornings, up from 3.8 share in 2012.) All News 106.7 improved from 1.2 share in 2012 after it started to a 1.65 share last year. Talk station 640/WGST-AM, which returned midyear after a brief swap to Hispanic sports, saw its ratings slide to a tiny 0.1 share after averaging a 1.2 share in 2012. WAOK-AM improved to a 0.59 share from 0.43.
Country: This was an excellent year for all country stations in the area. Kicks 101.5 remained the top country station, averaging a 4.23 share, up 9 percent. 94.9/The Bull was up 17 percent and closed the gap with a 4.02 share in 2013. South 107.1 jumped from 0.63 to 0.9. WNGC in Athens moved up from 0.46 to 0.53. So country stations encompassed nearly a 10 share overall, up from a collective 8 share in 2012.
Rock: A lot of change happened in formats year over year with Dave, Project and the Bone disappearing and Radio arriving. The two stations that didn't change formats both benefited from all the turmoil. 97.1/The River grew 33 percent year over year to a 5.77 share, jumping to sixth place overall. Rock 100.5 also jumped a third, from a 1.53 share to a 2.05 share. (The Regular Guys saw its 25-54 numbers fall but 18-34 share jump sharply.) Radio 105.7 averaged a 3.5 share, better than how 92.9/Dave FM did and comparable to how Project performed before its death.
Christian: While country music grew sharply, 2013 was a tough year for Christian stations. Praise fell 21 percent year over year from 4.2 to a 3.4 share. In 2011, the station averaged a 5.8 share. That's a two-year decline of 42 percent. Fish 104.7 slipped from 4.4 to a 4.1 share. Joy 93.3 slipped from 0.83 to a 0.46.
Sports: The arrival of 92.9/The Game took audience away from the two other stations. 680/The Fan (with a 93.7 FM simulcast) remained the leader of the pack, falling 10 percent year over year to an average of a 1.87 share from a 2.08 share. 92.9/The Game averaged a 0.81 share in its first full year, ahead of 790/The Zone's 0.59. That's a drop of 32 percent for the Zone, which suffers from a lack of an FM signal and lost its morning show midyear.
Hispanic: El Patron moved up from a 2.08 share to a 2.32 share. Its target demo 18-34 saw a much bigger jump: from a 3.3 share to a 5.2 share. La Raza 102.3 fell from 0.59 to a 0.43.
Atlanta -based Cox Media Group, which includes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns Kiss, WSB, B98.5 and The River.
Here are the top 30 Atlanta radio stations, based on the average share over the first 48 weeks of 2012 for all listeners ages 6 and up. (The final four weeks are generally not taken seriously since so many people are on vacation and listening habits are thrown off.) Stations generally do not measure themselves by overall audience but specific demographics, typically 25-54 and 18-34. Still, general numbers below give you a basic feel for what direction a station is going and where it ranks compared to all other stations in the market.
Rank, radio station, average share (rank and share in 2012)
1. V-103 7.8 (1. 9.08) year-over-year trend: down
2. WSB 6.95 (3. 6.72) trend: up
3. Majic 6.81 (4. 6.26) trend: up
4. Kiss 6.69 (2. 7.17) trend: down
5. B98.5 6.68 (6. 5.47) trend: up
6. River 5.78 (10. 4.34) trend: way up
7. Hot 4.86 (5. 5.54) trend: down
8. Q100 4.63 (8. 5.11) trend: down
9. Kicks 4.23 (12. 3.7) trend: up
10. Fish 4.09 (9. 4.39) trend: down
11. Star 4.08 (7. 5.16) trend: down
12. Bull 4.02 (14. 3.33) trend: up
13. Power 3.47 (13. 3.42) trend: apples to oranges since most of 2012 was Project. Overall, last four months while it was Power were stronger than this year)
14. Praise 3.43 (11. 4.23) trend: down
15. WABE 3.21 (16. 2.42) trend: up
16. Wild/Radio 105.7 3.07 (15. 3.03) trend: flat
17. El Patron 2.33 (17. 2.08) trend: up slightly
18. Rock 100.5 2.05 (21. 1.53) trend: up
19. The Fan 1.87 (17. 2.08) trend: down
20. All News 1.66 (20. 1.68) trend: flat
21. Streetz 1.44 (24. 0.97) trend: up
22. South 107.1 0.9 (25. 0.63) trend: up
23. 98.9/True Oldies (averaged for last three months when they were on air): 0.83
24. 92.9/The Game 0.8 (19. 1.75 including 9 months of Dave FM)
25. WCLK 0.71 (29. 0.5) trend: up
26. WAOK 0.61 (30. 0.46) trend: up
27. The Zone 0.59 (22. 1.17) trend: down
28. WNGC 0.52 (32. 0.28) trend: up
29. Joy 93.3 0.46 (25. 0.82) trend: down
30. La Raza 102.3 0.43 (26. 0.59) trend: down