Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com: Pete Spriggs (PD, left) said the new signal will help FM listeners to the west, northwest and south of the city
Photo: RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com: Pete Spriggs (PD, left) said the new signal will help FM listeners to the west, northwest and south of the city

EXCLUSIVE: WSB moves FM signal from Flowery Branch to East Atlanta

Change will boost signal for metro Atlanta

Originally posted Wednesday, July 31, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog, updated August 20, 2019

News/talk WSB has moved its 100,000-watt FM 95.5 signal from Flowery Branch to East Atlanta.

The change happened on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 9:10 a.m. There were a couple of minutes of silence and a few tweaks by engineers but otherwise, the transition went smoothly.  

It’s a major 45-mile move that weakens its pull in, say, Athens, but provides the 95.5 signal a major upgrade in places such as Douglasville, Griffin and Peachtree City. 

Folks in Toccoa, in Stephens County, have gone from a having a strong 95.5 signal to near static. But the reverse will be the case for residents of the more populous Carrollton in Carroll County. 

The signal is on the same tower as three powerful stations: news/talk 90.1/WABE, R&B/hip-hop station  V-103 and sister station B98.5, the adult pop station.

Pete Spriggs, program director, said in late July that the change could happen any time within the next two weeks. He is merely awaiting final clearance from the Federal Communications Commission. (It ended up taking about three weeks.)

He has already changed the station’s on-air descriptive from “News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB” to “95.5 WSB, Atlanta’s news and talk.” 

The removal of any reference to AM in the slogan is symbolic. The AM signal is not changing or going away. The new slogan reflects the reduced import of the AM signal for its listening audience and how the new FM signal will make that even more of a reality.

Spriggs said only 10 percent of its target 25-to-54-year-old audience now listens via AM. Nearly as many stream the station. 

“The AM signal is still extremely important and is considered the most historic radio signal in the Southeast,” Spriggs said. “But for marketing purposes, if I want a new listener to tune into my station, it’s going to be a lot easier to find us on the FM dial.”

The new signal, he said, is comparable to the 100,000 watt power of B98.5, which covers all 20 metro counties.
Below is the new coverage map with the inner circle providing a clear signal even inside buildings, the middle circle a so-so signal that is fine in cars and the outer fringe a marginal signal. For comparison, the former 95.5 signal’s coverage emanating out of Flowery Branch is below that one. 

The new map will cover a significantly bigger, denser population.

Currently, WSB’s AM 750 signal covers the entire metro area and at night, it can be heard in several states as one of the few “clear channel” signals in the country. But fewer and fewer people listen to AM in part because the sound quality is so poor.

WSB added its 95.5 FM signal in 2010 with management well aware at the time of the weakening hold AM was having on the Atlanta public. Cox, which owns the station, sacrificed its successful rhythmic top 40 station 95.5/The Beat for its higher revenue-producing news/talk station. 

In fact, once WSB added its FM simulcast, AM listening in Atlanta fell across the board, hastening ratings losses for sports station 790/The Zone (which became Korean talk a few years back), new/talk 640/WGST-AM (which now has negligible ratings) and urban talk station 1340/WAOK-AM (which was once a powerhouse urban station decades ago but isn’t doing much better than WGST.). Sports talk 680/The Fan added a transmitted signal at 93.7 FM in late 2010 for the same reason WSB did earlier that year and it has helped them stay competitive after 92.9 became sports talk the Game in 2012 while the Zone faded away. 

Despite its FM signal challenges in parts of metro Atlanta, WSB has been a No. 1 station in the Atlanta market for several years. It has ceded the top spot in recent months to Christian pop station 104.7/The Fish. 

WSB currently does not have much competition on the FM dial outside the two NPR stations (88.5/WRAS-FM and 90.1/WABE-FM) since Talk 106.7 switched to a Christian music format K-Love in June that now competes directly with the Fish. 

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About the Author

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