By RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed January 5, 2015
Cindy Simmons is the first Atlanta radio casualty of 2015.
The Star 94 morning host, who started at the station in 2003 as an afternoon host with Ray Mariner and moved to mornings in 2009, was cut in favor of a brand new morning show consisting of two Charlotte personalities and a person from Philadelphia.
The newcomers are all identified by single names only in the press release: Drex, Cassiday and Tingle. So far, I've been able to ascertain two of their full names: Steve Tingle (real last name Tingle!) and Cassiday Proctor. (The show started on January 28. Details here.)
There was no specific starting date but it will debut sometime in mid to late January. The new morning show will run from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., an increasingly common time frame for morning shows nowadays vs. the old 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. paradigm.
Rob Stadler, who goes back to the 94Q days in the 1980s at the station, will remain as news announcer and Casey will still do traffic.
“Months of energy were spent to find the right combination of talent that packs the gear to do battle in Atlanta morning radio,” said Scott Lindy, director of operations for Star 94, in a press release. (I'm trying to get him on the phone as well.)
Drex and Cassiday come from top 40 station Kiss 95.1 in Charlotte and were together for what appears to almost three years with another morning host. (Cassiday on her Twitter page calls herself "Charlotte Media's Sassiest Redhead." Drex on his page says he drinks coffee and "attempts to say funny things on the radio.")
Tingle was part of a three-person team at dancier-leaning top 40 station Wired 96.5 in Philly with two people calling themselves Chunky and Ghia. (Tingle hasn't posted anyting on his Twitter page since Dec. 9 but already identifies his home city as Atlanta.)
"They're all smart people and savvy radio broadcasters," said Joel Denver, president of All Access Music Group, which follows the radio business. "They have an edge to them that's a more youthful sounding morning show than they've had in awhile. It'll be interesting to see if the chemistry in Atlanta will jibe."
Star 94's ratings have been drooping the past couple of years, falling behind the other three pop stations in town.
The morning show ratings have generally lagged the rest of the station ever since Steve & Vikki left the scene in 2007.
Cindy, with Ray, were highly successful as an afternoon team from 2003 to 2009. When they took over after the Morning Mess debacle in 2009, they did okay for a time but could never approach the ratings of Q100's Bert Show. Once Mariner was fired in 2012 for murky reasons, Star replaced him with Jimmy Alexander from D.C.
That experiment didn't even last two years after ratings failed to improve. Alexander was let go in November, leaving Cindy on her own for the final weeks of 2014 with her producer.
Cindy's contract runs through February. For many years, she was the lighthearted pop-culture obsessed foil to Ray. She is also a breast cancer survivor who spoke and wrote candidly about her struggles in 2011.
She never particularly liked me - especially after I reported about this in 2006.
Entercom recently purchased Lincoln's radio stations, including Star 94, but the deal has not closed yet. Whether Entercom's arrival will make change things is unclear at this point but the company has a good reputation within the radio business.
From a competitive standpoint, this new morning show certainly has an opportunity to build an audience if Star is willing and able to be patient and the chemistry works. Based on what I've seen in the past, brand new morning shows take at least 18 months to two years to show any real ratings traction.
The Bert Show on Q100 is now the standard bearer, coming to Atlanta nearly 14 years ago. They eventually knocked out Star's Steve & Vikki. Can another show eventually knock out Bert?
And what happened to Ray? He had a short stint in 2013 on 680/The Fan in an attempt to be a sports morning host, then found a program director job in New Orleans last spring.
In a Facebook exchange, Ray said he knew Drex and heard good things. "He's a great young guy and very talented with lots of passion for radio. He did very well in Charlotte at Kiss 95.1... His PD there, John Reynolds thought a lot of him!"
I'll update this as I get more information about the three radio personalities.