Morning host Jason Bailey is out and former 790/The Zone afternoon host Mike Bell is in at 92.9/The Game.
Bell came on air at 3 p.m. today to announce his arrival. Starting Monday, Bell officially joins Carl Dukes and the show time will add an extra hour, ending at 7 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. The show will air from 2 to 7 p.m.
Up to this point, 92.9/The Game has failed to - or resisted - hiring any talent from 790/The Zone. (The 2 Live Stews anybody?)
Bell - who was on the Zone for 15 years until it dumped local programming in May - has been under contract with the station until December, 2015.
His agent Norm Schrutt was able to convince Zone owner Lincoln Financial to let Bell out of his non-compete clause in exchange for not having to pay him fully for another 17-plus months. "Lincoln was very fair," Schrutt said. "It took awhile but it works out well." (Schrutt also represents Carl Dukes.)
On air, Bell today discussed with Dukes about how the Braves' Dan Uggla was finally released. "We both got paid to do nothing!" Bell cracked. The show took calls from very excited, very happy callers, asking him to do signature voices such as the late Cubs announcer Harry Carey and wrestler Dusty Rhodes.
Bailey, who was there for just a year, will be replaced by Marc James, the new afternoon guy with Dukes the past two months since the Game hired James and Mark Zinno for nights at about the same time. (Zinno's show will run from 7 to 10 p.m. instead of 6 to 10 p.m.)
Bailey came from Florida last year, hoping his self-assured persona would click with the Atlanta audience. His boss Terry Foxx last fall said he hired Bailey because he's not just a sports guy - he's an entertainer first and foremost. "He's not a traditional host," Foxx said at the time. "He kind of lives on the edge."
Although the Game's ratings overall have been disappointing, you can't necessarily blame Bailey. Listenership for the morning show among 25 to 54 year olds is actually up 47 percent year over year. The previous show featuring Rick Kimla (now in mid days) with Randy Cross averaged a 0.75 rating over the first six months of 2013. Bailey with Cross helped improve that to a 1.1 rating for the first half of this year.
Besides Jamie Dukes, Randy Cross, CJ Simpson (since gone) and Mitch Evans, 92.9/The Game to date has largely hired on-air broadcasters with no Atlanta ties since it debuted in October, 2012. It has tried to differentiate itself by being live and local 24/7 and providing outsider perspectives. Unfortunately, this has failed to generate powerful ratings given its powerful 64,000 watt signal and remains behind dominant No. 1 sports talk station 680/The Fan, also heard on 93.7 on the FM dial.
But the station is making progress closing the gap with the Fan. As a whole, the Game averaged a 0.75 in overall listeners the first half of 2013 and is now up to a 1.1. I can't report the ratings for the Fan because they are not subscribers to Nielsen Audio but I can say that their ratings dropped by about the same amount. They still hold a decent lead over the Game.
The battle is by no means over between the two stations.
For the Zone, though, it probably is. The Zone, once a dominant revenue generator under Andrew Saltzman and Steven "Steak" Shapiro, is now the syndicated third-place option with no FM home. It slipped 36 percent year over year from a 0.67 rating in the first half of 2013 to a 0.43 the first half of 2014. The station in late May went to all syndicated ESPN programming, effectively surrendering the playing field to the Fan and the Game and signaling how AM radio continues to lose momentum.
Bailey, on his Facebook page, hasn't fully acknowledged his departure, instead posting comments such as "What will I do with myself over the next couple of months?" and "You know that feeling when you got it on the flop, lose it on the turn but know you got it on the river?"
In a text interview, Bailey said he was not surprised he didn't get a contract renewal. "I never fit in," he wrote. "What was the original plan was and where the show was going were two different things. I'll miss working with Randy every day and the listeners that I gained since I got there and a few others but all in all this is a good thing. The show was spinning wheels with no support or direction. I can leave saying I did my job."
Bailey wanted to do a "guy show that talked sports." He felt he could have used more time to build an even bigger audience than he brought. "Needed to reprogram the audience, which was not happening fast enough for them," he wrote.
Foxx didn't respond to a call and text for comment.
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