Might a soft pop station pop up on Atlanta radio?


Credit: IHeartMedia

Credit: IHeartMedia

Could that be a Breeze coming our way?

Atlanta has not had a true soft pop station catering to older adults in nearly 15 years, since Lite 94.9 became a country station in 2006.

Many other markets in recent years have found success with the formula, from San Francisco to Miami. But for years, owners of Atlanta FM radio stations have avoided the option in part because there is a perception this particular audience is harder to sell to advertisers. I wrote about this in 2018, wondering if a soft rock station would ever come to pass here.

Star 94 tested the soft pop format last year before opting for dance pop instead.

But the pandemic, which has upended listening habits, may have changed attitudes. iHeartMedia, which owns several stations in this market — including country station 94.9/The Bull, hip-hop station 105.3/The Beat and Latin top 40 Z105.7 — has several “Breeze” stations nationwide that play “relaxing favorites” by the likes of the Lionel Richie, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton and Air Supply.

Radio Insight, an online news operation that covers the radio business, set off rumors recently that iHeart may soon change its foundering pop station Power 96.1 to 96.1/The Breeze. But iHeart also might place the Breeze on the weaker 96.7 signal, which is currently simulcasting the Latin music station Z105.7. That station largely covers the Southside of Atlanta.

Dan Hunt, Power and iHeartMedia brand coordinator and Power program director, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

A reader of this blog noticed that iHeartMedia registered several URLs on April 30, including thebreezeatl.com, 96breezeatl.com and 96thebreeze.com.

Just registering domain names doesn’t necessarily mean iHeart will use them, but they are considered breadcrumbs.

Curiously, iHeart also registered 96rockatl.com and atlantasrock.com.

This could be a feint or they could potentially place 96rock in some form on either 96.1 or 96.7. Or the company might simply place 96rock as a digital station on its app.

Before Power 96.1 arrived in 2012, the signal aired a popular rock station called 96rock for decades. That station was a baby-boomer favorite with companies today still selling 96rock paraphernalia 15 years after it disappeared off the airwaves. iHeart got rid of its lone Atlanta rock station, Alt 105.7, last year. (97.1/The River and Rock 100.5 are the current dominant rock stations in town.)

iHeart has a generic “Breeze” station on its app, with the voiceover between songs describing it as “refreshing” and “relaxing.” It recently played “Un-Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton, “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, “Baby Come Back” by Player, “See You Again” by Charlie Puth, “The Search is Over” by Survivor, “Breathe” by Faith Hill, “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel, “A Moment Like This” by Kelly Clarkson and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee.

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