Atlanta becomes a three-horse town

Matt Ryan
AP Photo/David Goldman, File

Today, the entire city of Atlanta is wrapped up in a T-SPLOST vote, which is guaranteed to shore up travel issues within the city and state, if you believe everything your politicians tell you.

But while the debate raged on, a different type of news broke when Rodney Ho of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported local radio station DAVE-FM has plans in place to switch from a rock station to sports-talk radio. It will be the third sports-talk radio station in Atlanta, joining 790 The Zone and 680 The Fan.

Located at 92.9 on the radio dial, DAVE-FM hasn’t said what their new station will be called or even who will comprise their daily rundown of sports-radio talent, but this is a huge step up for Atlanta’s status as a sports city. I inquired via Twitter to see if any other cities had three sports-talk radio stations, and was given a prompt answer:

The new station will be owned by CBS Radio, and it gives the city an opportunity to put more of their local legends on the airwaves. Atlanta is a sports Mecca of the South, and there exists a possibility to add a lot of Atlanta icons and sports media to the radio.

It will also force the other two sports stations to step up their game.

As a former employee of 790 The Zone, I want to tread lightly on the topic of competition. But I will say this — if they ever needed it to boost their ratings, 790 needs to make the jump to FM if they want to see their ratings stay competitive with two sports stations that have a clear FM signal. I rarely journey over to the AM dial (the signals are too weak and I can listen to 790 via their iPhone app), and since they picked up an FM signal, I listen to far more talk radio on 750 AM/95.5 FM than I have in the past. The younger demographic has proven to mimic that habit; 20-somethings just don’t listen to AM radio anymore.

790 The Zone has Falcons games, but their sister station, Star 94 FM, also carries the games. For this reason, I don’t see 790 getting an FM signal any time soon. They would be hurting Star 94’s ratings if listeners came back to 790 The Zone for Falcons games. On the other hand, the blueprint seems to have worked for the Braves, who still broadcast games on Rock 100.5 and 680 The Fan’s 93.7 FM frequency simultaneously.

The new sports station will have to wait to land a sports team on their airwaves, because every pro and major college team is currently under contract. It’ll mean a slow start for the new station, but expectations will be low, so they’ll have a chance to gather momentum and loyal listeners before they sign on to broadcast games for a franchise or multiple franchises.

It’s fun to talk hypotheticals, but it’s even more fun to imagine the future of Atlanta sports-talk radio featuring three competing stations.

Thankfully, we’ll experience that very soon.

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