DEC. 11, 2013 - ATLANTA - Miley Cyrus performing at the Power 96.1's Jingle Ball as a part of the national iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2013 Tour at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 11, 2013. The program director for Power, Rick Vaughn, was let go Dec. 31, 2013. (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)
Clear Channel Atlanta let go Rick Vaughn, the first program director for both Power 96.1 (debuted in late August 2012) and Radio 105.7 (debuted March, 2013), according to AllAccess. He lasted 16 months.
Vaughn is a top 40 specialist who ran those formats at successful pop stations in Hartford and Philadelphia before coming to Atlanta in August, 2012. How much real power he had here in the grand scheme of things at a company the size of Clear Channel is hard to ascertain from the outside. But the company has a reputation for top-down management.
His problem: neither station was performing as well in recent months as they had been in their initial months of existence.
Clear Channel dumped its rock station Project 9-6-1 last year to bring Atlanta top 40 in the form of Power. Vaughn was put in charge. His bosses spent a boatload on billboards and TV commercials, flew in Justin Bieber to headline its nationally branded Jingle Ball at Philips Arena. Ratings were solid the first few months, competing effectively with Q100 and Star 94. The station's sound has been assiduously younger and higher energy than its rivals. It plays its top 5 songs every two hours, more than any other station.
But it relied on a syndicated morning show led by Elvis Duran in New York (transferred from sister station Wild 105.7) which couldn't approach the Bert Show in popularity.
Ratings began to slide earlier this year and the station quickly settled in behind B98.5, Star and Q100. For nine consecutive months, it was even losing the 18 to 34 year old demo to Star, which skews older in its sound. Its numbers have been decent (the station finished 9th overall in 2013 among 18 to 23 year olds) but clearly, Clear Channel executives were expecting more.
When Vaughn arrived, he also ran Wild 105.7, a rhythmic top 40 that overlapped in its sound with Power. So Clear Channel decided to dump Wild and smartly fill the rock gap left by Dave and Project in March with a new alternative rock station. They inexplicably kept Vaughn as PD despite the fact he has no background in that format.
It worked surprisingly well. By June, Radio ranked an impressive sixth among 18 to 34 year olds and seventh among 25 to 54 year olds. But fans complained that the music mix became stale. By last month, the station had slipped to 13th in both demographics.
Given that this is Clear Channel Atlanta, it's impossible to say how much of these stations' issues stem from Vaughn's decision making. He is ultimately just another statistic.