Rumor: is Warm 98.9 a front? Might 99X come back New Year’s Day?

99x logo 2011

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cumulus Atlanta uses its 98.9 transmitter signal like a spin-the-format wheel since it debuted in 2011.

Alternative rock. Active rock. A country/Christian hybrid. Oldies in two different incarnations. Plain old country.

So the fact Cumulus dumped Nash ICON last month for Christmas music was no surprise. Then it switched to Warm 98.9, an adult pop station format last Friday. But there is new speculation Warm is just a warm-up to the actual new format come January 1.

Radio Insight is pondering whether the long-dormant alternative rock station 99X is returning on New Year’s Day.

UPDATE: It’s true. Details here.

Here are clues why something is up:

– Sean Shannon, the market manager for Cumulus Atlanta (which owns other stations such as Q100, Kicks 101.5 and Rock 100.5), posted this on his Twitter account yesterday afternoon:

The hashtag #itswhatsnext is being Tweeted by several Cumulus employees such Q100’s Johnny O and Khristian, the traffic person on Q100 and Rock 100.5:

-And honestly, the Warm 98.9 website doesn’t even match up with what is being played on the station right now. It claims a “soft adult standards” format that features the likes of Air Supply, Celine Dion and Bread. In reality, it’s a Westwood One syndicated format playing ’80s to today but is far more upbeat. Shannon said it was a mistake, which makes no real sense in and of itself. And after five days, Cumulus hasn’t bothered to fix it if it really was a mistake.

-RadioInsight also said the long-dormant 99X Twitter feed had the hashtag as well though that appears to be gone. Cumulus has never relinquished the http://www.99x.com URL, using it now to direct listeners to Rock 100.5, which now has 99X’s call letters WNNX-FM.

99X has moved around over the years, from the powerhouse signal 99.7 (where Q100 is) to 100.5 to 97.9 to its final resting home at 98.9 before it disappeared in the fall of 2012. It’s been more than three years since 99X existed but by the time it died, it was a shadow of its former self.

The station was a phenomenon in the 1990s, one of the most popular alternative rock stations in the country when grunge was king and the Morning X team dominated. But as the 2000s and Limp Bizkit-style music prevailed, the station began losing steam. The Morning X went away in 2003, the audience splintered and went elsewhere and soon, Q100 was handed its stronger signal. And not too long after that, it was taken off the air completely and was “online” only. For a brief time, it was placed on Cumulus’ minor transmitter signals.

Now 99X might return yet again in shrunken form.

Or that too could be a feint. At this point, Cumulus might play polka or opera on that signal. Or whatever the bosses feel like using it for a few months.

UPDATE: Radio nerds at radiodiscussions.com think it’s possible Cumulus might re-brand Rock 100.5 as 99X and keep 98.9 as an AC station. That is plausible. Question: would they change the on-air staff? And how would the music lean? Honestly, Radio 105.7’s music format is not that far off what 99X might be now if it hadn’t gone away. It plays plenty of songs from 99X’s heyday from the 1990s and 2000s as well as alternative rock from today that fits in with Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers and 311 of yore.

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