|Although previously widely rumored, the replacements for Howard Stern have now been officially confirmed by Infinity.
Messrs. Roth and Carolla were widely speculated to be part of the Stern replacement plan, but Infinity CEO Joel Hollander kept mum about the news. Jimmy Kimmel, who currently hosts a late-night TV talk show for ABC, will be the creative director for The Adam Carolla Show and an adviser to Infinity. Three smaller markets will put in place Jack, Infinity’s trademark for a programming format that includes an eclectic DJ-free mix of music.
In addition to New York, Mr. Roth will broadcast in Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and West Palm Beach. Mr. Carolla will also be heard on Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego and San Francisco. Mr. Roth had been a regular contributor to Howard Stern’s show and rumored to be a replacement for as early as last spring. In July Mr. Stern spoofed a David Lee Roth takeover of his show, causing confusion for a few listeners who thought Mr. Stern had left early.
The remaining morning shows will go to a handful of other acts, including Rover, a personality already on Infinity stations in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, and The Junkies, an ensemble that has hosted shows in Baltimore and Washington. In San Francisco, KITS will introduce Morning Music Co-op, a music-based entertainment program that Infinity said will have minimal commercial interruption.
The replacements are part of a larger strategy from Infinity to flip several of its large-market stations -- four in the top five markets and seven in the top 10 -- to a talk format called Free FM, which Mr. Hollander called in a statement an "entertaining hybrid of provocative, political, pop culture, news, music and lifestyle formats.” Infinity stations in Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington were re-branded Free FM, and stations in Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco debut today as Free FM. In January, Infinity will flip Mr. Stern’s flagship station, WXRK-FM in New York, to Free FM.
Mr. Hollander, in a conference call anouncing the changes, called the move “a culmination of ten months work” and said it was the first time anyone can remember a single company replacing 27 morning shows at once.
“We realized it was a lot more than replacing 27 morning shows,” he said. “There were some broken formats.” The changes combine for a total of ten different solutions starting in January.
“Don’t underestimate the involvement of Jimmy Kimmel in ‘The Adam Carolla show,’” said Mr. Hollander. “One of the things he said to us was ‘There’s nobody developing talent in radio.’ … I’m fired up not for what he can do on the air but for his work behind the scenes. “
Rover, Mr. Hollander noted, is one of Infinity’s younger talents who, in Cleveland, has been approaching Stern-like ratings during the summer book. Rover and Carolla will help Infinity with its goal of aging down a few of its stations, Mr. Hollander said.
At one point the question and answer session was interrupted by a caller introduced as a reporter from Radio & Records. Instead, the voice on the line proved to be Beetlejuice, one of Mr. Stern’s regular personalities. “I’m Beetlejuice, I’m Beetlejuice,” he said, until Mr. Hollander asked the operator to get him off the line. “Typical Howard Stern prank,” Mr. Hollander said. Later, the Infinity CEO added: “I’m glad Howard thought this call was important enough to put on Beetlejuice. But one thing you can expect from Infinity is no 24-hour channel with farting and people with mental illnesses. You won’t get that here.”
Howard Stern’s two new Sirius radio channels have featured an array of Stern show personalities, such as “Wendy the Retard,” and stunts, including hours dedicated to airing the sounds of flatulence.
Mr. Stern is widely regarded as pioneering the talk FM radio show since he arrived at Infinity in 1986. The new formats have much to live up to; Mr. Stern was credited with bringing Infinity $100 million annually in ad revenue -- 5% of the radio group’s annual revenue.
The prevelance of talk
In the past year, talk stations have become ever more prevalent on the FM dial, as many radio programmers feel they’ve lost the musical edge to iPod, online music and satellite radio, all of which offer listeners a much greater inventory of music. Talk remains, many say, radio’s killer app.
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The complete list of Howard Stern markets, replacement talent and station format:
WXRK-FM New York, David Lee Roth/FREE* FM
KLLI-FM Dallas, David Lee Roth/FREE FM
WYSP-FM Philadelphia, David Lee Roth/FREE* FM
WBCN-FM Boston, David Lee Roth/Active Rock
WRKZ-FM Pittsburgh, David Lee Roth/Active Rock
WNCX-FM Cleveland, David Lee Roth/Classic Rock
WPBZ-FM West Palm Beach, David Lee Roth/Alternative Rock
KLSX-FM Los Angeles, Adam Carolla/FREE FM
KPLN-FM San Diego, Adam Carolla/FREE FM*
KZON-FM Phoenix, Adam Carolla/Alternative Rock
KUFO-FM Portland, Adam Carolla/Active Rock
KXTE-FM Las Vegas, Adam Carolla/Alternative Rock
WCKG-FM Chicago, Rover/FREE FM
WKRK-FM Detroit, Rover/FREE FM
WAQZ-FM Cincinnati, Rover/Alternative Rock
WMFS-FM Memphis, Rover/Alternative Rock
WZNE-FM Rochester, Rover/Alternative Rock
WJFK-FM Washington, The Junkies/FREE FM
WHFS-FM Baltimore, The Junkies/FREE FM/Alternative Rock
KITS-FM San Francisco, Morning Music Co-Op/Alternative Rock
KIKK-AM Houston, CNN Radio News
WBZZ-AM Tampa, Talk*
KHWD-FM Sacramento, JACK-FM*
WBUF-FM Buffalo, JACK-FM
KKDG-FM Fresno, JACK-FM
WOCL-FM Orlando, Drew and Mel/Alternative Rock
KXBT-FM Austin, Star & Buc Wild/Rhythmic CHR
* -- These stations as of today or some point in the future will undergo a format change.