Starting July 31, "Wake Up with Whoopi" will air on several of Clear Channel's adult contemporary stations, a genre that, while one of radio's most popular, tends to lag morning-drive ratings -- radio's most lucrative daypart. That's in part, said Clear Channel CEO John Hogan, because it lacked that "captivating, resonant, connecting personality."
He hopes Whoopi will be just that. In fact, Clear Channel is betting so much on her appeal that it's syndicating her through Premiere Radio Networks.
Ms. Goldberg called the move to radio "serendipity." After years on TV she was looking for a challenge, she said. The self-described Dick Wolf fan just wrapped a guest appearance on "Law & Order," where she played a villain -- "It's something I've been trying to do for 10 years" -- and has some production gigs brewing for Nickelodeon. Her studio will be in New York, but she'll broadcast remotely, she said, when she's working on location on a film.
"Radio is the one arena I've never played in," she said. "At this time in my life the offer given to me allows me to have my life and do the things I want to do and be on the radio in a new environment."
Mr. Hogan said the move is in no way a response to the satellite radio's stockpiling of high-profile hosts from outside the radio world. "What Whoopi wanted to do at this point in her career meshes really nicely with what we need in our careers, so to speak," he said. He sees Ms. Goldberg's appeal spanning genders and ages, adding: "We think the depth and breadth of her experience is tied to her ability to connect with people, and that's what great radio is all about."
Of course, industry watchers don't have to look far back at the disaster that was David Lee Roth to know it's not easy to take a famous personality from outside the radio business and expect them to thrive behind the mic. (Mr. Roth, a rock star, was tapped to replace Howard Stern in several markets on CBS Radio after the shock jock bolted to Sirius Satellite Radio.) Michael Harrison, who's followed the talk-radio industry for the past 15 years as the editor of Talkers magazine, said Ms. Goldberg will have to pull of one of her famous reinvention acts.
"The best stars for terrestrial radio are radio stars," he said. "She will have to reinvent herself as a radio star and build herself as a radio star from the ground up. ... That said, I would definitely say Whoopi Goldberg has a shot."
"We have found what we think is a very good programming solution for [adult contemporary] in the morning and we've found it with a person who can absolutely relate to an audience credibly and sell products in a fresh, unvarnished approach," said Kraig Kitchin, president-chief operating officer of Premiere.
"We need more women in syndicated programming," said Kim Vasey, director-radio at Mediaedge:cia. "I strongly believe in talk radio -- whether it's on the AM or FM dial and I'm sure Whoopi will bring some creative insights in artistry, social issues, music and will be an inspiration to all of her listeners... I'm sure she'll appeal to both men and women, alike.
Ms. Goldberg, who doesn't drink coffee, said she doesn't anticipate having problems with the schedule. "With the movies over the last 20 years my sleeping pattern is very odd -- you always have to be up at 4, in the car by 5 to be on the set by 6 a.m.," she said. "To get up at 4 is normal for me."