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Viacom's Split a Topic at Advertising Week

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NEW YORK ( -- Infinity Radio has signed contracts with "five or six people" who will be used to replace departing shock jock Howard Stern in 41 markets, according to CEO Joel Hollander.
Photo: AP
Infinity Radio CEO Joel Hollander said Howard Stern would be replaced by a team rather than a single new show host.

Mr. Hollander, whose Infinity will soon become a bigger fish in a smaller pond under CBS, was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly as part of Advertising Week’s Ideas for Life keynote series.

Meanwhile, from the other side of the upcoming Viacom split, soon-to-be Viacom Inc. CEO Tom Freston appeared at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mixx conference to outline the importance of new media in his fast-growth plans.

Infinity's Hollander said his team began brainstorming Mr. Stern’s replacements starting back in December and that “we went to a lot of people from Jon Stewart to Whoopi Goldberg to Geraldo Rivera ... but we decided not to try to replace Howard with one person and try to hit a grand slam.”

Mr. Hollander declined to name the talent signed but said some of the media reports were accurate and some were not. Adam Carolla, David Lee Roth, Erich “Mancow” Muller, Danny Bonaduce and Jonathon Brandmeier have all been floated as potential replacements.

Mr. Stern's departure will have a financial impact, Mr. Hollander conceded, noting that the shock-jock provides about 5% of Infinity’s annual $2 billion in revenue.

The question-and-answer session was set at the Museum of Television and Radio in Midtown Manhattan. The two men have a business connection; Mr. Hollander helped sign Mr. O’Reilly to syndication on Westwood One.

Mr. O’Reilly took some time to offer up his own critique of the state of media and the transition toward a consumer-controlled world.

“The people who prosper during this kind of transition are the people who can get your attention,” he said, lauding Mr. Stern and Rush Limbaugh for transcending the media and making an emotional connection with their audience. “The network nightly newscasts are declining not because they’re any different than they were 30 years ago ... there isn’t anything in their presentation that stands out or gets your attention in the sense that it makes it appointment viewing.”

He went onto explain that Mr. Hollander has invested in such appointment viewing by landing show’s like The Radio Factor With Bill O'Reilly --“pretty much the only breakout radio show in the last four year, don’t know of any other,” Mr. O’Reilly said.

“Generic does not play,” he said. “All these great ad campaigns like 'Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should' are gone. You have to give a person a reason to care about your product.”

Freston keynote
Mr. Freston’s keynote appearance at the IAB’s Mixx conference underscores Viacom’s interest in new media opportunities. Interviewed by Charlie Rose on the stage of Hudson Theatre, he dubbed the digital revolution “a gift” to MTV Networks, and hailed multiplatform opportunities -- robust Web sites, broadband video and wireless -- a “supercharger for our growth.”

He highlighted online social networking as a key trend, noting that it’s much more prevalent in a market like Korea, where there’s 60% to 70% broadband penetration. He cited social-networking portal Cyworld, which claims to have signed up 25% of Korea’s population and 90% of Koreans in their 20s.

Added Mr. Rose: “Someone once told me, ‘If you want to see the future, go to Seoul, Korea, because the broadband penetration is so high.’”

Mr. Freston is banking on global growth -- including MTV’s presence in the fast growing China and India --to help fuel Viacom Inc.’s growth. And he’s not worried that without CBS’s clout the networks will lose distribution leverage.

“We can stand up to most distributors,” Mr. Freston said. “We’ve been thrown off before but it’s like getting thrown out of a bar -- you still get back in. ... P&G sells a lot of shampoo and they don’t own the stores.”

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