There's been a lot of screwed up mornings for the commute into work since Howard Stern left in December.
And CBS Radio hasn't helped the process at all lately. Maybe now it's making corrections.
Looks like the David Lee Roth morning show debacle with CBS Radio on Free FM is finally about to end with "cringe" radio masters Opie & Anthony replacing Roth in seven markets. Perhaps before the end of the month. Of course, this car wreck of a radio show following the legacy of Howard Stern never should have happened in the first place.
Which means after a four-year exile, O&A return to broadcasting on public airwaves on the remnants of the old Howard Stern network, getting syndicated on 7 CBS Radio stations (their old employer) while continuing to broadcast on XM (reports are that they will do 3 hours on CBS Radio requiring adherance to FCC restrictions and then they'll walk over a couple of blocks to the NYC XM studios to do two more uncensored hours on XM only.
According to reports by the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), New York Post as well as trade papers Radio and Records, fmqb.com, Inside Radio, Billboard Radio Airplay and others, Roth -- after battling over creative control with CBS Radio management the entire run of his show -- may be out in a few days (although Roth didn't mention it this morning). Replacing him mornings on flagship radio station WFNY in New York (and syndicated on other CBS Radio East Coast stations) is reported to be Opie & Anthony. If the reports are true and David Lee Roth will be leaving, will DLR go out swinging?
Expect some explosive content before he goes (or at least major lawsuits)...
O&A have been on XM Radio for the past couple years after they got fired (well, banished is a better word) from broadcast radio after their infamous "Sex with Sam" in St. Patrick's Cathedral on-air stunt while doing afternoons on CBS Radio's WNEW when it was Hot Talk. If this happens, O&A would keep broadcasting their XM Radio broadcast High Voltage show, with the CBS Radio broadcast cleaned up for public airwaves and the XM show continuing edit-free.
This would make the first major show simulcast co-op between public broadcast "terrestrial" radio and satellite radio. The Wall Street Journal is reporting O&A "would promote XM on air to CBS's listeners"...something that was a definite no-no for Stern when he was preparing to leave. Instead of being able to say Sirius Radio, he had to say "eh-eh-eh".
I am a fan of Opie & Anthony. In fact, O&A attracts a crowd of fervent faithful listeners that never gave up on them, despite being forced to sit out the old CBS Radio contract from almost 2 years after their exile. They have many on-line forum chat sites (here and here) talking all things O&A. And their favorite midweek activity is still Whip Em Out Wednesdays.
Personally, I think David Lee Roth was a planned (and unproductive) trial balloon. Let's be real...the spotlight would have been on heavy for anyone attempting to fill in Howard Stern's shoes. And I don't care who you were...any replacement for Stern would have had less ratings. Howard was #1 in all his markets. No one walks in, takes Stern place and holds his ratings. So, if you are into playing chess, why not find a pawn like David Lee Roth and let him take the transitional heat replacing a legend. He knows how to be in the spotlight...let him be a wildcard. If he works, you get credited for being a genius. If not (which was predicted by most analysts), CBS Radio gets to say "Hey, at least we tried something different...since it didn't work, let's bring the former #1 afternoon show for men in New York and Boston."
I have to believe Opie & Anthony were always the insurance policy. Or maybe I'm giving them too much credit. Do any of us have reason to be cynical about corporate media?
Aware or not, what CBS Radio is doing is the first of what should be several major backtracks to correct previous mistakes, especially in New York City.
First, legendary Rock station WNEW switched to Hot Talk, completely mismanaging it (making it vulnerable to rising FCC concern with over-the-line crude content). The O&A scandal basically killed the hot talk format on WNEW, forcing several format changes (none of them found success). Then they starved their Alt Rock format KRock while losing Stern to Sirius, forcing another format change (to Free FM after Stern left). And last summer, they killed a still-popular WCBS Oldies 101FM (one of the first oldies stations in the country), replacing it for the tiresome, boring and failing Jack FM.
Morning radio -- when it's great -- is an intimate thing. You listen while starting your day -- when the alarm goes off, during the 3 S's (sh$%, shower and shave) and that long commute into work. We listen while we organize our thoughts, preparing for another day. We rely on great morning shows to entertain and inform us and maybe even be the funniest thing that happens to us for the day. Anytime we get screwed around with our morning listening habits and routines, it is really destablizing. We are forced into finding a new show and create a new relationship to fit our routine.
On the one hand, I applaud CBS Radio for willing to try something new with an eye to the future even if it kills off stations still generating strong affection from listeners in the present. Not an easy decision to do that because it is an easy way to invite criticism, making success more difficult.
Radio used to be the medium of experimentation. Fresh content ideas, formats, promotions and shows...usually radio would be the place where it would be tried first. Why? Because it's always been the easiest medium. Pre-production time and costs are minimal; for the most part, a new idea can be tried on-air simply by turning on the microphone and letting it happen. If it works, you know quickly by listener response. If it doesn't, fine...you dump it and move on with something else new. On NYC-based Free FM, there are several radio shows to check out: Elvis & JV middays and The Radio Chick afternoons are particularly great. The Booker Show evenings is hit & miss but at least tries to entertain while late night Jake and Jackie are the snarkiest of the bunch; both these shows have mastered podcast and MySpace self-promotion and listener viral buzz connections. Even the Penn Jillette and Jim Cramer one-hour weekday shows are at least worthwhile to check now and then.
So, CBS Radio deserves some credit for at least trying. Right? Right?
That's where I have to look at my other hand. Did they really try in mornings to make it work? Or is this just another example of corporate media manipulation? Was it an intended failure to bridge the gap and create some fall guy buffering? Although DLR's ego may have dinged up a bit, he still comes out on top: higher profile for his new CD countrifying classic Van Halen tracks; he has management to blame (while management can equally point the point finger back at DLR); and he still collects a sizeable chunk of that reported $4 million contract.
As for us: How many times have we -- as radio listeners -- invested our media entertainment commitments to shows only to have the corporate masters pull the plug or screw it up? How many times do radio and TV shows tease us, promote us, seduce us, hook us into a relationship that they ultimately walk away from, leaving us hanging and jilted?
Great...you're bringing back Opie & Anthony...and they'll stay for how long?...and do you think it will be sooner, later, or sooner than sooner that the FCC watchdogs will be setting up their Offensive Monitoring Brigade...and who thinks its an easy wager O&A will impact the content of the rest of the Free FM shows toward more boundary-crossing, meaning the FCC's Kevin Martin just got handed a new giftbag? And just who will pay that fine price?
Continuing Media Trend: Media manipulates its audience without care to consequences. Why? Because we let them.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Thursday, April 20, 2006,