Monday, March 9, 2009

Who's in Charge at CBS Radio?

By Tony Mazur

A couple of weeks ago, "Free FM" suffered its official, and, for some, long-anticipated demise. With Howard Stern leaving for Sirius Satellite Radio in 2005, CBS Radio had to fill in the cracks. In 2006, CBS unveiled their sure-fire format to give the middle finger to Howard: Hot Talk. All talk, all day.

Howard's old stations were split in three regional syndicates. Van Halen singer David Lee Roth took over the East Coast affiliates, Shane "Rover" French's Rover's Morning Glory had the Midwest region, and former Man Show and Loveline host Adam Carolla took over the West Coast stations. After a few months, the stations started to tank, and some changes needed to be made. All but three of Rover's stations (including WCKG in Chicago, his one-time flagship) dropped his show, and Roth was subsequently canceled in favor of XM's Opie & Anthony.

While there are still FM talk stations, by 2007, the Free FM moniker became a thing of the recent past. Most of them have since flipped to FM sports talk or CHR, aside from WJFK in Washington D.C., where it remains FM talk but does not have the "Free FM" branding. The final Free FM station changed formats in February 2009, when Los Angeles's KLSX (the former flagship home of Adam Carolla and Tom Leykis) flipped to a Top 40 format.

Gregg "Opie" Hughes has been hinting recently on The Opie & Anthony Show that WXRK (once known as WFNY, a Free FM station) will be canceling their show due to a format change, not because of low ratings. Indeed, the announcement was made that on March 11th at 3:00 PM ET, WXRK will become "92.3 Now", a Contemporary Hits format to compete with rival WHTZ.

The hot talk format, in my humble opinion, could have worked with the right promotion and marketing. However, it seemed like CBS preferred to send juvenile jabs to Stern and Mel Karmazin rather than making sales. Well, who's laughing now? Howard and Mel are counting their millions while CBS is firing people and flipping formats left and right.

CBS Radio has dropped the ball with this one once again. It's to the point that they could really care less about their programming. Rather than have a lineup of talented show hosts, it is much cheaper to throw a block of songs on shuffle, in no particular order. CBS is decaying and it's leading to the demise of terrestrial radio.

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