Merlin Media Ends FM News Operations in New York and Chicago. Industry watchers are beginning the post-mortem on Merlin Media’s all-news formats at WIQI, Chicago and WEMP, New York after yesterday’s announcement by the company that it is flipping the two signals to classic hits and alternative rock, respectively. In making the announcement, Merlin president Randy Michaels stated, “It was a difficult decision to make, but after a year of minimal audience engagement, coupled with the format’s inherent expense, I felt it was time to make a change.” Perhaps the most obvious challenge to the endeavor was the fact that in both Chicago and New York, Michaels’ stations were going up against entrenched news stations in markets that didn’t seem to be crying out for more radio news, primarily because they are already being served by well-respected and well-listened-to all-news outlets. WBBM-AM/FM, Chicago and WCBS and WINS in New York were tough opponents to challenge in the radio news game – not to mention the public radio stations in both markets that have loyal audiences and dedicate resources to covering local news. The ratings for the two stations seemed to bear that out. The initial concept of trying to reach women with a news product fell flat. TALKERS publisher Michael Harrison told the Chicago Tribune, “When you say, ‘This is for women and here’s what we’re talking about,’ it can come across as insulting. It’s presumptuous.” Harrison also told the paper, “To reinvent the wheel, when in fact the wheel is not broken, is difficult.” He said the station’s focus on stereotypically female topics like cooking, fashion and child rearing also turned off listeners. There are reports 27 staffers are out in Chicago with a similar number in New York, leaving a host of veteran radio news people looking for their next opportunity this morning. Meanwhile, another wrinkle to this story pertains to industry rumors and speculation that Merlin had plans to eventually morph its New York and possibly Chicago all-newsers into traditional news/talkers. The recent addition of Rush Limbaugh to Philadelphia property WWIQ after his departure from CBS Radio‘s WPHT had tongues wagging about the possibility of such a move happening in New York when Cumulus Media‘s contract with Premiere Networks for Limbaugh on WABC ends – especially with Cumulus developing Mike Huckabee (currently airing on crosstown competitor WOR) as a more “civil” alternative to Limbaugh. This brings up another question: Are the Merlin moves to music just a temporary measure?
Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk Draws Intense Traffic to Talkers.com; Testament to Sports Talk Format’s Popularity. The recently published Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk – The 100 Most Important Sports Talk Radio Hosts in America, has generated so much traffic to Talkers.com that – at times – navigation on the site slowed to a crawl, forcing the IT staff at Talkers.com to increase the site’s bandwidth to accommodate the visitors. This massive interest in America’s sports talk radio personalities is indicative of the format’s popularity with both consumers and from within the media industry. TALKERS VP/managing editor Kevin Casey states, “Sports talk radio is off-the-charts popular in so many markets across the country – reflecting the importance of sports in American popular culture. The interest in the Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk from people working within the business is one thing, but the attention from consumers of sports talk and the rabid sports blogosphere is astounding. The passion that exists for the format, the personalities, as well as the games and athletes themselves, shows why this talk radio genre is such an effective marketing tool for businesses at the local and national level.” The 2012 Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk can be found here.
Cumulus Media’s WPRO, Providence Names Craig Schwalb Program Director. Craig Schwalb comes to Cumulus Media’s news/talk WPRO and 99.7 (and sister WPRV) in Providence from SiriusXM where he served as senior director of talk programming. He’s also worked at WKRK, Detroit; WNEW, New York; WRBZ, Raleigh; and EZ Communications, St. Louis. He replaces Paul Giammarco who recently resigned from the station. Cumulus SVP Mike McVay states, “We are excited to have Craig join Cumulus. We want the freshest and best minds in the industry…and he is clearly among the best.” Speaking about his new opportunity, Schwalb says, “The chance to program one of the country’s legendary radio stations, complete with great talent, a great news presence and great influence in a terrific city was a no brainer for me and my family. I am looking forward to working with Providence market manager Barbara Haynes and of course John Dickey, Mike McVay, Jim Mahaney, and everyone at Cumulus.”
Recent Affiliate Adds Push America’s Radio News Network Past 300 Mark. In fact, when combined with the TRN/Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” program, the affiliate total jumps past 320 for the news programming offered by Talk Radio Network’s ARNN. The content syndicator notes that recent affiliate additions in Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Memphis; Ft. Myers/Naples; Charleston, South Carolina; and others for the five three-hour news block programs are indicative of the strong demand for quality news-oriented radio content.
Talk Host Andrew Wilkow to Host Prime Time Show on TheBlaze. The online TV network TheBlaze – a digital product of Glenn Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts company – announces SiriusXM talk personality Andrew Wilkow will host a new, one-hour news and talk show to debut later this summer. TheBlaze says the exact start date and the name of the program will be announced later. TheBlaze president and chief content officer Joel Cheatwood states, “TheBlaze is building a primetime lineup filled with both established talent and the voices of the future. Andrew Wilkow’s strong independence and ‘no sacred cows’ approach to the news, issues and events of the day are perfect fits for TheBlaze as we continue to expand our programming.” TheBlaze notes it already produces three hours of prime time shows including “the comedy news show ‘The B.S. of A,’ the reality show ‘Independence USA’ and other programming throughout the day led by Glenn’s show, the news show ‘Real News’ and the kid’s show ‘Liberty TreeHouse.’ The network airs over 35 hours of original programming per week and will soon provide video content on a 24/7 basis.”
Talk Icon Larry King’s Internet TV Show Debuts. Larry King’s new internet TV show – a 30–minute news and interview show – debuted last night with Seth McFarlane as his first guest. The program is a joint venture between Hulu and Ora TV. Ora TV is a digital venture being funded by Mexican media magnate Carlos Slim Helu. In a statement about the new program, Larry King says, “I have always been driven to innovate, from my time on radio, to the first call-in show on national television to being an early adopter of online columns and Twitter…I love being able to interact directly with audiences and digital TV allows me to do this in new and powerful ways.” This evening, King’s guest will be Meghan McCain with actor Matthew McConaughey on tap for Thursday’s show.
2012 Presidential Campaign, Summer Heatwave/Crops Threatened, Negative Economic Forecasts, Global Debt Crisis and Financial Markets Activity Among Top News/Talk Stories Yesterday (7/17). The 2012 presidential campaign; the nationwide summer heat wave and the threat to the corn and grains crops; negative economic forecasts; the global debt crisis and the financial markets activities were some of the most-talked-about stories on news/talk radio yesterday, according to ongoing research from TALKERS.