Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Why September 22nd Could Be A Big Day at Infinity/Cleveland

This little nugget, from dependable Chicago Sun-Times media columnist Robert Feder, caught the eye of OMW:

Mancow, Johnny B. could be on the move

The upshot in the column is that Infinity and Emmis are reportedly negotiating over a game of musical chairs among three of the Chicago market's bigger stations. If it all falls into place, it'd land WKQX/101.1/TRN FM morning host Erich "Mancow" Muller onto Infinity's hot talk WCKG/105.9, as the replacement for Howard Stern, who'd be pulled off WCKG and other Infinity stations on September 22nd (start of the Fall ratings period).

This move - the end of Stern's terrestrial radio run over three months before Stern joins Sirius Satellite Radio - has been speculated repeatedly by none other than the King of All Media himself. The theory, of course, is that Stern's affiliates would not be able to use his Fall 2005 ratings to sell spot time in January 2006, after he's gone. Feder's column also mentions another Chicago legendary host, Jonathan Brandmeier, but that part doesn't affect Cleveland.

No, what affects us here in Northeast Ohio is Infinity's reported willingness to shut down the Stern Machine at the start of the Fall 2005 ratings book, which puts a whole OTHER set of things into motion among Infinity's Cleveland market stations.

You might recall that WXTM/92.3 "Xtreme Radio" morning star "Rover" recently signed a new contract with Infinity. In that contract, it was actually spelled out that Infinity would syndicate his show, and he was expected to pick up many of the markets being vacated by Howard Stern. Infinity appears to have settled on a regional strategy to fill the Stern hole, with Rover, former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth and "Loveline" host Adam Carolla being mentioned in that mix.

Enter Mancow. According to the Feder column, if this all happens, the Cow would get "at least" 6 former Stern stations on his affiliate list.

You'll only need to look at a map to see how this spells trouble for Rover. Roth would likely get, in addition to Stern's flagship WKRK/New York, stations in markets like Philadelphia and Boston. Carolla would do a live west coast show out of KLSX/Los Angeles for markets like San Diego and Sacramento. And with Mancow in this mix now, he gets new home base WCKG/Chicago, and a half-dozen other Midwest markets.

Does the Cow push Rover out of markets like Detroit, Cincinnati and other major Midwest cities? Rover already airs, at last check, on two non-Stern Columbus and in Madison, Wisconsin. If Mancow makes this move, Rover can likely axe any hopes of being on in Chicago, and maybe other markets he thought he was ticketed for, when Stern ceases being heard on terrestrial radio.

Meanwhile, back at Infinity/Cleveland, is this speculation the reason we haven't heard JACK... er...JACK FM, that is...out of any of their local stations yet, despite industry rumors? Are they waiting to do it all at once if Stern's being pushed out of the Infinity fold a few months early? Is September 22nd the date to watch?

You make the call. We're just throwing stuff up against the OMW Wall again, seeing if any of it sticks. At least we're open about the speculation...

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