Just hours from now, the infamous radio talk show hosts who got taken off the air for a controversial listener visit to a church...will be back on radio airwaves owned by the very same company that yanked them.
But unlike in six other markets, where the comparison is pretty easy to make - Opie and Anthony riding in like the cavalry from XM Satellite Radio to save CBS Radio from sub-1.0 ratings out of former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth - it's different here.
In Northeast Ohio, Roth's former home station - WNCX/98.5 - will move forward presumably with a local in-format-oriented morning drive show. Here, O&A's return puts them in their old time slot on their old station, give or take a format tweak or two.
Is WTAM/1100 afternoon motormouth Mike Trivisonno downing some extra Miller High Lifes tonight? Is he worried? Should he be? Well, this time around, nearly four years after O&A came in strong in afternoon drive ratings, and ended up even winning some battles in their short time on the radio...there are variables.
VARIABLE 1: They aren't live. Unlike 2002, listeners to 92.3 will hear what Opie and Anthony said a few hours ago...unlike anywhere in America. This may not seem like much, but it cuts Cleveland out of any live listener participation the show chooses to do. That is, unless listeners here catch the pair on XM in morning drive, or on the webcasts of their New York, Philadelphia or Dallas affiliates. (Oddly enough, XM itself will also be repeating the 3 hour CBS Radio-originated part of O&A's show...in the very same time slot WXRK will be airing it.)
And we're not even counting the possibility of podcasting - which CBS does currently for all of its "Free FM" shows. They may or may not with O&A, due to a previous XM deal with the folks at Audible.com.
We're not really familiar with how much listener participation O&A get in their various markets. We're just pointing out that this variable didn't exist at all in 2002, when O&A were live in afternoon drive and couldn't be heard elsewhere by Cleveland-area listeners.
VARIABLE 2: It's 2006. Do TODAY'S listeners remember O&A from when they were moving up the ratings on then-WXTM/92.3? They're getting some publicity, but is that enough to get back the people who flocked to them in 2002?
VARIABLE 3: Their home station has changed. Early this year, WXTM "Extreme Radio" morphed into WXRK "K-Rock". Has the demographic base changed to any degree for 92.3? Has it "grown up" with more older alt-rock titles, and could that actually play into the more "grown up" O&A show?
VARIABLE 4: And that brings us to another point. XM programming honcho Eric Logan has made a point of saying how much the show has "grown" in the past 18 months on the satellite service. The pair hasn't cursed nearly as much as they used to, says Logan, and he says the show is "better". (More on this in an FMQB.com interview with Logan.) Will it be the same kind of show O&A's old listeners expect, assuming they do find their way back to 92.3?
Whew, that's a lot of variables...and we're sure we've left out one or two, like how the shows competing against O&A here have changed. For one, it's now talk-heavy Maxwell doing WMMS' afternoon drive show, trying to hang onto some of those same in-demo listeners. And Triv's got a slightly different cast of supporting characters as well.
It'll be fun to watch, or listen to, at any rate. We wouldn't be surprised if O&A did well here again - there are still "WOW" bumper stickers on rusting cars all over Northeast Ohio. But we just can't sit here and say they're "headed for the top" in Cleveland, due to all of the above variables...