In the middle of a Tuesday conference call announcing Infinity Broadcasting’s plans to replace Howard Stern, a familiar voice appeared: Beetlejuice, the diminutive, snaggle-toothed fixture from the shock jock’s nationally syndicated morning show.
He was quickly cut off, leaving Infinity Broadcasting Corp.’s chairman and CEO Joel Hollander to explain how the prank only demonstrated the significance of the company’s plans for a post-Stern existence — a radio world where rocker David Lee Roth and comedian Adam Carolla will take over 12 of Stern’s 27 Infinity markets.
“I’m glad Howard thinks this call is important enough to put on Beetlejuice,” Hollander said before lobbing a programming grenade at Stern’s satellite radio venture. “Infinity will have no 24-hour channels of farting.”
Infinity developed 10 replacement scenarios, from celebrities to sports talk to the DJ-free “Jack” format. Flamboyant former Van Halen frontman Roth debuts Jan. 3 on seven of its stations; the flagship WXRK-FM in New York, WBCN-FM in Boston, WYSP-FM in Philadelphia, WRKZ-FM in Pittsburgh, WNCX-FM in Cleveland, WPBZ-FM in West Palm Beach, Fla., and KLLI-FM in Dallas.
Roth appeared live on Stern’s show before the conference call, and the shock jock wished his successor well. It’s Roth’s first gig as a radio host.
Carolla, known for his comedy work on “The Man Show” and “Loveline,” takes over in Los Angeles (KLSX-FM), San Diego (KPLN-FM), Phoenix (KZON-FM), Portland (KUFO-FM) and Las Vegas (KXTE-FM). A virtual unknown, Ohio-based morning host Rover will relocate to Chicago. His show will also be carried in major markets like Detroit, Cincinnati and Memphis, Tenn.
The announcement was anticipated for a year since Stern announced his departure to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., where he received a $500 million contract to begin in January 2006. Stern boasted an audience of about 12 million and revenues of about $100 million from his morning FM show.
His last live radio show for Infinity is set for Dec. 16.
No overnight solutionsHollander declined to discuss how much Stern’s defection would cost Infinity in revenue, although he said some advertisers who avoided Stern — American Express and Mercedes Benz, for example — might sign on with the new shows. He said the company was taking a long-range view of its future.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said about the new lineups. “It’s going to be a 12-to-24-month period until you really see what the shakeout is going to be.”
Stern’s departure also led Infinity to launch new programming dubbed FREE FM, a talk format that began Tuesday in Philadelphia and San Diego. Another seven stations will eventually join the FREE FM brigade, including WXRK-FM in New York — long a mainstay of rock music in the nation’s No. 1 radio market.
K-Rock, as the station was known, will make the switch when Roth arrives.
According to Hollander, the decision to use multiple options in replacing the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” came after Infinity tried to lure Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” to move into radio.
“What Jon told us was to think about hiring multiple talents, not to try and hit a grand slam,” Hollander said.
Infinity stations in Sacramento, Buffalo, N.Y., and Fresno, Calif., will replace Stern by using the “Jack” format, which features an expanded play list of hundreds of songs — but no disc jockeys.
Washington-based morning hosts The Junkies will add Baltimore as an outlet, while WOCL-FM in Orlando will feature the team of Drew and Mel. KXBT-FM in Austin will air Star & Buc Wild.
Infinity, a unit of Viacom Inc., operates 178 stations nationally, the majority in the nation’s top 50 radio markets.