In my many years working in and observing the business of radio I have pretty much, done, experienced and seen it all. Yet, I was still struck in recent days at the miniscule level of discourse being afforded a key morning show personnel change at one of this town’s top stations, as Bill McAllister exited CBS sports juggernaut “The Ticket”. Far be it from me to question the move, although it does beg a bit of examination.
First of all, there is no denying that, love him or not, McAllister is a true broadcast talent. With CBS and previous iterations of WXYT-FM for more than a decade, he proved himself able to adapt and jive with a myriad of on-air co-hosts – from Jay Towers to Mike Stone – and formats – from music to sports. His true strengths lie in an uncanny knowledge of music and pop culture. And, having had the opportunity to guest with him on the music podcast, TrackAddicts, I can attest firsthand that he knows both well.
So what happened exactly? Why did we hear one week ago during the “Valenti and Foster” afternoon show that Jamie Samuelsen would be part of a new, revamped, all-sports morning program dubbed, “Jamie and Stoney”, which put McAllister out on the steet? There are a couple of theories to consider.
One is virtually every radio group’s #1 morning nemesis: WRIF’s “Dave & Chuck The Freak”. Their male-dominated, lewd, all-talk humor fest has proven too hot to dent for many. The Ticket often delved into similarly tasteless material albeit without the same level of crudeness. And if you can’t beat ’em at their own game, you alter the game plan and play to other strengths – in the Ticket’s case: sports.
Another theory has to do with a ratings system that the industry is still working to adapt to: The Portable People Meter (PPM). With this tool, programmers can view online at any broadcast moment, what listeners are responding well to (and continuing to listen) and what is not resonating (and resulting in tune out). So, this theory might follow, when the morning show talked sports (which it did on occasion) the PPMs showed that time spent listening went up, while, perhaps, non-sports talk was demonstrating more button pushing. And, thus, the decision to go ‘all sports all the time’.
Finally, while former sports/talker 105.1 was never a real factor in the ratings, they did eschew sports in recent weeks for classic hip hop. That move left crosstown WDFN (“The Fan”) as the only station in town focusing on sports in the morning. Why let that station get all the 105.1 fan fallout?
Only CBS knows for sure but no matter the true reasons or rationale, it is yet another example of how, in radio, talent does not always translate into longevity – at least not in one spot. Samuelsen is also great at what he does yet started elsewhere (at “The Fan”). He will thrive while McAllister will revive and survive somewhere else. In the end, this industry truly lives and dies not by the sword but by a little transmitter, worn by a very small sampling of listeners, recording, via soundwaves, who listens to what and when with the ‘why’ quite often a mystery.