Sunday, April 29, 2007

I alone caused the downfall of CBS Radio

Pictured: Dan Ingram & Dan Taylor

It all started with me.

Several years ago I was doing weekly commentaries for WCBS Newsradio in New York. My unique humorous observations of the world – y’know, like the crap I post here. Then the ratings came out and we got crushed by sister station WINS. Thanks, little sis. They decided to take the station in a different direction -- away from me.

As has happened several times with prime time series I created and executive produced, I was canceled by CBS.

Whenever that occurred on the TV side CBS immediately began to flourish. Ratings went up, breakout shows emerged. Even Letterman’s ratings went up .000000001.

But on the radio side it’s a different story. Letting me go apparently has cursed the entire division.

First Howard Stern left, costing CBS 12,000,000 listeners and far more than that in revenue (rom $50.8 million to $18.7 million). Given an entire year to find a replacement they chose David Lee Roth, who was so bad and so hated that he was losing in the ratings to police calls.

Then came the staggeringly boneheaded decision to change WCBS-FM’s format from oldies to JACK. CBS-FM was an institution in Gotham, had great ratings, and made big profits. Now it’s down there in the ratings with AM stations at 1600 on the dial that play music from countries only cab drivers recognize. And financially it’s taken a bath. Why play the Beatles when they can play Flock of Seagulls?

Same story here in Chicago where they let a valuable franchise get away for a format whose name describes its ratings – JACK.

But at least CBS radio had Imus.

Oops.

And this time they don’t have a year to replace him. They have to do it now. Not too many thirty year seasoned radio performers with large loyal audiences out there. I wonder if they have a call in to Ted Nugent.

And to add insult to injury and Asians, two hilarious disc jockeys from another CBS station in New York were suspended for broadcasting a six minute crank call to a Chinese restaurant that was filled with ethnic and sexual slurs. Inspired stuff like “flied lice”. Oh, and not only did the station air it – they REPLAYED it.

CBS radio is in dire straights. I feel somewhat bad that I’m the cause of it. Of course I feel worse that there was not one letter of complaint when WCBS let me go.

I suppose if they hired me back that might break the curse. Getting better management and putting WCBS-FM back on the air might help too. Honestly, if I were CBS I would go with those last two suggestions first. It seems the other nine radio stations that fired my sorry ass during my checkered career didn’t suffer any ill effects. In fact, they’re doing better than CBS-TV. Hmmmmm?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I sold radio ad time in St. Louis, San Diego and L.A., and did a turn or two on the air in the same cities...

IMHO, CBS Radio has flogged the fun right out of their radio stations and deserves the red numbers on their balance sheets.

I bet most of the CBS radio sales people are just marking time until they can land a job in a medium that'll really make 'em money: television.

Radio's fertile ground is internet streaming by folks who 'get it' like Rich Brother Robbin (www.richbroradio.com), Ron Jacobs (coming this summer), and so many others.

Hrumpf

Anonymous said...

Ken,

Could you please continue your reign of terror by getting a job at Clear Channel? They are quite deserving of a downfall too.

Thanks,

The Listeners

Willy B. Good said...

I say give David lee Roth another go as in a few years he will look a dead ringer for Don Imus though good call for Ted Nugent as he has the looks and personality to go a long ways on radio or pro wrestling.

VP81955 said...

So WCBS-AM lost you, but gained John Sterling (when it acquired the Yankees radio rights).

Well, then, whatever bad karma they get (and, by extension, the entirety of CBS radio) serves them right, strictly on aesthetic grounds.

Mr. Hollywood said...

I worked at KNX/CBS Radio in LA from '68-'75, during years when they had just switched to the all-news format and were a GREAT station. Over the years I have watched and listened as they have sunk deeper and deeper into mediocrity. People I know who worked there have all left, all bemoaning the fact that the station has turned so bad. And the ratings mirror the poor on-air programming.
David Hall and Pat Duffy have turned a diamond into a zircon. Great work guys!

John said...

Well, CBS did replace Joel Hollander last month with former radio division guy Dan Mason. That doesn't mean the CBS Radio division will suddenly be nothing but rainbows and unicorns, but it was unlikely the previous arrogant jerk was going to admit changing to a format that cost WCBS-FM 55 percent of its billing income in one year ($18 million in real money) was going to admit he was wrong and change it back. If he did, Joel would be operating a profitable company like Coca-Cola.

Ken Houghton said...

I note (strictly for the record) that 1600 AM in NYC is the Air America station.

CBS-FM didn't have great ratings (profits are likely another question, since it was a very sellable Brand), which is part of the reason it was converted to being a Jack station. In fact, they had lost several people (notably Harry Harrison, and Cousin Bruc[i]e Morrow had been severely marginalized) in the previous few months, and their playlist had become more and more similar to the "classic rock" stations. (The 50s and early 60s songs, and most of the black artists, had virtually disappeared by the time it became Jack.)

There's a large, loud Nostalgia Base for WCBS-FM, but they're roughly like those who buy a ticker for a long-running Broadway show the week after the closing is announced: more comfortable that it's there than willing to actually deal with it.

Don't get me wrong: I miss the WCBS-FM of a few years ago. There should still be a place other than FUV or FMU where one can hear The Roots of Rap (i.e., doo-wop and soul). But WCBS was giving less and less of that anyway and when NEW and PLJ started played America and the other mid-70s CBS-territory songs as part of their rotation, CBS became less and less valuable.

Would love to see the Dans (Ingram and Taylor and Daniels) and Brucie and the 10a-2p Guy to whom I listened regularly for decades (kicking self for forgetting name) end up on some Satellite station, the way much of the old NEW/PIX crowd has ended up at FUV. Or maybe someone will actually start a Roots of Rap station that plays the Orioles, Flamingos, Sly and the Family Stone, etc.

But don't be nostalgic for CBS-FM, which imploded itself for a couple of years to allow JACK to take over.

Signed, More in Sorrow than in Anger

Scott said...

Ken,

Had I known it was you, I would've come after ya!
I wrote this back in June 2005:
I have to mention the demise of radio. Sure, sure we all know that radio sucks. But the final nail is in the coffin as of Friday night.



Here in NY we have a radio station called WCBS-FM 101.1. It has been an oldies station since 1972. I've been listening to it all my life. It's where I first heard "Stagger Lee", "Bring it on Home to me", "In the Still of the Night", "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", "Sincerely", "Down in the Jungle", "At the hop", and "He's a Rebel". It's where I learned all about Buddy, Chuck, Phil & Don, Fats, Jerry, Ben E., Eddie, and of course Elvis.



As of 5 pm on Friday the 2nd, it was cancelled. Gone. Like a flame in the wind. Snuffed out.

Without a word of notice to the fans, or the disc jockeys that had worked there for over 30 years.

Replaced by another 70s-00s music format. Big whoops. Now we only of 8 of those in NY.

No country stations, only 1 oldies station on Long Island (though it can't reach NYC).

Diversity is dead.



The preset are been reset in all the cars. Replace by Hot 97.

But CBS had been the last radio station that I remebered from my childhood.

DRE/LIR gone

WNEW (as a rock station) gone

WPLJ (as a rock station) gone

WCBS dead