"We have all the necessary elements for Infinity to continue as the major player in morning drive."


Just Like Howard Said, Several Stations Make Change Now, Others Ready for January As Part of Multi-Pronged Plan
As expected, Infinity Broadcasting today officially unveiled its “F. Howard Stern Policy,” which involves throwing a fancy new trademark and a handful of audience-proven funny dudes at the problem. Wait...did we say “F. Howard Stern Policy”? We meant “Howard Stern Replacement Strategy.” Yes, that’s what Infinity's calling it.

Stern, of course, announced last year that he is leaving FM radio for Sirius Satellite Radio at the end of this year, having made a deal that will reportedly see the satellite broadcaster spend $100 million per year on Stern and his show’s production. Stern telegraphed today's announcement on his show yesterday morning.

The newly unveiled Infinity strategy revolves around a new, trademarked radio format called “FREE FM” and the appointment of two new morning-drive personalities (one for each coast). When there is no more Stern, former Van Halen singer/current NYC Emergency Medical Technician David Lee Roth will wake New Yorkers up on WXRK, while “Loveline” and “Man Show” vet Adam Carolla will take the reins in Los Angeles on KLSX. Both will begin broadcasting on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006.

Both hosts will also be syndicated. Roth will also be heard on KLLI Dallas, WYSP Philadelphia, WBCN Boston, WRKZ Pittsburgh, WNCX Cleveland and WPBZ West Palm Beach, while Carolla will also go out on KIFR San Francisco (formerly KEAR), KPLN San Diego, KZON Phoenix, KUFO Portland and KXTE Las Vegas.

Additionally, Late night talk-show host/“Man Show” vet/Carolla pal Jimmy Kimmel has been named as creative consultant for “The Adam Carolla Show” and advisor for Infinity. Kimmel will assist in the development of new talent and show ideas for the Company, and make guest appearances on the program.

And as if that weren’t enough, Infinity has also hired Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame (he’s the talking one) to host of a live, one-hour talk show that will be featured on WXRK, WCKG Chicago, KIFR San Francisco, WJFK Washington, D.C., WKRK Detroit, KPLN San Diego, WHFS Baltimore and KSFN Las Vegas, all starting in January.

So, what is this new “FREE FM” trademark all about? (And perhaps more importantly, does it know JACK?) It would seem to either be a barb at the subscription fees charged by the satellite broadcasters or a tag alluding to FM's early free-form days, but Infinity Chairman/CEO Joel Hollander put it this way in a statement written especially for him by his publicist: “An entertaining hybrid of provocative political, pop culture, news, music and lifestyle formats, our next generation of FM stations will be personified by their conviction, passion, originality, fearlessness and innovation which is not heard anywhere else on the radio.”

“Infinity’s FREE FM stations will feature an eclectic mix of personalities, whose distinct creativity, perspective, sense of humor, intellect and unpredictability do not fall under the guiding principals of any particular narrowcast theme or ideology,” Hollander’s statement concludes.

Infinity says that KIFR San Francisco, WYSP Philadelphia and KPLN San Diego are converting immediately to "FREE FM" programming, which will offer listeners a combination of local and national personalities. Meanwhile, KLSX L.A., WCKG Chicago, KLLI Dallas, WJFK Washington, D.C., WKRK Detroit and WHFS Baltimore have all been re-branded as FREE FM stations as of today. New York flagship WXRK will debut the FREE FM format in conjunction with the premiere of "The David Lee Roth Show" in January.

In addition to Roth and Carolla, Infinity has developed a variety of other morning-drive options for the remaining Stern stations. These include Rover, currently heard on WXTM Cleveland and WAZU Columbus, who will add WCKG Chicago, WKRK Detroit, WAQZ Cincinnati, WMFS Memphis and WZNE Rochester to the list of stations broadcasting his “Morning Glory” show; WJFK’s The Junkies will also expand their lineup to include WHFS Baltimore; and KITS San Francisco will launch “Morning Music Co-Op,” which will feature alternative music and promises “unprecedented listener involvement and interaction and minimal commercial interruption," which will include “music-oriented town halls,” sponsorship of “locals-only” concerts, listener correspondents and other kinds of lefty/pinko hippie stuff you’d expect from the Bay Area.

Of the overall plan, Hollander observed through his publicist, “When we set out to find a replacement for Howard Stern we took the opportunity to cultivate a wide array of talent, from both in and out of the radio industry. With Roth, we’ve found someone who continues to evolve his career and deliver for his legion of fans. Adam’s depth of entertainment experience is unmatched in radio. And Jimmy has a proven track record of creating winning shows for both radio and television. Couple that with an impressive roster of emerging talent and formats and we have all the necessary elements for Infinity to continue as the major player in morning drive.”

Nicely put. Indeed all this would seem to demonstrate that if you just call yourself “King of All Media,” some may take you seriously, some may not. But if you call yourself “King of All Media” and the radio company that has syndicated you for years and reaped the benefit of your success has to scramble and hire a whole bunch of new people to figure out a meaningful way to replace you when you bail, maybe the title’s more appropriate than some may have thought.