News Segment


February 28, 2006

In the year’s least surprising radio development, morning host David Lee Roth’s early ratings at WFNY (92.3 FM) have taken a steep drop from the heights of his predecessor, Howard Stern.

WFNY’s parent CBS says this is a valley it expected to enter while it rebuilds former Stern slots and stations, though some people in radio warn that it could signal a more serious problem.

It’s also unclear where displaced Stern listeners are going.

Arbitrend ratings released yesterday show that in January, Roth’s first month, WFNY’s morning share among its target audience of 18- to 34-year-olds fell from 13.8% to 1.3%.

Shares in other age groups dropped less drastically, and single-month numbers in radio, where ratings are done in three-month clusters, can show wide fluctuations. So CBS says it’s not worried.

“Everyone knew there would be a drop,” said Rob Barnett, president of programming at CBS Radio. “We’re starting a new radio station, introducing new personalities people are discovering every day, in a format that’s been very successful for us in other markets.

“This is just the beginning for this station and these hosts. We’ve said all along it’s an 18- to 24-month process and we would never judge any show by one 30-day [ratings report].”

Editor Michael Harrison of the trade magazine Talkers agreed it is too early to make any final assessment, but warned Roth’s task is daunting.

“Replacing Stern on the radio is like replacing John Lennon in the Beatles,” Harrison said. “And it’s even harder because Roth has no radio experience. The company went for celebrity.

“Can he succeed? It will be very difficult. He has to listen to people who’ll make him better.”

Adam Jacobson, daily news editor for the trade mag Radio & Records, was less diplomatic.

“This is perhaps one of the biggest and most high-profile failures in radio history,” he said. “These ratings show that all of New York has pretty much rejected Roth.”

As for where Stern listeners may have gone, the big gainer in January was WSKQ. Mike & Mike on WEPN also went up, while two potential beneficiaries, Curtis and Kuby on WABC and Star on WWPR, stayed flat.

Stern replacements in Chicago and Los Angeles, Rover and Adam Carolla, also fell sharply.

Elsewhere here, WLTW remained a dominant No. 1.

Courtesy of