2021 wasn’t much of a year for RADIO WARS.
Because the various hosts at 97.5 the Fanatic and 94 WIP cleaned up their acts. They weren’t doing incredibly childish and stupid things, like accusing each other of using burner accounts or getting themselves suspended for creating fake characters and bringing them on the air.
We did have some minor flare ups, like when Joe DeCamara hung up on Howard Eskin, and when Anthony Gargano (the Cuz) ripped mysterious “thieves and glommers” on the midday show. Mike Missanelli and John Kincade did some low key sniping, but avoided a larger conflict, while 94 WIP brought in a new Program Director after Spike Eskin moved to WFAN to replace Mark Chernoff.
It was somewhat of a transitional RADIO WARS year. It was a time of peace, with guerilla movements and other positional jockeying, absent the scurrilous allegations of years past. What will 2022 bring? Are we headed for renewed conflict, or does the terrestrial radio boat remain steady, without rocking?
Here are five stories we’re keeping an eye on this year:
1. Who replaces Angelo Cataldi? And does he actually retire?
As you know, Angelo Cataldi announced a few months back that he will be retiring in December of 2022. We’ve got 12 months to go.
I have a running bet with another writer at a local media outlet. If Angelo retires when he actually says he’s going to retire, then that person buys me lunch. But if Angelo pushes his retirement date back to 2023, I’m buying that person lunch. Personally, I think I’m winning this bet because Angelo is doing what amounts to a transitional exit from 94 WIP.* He is only going to be hosting the morning show Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, which gives WIP a buffer period to try new talent. My understanding is they are going to use these Wednesdays to try out a handful of candidates they like, and then make their decision.
Make no mistake; Angelo is still a cash cow for Audacy. We personally believe the show is terrible, but of course we credit Cataldi and his crew for building a successful and consistent brand. The morning show process over there is rock solid and churns along like a well-oiled machine. The powers that be are going to have to get it absolutely right when they pick a successor.
*but you never know, Angelo could come back for more, ala Ozzy Osbourne doing his first “No More Tours” tour in 1993 and then his second “No More Tours” tour in 2018
2. Is this the year Mikey Miss walks away?
At 97.5 the Fanatic, Mike Missanelli and Beasley brass agreed to a short-term contract extension after his previous contract was set to expire in December of 2022.
As we understand it, the ball is in Mike’s court here. What would he himself like to do in 2022? Does he want to continue in sports radio, or is he getting bored? Does he want to play golf and open a winery… outright?
That’s the gist of the story. Mike’s ratings aren’t what they used to be, but he is still a powerful 97.5 entity. He still makes money for Beasley. But there’s a macro-level search for direction here. There must be a declaration of intent and affirmation of interests. My personal opinion is that Mike sounds a little disinterested on the radio right now, and an amicable exit could be down the pike.
3. Can John Kincade continue to make morning gains?
John Kincade found his footing in 2021, building what we believe to be a solid morning show at 97.5 the Fanatic. Alongside Jamie Lynch, Bob Cooney, and Pat Egan, he’s designed a show that is short on callers and focuses more on straightforward roundtable discussion.
This has resulted in the Fanatic defeating WIP in several morning weeklies at the tail-end of 2021. It wasn’t enough to defeat Cataldi overall in the most-important demographic, but there’s enough of a foundation there to suggest that the Fanatic is in a good spot in the morning, and could chip away at WIP when Angelo does retire.
For some context here, Cataldi is consistently #2 in the morning, and only ranks behind Preston and Steve, who do astronomical numbers. We’re talking Howard Stern-esque. Ad rates aren’t set on weekly victories, but they can help identify trends on a smaller scale. It’s the larger “books” that matter, and Angelo will likely sweep the #2 spot this year unless Kincade’s crew continues to chew up more of the proverbial radio pie.
4. What is the extent of Rod Lakin’s involvement?
Rod Lakin replaced Spike Eskin as 94 WIP “Brand Manager” in 2021, which is a dumb name for somebody who is really a program director. Dunno what that’s all about. I think it’s because “brand” is a super popular buzz word these days, so they put it into these dudes’ titles.
We haven’t heard much from Lakin at this point, though Jeff Blumenthal did a good interview with him at The Philadelphia Business Journal, where he dropped this quote:
“Trying to replicate Angelo Cataldi is a failure strategy to begin with. So the job really is to create a product in the morning drive that can adhere to the standards that Angelo created. So that’s kind of job one. And in terms of looking around the [Philadelphia] market, I’m listening to a lot of different things. We have a great lineup at WIP with a lot of great internal people as well. So I’m just taking it all in. But to your question about the enormity of the responsibility? I don’t feel that. I feel like I have a responsibility to WIP to continue the great work that’s been done. And longterm, we have a long time to kind of build out this plan. And it’s an exciting opportunity for any programmer.”
The vibe I get is that Lakin isn’t really going to do much differently than what’s currently being done. Why would he? WIP makes money and wins books, which is what you’re looking for in a radio station. They didn’t bring him here to shake things up. He was brought here to keep steady the ship that Spike Eskin righted after Andy Bloom’s departure and the messy Josh Innes ending. Spike put together a winning lineup, so you aren’t fixing something that isn’t broken.
It’s interesting that both 94 WIP and 97.5 the Fanatic have relatively new PDs. Chuck D’Amico hasn’t been at the Fanatic very long, and came over from WMMR, so he was an existing Beasley guy. You see some forays into new media, like Youtube streams, and now Audacy allows you to go back through live audio on their website and app, but otherwise old school terrestrial radio still works in Philly.
5. Counting the stream
Crossing Broad got out of the ratings game over the last few years.
There are a few reasons for this. Nielsen is mostly a joke. The sample size is small and the technology is ancient (people meters). We also had mismatching stream and meter data, which meant that one station would report how many folks were listening via their phone or computer while the other didn’t. We also don’t have ratings information for Mike Missanelli’s NBC Sports Philadelphia simulcast or pageview numbers from the various 97.5 Youtube shows.
So it painted an incomplete picture.
However, both stations now wrap their stream and meter data into the Nielsen number. That means the data includes the old school signal and the digital listeners at the same time, so there’s a better idea of how many folks are actually listening. The data is still proprietary, and you have to pay to get it, so we need sources to leak it to us in order to analyze properly, but it might be worth giving this another shot in 2022. We’ll see. I need the raw numbers in front of me, not tidbits from people at each station who are trying to tell a lopsided story. Let Crossing Broad parse the data in a FAIR AND BALANCED way. #journalism #radiowars