Five RADIO WARS Stories We're Keeping an Eye on in 2024
2023 was an interesting year for RADIO WARS. There was no competition between 94 WIP and 97.5 the Fanatic, but the curious and newsworthy items instead took place off the airwaves and behind the scenes.
We saw the official departure of Angelo Cataldi, the debut of the reshuffled WIP lineup, and total ratings dominance coming out of 2400 Market St. At the same time, Audacy struggled financially, while 97.5 the Fanatic fell to its lowest point ever before taking Anthony Gargano to court. We then capped off the year with the surprise departure of Jon Marks, who was anchoring a wildly successful P.M. drive alongside Ike Reese and Jack Fritz.
Here are five RADIO WARS stories we’re keeping an eye on in 2024:
1. Who replaces Jon Marks?
Expect an announcement soon. The popular thought is that Fritz simply slides from the producer chair into the host role. That would be match Audacy’s recent strategy of promoting from within.
Note that Angelo Cataldi was replaced by the midday show, and the midday show was replaced by a combination of Joe Giglio and Hugh Douglas, so one internal promotion and one re-assignment within the company (Hugh was working at Audacy’s Atlanta station). The days of Audacy bringing in big, external names looks to be well over, as the company grapples with debt following delisting from the New York Stock Exchange.
And you know what? It might not matter, because WIP has been so dominant locally, that they may be able to slide anyone in Jon’s chair and continue to win big over 97.5 the Fanatic and The Best Show Ever?.
If Jack does get the gig, remember that he received an expanded role at the beginning of 2023, hosting around the Phillies schedule. If they do promote him, we’ll see how it affects his baseball duties.
2. Is Beasley ready to do… something? Anything?
It was a stale year for 97.5 the Fanatic, which got walloped in the ratings and lost Anthony Gargano and Devon Givens to All City. Sure, they won the legal battle, and Cuz has to sit out until April because of the non-compete clause in his contract, but that really did nothing meaningful for the Fanatic’s daily product offering. They’ve been having Andrew Salciunas run middays ever since, and while he initially did some 10 to 2 work with Jamie Lynch, Choonis has been working mostly with the Fanatic’s young and still relatively green staff.
That might change with Scott Masteller in the fold. He’s a radio programming veteran who essentially replaced Chuck D’Amico, who returned to WMMR to take over for the retiring Bill Weston.
I’m not totally sure about the extent of Masteller’s involvement. One person told me he was more of a remote consultant than a traditional P.D.,* but regardless, one of the ideas floated, we were told, was going back to four dayparts instead of three. For instance, some version of Kincade, Salciunas, a bridge show, and then Tyrone Johnson and Ricky Bottalico. Note that the Fanatic did this back in the day, with a nationally syndicated morning show, then Bruno and Mayes, then Marks and Brace, followed by Mike Missanelli. Something like that, with the midday show being broken up into two shows possibly, and then the afternoon show beginning at 3.
I’ll ask around to see if there’s a real possibility of that happening, or if it was simply an idea that had been floated.
Another thing to be aware of is that Beasley’s Philadelphia Vice President and Market Manager, Joe Bell, is close to retirement. The entire cluster of of WMMR, the Fanatic, XTU, MGK, Ben-FM, and WWDB will be under new leadership at some point in the near future.
Masteller has been consulting with The Fanatic since August, a year after he stepped away from his seven-year stint as program director at Hearst-owned WBAL News Radio in Baltimore. At WBAL, he constructed and managed broadcast partnerships for the Orioles, the Ravens and Navy Football while also overseeing the news operation.
“I really wasn’t looking to do this again,” he said. “Because it was Philly, because of my relationship with Joe and because of my past interest in the market and the radio station, it just kind of came together at the right time,” said Masteller, who will continue to live in Williamsport and spend time in Philadelphia as well.
3. Does Rhea Hughes have a WIP future?
The only morning show holdover at WIP is Rhea Hughes, not counting Joe Weachter, the program’s longtime producer, who works behind the scenes and is rarely, if ever, on the microphone.
If you’ve listened to the show over the past year or so, you’ve probably noticed the same thing I’ve noticed. Rhea does not play a significant role. She’s a marginal voice behind Joe DeCamara, Jon Ritchie, James Seltzer, and even Devan Kaney or the current sit-in guest (Ross Tucker, for instance). She was much more involved when Angelo Cataldi, Al Morganti, and Keith Jones were hosting the show.
It makes me wonder if WIP has plans for her beyond this current contract, which I believe ends sooner rather than later (will effort). Jonesy obviously took the Flyers gig and is no longer doing radio, but Morganti stuck around in a part time role, hosting with Rob Ellis and others on the weekends while filling in during the week as well. Is that something Hughes might end up doing? We’ll see.
4. Audacy’s bankruptcy filing might be a matter of when, and not if
It’s no secret that 94 WIP’s owner is struggling financially. Jon Marks broke it down on Crossing Broadcast (27:15) –
Audacy’s financial issues are no joke. They were booted from the NYSE despite doing a reverse stock split.
We got to experience the joy and pleasure of this first-hand, since my wife is a former CBS Radio employee who came over when the Entercom sale took place. She started with 192 shares of restricted stock (stock essentially granted to employees) worth about $900, and recently got rid of the four (!) remaining shares, at a loss. The value of the stock was actually worth less than the “reorganization” fees applied during the split, so she owed E*TRADE money, and went about asking them to waive the fee in order to sell the stock and close the account.
When reached for comment, my wife explained that she didn’t sell earlier because she kept thinking, quote, “it couldn’t get any worse.”
Well it got worse. Over five years, you can see the stock lost 99.89% of its value:
5. Mike Missanelli, still in the fold
Sources tell us that Mikey Miss is still in the mix for a radio return. We’re not ready to set the odds on an OUTRIGHT comeback, but discussions have taken place, and we’re not ruling anything out. It’s also worth noting that Mike has a strong relationship with Anthony Gargano, who is set to emerge from court-mandated hibernation in the spring.