Friday, February 12, 2016

Indy Radio: Morning Show Wars Flare-Up

Kristi and Bob
Big changes for "The Bob & Tom Show" recently arrived in two jolts. A surprise came in November when 65-year-old co-founder Bob Kevoian announced he would retire at the end of the year. A shock followed two months later when news director Kristi Lee left the show, saying she planned to pursue “new opportunities.”

Just like that, reports the Indy Star, the National Radio Hall of Fame morning show fueled by funny banter, song parodies and guest comedians lost half of its cast. Co-founder Tom Griswold and sports director Chick McGee are left to beam "Bob & Tom" to more than 100 syndication affiliates from Indianapolis flagship station WFBQ 94.7 FM.

Morning radio shows are not merely competing against one another for listeners. Consumer options include streaming music from Pandora and Spotify, in-depth talk from podcasts, and nearly anything a listener could want from satellite radio and personalized smartphones.

WFBQ isn't the only Indianapolis station sorting out a new morning reality.

In the past year, two classic hip-hop stations and a country station launched in the market. New morning shows emerged at established stations WHHH 96.3 FM and WNTR 107.9 FM. The hosts at WNOW 100.9 FM are the same, but "Mornings with Kyle and Rachel" has been rebranded as "Wakin' Up."

Dave Smiley on WZPL 99.5 FM

The program on a hot streak of listener relatability, and possibly "Bob & Tom's" heir apparent for ratings dominance, is the "Smiley Morning Show" at Top 40 station WZPL 99.5 FM. Both shows follow a formula of strong on-air personalities who interact with listeners through phone calls and social media.

According to Nielsen Audio statistics for 6 to 10 a.m., "Smiley" ranked No. 1 among 18- to 34-year-old listeners during the second and third quarters of 2015. "Bob & Tom" placed first among 25- to 54-year-old listeners during the first and second quarters of 2015, with the third quarter being virtually a dead heat between "Bob & Tom" and "Smiley."

According to Sean Ross, vice president of music and programming for Edison Research, morning shows rely on fewer preprogrammed bits and fewer fake character voices than shows did 10 years ago.

Ross said hosts also are encouraged to reveal more about their off-air lives and to make "stars" of listeners.

"If there is some connection between the station and the listener, it's harder to write radio off as a utility," said Ross, editor of the Ross on Radio industry newsletter.

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Morning radio ratings

Below are Nielsen Audio audience rankings for 6 to 10 a.m. among Indianapolis radio listeners in the third quarter of 2015 (July through September).

25-54 year-old listeners:
1. "The Bob & Tom Show," WFBQ-FM (94.7).
2. "Smiley Morning Show," WZPL-FM (99.5).
3. "Sean Copeland," WYXB-FM (105.7).
4. "Mornings with Dave O'Brien," WLHK-FM (97.1).
5. "Greg Browning," WJJK-FM (104.5).

18-34 year-old listeners
1. "Smiley Morning Show," WZPL-FM (99.5).
2. "Mornings with Dave O'Brien," WLHK-FM (97.1).
3. "Sean Copeland," WYXB-FM (105.7).
4. "Jim, Deb and Kevin in the Morning," WFMS-FM (95.5).
5. "The Bob & Tom Show," WFBQ-FM (94.7).

Listeners ages 6 and older
1. "Tony Katz and the Morning News," WIBC-FM (93.1).
2. "Smiley Morning Show," WZPL-FM (99.5).
3. "The Bob & Tom Show," WFBQ-FM (94.7), and "Sean Copeland," WYXB-FM (105.7).
5. "Greg Browning," WJJK-FM (104.5), and "Mornings with Dave O'Brien," WLHK-FM (97.1).
7. "Jim, Deb and Kevin in the Morning," WFMS-FM (95.5), and "The Morning Mix," WNTR-FM (107.9).

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