Infinity firms post-Stern era

Carolla, Roth seque to biggest radio markets

Rocker David Lee Roth and comedian Adam Carolla will take over Howard Stern’s biggest markets when the shockjock jumps to Sirius Satellite Radio in January.

Infinity Broadcasting announced a broad strategy Tuesday to replace the “King of All Media” that includes the former Van Halen front man, “Loveline” co-host Carolla and a brand-new radio format it’s calling “Free FM.”

In all, Infinity announced 10 different formats and hosts for 27 Infinity stations as part of the plan to replace Stern, who leaves free radio for subscription-based satellite radio in December. Stern’s show will begin –without FCC restrictions — on Sirius in January.

Roth, who appeared on Stern’s show the morning of the announcement, will host an ayem drive show for Infinity in seven cities: New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and West Palm Beach, Fla.

“I have to be honest with you and tell you I hope you fail and drive more of my fans to satellite radio,” Stern said, gently ribbing Roth, who has spent the past few years working in New York City as an emergency medical technician.

Los Angeles-based Carolla, co-host with Dr. Drew Pinsky of the syndicated “Loveline,” takes on five markets: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Portland and Las Vegas.

In addition, Infinity signed Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” as a creative consultant for Carolla, as well as an adviser for Infinity. Carolla got his start in radio as a guest on KROQ’s “Kevin and Bean Show,” where Kimmel, too, was first noticed.

“Free FM” was described by Infinity CEO Joel Hollander as a “hybrid of provocative, political, pop culture, news, music and lifestyle formats” to replace “broken” classic rock and alternative formats.

In Stern’s remaining markets, Hollander named additional syndication for two current Infinity radio personalities.

Rover, currently heard in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, will take on Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, Cincinnati and Rochester, N.Y. The Junkies, who host a morning show in Washington, D.C., will add WHFS-FM in Baltimore.

Stern’s departure will set off a scramble to win some of the nearly 8 million people who tune in weekly to Stern, as well as the $100 million in advertising revenue his show generates for Infinity each year.

Hollander said the company has been working on a way to replace Stern for the past 10 months. The DJs announced Tuesday, including Roth, who has never hosted a radio show, and Rover, who is getting promoted into some big markets, represent big risks by the company.

“There are going to be a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacks on Jan. 4 saying it’s not working,” Hollander said. “But we want to be judged over 12-24 months, which we believe is a reasonable time period.”

Hollander said Infinity has set aside “a significant amount” to promote the new shows, in addition to the new “Free FM” format.

“With their resources, I’m sure they will be successful. However, you cannot deny that Howard’s departure is their loss as well as a loss for his terrestrial affiliates,” said Talkers magazine editor Michael Harrison.

Stern apparently couldn’t resist disrupting Infinity’s announcement. During a conference call, sidekick Beetlejuice posed as a reporter for Radio and Records magazine, but Hollander cut him off before he could ask his question.

“One thing you can count on is there won’t be a 24-hour channel of farting and people with mental disabilities,” Hollander said, taking a dig at Sirius, which will host two channels programmed by Stern starting in January.

Subscriptions to Sirius have been on the increase this fall in advance of Stern’s launch. The company captured 56% of retail sales of satellite radios in January against its much-larger competitor, XM Satellite Radio.

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