Radio giant makes Whoopi

Clear Channel signs thesp for drive-time show

Radio has created some stars in the past few decades, but in general, stars don’t go to radio. But on July 31, Whoopi Goldberg will launch a four-hour daily drive-time show for Clear Channel.

Clear Channel Radio prexy-CEO John Hogan said the show will be made available to the company’s stations in the next few months, then to other stations through Premiere Radio Networks.

“She’s exactly what adult contemporary radio needs for the morning drive,” Hogan said. Morning-drive time has been a male bastion for years, which has helped drive away female listeners. Hogan and Goldberg acknowledged there is a need for a female voice and that women will be a target, but both emphasized that the goal is a large spectrum of listeners of both sexes, in various demos.

Broadcast from Manhattan, “Wake Up With Whoopi” will air live 5-9 a.m. in the Eastern time zone, while Hogan said stations in other zones can customize it (tape delayed or a combo of live-and-delayed) to their market.

The format will include daily topics, call-ins, guests and music. Clear Channel is not disclosing yet which stations will air the show, but Hogan said interest has been high and “a very top station in New York has committed, and that’s even before we’ve officially made the show available.”

Once stations are committed, Clear Channel will heavily market the show, providing materials to local stations via TV, outdoor, database and, of course, on-air marketing. Clear Channel, the nation’s biggest radio company, has five stations in the New York area, and all of them will potentially be promoting “Wake Up.”

Clear Channel has traditionally shied away from branding itself and from big-ticket personalities, preferring a more anonymous approach of developing niches, or formats, that it can then distribute across its many markets.

But the signing of a celeb like Goldberg suggests the company is paying attention to the splashy, nationally oriented branding of satellite radio, which has brought on the likes of Howard Stern, Martha Stewart and Bob Dylan in the hope of wooing subscribers.

Clear Channel also has shows featuring Donald Trump and Jesse Jackson. Those celebs, however, do not have daily shows.

Regarding new technology, Hogan said, “Whoopi is a great talent and we expect multiple delivery applications,” including cellular, online and digital, in a variety of formats — “whether it’s highlights or something more structured.”

“Whoopi relates to people in a very intimate way, one on one. And that’s the essence of radio. This is an opportunity to attract a wide variety of listeners,” Hogan said.

Goldberg said; “Howard Stern is one of a kind, there’s nobody like him. After people saw what Howard was able to do, many people tried to emulate him. With all that’s going on in the world, there’s a place for me on the radio, to offer up alternatives.”

She added, “I have a reputation for being political, but that’s only when something’s going on. Both (political) parties need to get back on track. I’ve never said, ‘Think as I think’; I want people to think for themselves. Presenting them with information is more interesting than presenting an agenda.”

Hogan shrugged off suggestions that Clear Channel has a conservative reputation, or that this would even be an issue.

Goldberg declined to talk money, but deadpanned in a sharp Brando imitation, “They made me an offer I can’t refuse.” She praised Clear Channel for allowing her to continue with her other activities, including acting and producing (such as her Nickelodeon series “Just for Kicks” and an upcoming gameshow, “Shop/Shop”). “I don’t sleep that much. I can put my energies out in the morning, and then do the rest of the things I need and want to do the rest of the day.”

Goldberg has always made unconventional choices, following her Oscar win with a stint on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” After winning an Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar, radio was the final frontier. “A lot of people will read things into this, I guess, but I’ve always done as I’ve pleased without worrying what others think. Radio is an arena I’ve never been in, and Clear Channel is being fantastic. In a career, who can ask for more than their freedom?”

The deal was spearheaded by William Morris Agency’s new radio division and attorney Bill Sobel.

(Steven Zeitchik in New York contributed to this report.)

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