Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 1, 2006
By: Mike Austerman
After several years of relative stability on the Detroit radio, 2005 saw enough changes to require a look into the crystal ball for 2006 to see if even more change is on the horizon.
Country music enjoyed a resurgence in listeners across the country last year — but was it enough to bring a second full-market country station to our area? There’s word that country radio might be making a comeback in Toronto. If that happens with any measure of success, I predict that a Windsor station will try on a 10-gallon hat and boots and give WYCD-FM (99.5) something to be concerned about.
It’s tough to write off a morning show before it even starts, but I don’t see Rover’s Morning Glory standing much of a chance as a replacement for Howard Stern on hot talk WKRK-FM (97.1). The WRIF-FM (101.1) morning duo of Drew and Mike are just too strong, coupled with having the advantage of being able to talk about the Pistons, Red Wings, and anything else local whenever they want.
By the end of 2006, listeners will have grown tired of ’80s rock and either WDRQ-FM (93.1) or WDTW-FM (106.7) will make a major change. I believe the ratings for both adult urban stations — WMXD-FM (92.3) and WDMK-FM (105.9) — will remain strong, led by morning show stars Steve Harvey and Tom Joyner, respectively.
I also can foresee big things from contemporary hits WKQI-FM (95.5); it’ll become the most-listened to station in Detroit this summer, knocking off news-talk WJR-AM (760). When that happens, there will be a lot of speculation about another station changing its format to compete, but that won’t happen until after Jan. 1, 2007.
Dick Purtan and Purtan’s People will set another record with next month’s Radiothon for the Salvation Bed & Bread Club, comfortably topping last year’s $1.7 million intake. And Purtan’s home, WOMC-FM (104.3), will continue to be one of America’s best-performing oldies stations anywhere.
I’m predicting a big year for High Definition radio after an agreement is reached with several automakers to include the new receivers as optional equipment on new cars. The price for after-market receivers will drop, getting more receivers into the hands of consumers. Every Michigan-based FM station will offer several different format choices locally on their HD stations, giving listeners more options than ever before. HD on AM won’t catch on as quickly though.
Satellite radio will still be talked about a lot, but with strong competition from HD radio, subscriber numbers won’t increase as dramatically as they have in previous years.
The crystal ball gets rather fuzzy when looking at the AM band. Two of the area’s most successful stations, WJR and all-news WWJ-AM (950), have no reason to shake things up, and many of the area’s other AM’s have found their niche and will likely stay the course in 2006. Salem Broadcasting, already owner of talk WDTK-AM (1400), is in the process of closing on the purchase of Christian WLQV-AM (1500) and might do something — possibly a swapping of formats between the two — once it takes control of ’LQV.
If there are shake ups in sports play-by-play, I’d suggest that either WXYT-AM (1270) or WDFN-AM (1130) might consider a different direction, but they’re just as likely to stick with their all-sports focus too. Radio Disney WFDF-AM (910) will get the rights to at least one of the area’s big sports teams as a way to generate interest for the station. Sports play-by-play will make other headlines as the Red Wings and Tigers deal with WXYT expires and the University of Michigan looks for a home for its football and basketball broadcasts.
All in all though, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot of big changes from your radio this year. While it’s fun to speculate sometimes, the truth is, most of what you hear coming from your radio these days is heavily studied and isn’t changed all that easily. Radio is big business, and changes only happen once the folks in charge are pretty certain that making a move will result in higher revenue and ratings. Here’s to a fun 2006 anyhow.
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The Doo Wop Show hits the Detroit Opera House on Saturday, with legendary jock and TV host Rockin’ Robin Seymour coming to town from California to host the event. The performers include Adam Wade, the Willows, the Falcons, the Impalas, Jimmy Charles, Mel Carter, Fred Johnson’s Marcels, Harvey Fuqua and the Moonglows. Tickets range from $23 to $58 and are available through Ticketmaster, (248) 645-6666 or www.ticketmaster.com.
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Set Your Dials: A perfect way to celebrate the New Year is with an evening of big band dance music from Lester Lanin. Tune in to “Somewhere in Time” at 6 p.m. tonight on WMUZ-FM (103.5).
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Columnist Mike Austerman has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.