High-definition radio hopes to make a big roar at auto show ’07

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By: Mike Austerman

On The RadioAmong the North American International Auto Show buzz this week, the backers of HD (high definition) radio have been marketing their product in full force to raise awareness of this still relatively young technology. A mobile HD radio promotion kicked off Wednesday at Cobo Center and will be up and running through the full run of the show. Now’s your chance to learn more about what many in the radio industry are hoping will be a savior for traditional broadcasters in their battle to keep the attention of listeners that increasingly get their music and information from other sources.

Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) also is going all out in the promotion of HD radio. Starting at 6 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Jan. 21, the Riff 2 digital-only side-band channel will move onto the main ’RIF analog frequency. This way, everyone with a regular FM radio can experience an eclectic mix of local artists, alternative, hiphop, punk and indie-rock hosted by Riff 2’s on-air staff, which includes Suzy Cole, Mark Pennington, Trey and Hightower.
The event, which I believe is a first for any station anywhere, will likely cause the ’Rif phone lines to light up with confused and/or shocked listeners.

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I received lots of e-mail this week asking for details on why Michelle McKormick was released from talk WKRK-FM (97.1) late last month. As has become the norm in radio, the only information provided officially is that she is no longer with the station.

However, reading between the lines, it appears that McKormick was simply the victim of continuing budget adjustments that have happened pretty much across the board at CBS Radio’s six area stations, which, along with WKRK, include news WWJ-AM (950), sports WXYT-AM (1270), smooth jazz WVMV-FM (98.7), country WYCD-FM (99.5), and classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3). Perhaps those cuts were made to help pay for the three-year renewal of the contract with the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings that will keep the games on WXYT as well as add a simulcast of all the games on WKRK. That news was finally made official this past week.

Also this week, WKRK producer Jessica Hall joined the ranks of the unemployed, and there also is word that some of the people you hear on the air at other local CBS radio outlets now work for a traffic service instead of being CBS employees.

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Comedian and former “Monday Night Football” commentator Dennis Miller has landed a gig with Westwood One to host a new three-hour radio show that will should debut in March. Westwood One is managed by none other than CBS Radio, leading to speculation that Miller’s new program is a strong candidate for a time slot on WKRK. Miller’s first foray into radio will offer his unique take on the day’s topics with comedy and satire along with calls from listeners and interviews with high-profile special guests.

In a release that won’t go over well with local radio fans who believe that our own WWJ was where broadcasting was truly born, Miller commented, “This seems like a great fit for me since I grew up in Pittsburgh, where broadcast radio was born. I always knew I would try radio, and right now seems like the perfect time. In a world where the stakes are high, the medium is a nice blend of the comfortable and the provocative. I look forward to working with Westwood One and soon being able to finally say aloud the words, ‘I’m up against a hard break.’”

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Satellite radio providers Sirius and XM released preliminary subscribers numbers for 2006, with XM claiming about 7.6 million subscribers and Sirius just more than 6 million. Sirius had a big edge over XM for the year though, adding 2.7 million net subscriptions compared with XM’s year-to-year gain of just fewer than 1.7 million.

The gain at Sirius resulted in a nice $83 million stock bonus for Howard Stern, who greatly increased the profile of Sirius when he signed on last January.

Both companies also claimed their first ever cash-positive quarters in the three months ending in December but still aren’t considered profitable because of all the losses incurred before then. Analysts also predict more quarters in the red financially for both satcasters, at least for the first
half of 2007.

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Sports WDFN-AM (1130) erected a new billboard along Interstate 75 near Eight Mile that features the phrase “Fire Millen,” referring, of course, to Detroit Lions President and CEO Matt Millen. Which begs the question, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make any noise?

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Condolences to news/talk WJR-AM (760) morning host Paul W. Smith on the death of his father, William, last Saturday at age 80 after a long illness. Paul W. must have had a trying week dealing with that while still keeping many of his commitments with WJR’s coverage of media week at the auto show.

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Set your dial: Talk/ethnic WNZK-AM (690) features “MetroChick Radio,” a program specifically geared toward “women in transition,” hosted by Lisa Marie. It airs 8-9 a.m. Wednesdays and is looking to also add a timeslot Friday mornings later this winter ... “Somewhere in Time” host Tom Wilson profiles the music of Cole Porter at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5).

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Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.

Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, January 14, 2007

 

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on January 14, 2007 9:48 AM.

West Michigan: Newsmakers Jan 14, 2007 was the previous entry in this blog.

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