To borrow a slogan from ABC television in the 1970s – unfortunately, when they canceled my favorite game show, “Split Second” – it’s a brand-new day on KFI (640 AM), and it all started January 3rd: Tim Conway made the announcement of the change on the last day of his old time slot, January 2nd at 7:00.
Some of the shows remain the same: “Wake Up Call” with Jennifer Jones Lee still starts the day at 5 a.m.; “Coast to Coast” with George Noory still ends the day at 10 p.m. But between the two some shows were shortened and times adjusted in order to launch the all-new “Later with Mo’ Kelly.”
More on that, um, later.
It could be said that the changes reflect a reality: In talk radio, longer shifts can be tough. I think even in music radio, four hours can be too long, especially if the show is entertainment-based. Perhaps that explains why so many morning shows repeat segments or even full hours rather than having new content throughout the morning. Three hours, in my opinion, is a much better program length, but I digress.
Bill Handel loses an hour and will be heard from 6-9 a.m. Gary and Shannon keep the same length but move up an hour, taking on 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Next is John and Ken 1-4 p.m., followed by Tim Conway 4-7 p.m; both also sans one hour each shift.
I had a chance to talk with Mo’Kelly, and he explains his new 4-7 p.m. show this way: “Think ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,’ but on the radio rather than television.” Rather than being issues-oriented like his old weekend show, he says this one will be entertaining. “Sure, a guest may want to talk about something political, and I’ll let them. But it’s not going to be a political show. It will be fun, joyous … hopefully magical.”
It’s definitely a gamble for the station, which just saw its ratings get high enough to be tied for the No. 2 station in the city. But it’s also been a while since any real changes have been made. By my count, no major changes have been made since 2013, the year Rush Limbaugh moved over to then-new KEIB (1150 AM), also in early January.
I have yet to reach KFI programmer Robin Bertolucci, but I can guess a major reason for the changes was making sure the station didn’t get stale, along with trying to make sure that its audience didn’t get too old. Just as KRTH (101.1 FM) has remained at the top of the ratings by constantly evolving to continually attract new listeners, KFI wants to make sure it doesn’t become what KABC (790 AM) had become: old and stale.
But to do it when they are nearly on top of the ratings? There has to be information Bertolucci has that I can only guess at. Yet I can guess: Most of the shows have not changed in years. John and Ken have been doing essentially the same show for about 30 years, for example, and moving earlier in the day may actually expose them to a newer audience. Conway seems an odd fit at his new time, but again: New audience, new potential. And Kelly? He’s been a wasted talent on the station for years; his new show gives him the chance to shine … and bring a whole new crop of listeners to talk radio.
So why didn’t KFI promote the heck out of these changes? They never do. KFI has always been run as a top-40 station that plays talk instead of music. It’s the station experience rather than any one host that has always gotten top billing. As it continues to evolve away from issues and politics and toward general entertainment — ironically the format that KABC ran when KFI did it — I can see it helping to keep talk radio viable. Certainly KABC — and KFI sister station KEIB — constantly prove one simple fact: That political talk as a full format is dead; both stations are consistently toward the bottom of the ratings lists.
The Greatest Ninths
K-Mozart (1260 AM, 105.1 HD2) will present what station owner Saul Levine calls the greatest Ninth Symphonies — the Schubert, the Mahler, and the Beethoven — beginning at 12 noon on January 15th.
Listeners have a chance to voice their opinion on the subject matter as well; during the presentations, votes will be taken via email for their own thoughts on the best of the three.
And as I visited the K-Mozart website – Mozart.com – I was reminded of Levine’s dedication to shelter animals … on the top of the page, as on all of his station websites, is a link for information on pet adoptions. Levine has been a proponent of shelter pet adoptions for many years, and that definitely continues into the new year. I like that.