A radio tandem with an extensive national history have replaced local morning-show stalwarts when Citadel-operated Rock 107.5 FM (KHYT) pulled the plug on the Mike and Tyler morning show in favor of Opie and Anthony.
"We had an opportunity to put Opie and Anthony in the mornings. ... Right now, they're the most talked about and most influential radio show in America," said Citadel Tucson Market Manager Ken Kowalcek.
The morning-show tandem is perhaps best known for the Sex for Sam III event at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City in 2002. The heat that followed led then-employer Infinity Broadcasting to cancel the show. They remained under contract, but off the air, for the next two years. Once the deal with Infinity ran out, Opie and Anthony made the jump to XM Radio as one of the satellite provider's first exclusive content clients. However, the pair agreed to a terrestrial deal with CBS Radio in April that has since led to a nationwide affiliate base of 22 stations. Kowalcek suspects that tally could double by the end of the year.
"Our belief is that because they're so different and compelling, they'll be able to take us to probably No. 1 (with) men 25-54, adults 18-49 and probably within the Top 3 (with) adults 25-54. It was a tough choice, but we expect that morning show to be one of the top morning shows in the market pretty quickly, if we're like all these other markets. They've taken major markets like New York, Boston and San Francisco, and have moved them up to No. 1 or 2 in those demos in one rating period."
But herein lies the gamble: Is the Tucson radio market like those in New York, Boston and San Francisco, or does local talent win the ratings game? To date, it's been the latter. Syndicated morning radio has had a limited run in Tucson, and on every occasion, local teams have pulled better numbers.
During their first morning show stint with KLPX, Mike and Tyler regularly hammered Mark and Brian, a syndicated show broadcast on what was then The Hog, the classic rocker at 104.1 FM. But that was a decade ago, and this might act as a barometer in gauging the market's willingness to pay heed to national morning-drive programming.
"Whether they're out of New York or out of Tucson, if you put on a really, really good product, people are going to listen," Kowalcek said. "It's difficult in a market like Tucson to get that type of talent, because unless they're in Tucson for a lifestyle, they're in those major markets."
For Mike Rapp and Tim Tyler, it is the end of their second stint as a morning tandem in Tucson. They teamed for six highly successful years at KLPX FM 96.1, broke away from one another for five years and reunited three years ago on 107.5.
"(The show) was better actually the second time around," Tyler said. "We had been apart for that five years. He grew with his (KNST AM 790 morning) talk show, and I got out of radio and lived a different lifestyle and that sort of thing. The show kept getting bigger, but it was funny. As it got bigger, the ratings kept going down. God knows, I have no idea why that happened. We couldn't do anything about it, obviously."
The reunion indeed sparked interest and good ratings, but the numbers turned against Mike and Tyler during the course of the last year. "It's corporate radio in the 21st century, and you don't get a lot of time now," Tyler said. "A year ago, we were No. 1, and here we are now, and this last book that came out was abysmal. It was trending down for the past six to nine months. I felt that if it didn't get better pretty soon, (something might be up), but I thought we'd have a little longer time."
Rapp and Tyler remain employed with Citadel, perhaps some of that due to a three-year contract extension signed in mid-July. Tyler has been reassigned to middays on 107.5 while Rapp makes the move alongside Chuck Meyer as part of a news/talk morning show on 1290 AM The Source (KCUB), the station that also employs me for pregame and postgame UA football and basketball commentary. Betsy Bruce, another well-known figure in Tucson radio, will assist with news duties during the revamped morning show.
"If there's upside in this market, it's on 1290," Kowalcek said. "We're making a huge investment, and it's really moving that to a high-position radio station."
However, the moves on 1290 led to a parting of the ways with former morning show co-host Christine Lion.
"I was a little bit surprised," Lion said. "There was a buzz in the building that changes were in the works. Nobody knew exactly what was going on, but we had a sense there might be some changes coming down the pike."
Lion is pursuing possible options outside of Tucson, but says her overall marketability increased substantially by the virtue of her performance on 1290.
"To win the Arizona Associated Press Awards for Best Newscast in Arizona, Best Series and Best Enterprise News makes me extremely proud. With those things on my resume, I can write my own ticket, in a sense, more than I could before.
"I was really proud of the fact that I stepped up to the plate and for weeks wrote, produced and edited the news block by myself when my partner (Meyer) had a heart attack. I was a little shocked that considering how dedicated I was, that what was done was so suddenly done. I was assuming that because my contract was up, they took advantage of not having to find a place to put me."