Rev. Sharpton Launches National Radio Show
Al Sharpton Thinks He Can Pull It Off
Isn't it amazing to watch one liberal after another, lining up to take on conservative talk radio, even as the latest "progressive" offerings are busy falling apart?
There's something about a mindset that can really believe, despite any experience hosting talk shows, they can do what all the other liberals couldn't.
Reverend Al Sharpton's the latest to take the plunge, with immediate questions about his viability, or real future prospects.
When will one of these programs be launched due to market demand, rather than the host's major-league ego trip?
Sharpton, notorious New York liberal with a dubious background, now provides insight into the real reason for that otherwise pointless presidential campaign last year: publicity for this project.
As far back as February, 2004, Sharpton retained the services of the William Morris superagency, to fish around for media-related opportunities on television or radio. This move came almost immediately after the end of his candidacy.
Reality shows, movies, television dramas, radio, it didn't matter to Sharpton or the Morris agency, anything and everything would be well-received, according to the New York Daily News in March, 2004:
"I want to do TV and radio as long as it doesn't interfere with my charitable work," Sharpton said, calling in yesterday from L.A. where he was on the set of his Spike TV show "I Hate My Job."
But the Sharpton company marks the next big step for the former presidential candidate who earlier this year hired William Morris to field TV and radio offers. Sharpton's also being guided by his longtime spokeswoman Rachel Nordlinger and entertainment manager Bruce Charet.
William Morris has been holding talks with leading radio syndicators, including ABC Radio Networks, Premiere Radio networks and Westwood One as well as satellite radio company Sirius. The goal is to turn Sharpton into the Rush Limbaugh of the left.
When asked about the prospects of making serious money at this stage in his career, Sharpton said, "I certainly haven't made money before."
So what happened in the year to come? It appears that not much came of this exceptionally high profile effort, with New York's best talent agency in charge of the marketing effort.
If industry demand was high, he would have been scooped up by a syndicator straight away. One problem: the first thing these companies will tell you, is that for a show to go national, it needs to already be well-established on a flagship station.
It's not typical or considered smart to launch a national show from scratch, which has proven to be a big problem for Air America's programming: it wasn't road-tested.
Listener demand should be there first, then you launch the talk show. With lib talk, it's been ego-diving-in-head-first, then hoping for an audience later.
Sharpton has had to settle for little-known Matrix Media of Chicago, which has announced the program's launch without a single affiliate to start. It appears Sharpton will be hosting it from a studio location in New York City and could start out talking to the walls.
Matrix, in a statement, said they "hoped" to have a Chicago station soon. This is truly the cart before the horse. Also, they've given only a vague idea when it would start, being no more specific than later this summer.
If Sharpton could get stations, where would they be? Air America's lineup looks pretty much set for the time being. The afternoon drive timeslot chosen for Sharpton is especially crowded already.
Liberal talk stations are increasingly running shows from other networks, such as Jones Radio, but those schedules are filled up as well. Worse, we're no longer seeing many stations converting to the "progressive" format, after recent poor ratings results.
The best alternative then, would be ethnic, urban stations. Some run talk, music or a combination of both. But there aren't very many of these, with any substantial audience, outside of major cities. This won't give Sharpton much to work with.
How about Sharpton's own abilities? He feels he's been a guest enough times to have microphone exposure, but that's a whole different ballgame from hosting.
You're in the driver's seat and must employ not only rhetorical skills, but entertainment value, an ability to bond with listeners and energy every single day.
I've often watched celebrity talk shows fail, partly because the host has a million other things going on, that cause him or her to miss an excessive amount of time. That takes away momentum, even if you are finding an audience.
Sharpton is an engaging speaker, that will help him, but so was Mario Cuomo, who bombed in talk radio. That's just one element of many that are necessary to win at this game.
He sure isn't following what's going on in talk radio. Get a load of this Sharpton quote from John Mainelli's Post article:
Sharpton, who traveled to Mexico this week to lecture President Vicente Fox for saying Mexicans take jobs in the United States that "not even" blacks will do, says talk radio needs fresh blood.
"Talk radio is dominated by right-wingers," he said, "and we need someone on the other side who is balanced and can give a forum for everybody."
Al, did you hear about Air America, or any of the other liberal hosts who've been at this over a year? You are late to the party, pal.
The fact he was interested in doing any kind of TV or radio projects offered, tells me he doesn't have the particular passion for talk hosting needed, to pull this off. It needs to be in your blood.
The Radio Equalizer assessment is that the big players took a pass on Sharpton, even with William Morris involved, but that Al went ahead anyway. That's a sign the big guys didn't see the potential for the program to be successful.
I don't think he's going to like the result, because even if he turns out to be good, the effort appears doomed from the start.