The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

18 January 2006

Radio Talker Glenn Beck Heads To CNN-HeadlineNews


Talk Radio's Beck Takes On Cable Television

Catching the industry by surprise, yesterday's announcement that radio talker Glenn Beck would join an increasingly crowded field of cable news hosts raises a number of questions.

The biggest: can he cut it on television?

Signing with CNN's Headline News, the conservative Beck is now primarily heard on Clear Channel Radio's owned and operated radio stations. After working in relative talk radio obscurity for some years, the company's Premiere Radio Networks arm took Beck national several years ago.

Since then, Beck's performance has been mixed, strong in some markets, weaker in others and not carried at all in several regions. In New England, the Northwest and elsewhere, Beck's name will not ring a bell for even the most dedicated talk radio fans.

In other areas, such as the South, he's built a substantial following. A particular strength has been in organizing well-attended promotional rallies in cities that carry his show, such as Dallas-Fort Worth, where he's heard on KLIF-AM.

Even so, he was pulled from Clear Channel's WGST/Atlanta last year and replaced with local programming. While there were rumblings he'd had a falling out with Clear Channel, last year he re-signed with Premiere for a multi-year deal.

Since then, Beck's been very low key, not especially active. Somewhat of a lone wolf, he's not commonly referenced in the blogosphere, or in conservative publications. Nor is he someone activists on the right feel the need to rally behind during controversies.

With that, some key questions regarding the new show:

--- Can he survive in television's most cutthroat programming niche? The Radio Equalizer believes it depends on the network, timeslot and expectations. Beck comes out ahead on all three.

Who really expects Headline News programs to get ratings? When they do, it's a nice plus, such Nancy Grace's now-loyal following. Beck can only improve upon what's now in the timeslot. You simply can't fault CNN for taking a risk, it's the right move for a little-watched channel now doing fairly well with talk programs.

If, for example, he'd been given a FOX News Channel show, that'd be a different story, as he'd have to keep up with the rest of the pack.

Wouldn't that be a tremendous hurdle to jump over?

--- Can he stay in control? Sometimes, Beck loses it on the air.

While it seems to be part of his act, television suits have thin skins. Some of his outbursts are Michael Savage-like in their intensity, such as when he pondered killing lefty film producer Michael Moore.

Actually, I've never heard Savage go that far, have you? And as you may remember, "The Savage Nation" host didn't last long on cable, did he?

---Does Beck have the talent for television? Possibly.

He's animated on the radio, with showmanship a big part of his on-air performance. If he's comfortable with the camera, he'll be able to pull it off.

--- Will viewers
bond with him? Unclear, we'll have to watch. Beck has a quirky act that takes time to grasp, which could hinder him on television, a less intimate medium than radio.

Very few make successful transitions from radio to television, so we'll be watching closely to see how Beck fares.

For other thoughts
about Beck's prospects, TVNewser has coverage here, as does Rich Glasgow's Isn't It Rich.

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  • >>In New England, the Northwest and elsewhere,

    Though he is on WGIR in Manchester, NH (also broadcasts in Rochester and
    Portsmouth areas); "the Zone" in the
    Burlington, VT, area; a few Maine stations...also in Western Mass.
    and New Haven CT but NOT Boston.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 19 January, 2006 03:30  

  • New Haven of course is WELI. Ironically, Glenn Beck used to be morning man at Top 40 WKCI-FM KC 101, "Connecticut's Number One Hit Music Station."

    The question is, will most of America know who he is? As you said some parts of the country, like Boston, do not air his radio program.

    Since WOR is being bantered about, I propose this--if you were given the reigns as PD of WOR, what would you do?

    Change the hosts?
    Change the format?
    Get rid of sports (Rutgers University athletics)?

    For me, I would start with a revamped WOR Morning Show (5-9 or 5-10), then follow up with Glen Beck or maybe Neal Boortz to finally give him a place in New York! (9-noon or 10-noon).

    Then O'Reilly (noon-3:00), followed by Clark Howard (3:00-6:00--sorry Tyler Florence--BACK TO FOOD NETWORK!).

    Keep Savage where he is (6-9). 9-midnight is a tossup as I am no fan of lib talker Lionel nor crazy stock dude Jim Cramer. Midnight to five Joey Reynlods.

    Give me a few weeks and I may have weekend programming taken care of.

    For top hour news--stuck between AP and Fox News Radio. No fan of CNN nor its radio imaging.

    Saturdays 10-1:00--Kim Komando--even though her daily tip features are on WCBS 880 with custom end tag!

    But perhaps on Sundays from 7-midnight, since WOR is a pioneer radio station, I would air "When Radio Was."

    This is the program looking back on the golden age of radio, which I have daubled in now and then. Stan Freberg hosts this show which can air for one hour M-F (on WBBM Chicago) or in packs. At one point, WICC in Bridgport aired WRW Sundays from 7-midnight.

    Another thing I would get rid of--Rutgers Athletics. Why air a mainly New Jersey college on a New York-based radio station?

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 19 January, 2006 22:30  

  • Glen Beck Techno:

    By Blogger joemama, at 06 May, 2006 00:45  

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