David Lee Roth predicted the demise of his low-rated radio show on Friday — and on Monday morning, CBS Radio and XM Satellite Radio ended speculation when they announced that, starting on Wednesday, XM’s “Opie & Anthony” show will be simulcast on CBS stations in place of Roth’s show.
“I was booted, tossed, and it’s going to cost somebody,” Roth said on his last show Friday, suggesting that CBS would be hearing from his lawyers in search of the full value of his reported $4 million contract.
Greg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia let the cat out of the bag on their Web site Friday as well. “Apparently we can talk about it now. So much for keeping a lid on this,” the duo posted Friday. “The ‘Opie & Anthony’ show will be replacing David Lee Roth in several markets on CBS Radio Free-FM stations.”
The move comes just two days before the release of Arbitron’s first official ratings book on Roth’s program, which will cover the first three months of his bid to replace Howard Stern in the New York, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and West Palm Beach, Florida, markets.
The XM/ CBS marriage marks the first major syndication deal with a satellite provider for a mass-market entertainment show, but more intriguingly, it has the radio giant rehiring the shock jocks it fired four years ago for a raunchy on-air stunt (see “David Lee Roth Reportedly Being Replaced By Opie & Anthony” ).
Opie and Anthony did an afternoon show on CBS’s predecessor, Infinity Broadcasting, but were booted after airing a tape of a couple allegedly having sex in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2002. They signed up with XM in August of 2004. The new gig will have them airing on both XM and the CBS stations for three hours every weekday morning from 6 a.m. to 9. a.m. (3-6 p.m. in Cleveland) and for an additional two hours after that, exclusively on XM. The XM broadcast will be uncensored, though XM spokesperson Nathaniel Brown said CBS has the option to censor the show in order to fit FCC guidelines. Financial terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.
“With the combination of XM and CBS Radio, we now have the best gig in the business. The ‘O&A’ show is going to be bigger and better than ever,” Hughes said in a statement.
At press time, CBS Radio spokespeople had not responded to MTV News’ requests for comment, but before Roth’s debut, Infinity Broadcasting President of Programming Rob Barnett said that it could take up to 18 months for the new host to get his footing (Infinity changed its named to CBS Radio late in 2005). “One programmer said to me if the Lord had replaced Howard Stern, the first 24 hours would produce nothing but negative comments,” Barnett joked late last year, saying the company planned to stick with the show as it developed an audience.
CBS Radio Chairman and CEO Joel Hollander made no mention of Roth in Monday’s press release. “Opie and Anthony have proven their determination to succeed in this business, and have a relationship with their audience that is second to none in the industry,” he said. “CBS Radio is well known for having among its portfolio some of the best brands in radio, and it’s great to have ‘O&A’ among that stable again. Loyal listeners of ‘O&A’ have grown accustomed to a show that’s real and entertaining. As we move forward, we do so with confidence that this new enterprise will continue in that same spirit.”
The move, however, hardly comes as a surprise. “Everybody knew this wasn’t working out,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of the talk-radio trade magazine Talkers. “You can’t blame CBS for saying it would stick with [Roth], but it was a bad mix: wrong guy, wrong job, wrong time.”
Harrison said he was not shocked that CBS re-hired a duo they fired just a few years ago, either. “It’s very common in radio for people to re-hire someone they let go,” he said. “Opie and Anthony have ratings in New York and a loyal following, and they know how to do the shock genre successfully, which not many people do.”
The move is also the first in what Harrison predicted could be a flood of “content-providing marriages” between the on-the-rise satellite business (which currently includes XM and its rival, the new home of Stern, Sirius) and traditional radio.
XM’s Brown called the deal “groundbreaking,” but said it would be decided on a case-by-case basis whether the terrestrial/satellite marriage would be part of a bigger strategy. “This happened because it was a case where it was clearly of huge benefit to CBS and XM and the content is well-suited for this market,” Brown said, adding that it is possible that ‘Opie & Anthony’ could be rolled out in more CBS Radio markets in the future.