One year later, ratings remain elusive for Johnny B.
One year ago this week, Jonathon Brandmeier joined news/talk WGN-AM (720), inheriting the morning mantle of the late Radio Hall of Famers Wally Phillips and Bob Collins, and accepting the huge challenge of reviving the Chicago Tribune’s 87-year-old radio flagship.
“This is the perfect home for me,” he told me on the eve of his debut. “It was one of the first things in my life that I didn’t have to overthink.”
But could he be having second thoughts now?
On the day Brandmeier started, WGN was ranked 16th in morning drive (with a 2.6 percent share) among listeners between the ages of 25 and 54. But after a brief initial upswing, the bottom dropped out. In the latest Arbitron Portable People Meter survey, WGN is tied for 25th in morning drive (with a 1.6 percent share) in the 25-to-54 “money demo” that translates directly into advertising revenue.
What happened? The most obvious answer is that Brandmeier and the station simply haven’t clicked. As popular and successful as he was in the ’80s and ’90s, his fast-paced and frenetic style may be out of synch with the expectations of WGN’s audience today. Ironically, he’s been sounding happier and more comfortable in recent weeks, especially since reuniting on the air with former newsman/sidekick Buzz Kilman.
Anything can happen in the coming months as Tribune Co. emerges from bankruptcy and, as many expect, it seeks a new owner for WGN. Since Brandmeier never got around to signing his contract with the station, sources said, there’s nothing to stop either side from calling it quits at any time. That’s not a prediction. Just a statement of fact.
I tried reaching out to Brandmeier and his bosses Wednesday, but didn’t get too far with them. I’ll keep you posted.
Covering the period from October 11 through November 7, here are Chicago’s top 10 stations during morning drive (6 to 10am Monday through Friday), followed by average share of listeners age 6 and older:
WBBM-AM (780)/WCFS-FM (105.9), Felicia Middlebrooks and Pat Cassidy, 6.5
WLS-AM (890), Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft (filling in for Don Wade and Roma), 6.1
WTMX-FM (101.9), Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart, 4.8
WGN-AM (720), Jonathon Brandmeier, 4.7
WPPN-FM (106.7), Cesar Osmar, 4.0
WDRV-FM (97.1), Steve Downes, 3.9
WOJO-FM (105.1), Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, 3.9
WVAZ-FM (102.7), Steve Harvey, 3.7
WUSN-FM (99.5), Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, 3.6
WSCR-AM (670), Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley, 3.3
Here are Chicago’s top 10 stations during morning drive, followed by average share of listeners between the ages of 25 and 54:
WTMX-FM (101.9), Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart, 6.6
WDRV-FM (97.1), Steve Downes, 5.3
WBBM-AM (780)/WCFS-FM (105.9), Felicia Middlebrooks and Pat Cassidy, 5.1
WOJO-FM (105.1), Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, 4.8
WLS-AM (890), Bruce Wolf and Dan Proft (filling in for Don Wade and Roma), 3.7
WSCR-AM (670), Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley, 3.5
WUSN-FM (99.5), Lisa Dent and Ramblin’ Ray Stevens, 3.5
WPPN-FM (106.7), Cesar Osmar, 3.4
WBBM-FM (96.3), J Niice (and formerly Julian Nieh), 3.3
And a five-way tie for 10th place:
WGCI-FM (107.5), Tony Sculfield, 2.9
WKSC-FM (103.5) Christopher “Brotha’ Fred” Frederick and Angi Taylor, 2.9
WLS-FM (94.7), Brant Miller, 2.9
WMVP-AM (1000), Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg, 2.9
WVAZ-FM (102.7), Steve Harvey, 2.9