Monday, April 19, 2010

Star 94 for Pleasure & Pain

I like a lot of things about Star 94.  Its formatics and imaging are great, and its music has improved.  Their uphill ratings fight notwithstanding, Cindy & Ray do a good job in the morning.  Heather Branch and Darik Kristofer are solid performers.  And Chase Daniels is sounding absolutely great; what a terrific pickup he was.

Late last year, Star 94 moved in a decidedly Hot AC direction, a logical decision to separate itself from Q100, whose Bert Show has stonewalled Star's attempts at ratings gains.  However, Star 94 stopped a little short of the CHR/Hot AC border.  It switched out its American Top 40 CHR countdown for the Hot AC version.  Yet the station plays such songs as Baby by Justin Bieber (with Ludacris) and Kesha's Tick Tock, which makes me wonder why Star feels Jason Derulo and Jay Sean don't fit.  Even Rihanna's Rude Boy, which Star does not touch, seems acceptable for a CHR/Hot AC hybrid.

That all aside, I enjoy the station except for one show.  When it kicked off, I did not care for On-Air with Ryan Seacrest and made no secret of it in this column.  However, I am now finding listening to Seacrest absolutely painful.  It reminds me of the morning when I suddenly could no longer look at the scrambled eggs at the Oak Grove Market.

I am not into reading minds, and The Amazing Kreskin apparently has an unlisted number.  So I'm going to take some educated guesses.  Whatever Star 94 is paying to carry Seacrest has to be minimal so the idea of using the show to replace a live jock made economic sense.  But I think there was more to it than that.  For one thing, although Seacrest debuted in midday, where almost all stations air it, Star had determined the show's permanent slot would be afternoon drive.  Second, the station promoted Seacrest like he was the second coming of JoJo Morales.  Bottom line is I believe the Star 94 brain trust thought it had a big hit on its hands.  (How's the mind reading going so far?)

Several months ago, Star 94 made a notable adjustment.  It added the underutilized Chase Daniels from 4-8PM, pushing Ryan Seacrest back to noon-4.  Heather Branch and Darik Kristofer had their shows clipped to make room.  This signaled that Star 94 decided it was not so enthralled with Seacrest after all.  With the addition of Daniels, whatever little money Star is spending on Seacrest is now money that could be added to the bottom line; the station has enough full-time talent to cover the day without spending it.  The change also sent a message that Star 94 is poised to dump Seacrest without missing a beat.

With the "Gentlemen, start your engines" announcement having been read and the Star jocks holding their foot just above the pedal, how long will they be in this uncomfortable position?  Seacrest started on Star 94 last May so will the contract be up in a few weeks?  Or did the station's headiness about the show push Star to ink a longer deal?  And if that's the case, for how long are they stuck with Seacrest?  Let's hope it's the former for the station's good and for my listening pleasure.

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