Nine months after adopting a radical new music format and ditching its on-air personalities, Jack 100.7 is ready to re-enter the morning radio show market with a stand-up comic at the microphone and plans to slowly recapture coveted advertising revenues.
“It’s a process,” said Tracy Johnson, vice president and general manager of KFMB-FM. “It takes a long time. We’re going to be patient in expecting results.”
Johnson said the eventual return of on-air personalities was part of the station’s plans all along and not in response to lost ratings and ad revenues. Regardless, Jack appears to be in store for an uphill battle because many listeners were turned off by the station’s new music format. The new format consists of a broad rock music mix of new and older songs that has been compared to an Apple iPod music shuffle.
“It has been my limited experience that the response to Jack has been fairly negative at least to the extent of our listener surveys,” said John Marks, program director for country radio station KSON 97.3 FM. “I think that the standard rule of thumb is a good morning radio show is really important, especially here. San Diego is one of the most competitive morning show radio markets. Because of that, the acceptance by the listener of a new morning show is going to be more slow and more deliberate than in other markets.”
Since the launch of Jack 100.7 in April, the station, which is owned by Chicago-based Midwest Television, Inc., has lost ratings to stations such as San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications’ Star 94.1, which not only picked up Jack’s former Star name, but also attracted the popular morning show team Jeff & Jer.
Growing On Listeners
Despite the struggles with morning drive ratings, Johnson still believes the format change was a good idea and is growing on listeners every day.
“We’re very pleased with everything that’s happened over the past few months,” Johnson said, noting that the station has seen rating gains everywhere but during the morning time.
Jack’s new morning show, “Monique & the Man” will debut Monday, Jan. 23. It will feature newcomer Monique Marvez paired with a former Star 100.7 afternoon team, Greg Simms and Sara Kiani. Marvez, a Miami native who has worked as a stand-up comic for about 15 years, was chosen for the show based on a radio show talent search that drew more than 500 applicants.
“There was only one who really stood out, and that was Monique,” Johnson said.
Marvez has had one prior radio host stint that mimicked the same woman vs. man routine she’ll follow in San Diego. Since the fall of 2003, she worked in Indianapolis for an adult-contemporary format station that recently switched to country.
Her humor is based largely on dating and relationships as well as pop culture observations; for those reasons, Marvez said she spends a significant amount of time off the air and offstage deliberately researching her surroundings for material.
“As a comic and a performer, I try to keep my act about the audience, not myself,” said Marvez, who has been dubbed the Latin Bette Midler by reviewers. “The materials have to be something that’s personal to them, something they care about. How conceited would it be for me to think all they want to do is hear about me and my life. I’m really not that interesting.”
As a stand-up, Marvez, who says her age is somewhere between Britney Spears and Jesus Christ, has traveled to Iraq to entertain U.S. troops and performed locally at the La Jolla Comedy Store and in Los Angeles at the famed Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard, where she performs with Hot Tamales Live, an all-female, all-Latin performance group. She is also married to a retired Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran and is eager to embrace San Diego’s military community.
“I think it will happen organically,” Marvez said, noting that she also hopes to create a strong Latino following.
Moonlighting In L.A.
Marvez has signed a three-year contract with Jack and plans to split her time between San Diego and Los Angeles, where she has a second job. In addition to playing radio host in San Diego, Marvez is in development to produce, write and star in a pilot for NBC that she insists will not interfere with her new radio assignment.
The pilot will be filmed this spring and is loosely based on Marvez’s life in Miami’s South Beach. Marvez said it’s a combination of “Sex and the City” and “Everybody Loves Raymond,” with a cast that includes a bunch of sassy girlfriends and a goofy father. The show’s working title is “Shore Thing” and could be shown on NBC as early as this fall, if the network likes the pilot.
“I wouldn’t say I was concerned, but I certainly had to take that into consideration,” said Johnson, who is Jack’s program director in addition to being the station’s general manager. “Without exception, the people I talked to said that Monique is happiest and at her best performancewise when she is doing several jobs at once.”
According to the most recent data available from New York-based media research engine Arbitron, Inc., between winter 2004 and this past summer, Jack has fallen from sixth to 12th place in the ratings game for the San Diego market. Fall numbers are expected this month, according to an Arbitron spokeswoman.
In order to aggressively compete with other morning shows and other forms of entertainment, Johnson said his marketing strategy for the “Monique & the Man” show is to be highly visible and active in the community with promotion events as soon as possible.
“We look at not just radio stations are as our competition but wherever people are getting their entertainment from, whether it’s radio or TV, iPods, the Internet it doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “Our priority right now is to get Monique very well established and we don’t know exactly how long that will take. But we know we need the morning show to take root before we even think about adding anyone else at a different time of day.”
Marks of KSON, which is owned by Greensboro, N.C.-based Jefferson-Pilot Communications, said that because KSON is one of two stations in town playing country music, his experience competing with Jack is limited. Yet all stations, regardless of format, have to watch out for one another to some extent.
“We do have a direct competitor,” Marks said. “We pay attention first and foremost to that, but we do understand that there are some listeners who are going to be interested in seeing what else is out there outside the country genre and for that reason have to include everyone when we’re thinking for the long term.”