The King of All Media is about to give up his throne to four guys from Prince George's County.
The Junkies, a group of boyhood pals from Bowie who yak about guy stuff -- wives and kids, sports, gambling and babes -- will move into Howard Stern's morning drive-time slot on WJFK-FM (106.7) when Stern leaves for satellite radio in January, sources say.
By anointing the Junkies as the station's morning team, WJFK and its corporate owner, Infinity Broadcasting, are handing over one of the most coveted and important slots in radio.
Stern, who broadcasts from New York, has been one of terrestrial radio's biggest stars for years, drawing about 12 million listeners nationwide a week and hundreds of millions of sponsors' dollars. Locally, his program accounted for about 25 percent of the $26.7 million that WJFK -- the region's third-largest station by revenue -- generated last year, according to BIA Financial Network, a Chantilly-based media advisory firm.
Morning drive -- roughly from 6 to 10 a.m. -- is the most competitive time period in radio, with the biggest audiences and advertising dollars and most colorful personalities.
How Infinity will replace Stern has been the subject of much speculation throughout the radio industry ever since the shock jock announced last October that he would move to Sirius Satellite Radio in 2006 as part of a reported five-year, $500 million deal. Company executives have said that several personalities, instead of just one, could succeed Stern on the 27 Infinity-owned stations that now carry him. Among others, Infinity has reportedly considered former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth, comedian Adam Carolla and shock jock Mancow Muller as replacements.
The Junkies are currently heard on WJFK immediately after Stern, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a time slot that typically attracts far fewer listeners than the rush-hour period. However, they have proved popular with male listeners -- Stern's crowd -- offering some continuity for the station once Stern is gone.
Infinity hasn't officially announced the Junkies as Stern's replacement locally; station officials declined to comment last week.
The Junkies -- John "Cakes" Auville, Eric Bickel, Jason Bishop and J.P. Flaim -- sound like four old buddies in their thirties shooting the breeze in a bar, which, minus the bar, is essentially what their program is. The foursome started with a public-access cable TV show in Prince George's County and were first heard on local radio as the Sports Junkies. They dropped the adjective a few years ago as their patter expanded to include their home lives (all four are married and have young children), their sexual fantasies, non-sports contests and sundry other topics.
Like Stern, the Junkies attract a mostly white, male audience. Stern's strength, however, is among a somewhat older crowd, typically age 25 to 54, while the Junkies' core listeners are in the 18-to-34 group.
The Junkies have had recent discussions with Infinity's chief rival, radio giant Clear Channel Communications, which owns eight stations in the Washington area. The talks appear to have come to little, in part because it was unclear where the Junkies might fit in. The most logical slot for their program was mornings for DC-101 (101.1 FM), but that time period is already occupied by Elliot Segal, whose "Elliot in the Morning" program has been one of the fastest-growing on the dial and targets the same listeners as the Junkies.
As WJFK's early-morning team, the Junkies will once again go head to head with Segal.
Segal and the Junkies were direct competitors when the Junkies occupied the morning slot on Infinity-owned WHFS-FM from late 2002 to early 2005. They largely split the young male audience before Infinity dropped WHFS's alternative rock format in January and moved the Junkies to middays on WJFK.