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Two-Person PM Drive Shows: Doubling Up On Radio’s ‘Difference Makers.’


While not a new concept, a growing number of music stations are experimenting with two-person afternoon drive shows to increase audience engagement and deliver more of what sets radio apart. Within the past year or so afternoon personality teams have sprouted up in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Detroit across a range of formats.


L.A. has two, both on rock stations. “Sluggo & Kevin,” with Doug “Sluggo” Roberts and Kevin Ryder, both former KROQ-ers, has been heard from 3-7pm on Meruelo Media heritage rocker KLOS since February 2021. More recently, iHeartMedia’s “Alt 98.7” KYSR played matchmaker, adding Styrker (another ex-KROQ host) with Chris Booker as “Booker & Styrker.”


Last June, iHeart CHR “Z100” WHTZ New York paired Maxwell with Crystal Rosas for “Maxwell & Crystal.” One month later Rebekah “Bex” Maroun was added to afternoons at CHR sister “Q102” WIOQ Philadelphia, joining Brandon “Buster” Satterfield for the “Bex & Buster” show.


They joined WYCD Detroit’s “Coop & Sarah,” WXRK Ft. Myers’ “Stan and Haney” and others that have doubled up in afternoon drive.


“When you listen to these shows with multiple hosts, I think there's a certain level of energy and fun and infectious quality that that really elevates the overall brand at the station,” says iHeartMedia Chief Programming Officer Tom Poleman.


“Kevin & Sluggo” fulfills a programming dream Keith Cunningham has had since joining KLOS as Program Director in 2015. “I’ve always wanted to put a content-driven show on in afternoons that complements what we offer in the morning with ‘The Heidi and Frank Show’ but with some music,” he recalls. When Kevin Ryder was dumped by KROQ in March 2020 after 30 years in morning drive, most on the long running “Kevin & Bean Show,” Cunningham reached out.


‘They're Difference Makers.’


With listeners able to access the precise music mix they want anytime with few or no commercials, programmers say coupling personalities that click together and create compelling content helps radio differentiate itself from playlist services. “That's what we have that the streaming services don't – people,” says Ryan Castle, Brand Manager at Audacy rock KISW Seattle, where “The Men’s Room,” a four-hour talk show, has aired in afternoon drive since 2005. Miles Montgomery, Steve "The Thrill" Hill and "Thee" Ted Smith, with producer Mike Hawk, are typically No. 1 with men and adults. Castle says great talent possess the ability “to connect with the listener, to create more than just listeners, to create fans. Great personalities matter. Entertainers matter. They're difference makers,” he adds.


It’s a sentiment shared by programming execs. “What makes radio unique is that we're a social medium and our prime differentiator is our personalities and the companionship they provide in that connection,” says Poleman. “Increasingly, through the pandemic we saw this. But just in general, people have wanted to have that human connection. And you get that human connection more so when you have personalities that are able to focus on compelling content.”


Huge Cume Opportunity


In terms of audience flow and size, afternoon drive offers the same massive cume opportunity as morning drive. “We're mostly fighting for in-car moments and we're at a time when a lot of radio listeners know how to punch up a podcast or their other digital options in their car,” Cunningham notes. “What radio has to offer has to be just as compelling, if not more compelling, than the other options in the smart car or on the smartphone.”


Apart from KISW, these shows still pump out plenty of tunes while injecting more personality, more engagement, and more reasons to stick around in a key daypart. “Typically, in our afternoon shows the song count is still very high,” says Poleman. “It’s adding a little bit more talk and sticky content and more interactivity from the listeners.”


“Kevin & Sluggo” offer “shorter bursts of content,” says Cunningham without delving into traffic, weather, and other service elements offered in mornings. “We're just focused on content segments that we think are funny and sound like the guys are having fun.”


Adding a second host brings another perspective and more balance, whether from having two genders represented or matching two hosts that are complete opposites, something KYSR plays up in promos for “Booker & Stryker.” “They have a great chemistry and that's the number one thing that you look for is people that connect with each other because that friendship comes across on the air in that connection,” Poleman explains. “It's like what we've always said about radio: you tune in to feel like you're at the table with a friend or in the car with a friend sitting next to you. Now you have a little bit more of a carpool in the car with you.”


Cunningham agrees: “If they didn't have great chemistry, or if it wasn't laugh out loud each day, there would be concerns. But we don't have any worries as it relates to that.”


Since pairing Maxwell & Crystal at Z100 and Bex & Buster at Q102, Poleman says both stations have seen ratings grow. Adding a second host who can do endorsement ads can also open up new revenue opportunities.


Expanding Trend


Programmers say they expect the trend to only get bigger in the months and years ahead. “It can work virtually anywhere because it's what makes radio unique,” says Poleman. “The personalities that go between the songs is special and that's what is going to keep people around and keep people engaged. I'm very, very excited about what we're going through – it's an exciting chapter for radio.”


Cunningham believes it’s a trend that has legs, too,as long as the content is first rate. “If it is, it will boost the daypart and retain that audience and make that station or show more relevant in 2022 and beyond. We have to find content that is going to drive people to the radio more frequently and for longer periods of time.”

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