Depending on what city they live in, fans of nighttime radio and entertainment news could soon be able to choose between three shows featuring hosts from the world of syndicated television and celebrity gossip.
Joining Dial Global's syndicated night show that features "Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush are two new entries: one from Premiere Radio Networks hosted by Mario Lopez who can be seen on "Extra" and one from Cumulus Media Networks featuring celebrity blogger and television personality Perez Hilton.
All three are primarily geared toward taking over the night slots at top 40 and hot adult contemporary stations with shows that deliver a heavy dose of what's going on in Hollywood which John Dickey, Co-Chief Operating Officer of Cumulus Media, thinks is a great fit: "Contemporary radio specifically is all about what's new, hip and relevant to the audience."
It's too early to tell whether the industry can support three similar shows fighting for clearances. Handicapping which will last the longest requires looking at what makes each host unique.
Dickey says what stands out about Hilton's show will be the level of audience interactivity through his highly trafficked web site, Twitter and Facebook. "He brings a social media legitimacy to radio that is badly needed," says Dickey.
In Lopez' case the appeal for listeners may come from the depth of his other endeavors including playing A.C. Slater on the tween show "Saved by the Bell."
"I didn't realize the effect Mario has on women of a certain age," says Jennifer Leimgruber, SVP of Programming for Premiere, "But in a larger sense he has an interesting life. He's a new dad, he's recently engaged, he writes books, hosts multiple shows, is interested in health and fitness; he's an incredibly well-rounded person."
As for Bush, Tim Maranville, Vice President of Programming for Dial Global, says what makes the show stand out is his understanding of the medium because of his history as a radio host before he was on television.
"Billy is a radio guy," says Maranville. "He came up through radio and had a successful radio career before transferring to TV. He loves radio and doing a daily radio show."
In the long run, the one thing none of the three shows can offer stations, of course, is localism.
While each offer stations at least some ability to localize the content and, in trade, delivers celebrity-related content not available to local hosts, the question is whether that outweighs the benefits of having someone talking about what's happening in the local market.
For Hot AC stations that cater to a slightly older audience that listens during the day but moves on to watch TV in the evening, the night show isn't traditionally a big part of the ratings. In fact, these new shows offer a hipper, more up-to-date option at night than what's been traditionally available to Hot AC stations looking for a syndicated show.
It's Top 40 stations that seem to have the most to lose. With a younger audience that tunes to the station at night, having the most popular evening host has traditionally played a big role in a top 40 station's success.
But radio is a business and just like in every other industry it's cost that drives most decisions.
For big broadcast companies like Clear Channel, which owns Premiere Radio Networks, and Cumulus Media, the parent company of the Cumulus Media Network, the economies of scale derived from using one show on multiple stations across the country is hard to pass up.
Who will lead this pack of skilled, connected, popular hosts? Time will tell...