“There’s no room on the radio for a new Howard Stern today,” says Tom Leykis. The firebrand talk show host is among the few former FM personalities who could command a Stern-like contract, thanks to stellar ratings in 25 markets over 12 years. But after CBS Radio pulled the plug on his show in 2009 (paying out his $20 million-plus contract), Tom Leykis didn’t jump to a terrestrial station or to satellite, opting instead to create his own Internet radio network symbolically dubbed “The New Normal.” With four fully licensed music stations streaming some 50,000 songs along with his own daily call-in show, 400,000 tuned in during launch week in April and 1.7 million in its first month — “more than the cumulative audiences of 14 Los Angeles radio stations,” Leykis boasts. With a $1 million investment of his own money, he expects to be profitable by the end of the year.
Leykis, 56, says he left his first love not because he couldn’t get paid, but because he believes traditional radio is dying. Thanks to iPods, podcasts and hundreds of satellite stations, radio audiences are getting older (more than a third of talk-radio listeners are 65 and up) and the personalities are aging out of relevance. “KABC’s new show is hosted by Geraldo Rivera, who’s 68; John and Ken [John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou] came on KFI in 1992, Bill Handel in 1988, Rush Limbaugh in 1989,” notes Leykis of the L.A. market’s top English-language stars. The spring chicken, he says with a laugh, is 48-year-old Tim Conway Jr. At 37, KIIS star Ryan Seacrest is actually younger, but it is telling that L.A.’s youth-targeted alt-rock outlet KROQ has had the same morning hosts, Kevin and Bean (Kevin Ryder and Gene Baxter), for more than 20 years. Pop station KAMP’s Carson Daly, 39, first appeared on KROQ in the mid-’90s.