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Radio Star Joyner to Do TV His Way

Mar 28, 2005  •  Post A Comment

In a world where consolidation has led to a few major companies dominating syndication, radio personality Tom Joyner is selling his one-hour weekly variety show with a unique distribution partner: himself.

Mr. Joyner has an audience of 8 million listeners, primarily in the black community, and is a known commodity in the radio business. He has parlayed his influence into a series of live concert performances of his shows, cruise ship vacations and an annual “family reunion” event at Walt Disney World that attracts thousands. Mr. Joyner is also known for bringing A-List musical and comedy talent to his radio show and live events.

His ability to reach an audience across platforms has caught the attention of corporate partners, including Home Depot, Southwest Airlines and Procter & Gamble.

For the 2005-06 season, Mr. Joyner is adapting his radio show for television. He will host the program, which will pepper sketch comedy and audience interaction with a mix of high-profile music and comedy acts. Mr. Joyner said “The Tom Joyner Show” has been cleared in six of the top 10 markets, including Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU-TV in Chicago and Granite Broadcasting’s WDWB-TV in Detroit. He also said it has commitments for clearances on stations covering 50 percent of the country’s black TV households.

“It just makes a lot of sense,” Mr. Joyner said of developing for television. “We’ve got an audience that will follow us to just about anything we want to do. That’s why we choose things we do very carefully. We don’t take that power for granted.”

At the end of 2004 Mr. Joyner and his company, Reach Media, approached syndicators with the idea for a weekly show for 2005-06, but the word came back that most groups were set for 2005 and wanted to take a better look in 2006-07. Reach Media, which is 51 percent owned by Radio One, instead ran ads in trade publications and purchased its own booth at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference in January. Almost immediately, stations began showing interest.

Neal Sabin, executive VP at Weigel Broadcasting, said he expects “Joyner” to air on WCIU-TV in a “high-profile weekend time period, either access or prime.”

“Chicago really knows him,” Mr. Sabin said, noting that Mr. Joyner’s radio show is popular in the market. “We just like to have personalities on our station that reflect the diversity of our city and our audience.”

Mr. Sabin said the fact that Mr. Joyner is selling his show outside the major syndicators was an attraction for Weigel, one of the few smaller, family-owned station groups left in the business.

“We have empathy,” he said of smaller players, “and we want more people in the game.”

Caroline Worford, program director at WDWB-TV, said “Joyner” is likely to run on Saturdays in early fringe or at night on her station. She also said she expects Mr. Joyner to transition successfully to television, something many radio personalities have failed to do.

“He’s a natural,” she said. “We expect great things.”

Bill Carroll, Katz Television Group VP and director of group programming, said Mr. Joyner’s approach is an effective method for a producer not aligned with a major syndicator to get on the air.

“The real advantage is to always have a specific and targeted audience,” he said of Mr. Joyner. “He also comes with an additional advantage-his radio listener base. It never guarantees success, but it certainly gives him recognition.”