Mark Simone has been a popular presence on radio and numerous television appearances for decades. Since 2013, he’s been the midday host at WOR. Simone is also Sean Hannity’s main fill in on his Premiere Networks syndicated show, an estimated 200 times as host through the years. He was the top back-up for Don Imus, with as many as up ten weeks per year.
The year was 1977 when it all began for him in New York City on the now-defunct WPIX-FM, putting him on the precipice of 45 years. Milestones escape him as he is too busy to focus on the past.
“Oh yeah, could be,” Simone told BNM. “You’re right. I just never think of that stuff.”
He’s been taking on conversative politics for years, but that only scratches the surface for this versatile broadcasting giant.
Whether doing a music show, comedy, (yes, comedy), or talk, Simone’s common theme is entertaining the audience.
While at WPIX-FM, Simone would spin the cutting-edge music of Blondie and The Police. But his gift of gab would shine almost immediately as host of “The Simone Phone” that he credits as the first FM talk show.
The Sunday morning show was a ratings winner where music was mixed with bits including “Dial-A-Date,” a segment that would be copied by stations thereafter.
With Simone quickly gaining a following, in 1980 he jumped ship to WMCA, the top talk station of the era. He joined a “Murderer’s Row” of radio hosts with Bob Grant, Barry Gray, Barry Farber and Sally Jessy Raphael, before starting her syndicated show. WMCA also had Larry King, one of the top network shows of the time.
“They were looking for somebody really young,” Simone said. “Just like today, they wanted new, younger talk. So, they put me on there with that lineup and that’s where I first did talk radio for a couple of years.”
His days of music were not over. When he landed at WNEW-AM in the early 1980s, Simone was doing a hybrid show of music and talk. WNEW 1130 was the Big Band station in New York.
Another legendary celebrity, Steve Allen, would co-host an afternoon show with Simone. It was a three-hour comedy show where some of the biggest names and those on the cusp of greatest would participate in the “open mic.”
The show was initially only heard on WNEW before getting picked up nationally on the NBC Radio Network in 1987.
Bill Maher and Jay Leno were among the regulars. Each day the show featured the talents of famed TV writers Herb Sergant and Larry Gelbart.
“That was the greatest radio show I ever heard,” Simone said.
Simone and Allen would hold a roundtable of sorts with the comics, discussing the latest news.
“It was the greatest graduate school ever in comedy,” Simone said.
Once that show ended, it was seamless for Simone to hold down the afternoon slot solo, “but we continued the flavor of that show,” as comedians still were a major part.
For example, there was Jerry Seinfeld chatting with Simone each week as his eponymous sitcom would struggle to find viewers.
“He didn’t think [Seinfeld] would make it. He was worried it would get canceled for the first couple of years,” Simone recalled.
Another NBC star, Jay Leno would frequently appear to test out a monologue before delivering it to millions on The Tonight Show.
Proud of that time at WNEW, Simone also had a budding comic segment called Punchline, where future headliners Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell were introduced.
As the show had so many big-name guests, it was decided Simone (and company) would host in front of a live audience.
“We did it from Mickey Mantle’s restaurant on 59th Street with about 150 people every day in the audience.” Simone said. “It was great.”
Ol’ Blue Eyes
“Frank Sinatra used to listen every day. It was that kind of audience,” Simone said of his daily WNEW show that would eventually lead to a friendship with the iconic singer.
“He’d wake up about 2:15, 2:30 every day, have breakfast listening to me like at 3 in the afternoon,” Simone said. “So, whenever I’d see him, he said, ‘I’m listening to you,’ which is the worst thing in the world because it made me more nervous.”
He would also do a Sinatra show for many years on WNEW. After the Chairman of the Board died Simone resurrected the program Saturday nights when he was employed at 77 WABC Radio.
“It was good that I did that because everybody from Sinatra-world was still alive [2000-2002] and we had them on the show, all the great singers and all the people that had worked with him,” he said.
WABC went back to the future with WNYM 970 morning host Joe Piscopo helming a Sunday night Sinatra and Cousin Brucie oldies show, which Simone also hosted at WABC.
“That was one of John’s ideas to bring both those back. Obviously, I couldn’t do them,” Simone said. “[Piscopo] is the perfect guy to do that right now.”
Despite the Saturday Night Live alum doing his weekly specialty show, Simone doesn’t think a larger role at WABC is in the cards.
“Bernie and Sid are a very successful show. You can’t trade that for a guy that hasn’t proven himself in the market,” he said.
In the bigger picture, Piscopo’s WNYM is barely a rival to WOR. In fact, the Salem Media Group station performs so poorly in the ratings that Simone said they stopped subscribing.
Red Apple, No Red Herring
He spent more than a decade on WABC before moving down the dial to another legacy station. WOR will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2022. Throughout the 2010s, WABC was in the hands of Cumulus Media until billionaire supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis purchased the station under his newly formed Red Apple Media.
“Before [Catsimatidis] got there, the place was a mess under Cumulus,” Simone said. “It was just sinking and sinking.”
Simone considers Catsimatidis one of his closest friends, gathering for dinner three times most weeks and the topic of hiring him “came up a lot,” but Simone admitted the timing didn’t work as he already re-signed a multi-year contract with WOR by the time Catsimatidis took over at WABC.
“But, you never know,” Simone said. “I really like iHeart, though, but obviously working for John would be great too.”
Agree or disagree, the radio station has made major changes to the lineup since Catsimatidis started signing the checks in 2020. Even though there are managers and executives, namely Chad Lopez (President, Red Apple Media) and Dave LaBrozzi (Program Director), Catsimatidis is completely in control of his radio station.
“It’s all John,” Simone said.
Catsimatidis, who doesn’t bring a media corporate mentality can “take some chances that nobody else will take with it. There’s no cheapness. Whatever It takes to make the best product, he’ll spend it,” Simone said.
However, part of the praising is selfish in nature.
“The worst thing for us is not to have a competitor. That’s what gets you lazy,” he said. “With them doing stuff it just makes us have to do better.”
Having said that, Simone’s iHeart bosses are “pretty generous,” and he believes “the four highest guys in radio” are in the iHeart’s New York City studios.
Plus, iHeart is entrenched as the top media conglomerate in the country. From on-air talent to management, they are a well-oiled machine.
“It’s another level with Tom Cuddy, top program director around [and] Thea Mitchem is like a programming genius who runs the whole cluster,” he said.
In 2022, WABC will mark 40 years as a Talk format, but Simone said that those legendary call letters mean nothing as the current line-up needs time to gel.
“WABC will get there, but it’s too early to compare,” he said.
WOR has seen a drop-off in recent Nielsen rating books, after a 2.5 in back-to back months to start 2021, has slipped to 1.8 for May, while WABC, although lower, has been more consistent from 1.9 to 1.7.
Personally, Simone, as stated on his website, has over 18 million listeners monthly.
Simone claims the slippage is across the board in talk radio as COVID-19 is winding down. Speaking of the pandemic, Simone and his WOR hosts have been broadcasting remotely since it began last year. It was at the time their numbers “went through the roof.” They came close to number one and were tops on Long Island among all 67 stations on AM and FM.
They won’t return to the studio until at least the fall, he said.
Change at the White House is causing a more chronic condition for radio and TV hosts without the daily exploits of Donald Trump to explore.
“That hurt everybody. That hurt us. That hurt Steven Colbert,” Simone said. “Trump was an incredible source of material every day. People would listen the whole two hours to my show. You could just talk about Trump forever—whether you loved him or hated him—it was riveting for people.”
By contrast, President Joe Biden is the “most neutral, bland; there’s nothing to talk about, no one wants to hear about it.”
Perfect for those situations, from his earliest days in radio, Simone has not relied exclusively on the political chat.
“I was always careful to make sure the show was about everything,” he said.
Weeks after Trump left office, Rush Limbaugh left an insurmountable void on the radio landscape.
Buck Sexton and Clay Travis launched on Premiere Networks in Limbaugh’s midday slot on June 21.
“You just have to wait and see. When [Joe] DiMaggio retired, that’s it. You’ll never see that again, and some kid replaced him. The kid later turned out to be Mickey Mantle, so anything can happen,” Simone said.
Best of Limbaugh portions were featured for months in the transition until the new hosts were named.
“The clips they played; it was the [wisest] things Rush ever said. So you wanted to hear all of that just to get it on the record.”
Moments after this interview, Simone was slated to appear with Greg Kelly for his regular Newsmax appearance.
Over the years, Simone has also been a contributor to Fox News and Fox Business shows.
That ability to move effortlessly from topic to topic helped him growth with his radio audience.
“That’s the way I do my show now. We’ll be talking about the latest bill in the Senate. The next thing you know we’re talking about the iPhone and the best restaurant,” Simone said. “It’s just a little bit of everything.”
Throughout his broadcasting career, Simone has built relationships and, even more important, learned from his influences that include Ted Brown, William B. Williams and Dan Ingram. Even Johnny Carson would the most important piece of advice, always talk to middle America.
“I worked with the absolute best ever—the greatest voices on the radio—if you need an education,” Simone said. “I had the best teachers you could have.”
Identity Politics Are Hurting Democrats At The Ballot Box
The constant efforts by Democrats to divide Americans by race and ethnicity is clearly coming back to bite them at the ballot box.
Those are the ever-increasing sounds of the “canary in the coal mine,” foreshadowing the ongoing shift of Hispanic Americans away from identity pandering and toward the Republican party.
A few days ago, radio talk-show host Erick Erickson discussed this phenomenon on his program, detailing the shift that began being noticed a few years ago and continues in full force.
“Texas Monthly did a big story, and it turns out that Hispanic voters in south Texas if you force them to identify as a race, as opposed to an ethnicity, they identify as white,” Erickson began. “And they’re embracing what the media views as “whiteness,” which is they’re voting Republican.”
Erickson details how the increase in Hispanic voters is, contrary to Democrat predictions, making Texas, among other states, more Republican.
“Now there’s this, from of all places, NBC News. Here’s the headline… Democrats Warn of Canary in the Coal Mine for Latino Voters in California Recall,” he quoted. “Here’s the subtitle… While California voters voted to keep Governor Gavin Newsom in office, they did so by a smaller margin than Democrats have won in the past.”
Erickson continued to quote the story, saying “Donald Trump got a historic number of Latino votes in 2020, and you can claim it was because of this or because of that, but it’s not like Larry Elder broke through for these folks. There is something else going on,” said Michael Trujillo, a Democratic strategist based in Los Angeles, referring to the leading Republican candidate in the failed recall attempt.”
The article from NBC reported that California voters sided with Newsom and against the recall 60-40. This is a slightly smaller margin than Newsom and California Democrats have enjoyed in the past, as Newsom won 64% in his previous election. In contrast, black voters broke 83-17 for Newsom, while Asian voters picked Newsom by a spread of 64-36.
“It looks like Latino voters, even in California, are drifting away from the Democrats,” Erickson noted. “Now, not at such an alarming rate as they are in places such as Colorado, and in Texas, and in Florida, but they are. And it presents a problem for the Democrats.”
Erickson says his theory is different from what the media is pushing as the reason for this shift. His belief is that “Latino voters are historically immigrants to this country, surprise. And as immigrants to the United States, they are focused on America and being an American. So when you have Democratic candidates who try to treat them as Latino voters, you are treating them as something other than an American voter.”
As he continued, Erickson detailed how this covert racism against Hispanic Americans is creating a boomerang effect from the very people the Democratic party has been talking down to.
“They want desperately to have the American dream. Here come Democrats, telling them that they are oppressed by white people and they can’t have the American dream,” Erickson opined. “Meanwhile, the Latino voters are thinking, I can have the American dream.”
Erickson says Hispanic voters want politicians to pay attention to them not as Hispanic voters, but as Americans. At the same time, he believes the Republican party has often erred with phony outreach toward the Hispanic American community.
“It’s some white dude in his 20’s, who learned Spanish from Rosetta Stone and shows up and says “Hola Mi Amigos.” Nobody wants to pay attention to that guy. Just treat them like Americans,” he said.
Erickson, backed by the data from recent elections, pointed out that the right approach is by talking to all groups simply as Americans, based on shared concerns and common-sense solutions.
“That was the secret of what Donald Trump did,” the one-time “Never-Trumper” pointed out, citing Trump’s ability to improve conditions for all Americans, rather than cherry-picking based on race, gender, or ethnicity. “Donald Trump did not go talk to Hispanic voters as Hispanic voters. He didn’t even talk to them in Spanish. By and large, Donald Trump just talked to these people as Americans. As people who were hard workers. As people who needed a job. As people who saw loved ones go to jail. And it worked for him.”
Erickson summed up by saying the constant efforts by Democrats to divide Americans by race and ethnicity is clearly coming back to bite them at the ballot box.
“So keep on playing identity politics, Democrats,” Erickson concluded. “It’s amazing what happens when you divide up people by the color of their skin. They think you’re racist and don’t like you.”
Viewers Turn To Fox News For 9/11 Memorial Ceremonies
Ceremonies commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at the memorial sites of the World Trade Center area in New York, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania were covered by multiple networks.
On the cable front, Fox News Channel led all in coverage, well above their cable news competition. As the following is noted, FNC was ahead in each hour according to key figures tabulated by Nielsen Media Research:
7:00 a.m.-8:00 a.m.
FNC: 1.258 million total viewers; 179,000 adults 25-54
CNN: 0.369 million total viewers
MSNBC. 0.314 million total viewers; 48,000 adults 25-54
8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.
FNC: 1.891 million total viewers; 339,000 adults 25-54
CNN: 0.479 million total viewers
MSNBC. 0.524 million total viewers; 58,000 adults 25-54
9:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.
FNC: 1.771 million total viewers; 306,000 adults 25-54
CNN: 0.616 million total viewers
MSNBC. 0.640 million total viewers; 59,000 adults 25-54
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
FNC: 1.770 million total viewers; 285,000 adults 25-54
CNN: 0.704 million total viewers
MSNBC. 0.733 million total viewers; 77,000 adults 25-54
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
FNC: 1.411 million total viewers; 198,000 adults 25-54
MSNBC. 0.862 million total viewers; 78,000 adults 25-54
12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m.
FNC: 1.242 million total viewers; 230,000 adults 25-54
MSNBC. 0.813 million total viewers; 74,000 adults 25-54
History Channel aired 9/11 programming throughout the day, highlighted by the premiere of two new two-hour specials; “Four Flights” (1.166 million viewers; 370,000 adults 25-54) and “I Was There” (1.054 million viewers; 400,000 adults 25-54) — both were cable’s top non-sports telecasts of Saturday, Sep. 11, based on 25-54.
Within a four-week span, HBO aired Spike Lee’s eight-hour documentary “NYC Epicenters 9/11 —> 2021½“, with the conclusion on Saturday, Sep. 11. Its original airings’ figures were, as follows:
Part 1 — Sun. Aug. 22: 212,000 viewers; 90,000 adults 25-54
Part 2 — Sun. Aug. 29: 163,000 viewers; 73,000 adults 25-54
Part 3 — Sun. Sep. 5: 200,000 viewers; 77,000 adults 25-54
Part 4 — Sat. Sep. 11: 237,000 viewers; 120,000 adults 25-54
Note: The above data does not reflect the cumulative viewership of the episodes’ re-airings on the various HBO network and streaming platforms.
Over on the broadcast networks, NBC’s special telecast of “Saturday TODAY” (with Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Lester Holt) easily bested ABC’s “Good Morning America Saturday” in both total viewers — 1.71 million vs. 1.24 million — and in the key 25-54 demo, with NBC nearly doubling ABC: 438,000, to 243,000. (Data for CBS and the Fox broadcast network were unavailable.)
Here are the cable news averages for September 6-12, 2021.
Total Day (September 6-12 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.378 million viewers; 226,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.650 million viewers; 78,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.532 million viewers; 1177,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.200 million viewers; 65,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.131 million viewers; 32,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.129 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.127 million viewers; 28,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.076 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (September 6-11 @ 8-11 p.m.; September 12 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.268 million viewers; 359,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.101 million viewers; 138,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.715 million viewers; 169,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.223 million viewers; 66,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.188 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.156 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.152 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.044 million viewers; 7,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 5:28 PM, 32 min.) 3.688 million viewers
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.139 million viewers
3. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.085 million viewers
4. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/8/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.073 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.013 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.003 million viewers
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/8/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.971 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/8/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.962 million viewers
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.958 million viewers
10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 9/10/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.938 million viewers
17. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Tue. 9/7/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.323 million viewers
139. The Lead With Jake Tapper (CNN, Thu. 9/9/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.991 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 5:28 PM, 32 min.) 0.535 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.528 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.523 million adults 25-54
4. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.503 million adults 25-54
5. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.483 million adults 25-54
6. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.480 million adults 25-54
7. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 9/9/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.474 million adults 25-54
8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/8/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.471 million adults 25-54
9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/8/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.468 million adults 25-54
10. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 9/7/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.442 million adults 25-54
27. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Thu. 9/9/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.316 million adults 25-54
63. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Wed. 9/8/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.249 million adults 25-54
167. Forensic Files “Chief Evidence” (HLN, Wed. 9/8/2021 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.149 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
How News Talkers Can Beat Sports Talkers at Their Own Game
Despite the fact that News and Sports Talk are considered different formats to many, oftentimes they intertwine more than the casual observer would believe.
Despite the fact that News Talk and Sports Talk are considered different formats to many, oftentimes, they intertwine more than the casual observer would believe. First off, both formats are under the “talk” umbrella, and there are many News Talk listeners who consume Sports Talk, and there is some, albeit less, of that vice versa.
However, while News Talk can dabble into the sports realm ahead of a big game or a cultural issue, usually, the Sports Talk station/hosts will still be considered the “experts” on the topic.
But what if there’s a situation where that isn’t the case? What if the News Talkers can beat the Sports Talkers at their own game?
That’s possible and doable.
This can happen when the issue of sports and business overlap. For example, in Kansas City, a hot topic this week has been the possibility of the Kansas City Royals looking to move to a downtown ballpark and leaving Kauffman Stadium when the lease runs out in 2031 (or perhaps earlier). While it’s likely ten years away, anyone who has followed these types of situations knows the planning needs to begin years in advance.
That always brings up the next batch of questions: Where will they go? Would they threaten to leave the city? And most importantly, who is paying for it?
While the Sports Talkers will undoubtedly have some insider information into what the team is thinking, News Talkers might have even more valuable insight to share with the audience that the Sports Talkers can’t access.
Why? Because we are more likely to be very familiar and have strong relationships with the politicians, bureaucrats, local commissioners, and business power players, who play just as much of a role, if not a bigger one, in a monumental move and decision like this.
Within 12 hours of the Kansas City Royals owner holding a press conference discussing this potential move, I was confident, after talking with politicians/business people in the know, I could bring my audience inside information in a way no sports talker could.
Beyond just what is convenient for a team’s ownership group, there are plays for land, parking lots, zoning requirements, permits, and yes, dirty politics, that all get involved in these types of moves.
That’s our lane in the News Talk business. We deal with these issues on a daily basis, and we know who exactly to contact, depending on the situation.
So whether it’s the Oakland Raiders leaving for Las Vegas, the St. Louis Rams bailing for Los Angeles, or the Seattle SuperSonics heading to Oklahoma City, these are just a handful of examples of where the News Talkers can beat the Sports Talkers at their own game in a story that has mass appeal to both audiences.
And the beauty of all this is you don’t even need to be a “sports expert” to own this story if and when it comes to your town (or rumors start to swirl). You need to simply work the connections you already have, which are highly unlikely to be had by your sports counterparts, do some digging and cross-referencing, and you can own a story like this in your city in no time. You might even be able to draw new cume to your show and station by being the authoritative figure on the topic.
And then, when it all inevitably comes back around to breaking down pitching changes and hit-and-runs, leave that to the jocks. That’s boring stuff anyway.
News Radio22 hours ago
Marketron Cyber Attack Creates Radio Industry Disruptions
Sports TV News1 day ago
Randy Moss Throws Lombardi Trophy In East River On NFL Countdown
Sports Radio News17 hours ago
Brady Quinn, LaVarr Arrington, Jonas Knox To Host FOX Sports Radio Morning Show
Sports Radio News16 hours ago
Pat McAfee To Join Week 2 Manningcast