Starting this week, Dunwoody High School grad Ryan Seacrest is off Star 94’s weekday lineup several months before his two-year syndication deal is up.
In early 2009, Seacrest started in mid-days at Star, then moved to afternoons a couple months later after Cindy & Ray were shifted to mornings. He did okay, certainly no worse than the rest of the station. And he was a cheaper alternative than hiring another jock while giving the station the sheen of Seacrest’s celebrity.
But a few months later, Star 94 actually did hire another jock: Chase Daniels. Suddenly, the station had enough full-time DJs so it didn’t really need Seacrest. In fact, until this week, Heather Branch and Daniels had relatively truncated air shifts to accommodate Seacrest, who moved back to a mid-day slot.
As quickly as he arrived, Seacrest’s syndicated show seemed superfluous to a station that has now recommitted itself to an all-day local lineup. (Radio blogger Roddy Freeman, who broke the news yesterday, dubbed Seacrest’s syndicated show “canned and bland.”)
It doesn’t appear Seacrest’s departure will mean much to the station in the grand scheme of things. Star’s ratings have suffered the past few years, partly because of Q100’s growth and its inability to build a morning show that could reach the heights of Steve & Vikki in the 1990s.
Nonetheless, Seacrest has a special connection with Star 94.
Seacrest began his career at Star in the early 1990s. As an ambitious high school student, he became an eager student to Tommy Sullivan, then an evening jock. He eventually got a job as a fill-in and weekend jock for the station while still in high school.
After a brief stint at the University of Georgia, Seacrest moved to Los Angeles and got a gig at a station called Star 98.7. In 2002, he began hosting “Idol,” the job that made him who he is today. It propelled him forward, enabling him to expand his brand into TV production (”Keeping Up With the Kardashians”), his E! hosting duties, ABC New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, his morning KIIS-FM syndicated morning show, a syndicated afternoon show and the American Top 40 countdown show. And I’m probably not covering everything.
But all is not lost for Seacrest fans. Star still airs his weekend countdown show.
Sullivan, who left Star 94 in 2008, remains in touch with Seacrest after all these years. “He took a lot of pride being on Star,” Sullivan said. “He really customized content for the station.” While Sullivan admires how well Star made the show sound seamless, “I didn’t feel a connection to it.” He said he told Ryan, “It sounds good but there’s no relatability to the live factor” since the show was taped. [Indeed, as Roddy noted, Star would insert Chase Daniels into the show to do live local endorsements, traffic and contesting.]
I have left messages with GM Rick Mack and PD J.R. Ammons for comment and will add anything if I get it.
Seacrest’s contract with Clear Channel Radio is up at the end of the year, too, leading to speculation about his next step, which could be another talk show (his last one in 2004 failed) or taking over for Larry King on CNN. In fact, he told Forbes in a story that came out later Tuesday that he won’t renew with Clear Channel. This could make Star’s move merely a prelude to the inevitable.