Prince Harry made the rounds of press appearances in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in early January to promote his newly-released best-selling memoir “Spare.” In the tell-all book, he claims the fractured state of his relationships with his brother Prince William and his father, King Charles III.
Harry’s highest-profile interview came on Sunday, Jan. 8, when Anderson Cooper spoke with him for “60 Minutes” on CBS. According to live plus same day data from Nielsen Media Research, the hour drew the newsmagazine’s season-high figure of 11.216 million total viewers, which included 2.2 million in adults 25-54. In the following seven days, it added another 1.248 million to lift the total audience tally to 12.464 million viewers. (In addition, the interview’s excerpts aired on Monday’s, Jan. 9 edition of Cooper’s weeknight “360” show provided the top total audience results for CNN — as indicated in the show rankings at the end of this article — for the week ending Jan. 15.)
Also reaching a season-high was the delivery of next-day streaming of “60 Minutes” on Paramount+, CBS App, and CBS.com — five times higher than the season average (CBS did not disclose raw figures); also, the highest for a “60 Minutes” episode since October 2020. In addition to Prince Harry, the episode also featured Lesley Stahl’s profile of Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer.
Harry’s chat with Michael Strahan for ABC’s “Good Morning America” took place on Monday, Jan. 9. “GMA” led its morning competition in total viewers with 3.39 million for that date, although this did not represent a boost — this was at its average viewer number for the entire week (Jan. 9-13, 2022).
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, it was a more lighthearted spot for Prince Harry on CBS late-night talker “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” He took tequila shots with host Colbert, mentioned his viewing of Netflix royal drama “The Crown,” and appeared in a skit with actor Tom Hanks. The Jan. 10 edition delivered 3.2 million total viewers, which marked the top “Late Show” audience since its special Super Bowl night episode in 2021 (4.86 million on Feb. 7, 2021). Based solely on weeknights, it was the highest figure since former President Barack Obama’s appearance following the 2020 presidential election (3.49 million on Nov. 24, 2020).
In the United Kingdom, ITV news anchor Tom Bradby conducted “Harry: The Interview” for its original 90-minute broadcast there back on Jan. 8, posting 4.2 million viewers (not enough to beat the 5.25 million Britons of its competing telecast from BBC, drama “Happy Valley”). It re-aired in the U.S. as a condensed one-hour version on CBS on Saturday, Jan. 14, drawing 3.07 million viewers based on Nielsen’s live plus seven-day figures.
Having recovered from being hospitalized for blood clots in his lungs and leg, famed weatherman Al Roker made his emotional return to “Today” following a two-month absence on Friday, Jan. 6. The NBC morning news program averaged 2.96 million total viewers, which was still not enough to beat ABC’s “GMA” (3.14 million) that day. However, in the key 25-54 demographic, NBC was the clear leader by drawing 812,000 within the demo. Its margin of +111,000 in adults 25-54 over “GMA” (701,000) was the show’s biggest single-day demo lead over ABC’s morning news program since Dec. 13, 2022, and its best Friday demo win in over eight months (since Apr. 22, 2022).
Cable news averages for January 9-15, 2023:
Total Day (Jan. 9-15 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.470 million viewers; 183,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.659 million viewers; 67,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.448 million viewers; 88,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.139 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.114 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.110 million viewers; 9,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.107 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.103 million viewers; 17,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (Jan. 9-14 @ 8-11 p.m.; Jan. 15 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.208 million viewers; 266,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.009 million viewers; 98,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.514 million viewers; 113,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.153 million viewers; 46,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.152 million viewers; 46,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.141 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.114 million viewers; 22,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.100 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.046 million viewers; 5,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.981 million viewers
2. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.758 million viewers
3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.609 million viewers
4. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.482 million viewers
5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.475 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 1/13/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.469 million viewers
7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.419 million viewers
8. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.275 million viewers
9. Jesse Watters Primetime (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.225 million viewers
10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.201 million viewers
35. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 1/9/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.131 million viewers
159. Anderson Cooper 360 “The Harry Interview” (CNN, Mon. 1/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.882 million viewers
375. Varney & Company (FBN, Mon. 1/9/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.327 million viewers
380. Highway Thru Hell “(1102) No Thru Road” (TWC, Sun. 1/15/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.321 million viewers
397. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 1/13/2023 1:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.297 million viewers
429. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1321” (CNBC, Wed. 1/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.268 million viewers
574. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.192 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.515 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.509 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.499 million adults 25-54
4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.457 million adults 25-54
5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 1/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.417 million adults 25-54
6. Hannity (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.407 million adults 25-54
7. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 1/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.396 million adults 25-54
8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.393 million adults 25-54
9. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 1/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.368 million adults 25-54
10. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Thu. 1/12/2023 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54
39. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 1/9/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.247 million adults 25-54
90. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Wed. 1/11/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.178 million adults 25-54
177. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 1/13/2023 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.122 million adults 25-54
257. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1321” (CNBC, Wed. 1/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.089 million adults 25-54
465. Highway Thru Hell “(1102) No Thru Road” (TWC, Sun. 1/15/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.055 million adults 25-54
579. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 1/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.042 million adults 25-54
608. Kudlow (FBN, Thu. 1/12/2023 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.039 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/
Have Rational Americans Rejected the Global Warming Narrative?
On Friday, Newsmax host, Rob Schmitt, began his evening program by discussing what he saw during the meeting of the international lobbying organization.
Perhaps Senator Ted Cruz summed it up best nearly a decade ago.
First, it was global cooling. Then it was global warming. Today, the new marketing phrase is “climate change.” But in each case, Cruz said the proposed solution was always the same – “massive government control of the economy, of the energy sector and every aspect of our lives.”
Many watched that theme continue to play out last week as the World Economic Forum met in Davos, Switzerland. On Friday, Newsmax host, Rob Schmitt, began his evening program by discussing what he saw during the meeting of the international lobbying organization.
“The World Economic Forum spent most of this week conjuring up our next disaster,” Schmitt began. “The most wealthy and powerful people on earth, eating caviar and watching fear porn, performed live on stage by people who are hyper-incentivized to scare the hell out of you. To make you feel like the world is ending tomorrow.”
In the opinion of the plain-spoken Schmitt, “the crisis must be amplified because the response has not been as drastic as those hungry to control the world would like.”
As he often does, Schmitt distilled this worldwide discussion down to its impact on hardworking, patriotic Americans. Importantly, he believes worldwide elites are no longer able to scare middle-class America and, therefore, have begun conflating threats from the weather with those from illegal immigration.
“These people are happy to hijack a crisis as well. After Joe Biden invited all of Latin America to surge our border in early 2020, leftists suddenly found a very convenient label for the millions of people pouring across the Rio Grande into the Southwestern United States. Now we all know why these people are coming into this country. It’s very obvious to us,” Schmitt said. “But shameless liberals actually believe Americans are dumb enough to think that these people walked a thousand miles through Central America because Managua is one degree warmer than it was when LBJ was in the White House.”
Schmitt continued, highlighting the evolving language used by the elite left. In much the same way “global warming” became “climate change,” he called out their latest twist of phrase.
“Climate refugees. A subtle way of indicating the southern borderland rush is your fault, rather than your government’s,” Schmitt noted.
Hoover Institute Senior Fellow, Victor Davis Hanson, joined the program to offer his thoughts on the WEF and its impact on everyday American citizens.
“There’s some predictability that we all knew would happen at every one of these World Economic Forums. First of all, there would be very wealthy people and they’d never be subject to the consequences of their own ideology. So, there’s a lot of private jets. And you would think from the rhetoric that seafront property, like the Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard estate, wouldn’t be worth anything,” the erudite Davis Hanson said. “But all of these people, if you go to Europe or the California coast or the East Coast, most of the very people who are most worried about climate change have seaside estates, which supposedly according to their own rhetoric would be the first to be flooded.”
Often considered a calm voice of reason, Davis Hanson believes that, at some point, the track record needs to be evaluated.
“When Al Gore gives these prognoses of Armageddon, we look back at what he said. Earth is in the balance and prior things about the icecaps shouldn’t exist now. But every time he’s wrong he never corrects or he never apologizes,” Davis Hanson said.
“People who want to control the world are fully aware that it’s convenient to have a crisis to do so,” Schmitt added.
Davis Hanson, who has authored or edited 24 books, summed up the elites’ philosophy, noting, “One thing they all have in common is the contempt for the middle class. They really do not like people who are trying to be upwardly mobile and muscular, and they feel that these people consume too much energy or they’re not morally or intellectually their equals and therefore they shouldn’t get the exemptions that they enjoy.”
“The longer that these same people give predictions. I mean Al Gore is getting up there now, and he’s been doing this for fifteen, twenty years,” Schmitt pointed out. “They have to start worrying that some of the things I said twenty years ago are not coming true. People are going to start holding me accountable for that.”
With well-respected scientists split on whether or not humans have any impact on the weather, the issue has become one of the more politically divisive of our time. In fact, the now-deceased co-founder of the Weather Channel, John Coleman, once called the notion “baloney.” During a 2014 interview, he went on to say, “Climate change is not happening, there is no significant man-made global warming now, there hasn’t been any in the past and there is no reason to expect any in the future.”
“It reminds me of out in the old West, people were selling these elixirs and that was their profession they made money on. And that’s what he’s peddling, gloom and doom,” Davis Hanson told Schmitt on Newsmax, again referencing former Vice President Gore. “If he really was sincere, he wouldn’t have sold his cable company to a carbon emissions state like Qatar, that was sponsoring Al Jazeera. And then he wouldn’t have tried to beat the capital gains new tax raises, which he did. And John Kerry wouldn’t have a yacht that he tries to move around different harbors to avoid taxes. Because they all believe in high taxes and more government and they all violate those in their personal lives. They have contempt for us. That’s the common denominator.”
In his runaway hit 2019 book, The Case for Trump, Victor Davis Hanson pinpointed many of these exact themes – the ones that President Donald Trump corralled to catapult himself to the White House. In the book, Davis Hanson notes that Trump alone had the instinct to defend “the working people of America’s interior, whom the coastal elite of both parties had come to scorn.”
“When you look at the world and you see the way that people in power behave, it seems that freedom is the hardest thing for any society to hold on to,” Schmitt said. “The more that you look at the world, in my opinion at least, it’s amazing that anybody in this world is free.”
As with so many other issues, Davis Hanson believes the indomitable American spirit must continue to provide rational fortitude against any such deleterious force aiming to bring the United States down a peg or two.
“I think they ultimately will always target the United States because it is traditionally the freest of all countries. And that’s the one obstacle for trans-national governance, has always been the middle class in the United States. The practical, common-sense American that distrusts big government,” Davis Hanson concluded. “And that was the purpose why this country was founded, and they despise it. And they’re always trying to change the institutions of the United States somehow. We’re always told, look at Greta over there in Sweden or look at what the E.U. is doing, and we’ve got to emulate this. We’re losing confidence that we’re the only sane country in the world I think.”
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
In Case of Emergency Break Glass – Keeping AM/FM Radio on Every Vehicle’s Dashboard
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles.
During the Jacobs’ Media CES webinar the other day, Fred and Paul Jacobs reminded participants that AM/FM radio may not be a standard feature in automobile dashboards of the future. The day may come when consumers have to add broadcast radio as an option and pay to have it in their vehicles. If it happens, it would be a disaster for broadcasters and the public during an emergency.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) will lead lobbying efforts to keep AM/FM radio as a standard feature in all vehicles. Manufacturers and political leaders must understand that keeping AM/FM radio in vehicles is a matter of national security.
By keeping broadcast radio free and standard in all vehicles, manufacturers will ensure that radio has the distribution to maintain the extraordinary reach it has enjoyed for decades.
Broadcasters need to help bolster the case by doing the two things radio does best: Local and immediate. If broadcasters fail to deliver on these two promises, the case for keeping AM/FM radio standards in dashboards becomes less persuasive.
Thinking about the need for radio to be local and immediate reminded me of an event when I was Operations Manager of WCCO-AM, Minneapolis.
Late one night, over a hot holiday weekend during the summer of 2018, I received a phone call from producer Sheletta Bundidge. She learned that protesters were assembling in the community. A few days earlier, the Minneapolis Police had shot and killed an African American man named Thurman Blevins.
We had a quandary because although WCCO is the news radio station in the Twin Cities, there was nobody in the newsroom to cover the growing protest because of personnel cuts. After rearranging schedules, somebody else covered her producer’s shift, and Sheletta covered the growing gathering from the host chair.
The outcry against the shooting of Thurman Blevins turned out to be a harbinger of what would come two years later when protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer created the most significant changes in race relations in over a generation.
That night in 2018 demonstrated Bundidge’s alertness and tenacity. She earned an expanded role at WCCO-AM and was named one of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year from Minnesota in 2022.
Another situation, just a couple hours after the Jacobs webinar, portends the promise and perils facing radio managers. Two-time Rock Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby passed away at age 81.
The first alert I received was from TMZ at 5:18 ET. Other news services may have broken the story sooner, but most of the notifications I received came about a half hour after TMZ.
I wondered how long it would take for the local Classic Rock station to play CSN(Y) or any form of his music. It was disappointing when it didn’t play any until an hour later.
In fairness, most Classic Rock stations have stopped playing CSN(Y) and haven’t for several years. The music fits better with Classic Hits today. However, Crosby’s image is more consistent with Classic Rock and the musicologist air personalities the format features.
I examined music logs for stations in Mediabase’s Classic Rock panel in the top 15 markets. Three stations played CSN(Y) within five minutes of the news of Crosby’s death: KGLK/Houston, WSRV/Atlanta, and KSLX/Phoenix. WDRV/Chicago responded within 15 minutes, and several others within the half hour.
I spoke with David Moore, Operations Manager, Brand, and Content Director for 100.7 KSLX, 93.3 KDKB, and Oldies 92.7 KAZG, about getting information about the passing of legendary musicians like Crosby on the air quickly. (Full disclosure: Moore and I have known each other for many years).
Moore said, “I’m obsessive about stuff like this. When a legendary rocker dies, people will tune into the Classic Rock Station. It’s an opportunity. We have to be at our best. We’re live here most of the time, and somebody can get in quickly.” Moore credited his staff: Mark NeanderPaul mornings and Karen Dalessandro in the afternoons. While they run Alice Cooper’s syndicated show at night, Moore points out that Cooper lives there, “so he’s local.” Moore said he learned the news from Steve Goddard, from the cluster’s Oldies station and that they pushed the information out on their dedicated station apps for both stations.
Moore recognizes that this is what radio has to do for survival. “This is where people go when this stuff happens. Even somebody who isn’t a hardcore Classic Rock fan will tune in when a cultural icon passes away.” Moore adds, “Spotify can’t do what we can. SiriusXM will, at best, take a while, and it still can’t talk about when the artist was here (Phoenix, AZ).”
A few stations didn’t play Crosby’s music at all. It’s unclear if it was a conscious decision because he is no longer relevant on their station, if nobody was there, or if nobody could add songs not already in the library (which I suspect was the case on at least a couple of stations).
Several stations took a few hours and played CSN(Y) later in the evening. One took until 7 am the following morning, suggesting the day had already been voice tracked.
KSLX was one of several stations that reacted immediately and locally. Kudos to the programmers and jocks that promptly brought the information about Crosby to their audience.
Although Crosby’s death wasn’t an emergency, it is instructive to show why AM/FM radio must remain standard in vehicles. In an emergency, stations must react quickly. Reacting to Crosby’s death shows that your audience can count on your station in a crisis.
Radio’s challenges continue to increase. Maintaining a place as a standard feature on the dashboard of every vehicle will be the most critical test the industry will face. Proving it is a matter of national security means that radio must deliver immediately and locally. Broadcasters can’t fail those tests. That’s something to consider as management examines headcount and staffing issues.
Andy Bloom is president of Andy Bloom Communications. He specializes in media training and political communications. He has programmed legendary stations including WIP, WPHT and WYSP/Philadelphia, KLSX, Los Angeles and WCCO Minneapolis. He was Vice President Programming for Emmis International, Greater Media Inc. and Coleman Research. Andy also served as communications director for Rep. Michael R. Turner, R-Ohio. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter @AndyBloomCom.
Mike Opelka Is Broadcast Professional With Two Decades of Experience
Mike Opelka currently works as a regular fill-in host on several syndicated radio talk shows heard daily across the country.
He was born on the old Southside of Chicago, admittedly a dicey area back then. Mike Opelka’s father wanted out and they moved to Glenview, Illinois. “The area is making a comeback today,” Opelka said of his old neighborhood. “It runs hot and cold. In the early 60s, my uncle got a brick through a plate glass window with a note telling him to get out of the neighborhood. That old Marine did not immediately leave, but my parents took us to the near north suburbs.”
Despite moving to the north shore, Opelka remained loyal to the White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears.
“We’d cut school for opening day at Wrigley Field. We’d compete to be my dad’s plus one for Bears games. In those days they played at Wrigley Field. It was a tight space and not exactly conducive to 300-pound linemen slamming into the ivy on the outfield walls. It looked like somebody put up a couple of inflatable pool mattresses to prevent players from running into the brick walls.”
He also loved Comiskey Park. “It was out of control. We’d sit in the outfield while Harry Caray did games sitting in the bleachers,” Opelka said. Caray was hammered by the third inning. They had a chair in the bleachers where they’d give you a haircut. People can’t even relate to that kind of stuff today. There was a shower in the bleachers. The kind you use when you’d need a chemical shower in chemistry class.”
Opelka’s Northside neighborhood was a who’s who when it came to professional athletes. They were just two miles from HOF player Ron Santo in Glenview. Iron-headed Blackhawk Keith Magnuson moved in around the corner from the Opelka family.
“I was a busboy at Valley Lo Sports Club in Glenview. The first time I saw him I said, ‘Hello Mr. Magnuson.’” Opelka said. “Keith smiled and that’s when I noticed Magnuson had no teeth. He’s the first guy in NHL history with 200 penalty minutes. Chicago Stadium was amazing. If you sat one row up in the balcony when people started stomping the whole place shook.”
Opelka was the runt of the litter in his family. “My older brothers and my sense of humor were the only things that saved me from getting my ass kicked all the time,” he explained. “Humor is what saves everybody. My grandfather taught me about comedy. He took me aside each New Year’s Eve and we’d watch the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields movies.”
He was an editor/writer with TheBlaze from 2011-2017, at the time, based in New York. When TheBlaze downsized in 2017, Opelka started doing fill-in work about 180-200 days a year. He built his in-home studio five years ago.
“I was on the road for the 2012 election. I had floor credentials for the DNC in Philly. Katie Couric came up to me and thought I was Steven Spielberg. I guess I had the same glasses, a similar beard and was wearing jeans and a sport coat. She gave me a big hug. We were just two ships passing in the night when they nominated Hillary Clinton.”
When his wife’s parents were ill, Opelka and his wife moved out of NYC to Wilmington, Delaware halfway between Washington and New York. He’d take the ACELA train daily into New York, a high-speed luxury train.
Opelka is a self-described ‘goober smoocher.’
“You’d run into so many celebrities on that train. It was like Studio 54 on wheels. I ran into Dave Winfield, Mika and Joe, Colin Powell. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters was on the train. He’d gotten up to go to the bathroom and I said hello to his mother. I said I was a big fan of her son, she said she was too and asked me to sit down.”
He sat down with Wolf Blitzer, ran into Chuck Schumer and Rand Paul (who were actually speaking then.)
“They were standing around John McCain,” Opelka said. “I also talked with Henry Kissinger and asked him his opinion on Barack Obama and Kissinger replied, in his deep German accent, ‘He needs to be given some time.’”
“When Jill Biden took the train when Joe was Vice President, she’d rent out half the first class car,” Opelka said.
Like a lot of radio personalities I’ve spoken to, Opelka is a funny guy who has done some standup and improvisational comedy.
“Those are two entirely different types of audiences,” he said. “After one of our improv shows, Bill Hicks came up and encouraged me to do more standup. I couldn’t believe it.”
Hicks could be said to be one of Opelka’s comedy idols. “He wasn’t old enough to drink and he jumped onstage as a kid. Hicks was at the top and he was fearless.”
Opelka had a great story about Sam Kinison, who would lose his mind with an audience that didn’t support him.
“He was yelling at a crowd one night. ‘Do you want a crucifixion? I’ll give you a crucifixion!”’
Kinison found a roll of duct tape backstage and a ladder, now wearing just his boxer shorts. He had the audience follow him outside to a sign on a 7-11 across the street from the club.
“Kinison taped one of his arms to the crossbar and had a guy tape the other one, and he was just dangling there. The club owner had to beg the cops not to arrest him.”
From hosting nationally syndicated radio programs to producing network television shows, Opelka is a broadcast professional with two decades of experience in radio and television (live and recorded) on a network, national and local level, as well as digital media platforms.
Before working in radio and TV, in the early 80s, he was in Houston. Opelka said to get a job all you had to do was fall down, the unemployment rate was so low.
“There were people in good jobs they didn’t belong in,” Opelka said. “I was hired with a head-hunting firm with no experience. After a few months, I was hired by Houston’s 93 Q’s Morning Zoo as a writer. I also did some comedy bits and wrote parodies for them,” Opelka explained. “I did a pretty good Bill Murray voice.”
Opelka talked about Scott Shannon, the ostensible architect of the Morning Zoo format.
“Shannon took the station from “worst to first” in the biggest market in the country in just 73 days in 1983,” Opelka said. “Nobody had done that. A buddy of mine told me I’d be good as a writer for that kind of format.”
The station flew Opelka from Houston to Newark, a place he said was not the best advertisement for New York.
“I spent the morning with Shannon. I watched them do the show. Ross Brittan was Shannon’s co-host and he’d grown up in Glenview, the same place as me. We had an immediate connection.”
Before he left the station, he was offered an executive producer position for the show. He lived near Shannon in Montclair, New Jersey. He assisted in writing a parody song for each guest who was coming on the show. He wrote one for Elton John, the Bee Gees among many others.
He then tried his hand at television. Opelka said his first agent was a Korean-born man adopted by an Orthodox Jewish family from Brooklyn. “He sounded like Gilbert Godfried but looked like a relative of Kim Jong-un.”
The agent asked Opelka to pitch some ideas for television for the soon-to-launch FX Network that Fox was building. He pitched five and they bought three. Opelka spent three and a half years making TV for FOX and FX before returning to radio.
Between the two, Opelka said he’d take radio over television.
“Television is a less forgiving environment,” he said. “Radio is more like family. You can trust people. Hunter S. Thompson said, “You find the worst depths of humanity in television.”
Opelka worked at FX before it became the huge network it is today. He said a lot of great talent came through FX.
“I worked with Orlando Jones, who knew more about mainstream music than anybody I’d met. Tom Bergeron and Jeff Probst came through there, Phil Keoghan.”
Opelka said radio isn’t what it used to be, neither is the money.
“I was lucky to be involved in major market radio, but the economics have changed,” he said. “I was the executive producer of the ill-fated Wake Up with Whoopi, a syndicated radio show that ran with Whoopi Goldberg for a couple of years. It was a decent idea, but there were too many managerial spatulas in the pot and they all believed they had control. In the end, the only person in charge was Ms. Goldberg.”
Opelka said Whoopi Goldberg was smart and if you were smart, you were her best friend. She refuses to suffer fools. She was always interested in making sure she had the right information.
“She could get every name in the business to be on her show, and she did. After that did ended, Whoopi was hired to co-host The View.”
Starting in April 2018, Opelka began co-hosting the Angie Austin & Mike Opelka Show. The syndicated show was in 24 markets and survived for almost four years before being retired due to lack of financial viability.
Since the end of the Angie & Mike Show, Opelka keeps busy with his gig as “America’s Guest Host.”
Mike Opelka currently works as a regular fill-in host on several syndicated radio talk shows heard daily across the country. From Chris Plante, Joe Pags and Simon Conway to local stars like Rich Zeoli in Philly, Drew Steele in Ft Myers, FL and Mike Broomhead in Phoenix to name a few. He can be contacted at MikeOpelka@aol.com
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at email@example.com.