News/talk WLS-AM (890) General Manager Mike Fowler confirmed Friday that he has tentatively worked out a new two-year contract with WLS afternoon drive host Roe Conn, whose Arbitron ratings have slumped badly in recent months. A source close to developments said Conn, who had been one of the last couple of so-called "million-dollar mouths" still working in Chicago radio, would be making around $250,000 a year under terms of his new contract. Fowler said that figure wasn't "even close," but declined to say what he has offered Conn.
Fowler also said he has an offer out to news/talk WIND-AM (560) morning co-host Cisco Cotto to come on board as Conn's co-host. "Cisco is a conservative, and we're a conservative radio station," said Fowler. Cotto previously worked as a news reader at WLS-AM. Before Cotto can join Conn, however, Fowler must wait to see if WIND will match WLS's offer. Fowler said he currently has no plans to change the rest of the talent line-up around Conn, including Amy Jacobson, who does traffic and weather and some reporting, and news anchor Jim Johnson.
The decision to renew Conn's contract represents a big gamble for WLS and Fowler. In the most recent November, 2009, Arbitron book, Conn's afternoon drive show ranked a lowly 26th among adults 25 to 54, a miserable showing for a talent that Fowler insists is a major star in Chicago radio. But Fowler believes Conn is about to rebound. "We've seen some upward movement in the ratings in recent weeks," said Fowler, adding "I think that Roe is starting to have fun again on the show."