Starting today, Garry Meier becomes the new afternoon drive host from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at WGN-AM (720). Meier, who had been doing a two-hour early afternoon gig at WGN for the past year, replaces veteran WGN host Steve Cochran, who will take Meier's old slot from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The move is the latest in a seemingly unending series of programming and talent upheavals at WGN -- all part of a protracted effort by controversial WGN program director Kevin Metheny to give the station an edgier sound that would attract a younger 25 to 54-year-old demographic.
In a statement Thursday Metheny suggested Meier's promotion to afternoon drive was an attempt to raise his profile as a WGN talent. "Response to Garry's early afternoon show has been great, and we want more people to know he's on WGN Radio, said Metheny, adding "this schedule adjust gets Garry more starts in front of more listeners." It also will give Meier a potential ratings boost from the strong leads-in provided by the Chicago Cubs afternoon game broadcasts on WGN.
Meier, understandably, responded favorably to his new role. "I'm looking forward to my sophomore year at the 'G,' and I intend to enjoy it as much as I did my sophomore year in high school," said Meier.
The move of Meier to afternoon drive also appears timed to help WGN compete more readily with a revamped afternoon drive show on arch-competitor news/talk WLS-AM (890). Starting Monday, WLS afternoon drive host Roe Conn will be joined by Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper -- an effort by WLS management to give Conn someone to play off of and to give the WLS afternoon show a boost in the ratings, where it has been lagging in recent months. Coincidentally Conn and Meier, who will now compete against each other for afternoon drive listeners, were previously co-hosts at WLS-AM.
Both WGN's and WLS's afternoon drive shows haven't been doing well in the ratings. In the key 25 to 54 demo in the February Arbitron book, WGN's afternoon drive show ranked only 24th, while WLS's show with Conn was tied for 22nd place.
In yet more changes announced at WGN late Thursday, a new talk show starring convicted felon and former city clerk Jim Laski will now air weekdays from 7 to 10 p.m, when not pre-empted by WGN sports broadcasts. And Milt Rosenberg's long-running "Extension 720" will be pushed back an hour, starting now at 10 p.m and running to midnight Monday through Thursday. WGN said the later start time would allow listeners to hear him more regularly, because his show was often pre-empted by sports broadcasts. It will also relegate Rosenberg to a time slot where he is likely to attract fewer listeners. Nick Digilio's Friday night show will air one hour earlier, now running from 10 p.m to 2 a.m., and "The Steve and Johnnie Show" with Steve King and Johnnie Putman will air from midnight to 5 a.m.