KVET's Panic Attack, and More
Die-hard University of Texas sports fans are agonizing over the turmoil at sports station KVET-AM, the Zone, the self-proclaimed "Home of the Longhorns." "How much more can the Zone possibly F-up?" wrote one poster on HornFans.com. Another wrote, "Whoever is running KVET seriously has their head up their nether regions."
Once a bastion of stability, KVET has turned into a poster child for station chaos and questionable nether-region activity. In the last seven months, most of the recognizable on-air talent has either quit or been fired, including morning-show stalwart Erin Hogan and afternoon hosts Chad Hastings and Kevin Dunn. Former KZNX-AM (ESPN 1530) program director Gregg Henson, who was hired as program director last year to shake things up, was fired in January, just six months after he started.
The only old-school survivors are "Voice of the Longhorns" Craig Way and Hogan's ex-partner, Bucky Godbolt – and Godbolt isn't a happy camper. Last week the Austin American-Statesman reported Godbolt has a year left on his contract. In fact, he's been working without a contract for several months. His relationship with the station is "fair," according to his representative, Lawrence Temple, general counsel for Capital Sports & Entertainment. "They are talking," Temple said. But Godbolt, whose show was cut from five hours to three earlier this month, also "wants to consider his options," Temple said.
Godbolt clashed with Henson, who often joked about the KVET morning show when he was on the air at ESPN 1530. Henson is a member of the aggressive, trash-talking, "dude"-laden new school of sports talk, which treats sports radio as part Howard Stern, part frat-boy fart contest. When he moved over to staid KVET and took over the afternoon show, the comments about Godbolt reportedly continued. At one point, Godbolt went to management to complain when Henson made on-air comments about his college-age daughters.
"I don't think that he was happy they let Erin Hogan go," Temple said. "I don't think he was thrilled about some of the comments about his daughters." (Godbolt and Henson both declined to comment.)
Hogan, who spent six years on the morning show, was offered a contract but decided to leave when the station refused to raise its offer. "At the end of the day it was my decision," he said. He resigned on Jan. 3 and originally planned to work through the end of January, but management abruptly told him to leave the building on Jan. 17.
Local managers for Clear Channel Communications, owners of KVET, aren't talking, but it's not hard to discern some of the factors at work here. On one level, KVET is clearly going through the familiar panic attack experienced by many radio managers when faced with a real competitor, in this case ESPN 1530, which is eating into the sports audience with its nationally syndicated shows. Hiring Henson was a typical numb-nut, knee-jerk reaction, a cheap attempt to jump-start the ratings with a more aggressive and controversial tone, under the assumption he was an "established name." Not surprisingly, KVET immediately pissed off its most loyal fans, the Austin sports nuts who will gladly spend hours discussing the relative merits of high school running backs.
Behind the scenes, Clear Channel, the largest radio company in the country, is dealing with its own problems, as it nervously waits for final regulatory approval of its sale to private equity firms. In the year since the deal was first consummated, investor interest in radio companies has plummeted, and Clear Channel, which once gobbled up stations like M&M's, has been desperately slashing jobs and expenses – and that might explain the station's reluctance to negotiate with Hogan.
Meanwhile, Hogan is rumored to be headed to KVET's competitor, ESPN Austin. Hogan wouldn't comment on his future. He says he's still in discussions with Clear Channel about his contract, which includes a no-compete clause.
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