CJFM has shuffled its weekday lineup to fill the hole left by Cousin Vinny's departure for CKBE. Andrea Collins, who was doing late mornings, gets to take over the afternoon drive slot from 3-7pm. Nikki Balch, who did early afternoons, moves to late mornings (9am to noon), and the remaining hole from noon to 3pm is being filled by ... Ryan Seacrest.
Virgin Brand Director Mark Bergman tells me he had candidates from inside and outside Montreal for the afternoon drive job posted after Vince Barrucco's sudden resignation, but that he found Collins was "the best one for the position." Bergman said "she's got a young sound to her, yet mature."
"I'm soooooo excited! I'm used to more of a morning or drive spot, so this right up my alley," Collins wrote to me in an email during her Wednesday shift. "Drive is generally a male-dominated position, so I'm really pumped to own it as a female, and happy the great peeps at Virgin were open to making that change. I promise it's the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship ;)"
Balch, one of the unsung heroes of Virgin's lineup, gets to start her day earlier.
But it's Seacrest that will probably get some eyebrows raising among local radio watchers because it means no local announcer for three hours in the middle of weekdays. Bergman said he put Seacrest in the slot was because of his star power and how popular he is with the audience that Virgin Radio is attracting. Seacrest has long been a fixture of the Virgin schedule, including a Saturday morning show. But it's a big leap from low-rated weekend slots to weekday afternoons.
Virgin's schedule moves contrast with those of its main competitor, The Beat. While Cogeco's music station is hiring away Virgin announcers (Cat Spencer, Nat Lauzon, Vince Barrucco) and putting a serious focus on local talent (even overnights), Virgin's schedule is considerably lighter on local people. Its only weekend personality is Kelly Alexander and it has no live local person for weekday overnights. (It's not just a question of being owned by Astral Media - CHOM is also heavy on local talent, including overnight and weekends.)
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the ratings. Will listeners care that the voice between the hit songs they hear is Seacrest instead of someone local? Will star power have more of an impact than a local voice?