Summer schedules at WFAN traditionally are a patchwork of vacation fill-ins that attracts little public attention.
Not so this year.
Starting next week, the station will use the dog days to test combinations in search of an afternoon drive time show to replace Mike Francesa, whose final program is scheduled for Dec. 15.
Vice president of programming Mark Chernoff said Thursday that his goal is to have a succession plan in place by Labor Day.
“We’ll be trying a lot of things this summer,” he said during the station’s 30th anniversary celebration at Grand Central Terminal. “We’ll see how it sounds and we’ll go from there.”
Barring an outside candidate, Evan Roberts appears to be under strong consideration to move from midday to afternoon, with or without longtime partner Joe Benigno. Chris Simms is expected to be among the partners tested alongside Roberts.
Chernoff confirmed that Benigno and Roberts likely will spend much of the summer working apart. “Joe and Evan, we know how they sound, and so does everybody else, and that’s a positive,” he said. “Let’s have Joe with Person X and Evan with Person X and then switch . . . Joe and Evan are certainly a part of the radio station, no matter what happens.”
In other words, if Roberts moves without him, Benigno figures to stay on the midday shift with a new partner.
Roberts, 33, said he would like to be considered for afternoon drive time, calling it an “honor” merely to be in the mix. “I’ve never been particular about striving to do one shift or another,” he said. “When I was doing overnight here filling in, I was in heaven. Doing middays with Joe, I’m in heaven. So I wouldn’t say I’m indifferent, but I am pretty happy no matter where I am.”
Roberts said he expects he and Benigno “are going to be all over the place” on the summer schedule. “It will be interesting, I think,” he said.
Kimberly Jones, whom Chernoff has used regularly as a fill-in, likely will show up often on the summer schedule with various co-hosts.
Chernoff used the summer of 2007 to try out ideas for a morning show to replace Don Imus, but the eventual co-host, Craig Carton, never was part of that process before getting the job opposite Boomer Esiason.
Carton said the station had one conversation with him and Esiason to gauge potential interest in moving to afternoon, but Carton called it mostly a courtesy. “Even if we wanted to do it, it wouldn’t be a good business decision for us or the FAN,” he said. “It would be a selfish decision based on lifestyle . . . Neither one of us ever really contemplated not doing what we’re doing.”
Francesa publicly has endorsed Roberts and Benigno to succeed him, but he said he does not expect to have any direct influence.
“I’ve done my time,” he said. “I don’t have any input. No one has said one sentence to me about the future of the station, unless it pertained to me. I never asked to be part of it and I don’t expect to be part of it. We’ll see what happens. Let the best person win.”