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Spreading The Love: Sirius Satellite Radio Star Bubba The Love Sponge Returns To Terrestrial

This week, formerly embattled radio host Bubba The Love Sponge made a return to terrestrial, nearly four years since his banishment from the airwaves by former employer, Clear Channel Radio. Bubba is primed to make his return to the Tampa and Jacksonville morning airwaves under a new deal with Cox Radio.
     His new morning show will be broadcast on WHPT/Tampa and on WFYV/Jacksonville and produced and broadcast live Monday through Friday from Bubbaís custom studio located in Tampa. He will pull double duty every day, having signed a one-year deal with Sirius that will see him continue his show weekdays, 3p-7p.
     We recently caught up with Bubba and got his thoughts on the two newly signed deals, his new opportunity in terrestrial radio, Howard Stern, the pending merger and what the future may hold for him.

Tell me about your thoughts on the new Sirius deal and what went into that decision.
Actually, my loyalty has to lie with Sirius at this juncture.  Iím very excited about the Cox deal.  Itís been a great, great thing for me to be able to come back and become a commodity within terrestrial radio.  Howard Stern in particular and Tim Sabean really stuck their necks out for me a couple of years ago when I was dead in the water.  If it wasnít for either one of them, and particularly Howard, I wouldnít be in this position to be able to have some negotiating power, and go back to regular radio.
     It was just something that was a no-brainer.  I have a loyalty to Howard.  I may not even be working with Howard maybe one of these days, but Iíll always be grateful and Iíll always be phenomenally loyal to that guy.  Howard Stern saved my ass when I was down on my luck.

You sounded great on his show recently, as well.  Iíve never heard Robin grilled quite like that before about her private life.
Scott Greenstein, our boss, took me aside and said, ďMan, when you and Howard get on somebody, the oneĖtwo combination, thatís second to none.Ē  Scott alluded to wanting to bring me in on some tough guests and having me and Howard just grilling them. Howardís a different interviewer than I am.  Howardís more seasoned and a little bit more intellectual.  I tend to be a little bit more barbaric and socially unacceptable, but together, actually, in my opinion, Sirius is missing the boat on having a Howard/Bubba grill session. 

Tell us more about the Cox radio deal.  Itís been four years since youíve been on terrestrial radio.
One of the reasons why Iím coming back is because nobody thinks I can do it, and itís just a huge, huge challenge.  Iím one of the dirtiest and most fined radio personalities ever, next to Howard, so it would be unheard of for anybody to take the chance on me to come back.  Iíve got a huge target on my back.  When I pull this off and Iím able to do it, and not get fined, not get fired, then Iíll become a commodity on terrestrial radio.  The syndication possibilities could be endless. Terrestrial radio is just lookiní for anybody thatís not corny and stupid like Bob & Tom or John Boy & Billy, the hopeless shit that people are putting on nowadays.  Opie & Anthony arenít lighting the world on fire, Mancow isnít either.  Nobodyís really doing anything. After Howard left regular radio, thereís not been anybody to step up and garner 40 or 50 affiliates in huge markets with success.  Nobodyís doing it, so what better person to try than me. In one year Iím available to be able to roll this out nationwide.  I would love Dan Mason to call me up!

How would the show be different from your afternoon Sirius show, aside from the obvious restrictions on language and content? 
Weíll be local.  Weíll be in Tampa and Jacksonville just to start.  But weíre going to still be cynical and smart-ass and put a Bubba spin on everyday problems and politicians.  As long as we continue to have buffoons in the White House it makes for some great rhetoric. The only thing thatís not going to be there is the flat-out, blatant sex and some of the stunts that we do that involve sex.  There are a lot of things we can do.  Weíre just going to have to plan out a little bit better, and not quite be so spontaneous on the shock things.  Just cover our asses a little bit better. 

Going from a free, uncensored environment such as satellite radio, back to terrestrial, how is that adjustment going to affect you as a broadcaster? 
Itís going to be a transition.  We have to be in the right mindset when we do mornings.  Weíre going to have to know who weíre broadcasting to and what forum weíre on, and thatís terrestrial.  When we do our satellite show we act like a bunch of heathenistic guys in the locker room, and youíre not worried about anybody listening to you or any bad words.  Obviously weíre going to have to be professional broadcasters and watch what we say.  Weíre going to have to be in the right mindset.  Iíve been doing this for about twenty-three years.  I was on regular radio today and I didnít slip up.  Youíve just got to condition yourself to which particular forum youíre on, and then just execute it.  Itís going to be more physical than it is going to be mental.  I think physically itís going to be a mother-fucker.

You have two jobs now, thatís a lot of work.
It is a lot of work.  But, hey, weíre not digging ditches. There are a lot of worse things we could be doing.  My wife and my guyís wives are going to have to understand that for a year weíre going to have to roll our sleeves up.  If we want to become a huge commodity, this is the window of opportunity thatís been given to us and weíve got to do it.  Itís just something weíve got to do if we want to make the big money and get the huge accolades we so deserve, then this is something we have to do.  Itís like going to the dentist, you donít want to go but youíve got to get your shit clean and get your cavity fixed.

How liberating was it when you first started on Sirius?
Itís great, man.  And what else is great too is the stage that Iím on: Iím on Howardís stage.  You just couldnít ask for a better situation. Growing up I looked up to Howard.  Anybody in regular radio that says they donít respect what the guy has done and the kind of money heís made and the success heís had and the amount of cume he had, theyíre lying.  Iím one of those guys that maybe was very jealous of Howard, but once I became part of the Howard camp, man, you get a whole new appreciation of the power he has.  Heís one of the guys (not a lot of them up there did), but heís one of the guys that picked up the phone at Sirius, and say: ďYou know you guys kick ass.  I really appreciate you guys.  Iím glad youíre on my channel.Ē 
     So it is very liberating to have the freedom that we have.  But Iíd say itís been more of a conquest, or more of a good thing, or more of Iím kind of getting over Howard having accepted me and my guys into his little close knit family.  Thatís been absolutely the most fun and joyous thing about Sirius.  Honest to God.  I can take or leave some of the people up there, but he is one that will beÖ him and Tim Sabean and a few others have been people that Iíll have friends for life.  Even if I was going against Howard, I would never speak a bad word about that guy.  I cannot tell you how much I respect him. Itís different to listen to him as a listener, but then to work for him and see his power and his graciousness.  Heís probably the only reason why I came back to Sirius. And the deal wasnít going that well up until he decided to pick up the phone and take things into his own hands.  I donít want to sound like a little bitch, but I wouldnít be there if he hadnít picked up the phone and ripped some ass.

What do you think of the talent pool in terrestrial radio today?
Terrestrial radio, has ruined all the good talent.  Thereís not a lot left.  For me to get back into the arena, and thatís one reason Iím getting back into that arena, is because Iíd like to be one of the coveted talents.  I used to be somewhat.  I got railroaded by the FCC. I got hung out to dry.  I wasnít a huge commodity like Howard.  I wasnít able to garner a whole bunch of money on the satellite tip because I wasnít as established as Howard.  I got made an example of.  I didnít have thirty affiliates, I had seven.  My timing has been real fucked up.  Finally, for the first time in my career, my timing looks like I might be at the right place at the right time. 

How is your relationship with Cox Radio as far as restrictions and policies?
They are tight, and I know that.  Itís the atmosphere we live in now.  Theyíre making a huge investment and taking a huge risk on me.  Iíve got a huge target on my back.  I mean everybody will be taping me, waiting for me to slip up.  I donít want to get Cox in trouble.  If I burn this bridge or fuck up here, where else do I have to go?

Two or three years ago it would have been more of a problem though. 
If I fuck up and donít listen to them and donít jump through the necessary hoops itís going to take, then Iím done.  But, if I have a success story on this forefront, then I have syndication parameters.  Iíve got a lot of situations, so I will do anything.  Theyíre very specific as to the pecking order of getting things listened to and bits pre-approved.  I have a 10-second delay; they have one as well.  We have our marching orders and weíll execute them.  But, more importantly, theyíve been very forthright and up-front as to what those are.  Thereís no hidden agenda.  Theyíre not going to pull any last minute curve balls on us.
     Cox has been wonderful.  I know theyíre a conservative company, but also a company that wants to win.  They went out and got some weapons and an arsenal they know will win.

What are your thoughts on the audience reception to the show since you went to Sirius?
Iíve never seen a more cult-like following.  If youíve got to pay for something maybe you appreciate it more.  The following we have on Sirius is a factor as to why I decided to try to get this deal done for one year with Sirius because the fans are just unbelievable.  Unlike anything Iíve ever seen.  So I almost felt like as if I was deserting.  I donít want to do two shows, but itís just something Iíve got to do right now.  Iíve got to roll my sleeves up and do this for a year.  Then I have to see where Iím at.  Do I continue this?  Do I stick with satellite, because this terrestrial radio deal is not going so well?  Or do I say: Hey, satellite I have 35 affiliate potentials, Iím out of here.  But for a year, Iíve at least got to throw a whole bunch of shit against the wall and see what sticks.

What are your thoughts on the merger?
I think itís bullshit that our government takes eleven months for something that is absolutely a no-brainer.  Itís not a monopoly.  Both companies are struggling financially.  The way to deliver content is changing by the second.  The antiquated rules, or the bullshit rules and stringent restrictions they put 12-15-years-ago were before we had iPods, Internet radio, MP3s, and all that kind of shit, of which tens of millions of those units have been sold, probably 10, 15, 20 times the amount of satellite radios.  It just goes to show you how flawed the system is. Hereís this guy whoís returning back to regular radio, and Iím telling you right now itís bullshit if the lobbyists of the NAB and regular radio would be able to squash this deal based on special interest, because NAB has more lobby money and more special interest money and itís better organized against satellite.  Itís bullshit.  The last time I checked we live in America, this sort of thing should be a no-brainer.

What are your thoughts on radio as a whole today?
Iím an old school kind of guy.  I got into radio in 1984.  The old type mentality where you had guys who worked records and worked for adds, and Station A didnít compare lists to Station B, and it was all owned by a conglomerate.  I just donít like the national playlists and the power that one particular company or three or four particular companies can have and hold the artists hostage.  Itís the same way with air talent.  Thereís no more proving grounds for guys like me that can start off in little Terre Haute, Indiana, and work your way up to Grand Rapids and San Antonio.  Why would you pay a guy $12,000, $13,000, $14,000 doing overnights, and try to groom him to be the next big thing or to be a respectable jock, when you can just voice track somebody in from Austin, Texas, for $5,500. Thatís why weíre at an all-time low for anybody thatís good in this business, because there are no more teachers.  Thereís no more Triple A leagues.  Thereís no more little Grand Rapids, Michigans that can develop their talent because all those markets are just voice tracking Kid Kelly or something for a $25,000-a-year morning show.  I think the industry is in shambles right now. I donít think it will work itself out when we have four companies that own everything.  Seriously.  My first station was owned by the Oak Ridge Boys.  Then it was sold to another man from New York and he owned it for a few years.  Now I donít know of hardly any private owners.

Where do you want to go with the show?  What are some things you havenít done yet that you want to do?
I want to continue to do the same thing Iím doiní.  Obviously be a little bit cleaner and more politically accepted within the terrestrial deal.  But Iíd like to be on satellite.  If Howard ever retired Iíd like to be the guy that was good enough that Howard felt he could pass the torch along to, per Howardís endorsement, of course.  On terrestrial, I guess at the end of the day Iíd like to do the same thing. Iíd like to become a commodity and have a stable of affiliates so that we could also do well there.  Iím just trying to see where I can do the best for me and my guys in which particular forum.  It may end up being both.  Maybe weíll always do two.  I donít know, only time will tell.


** QB Content by Mike Bacon **


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Nikki Nite,
VP of Prog. & Ops,
Entercom/Austin

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