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Published: Monday, 7/17/2006

Who knows? Denny could come back

Just as Carty Finkbeiner made a political comeback, the stars may be aligning for Denny Schaffer to return to Toledo radio.

Carty and Denny, together again? It could happen.

It has been nearly 10 months since Schaffer left WSPD-AM (1370) for a job at WGST-AM in Atlanta. Both stations are owned by Clear Channel.

So, how is he faring? Let's just say his 8 a.m.-to-noon gig in a Top 10 market has not been a success story.

Even though the Atlanta radio market is more than seven times the size of Toledo, Schaffer had more listeners on WSPD than he does on WGST.

During Arbitron's winter survey his first full ratings period at WGST Schaffer's talk show averaged 6,000 listeners during a typical 15-minute interval. A year earlier, his afternoon-drive show on WSPD averaged 7,900.

In Atlanta, he is tied for 25th in his time slot with a 0.8-percent audience share. In Toledo the year before, he was No. 2 with a 9.1 share.

"Denny is out of his league down here," said Eric Seidel, owner of The Media Trainers, a communications and consulting company. "Talk radio should entertain and enrich. Unfortunately, Denny doesn't do either."

When Schaffer announced on WSPD that he was leaving, he said he was going to a station that was in "rough shape." He wasn't kidding. WGST tied for 21st in Arbitron's first ratings period of '06.

"Denny's in a near-impossible position at a station that's in major trouble," said an Atlanta radio observer. "He was given a very poor hand to start with he's getting zero promotion and his lead-in (Tom Hughes) is doing poorly as well."

Seidel, who spent 10 years as station manager of WGST before leaving to start his company in 1997, says the station "has been adrift" for the last few years.

"I don't put it all on Denny's doorstep at all," he said.

Schaffer's on-air persona a right-wing conservative does not generate the "watercooler talk" that it did in Toledo.

"Politically, he's in line with the target market. I question his depth," Seidel said. "Denny is going up against one of the best talents in the country Neal Boortz (on WSB-AM). And when you compare Denny to Neal Boortz, there is no comparison."

Predictably, perhaps, Schaffer's woeful ratings in Atlanta have spurred rumors of his return to Toledo.

When asked if there was any truth to the rumor that Clear Channel Toledo has approached Schaffer about returning, market manager Andy Stuart refused comment.

Given the opportunity to address the return-to-Toledo rumor, Schaffer passed.

WSPD's ratings have dropped since the departure of Schaffer and morning host Bob Frantz. WVKS-FM (92.5), where Schaffer spent more than a decade as morning host, has struggled mightily since his departure in 2003.

Another possibility for Schaffer would be one of the Cumulus-owned stations in Toledo. In 2003, as his WVKS contract was about to expire, Schaffer was seen golfing with a Cumulus executive.

Seidel wouldn't be surprised if Schaffer returned to Toledo.

"There are some people who are just built for a single market and that's where they are going to make their name," he said. "There's nothing wrong with that."



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