First off, let’s assume that it make sense to replace Stern with one show rather than multiple ones (a perspective that can be debated).
Here’s what I’d do:
1. Recognize that Howard Stern, good as he is, can be topped. The controversial edge of Stern’s show turns off as many listeners as he attracts. Isn’t it feasible that Stern can be replaced by someone with more drawing power rather than less? Isn’t it, in other words, a viable assumption that Stern stations can and should be better off in a post-Howard world? Yes, it is. But it depends on choosing the right talent.
2. Look for talent outside of Radio. Look to an established, name comedy talent, a B- or A-level player in the Hollywood comedy community who would be interested, available, and committed to the rigors of a daily on-air gig. This is someone everyone would already know, not a new name. This is someone everyone would be curious to listen to. Stern developed organically over a great deal of time. There’s no luxury of time now. We need to start at the top.
3. Hire writers and other supporting talent to make the show as good as a nationally syndicated entertainment show should be. This should be the biggest thing to hit Radio in generations.
4. Develop and record content behind the scenes weeks or months ahead of launch and of broadcast. This will sound heretical coming from a Radio guy but we should plan ahead. The best spontaneity is that which is well prepared.
5. Launch the show right. Hire a top-notch PR firm and get the show’s star on all the entertainment TV shows (because Radio is, after all, entertainment, remember?). Take a page out of the movie studio book: Consider the launch of the new show similar to the opening weekend for a new movie. Spare no expense in getting the word out and drumming up interest.
6. Tie in one of Viacom’s cable channels and produce a reality show about the creation of this new radio show. The TV show runs in the months preceding the launch of the radio show.
7. Tie in with the Broadcast Film Critics Association – a national organization of TV, Radio, and Internet Entertainment Reporters, and sponsor a "junket" to New York where each reporter is wined, dined, and offered a few minutes to interview the new Radio Star. This is, after all, a huge entertainment industry story. Just like the movie junkets, folks.
8. Create a launch contest: "Give us six months. If you don’t like what you hear we’ll buy you a satellite radio." If we’re not confident that we can top Howard, then there’s no use in trying.
All in all, we’re terrified to lose Stern because we view this as a tragedy rather than an opportunity.
In fact, this is an opportunity to surpass everything that Howard Stern has accomplished and create a new generation of reasons to stay tuned to the Radio.
Now, let’s get moving.