By DIANA BOSETTI
Orange County Business Journal
Scott Ferrall is frenetic, encyclopedic, hoarse and crass downright rude sometimes. But those are just tools of the trade when you consider his ambition: Ferrall wants to be the next Howard Stern.
But Ferrall, who conducts his syndicated radio sports call-in show from the Westwood One studio in Culver City, has a different schtick. He spews out sports statistics and delivers in-your-face jabs as part of his “Ferrall On The Bench” show that’s carried on L.A.-based 97.1 KLSX-FM, New York’s WFAN-AM and about 100 other stations around the country.
“I never dreamed I would get this far and I’m grateful and almost embarrassed,” he said, “But it’s nothing compared to what I’m going to do. Now that I’ve tasted the pie, I want all the pies. I’m going to get everything Howard Stern got and more.”
The 31-year-old Ferrall hasn’t made the first tier of radio yet, but he’s trying. His show claims various time slots around the country, usually airing from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the West Coast and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on the East Coast. In L.A. he has only about 1 percent of the listening audience (or about 10,000 listeners in a 15-minute period), in New York he has about 2 percent and he doesn’t score much higher than that in most other markets.
But he’s considered a solid member of the second-tier of syndicated broadcasters, filling the night air with information and opinion in lively format.
“I have always been a big fan of his,” said Mel Karmazin, president and CEO of Infinity Broadcasting, which owns Westwood One. (Westinghouse, which also owns CBS, bought Infinity for $3.9 billion in June).
A typical exchange with a caller goes something like this: “What’s up you freak?” shouts a caller from Brooklyn. “Give me a big frosty Heineken, will ya?”
That cues 25-year-old Max Krasny, one of Ferrall’s assistants, to hit the beer switch on his sound effects board. Beer cans pop, beer swooshes and foam spills over.
Then come myriad questions about teams, players, coaches, you name it. With each answer, Ferrall goes into a diatribe, gyrating around the studio with a towel around his neck to sop up sweat. The only time his arms aren’t flying above his head is when he throws a handful of sunflower seeds in his mouth, or guzzles a can of soda.
With punk rock or heavy metal music screeching in the background, Ferrall does this each night. Two satellite dishes bring games to him live. Stacks of newspapers from across the country, most of them highlighted, sit among hockey, football, and baseball equipment on his L-shaped desk.
His listeners are Generation X- males in their late teens and twenty-somethings, who are drawn to his punk-jock format.
“The secret of my success in my TSLs,” said Ferrall, referring to Arbitron’s time-spent-listening gauge. “When you yank out my numbers nationwide, people listen for the full-three hours. It’s like a soap opera, people tune in and go for the full train ride.”
He is most popular in Philadelphia, where, according to Arbitron, he jumped from No. 16 to No. 5 in the 18-49 age category from winter 1995 to fall 1996, the latest published numbers.
Ferrall also does pretty well in New York with the 18- to 49- year-olds, ranking seventh, though only 15th overall.
Ferrall was recently dealt a setback locally, getting bumped from his prime 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. slot in Los Angeles, to 10 p.m.- 1 a.m., to make way for radio personality Ricky Rachtman.
“In L.A., I could care less what happens,” he said. “But I certainly have someone to answer to in New York. That is one station (WFAN-AM) that’s making $40 million, and that scares me. So when you’re working for those kind of players, you better be able to play and you’ve gotta keep your hands stacked.”
Ferrall admits that people, including former bosses, either love him or hate him. Do enough people love him?
“He’s definitely on the way up,” said Michael Harrison, editor of Conn.-based Talkers Magazine, an industry trade magazine that’s mailed to 10,000 radio stations. “I wouldn’t say he’s going to be the next Howard Stern, but he is among a new breed that’s treating sports as an entertainment medium and has been pretty successful doing it.”
Born in Kansas City, Ferrall is the child of a public relations executive and a piano teacher. He graduated from Indiana University in 1987, where he received both a bachelors and a master’s degree in journalism. He’s covered sports for radio stations in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Florida.
He was fired from the Pittsburgh station, but wound up at KNBR 68, a sports talk station in San Francisco.
He spent one year there, leaving in September 1995 after the company decided not to renew his contract.
He was almost immediately snapped up by Westwood One and came to Southern California.