Cutthroat radio business: The battle over breakfast shows

The hilarious TV advert comes onto the screen just before the 9pm KTN Prime Time news and there, radio hunk Alex Mwakideu is seen in studio receiving a call from a mysterious caller.

The caller in act is Obama, retired president of the United States. He sits calmly on a couch and explains how he is enjoying listening to Mwakideu and his co-host in their Radio Maisha Breakfast Show. A shell-shocked Mwakideu then engages him.

In yet another advert that debuted on KTN last week, the same radio presenter, who has been the backbone of the leading radio show, is spotted in traffic ranting and raving at another driver whom he challenges to roll his windows down for them to square it up in the early morning Nairobi traffic. When the window rolls down, we are introduced to Nick Odhiambo, the former Classic 105 Larry, Nick and Friends show host.

The two get hysterical with each other like good old friends who haven’t seen each other for yonks. And forgetting about the heavy traffic, they ignite a catch-up, exchange rib-cracking jokes as they celebrate their reunion. This is the new hot radio pair in town.

Sit down, relax...breakfast is being served!

The Radio Maisha new adverts are not the first ones for the leading station to air on TV. Recall that funny one of the buglers who end of dancing to Radio Maisha music mix with the estate guards and the owner of the house they were going to break into? Crazy.

Almost a month ago, after comical radio presenter Jalang’o joined TV host Jeff Koinange as the new voices at Hot 96 Breakfast show, a new advert went up on Citizen TV featuring the new power pair.

At the same time, the other popular Breakfast Show duo of Maina Kageni and Mwalimu King’ang’i at Classic 105 upped their game with their adverts running up to late evening. Clearly, it does not take a rocket scientist to know that the claws are out as the radio Breakfast Show game changes, bringing in a revolution as every media house flexes muscles to claim a share of the big pie.

The entry of Nick Odhiambo in Radio Maisha throws in a new dynamic at the station, the fastest growing FM station in the country. Nick, a seasoned actor, is branded the king of voice-overs, having featured in numerous radio commercials.

He can literary change his voice into any character and it is this vocal ability that is bringing the new transformation at Radio Maisha.

At the same time, who ever saw Jeff Koinange going into radio? I mean, prior to joining CNN, Koinange worked for Reuters Television from 1995 to 2001, covering Africa and serving as their chief producer from 1999 to 2001. He also worked as a producer at NBC News in 1994 and also worked for ABC News earlier in his career from 1991 to 1992.

Now, he is presenting a local morning breakfast show and how hilarious does it get when callers chide him when he cracks jokes on down town Nairobi, a lifestyle many doubt he has ever been exposed to.

The new radio game of musical chairs comes with big money talk. As Jalang’o was moving into his new Royal Media home, he bragged that he was being offered an irresistible six-figure salary and streets went loud that his would be the highest pay any Kenyan radio presenter was ever awarded. Rumour had it that prior to that, the highest paid radio presenter was banking Sh800,000 a month.

Ironically, the most highly paid radio presenters are said to be hosting the breakfast show. Clearly, they are serving breakfast with a big spoon.

Maina Kageni and Mwalimu King’ang’i are arguably one of the highest paid radio pair in Kenya. And if the reflection of their financial worth, complete with their investments, is anything to go by, this could be true.

At one point, Shaffie Weru who moved from the Kiss 100 evening drive to boost the Breakfast show where he co-stars with celebrated star Adelle Onyango bragged that he is among the top 15 highest paid media personalities.

“I get a lot of money. It’s jackpot money. I can give you a ballpark figure – I do not earn as much as the President but I get more than MPs,” he is quoted as having said.

Unconfirmed reports have it that Maina Kageni pockets between Sh1.2 million and Sh1.8 million a month with his co-host Mwalimu King’ang’i taking home slightly over Sh1 million.

When Njogu Wa Njoroge was moving out of Kameme to join Radio Africa rumour was that the social media influencer was enticed with a Sh750,000 offer. Other unconfirmed huge amounts include Mbusi’s monthly package of Sh750,000 and Willy Tuva’s Sh400,000 pay.

“The truth is that some radio presenters are bigger brands than the radio stations themselves. They bring in more money into the radio stations themselves as individuals and so it’s only logical to pay them this huge figures. They are a source of revenue to the rest of the employees,” says Chipukeezy, a comical radio host who recently moved out of Kiss 100 to start his own online show.

“It is true that some of the colleagues of these celebrity presenters keep complaining of what they would term of discrepancies or favouritism at the work place but that surely isn’t the case. These guys are huge investments to their employers,” he explains.

The new change of tune throws us back to the 2000s, the golden age of Kenyan FM radio.

Back then, Capital FM had been on the onslaught, posing as the new face of local FM stations as they brought in polished foreign radio hosts to work at the station. In fact, back then, it wasn’t all about the morning shows but the afternoon and the evening drives. That was before it all came crumbling down.

In August 2009, radio beauty Seanice Kacungira resigned from Capital FM to everyone’s shock. She was headed back to her native Kampala city where she had gotten another media offer.

At 26, the Ugandan was one of the youngest presenters to own the top-notch Programmes Controller title at Capital FM, and the only foreigner to hold the position in the country. She was going back to Kampala and was rumoured to be headed back to Sanyu FM, where she had been before.

Three months on, her fellow foreign presenter Marcus Kwikiriza who used to run the Afternoon Drive before moving to Classic FM also called it a day.

“I think I have done my part. It’s been 10 years, six stations in three different countries. Now, I have to move on,” Marcus told Pulse back then.

Marcus had worked in Uganda and Rwanda before coming to Kenya where he became a celebrity radio star. However, acrimony between him and one of the station’s top guns saw him leave for Classic FM.

It was then when radio queen Cess Mutungi, who had previously been quoted as having said she was “not interested with radio anymore” came back to the driver’s seat, presenting the Jam at Capital. Italia Masiero also made a comeback after a long break.

This was truly the radio shake up year that also saw Walter Mong’are quit his station. After ditching Capital FM to start his own business, Fareed Khimani too made a quick turn and moved into the new XFM 105.5. And with all this recycling, critics claimed that the industry had reached saturation and that radio presenters had formed cartels to control the radio stations.

However since the days of Sean Cardovillis (when Jimmy Gathu and Caroline Mutoko were still at Capital FM), the radio industry had experienced seasons of change with newcomers breathing new life into one of the oldest mediums of communication.

Is the new move that is rattling the big breakfast going to give a new birth on local radio?