Brian Thomas has been one of radio’s premiere programmers in the last decade. He didn’t just return WCBS-FM with DJs in 2007, he helped it return to Number 1.
So it was somewhat surprising, even for the industry with the “nomad” aspect, that Thomas is leaving New York for a promotion. Starting June 4, Thomas will helm the CBS Radio cluster of stations in Tampa. He will keep his hands on CBS-FM from a distance, though, remaining VP of Classic Hits programming.
“I wasn’t even thinking of leaving New York City,” Thomas tells FishbowlNY. “But after six years, it is in the back of your head of what’s next.”
Always seeking the next challenge, and with his favorite markets, aside from New York, in California and Florida, Thomas was open to exploration.
“When Ben Hill [SVP/market manager, Tampa] reached out in an e-mail that said…here’s a crazy thought [in the subject line] ‘Do you have any interest in the Tampa programming gig?’ It took a week to make the decision.”
But that decision was wrought with emotion.
“Have to admit, I cried [yesterday] when telling our staff,” Thomas admits. “I’m so proud of the CBS-FM Team. 101.1 is a very special radio station and it was so amazing to bring it back to the New York audience.”
Having previously programmed stations in Orlando and San Francisco, Thomas was originally recruited by CBS-FM to save the floundering “Jack” format, essentially without DJs, the cornerstone of CBS-FM for decades.
A combination of poor ratings (20th place when Thomas arrived) and huge groundswell for the station of yesteryear, or at least yesterday, led to “Jack’s” demise. Thomas actually took “Jack” to some success, reaching its high-water mark under his watch, number 9 in the 2007 winter book among adults 25 to 54.
However, Sixteen months later, “Jack” was out, but “Brian” was just getting started.
For a time, he also programmed Fresh/WWFS, taking it as high as number 5. But most proud has to be his work with CBS-FM. Since Jack folded in 2007, Thomas has led CBS-FM to a consistent number 2 in the monthly Arbitron PPM ratings, trailing only WLTW. Occasionally, CBS-FM eclipsed the Clear Channel juggernaut to grab number 1.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Thomas says, “How do you top that?”