Stunting (broadcasting)

Stunting is a type of publicity stunt in radio broadcasting, where a station—abruptly and often without advance announcement—begins to air content that is seemingly uncharacteristic compared to what is normally played.

Stunting is typically used to generate publicity and audience attention for upcoming changes to a station's programming, such as new branding, format, or as a soft launch for a newly-established station. Occasionally, a stunt may be purely intended as publicity or a protest, and not actually result in a major programming change. Stunts often involve a loop of a single song, or an interim format (such as the discography of a specific artist, Christmas music, or a novel theme that would not be viable as a permanent format), which may sometimes include hints towards the station's new format or branding.

To a lesser extent, stunting has also been seen on television, most commonly in conjunction with April Fools' Day, or to emphasize a major programming event being held by a channel.

Types of radio stunting and noted examples


Continuous loop


A station may stunt by repeating the same song, playlist, or other content on a continuous loop:[1]

Temporary formats


Occasionally a station dropping an old format will stunt with a transitional format, either containing hints towards the new format (such as songs referencing its new branding, and artists who may be included in the eventual format), or having little to do with it. This can include songs based on specific themes (such as a single musician), or novelties that would not be viable as a permanent format. In some cases (sometimes referred to as a "wheel of formats"), a station may cycle between multiple formats during the stunt until the new, permanent format launches.[25][26]

  • As part of its 1996 transition from country music to rhythmic contemporary WKTU,[27] New York City's WYNY carried simulcasts of programming from several of its Evergreen Media sister stations, including WRCX/Chicago (with morning host Mancow Muller informing his expanded audience that there would be "no more goat-ropin' music" on WYNY, and making jokes directed towards competitors WHTZ and WXRK—including pulling a prank on the latter's morning host Howard Stern), KKBT/Los Angeles, WLUP/Chicago, KIOI/San Francisco, and WXKS/Boston.[28][29]
  • In 2006, after its sale to new owners, KFYE in Kingsburg, California, dropped its contemporary Christian music programming for a stunt format it dubbed "Porn Radio", featuring songs with sexually-suggestive lyrics, and songs edited to include moaning sounds. The stunt led into its relaunch as rhythmic adult contemporary Sexy 106.3.[30][31][32] The station subsequently held a second publicity stunt in March 2007 that falsely implied an end to the format on March 30. A playing of "Say Goodbye" by Chris Brown preceded the ensuing announcement, a change in call letters to KSXE to match the Sexy moniker.[33]
    • WLYK in Cape Vincent, New York (serving Kingston, Ontario) pulled a similar stunt when it transitioned to new operators in February 2023, replacing its outgoing Kiss CHR format with "The Pole" (a pun of the name of one of the station's new owners, Jon Pole)—a variety format which played music that one would hear at a strip club.[34] The stunt notably attracted the attention of an actual strip club in Kingston.[35] The station emerged as adult hits Lake FM on March 17, 2023.[36]
  • In May 2009, WSKS in Utica, New York, announced that due to "financial constraints", its contemporary hit radio (CHR) format would be replaced by a beautiful music format similar to what was broadcast on sister station WUTQ. The ensuing programming included staged scenes of station employees protesting the changes. The "new format," however, lasted for only two hours before WSKS management came clean, restored the CHR format, and confirmed the stunt was a way to promote the station's new lineup.[37]
  • As a publicity stunt for the program by local broadcaster Global, Toronto radio station CIRR-FM (which usually broadcasts a CHR format targeting the LGBT community) temporarily rebranded as Glee FM on April 12, 2010, adding music from the U.S. musical comedy-drama series Glee to its playlist.[38] On August 16, 2010, British radio station Oxford's FM 107.9 held its own Glee FM stunt, leading into its August 18 relaunch as Glide FM.[39]
  • Over Memorial Day weekend in 2010, WJZX-FM/Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stunted as Tiger 106.9, featuring songs about cheating (in reference to an infidelity scandal involving golfer Tiger Woods). The station was expected to change to a top 40 format with the new call letters WNQW—with the new calls suggesting that its branding would involve the name "Now". However, competing station WQBW abruptly moved to introduce the same format and branding as 97.3 Now, preventing WJZX from using the name.[40] The station continued airing temporary formats (such as patriotic music and The Beatles' discography in alphabetical order), before settling on a permanent format in June 2010, as classic country station WZBK-FM (the station eventually adopted a rhythmic top 40 format in September 2012 as Energy 106.9).[41][42]
  • In 2011, WWWN/Chicago and WEMP/New York—which had recently been sold to Merlin Media—transitioned from alternative rock to all-news radio as FM News. As a transitional format, both stations aired a format branded as FM New, which featured adult contemporary music interspersed with news, traffic, and weather updates from personalities who would serve under the new FM News formats.[43]
  • Some stations have held temporary stunts focused on specific artists in honor of major concert tours making stops in their markets, with KSON in San Diego briefly rebranding as The All-New George-FM in January 2014 ahead of the January 31 date on George Strait's farewell tour The Cowboy Rides Away (promoting an increased amount of George Strait music, and on-air giveaways of merchandise and concert tickets), and San Francisco's KBAY announcing that it would temporarily rebrand as Tay Bay and play all-Taylor Swift music on July 28 and 29, 2023, in honor of The Eras Tour.[44][45][46]
  • On October 8, 2014, KROI/Houston ended its all-news format and began stunting as B92, playing only music by Houston-native Beyoncé. The stunt led into its relaunch as classic hip-hop Boom 92.[47]
  • KEGY/San Diego used an unbranded mainstream rock format as part of its transition from CHR to a new hot talk-oriented format in 2018. The stunt's playlist featured Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" at the top of each hour, which teased its eventual branding as The Machine.[48][49]
  • Multiple stations in the United States and Canada have stunted with Chinese music under the branding "Kung Pao", such as KDOG (which led into a flip to classic hits), WVHT (which led into its re-launch as CHR Hot 100),[50][51] and CIGM (which led into its re-launch as CHR Hot 93.5).[52]
  • In connection with former president Donald Trump's presidency and both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections in the United States, multiple radio stations have stunted with songs directly related to both his presidency and campaigns under either both Donald and Trump brandings, such as WVWF (when it briefly stunted as Trump 105.1 and played songs that aimed directly to his campaign such as Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall"—in referenced to his border wall—in September 2016),[53] and Hartford conservative talk station WDRC (which temporarily rebranded as Trump 103.3 to promote its new FM translator W277DT, before returning to its normal "Talk of Connecticut" branding).[54][55]
  • In July 2021, Denver CHR station KPTT briefly aired all-Britney Spears music as Free Britney Radio (in reference to the Britney Spears conservatorship dispute) before re-launching its format as Hits 95.7.[56]

Christmas music


The popular practice of radio stations playing all-Christmas music during the lead-up to (and occasionally the week after) Christmas Day has sometimes been used by stations as a transition period between formats.[57][58] However, the ensuing format change can still occur before the end of the holiday season. Christmas music is sometimes used as a more blatant stunt format outside of the holiday season (in a similar spirit to ironic "Christmas in July" promotions).[57][58]

  • On November 17, 2017, Seattle country station KMPS flipped to Christmas music in defense of its former competitor and now-sister station, KKWF, following the merger of CBS Radio with KKWF's owner Entercom. While ostensibly for the holiday season, KMPS abruptly ended the all-Christmas programming on December 4, 2017, and flipped to soft adult contemporary.[59][60] The following year, Entercom's Detroit station WDZH performed a similar flip from an outgoing CHR format to soft AC, with its transition period having lasted only three days.[61]
  • Saskatoon's CFWD-FM soft launched with Christmas music in April 2008 prior to its official launch as CHR Wired 96.3 (a more traditional holiday music stunt was used as part of its flip to adult hits in December 2012).[57][62][63][64]
    • In April 2011, its Edmonton sister-station CKEA-FM used a weekend of Christmas music to soft launch its new adult contemporary format Lite 95.7, promoting the new station's intent to play all-Christmas music during the holiday season.[65]
  • Duluth's WEBC used Christmas music as a transitional format in September 2015 when flipping from sports talk to classic rock, with the station initially implying that the Christmas format was permanent.[66][67][68]
  • Richmond's WURV aired 12 hours of "inappropriately early" Christmas music on October 7, 2015, as a satire of Christmas creep and stations trying to be the first in their market to play Christmas music.[69][70]
    • WURV's sister station WJSR would notably conduct an unusually-long Christmas music stunt lasting from October 13, 2020 to March 4, 2021; the station had originally stunted with snippets of songs as "Short Attention Span Radio" from October 1.[71][72] After just over five months of stunting in total, WJSR flipped to classic hits Awesome 100.9 on March 4, 2021.[73]
  • In October 2018, KBFF in Portland, Oregon briefly stunted with a Halloween-themed format as eviL 95.5 (an inversion of its typical branding Live 95.5), as a parody of all-Christmas formats.[74]


  • On January 7, 2019, country station KSED/Sedona began stunting with a speaking clock counting down to 6:00 a.m. on January 14, 2019. The stunt—which led into a rebranding with no change in format—prompted the Flagstaff Police Department to issue a statement clarifying that, despite concerns from residents, this was a promotional event with no harm intended.[75][76]
  • In 2018 and 2020, iHeartMedia used multiple stunts as part of its repositioning and relaunch of CHR station KBKS-FM in Seattle.
    • In late-October 2018 approaching Halloween, the station dropped its on-air personalities, and began to air promos and sweepers implicating the end of its existing Kiss format. Later, the station began to interrupt songs with a demonic voiceover stating that "Kiss is dead", and air promos teasing an announcement on October 31. At that time, the station announced that it would revamp its on-air lineup with no change in format, explaining the prior stunt by stating that they were "dead serious" about finding "Seattle's Funniest Person" to join its morning show (as part of an accompanying contest).[77][78][79]
    • In July 2020, KBKS announced that it had hired Jubal Fresh—the former co-host of KQMV's nationally-syndicated morning show Brooke & Jubal—to host a new morning show on the station.[80] On August 3, 2020, the station temporarily rebranded as Jubal 106.1 to promote the impending launch of The Jubal Show,[81] after which it adopted its new branding—Hits 106.1—on August 20 to coincide with its premiere.[82]
  • From March 27 to late-May 2020, CHR station WFLC/Miami, Hits 97.3, branded as Quarantine Radio in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and Florida's stay-at-home order. The station maintained its existing format, but added commercial-free hours of dance music mixes ("Fit Mixes") at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. In late-May, the Quarantine Radio branding was dropped and the station promoted itself as being "under construction", before re-launching the Hits format on June 3 with a new on-air lineup.[83][84]

On television


Cartoon Network has broadcast its share of stunts over the years, many on April Fools' Day. On April 1, 1997, the network aired a stunt where it had purportedly been taken over by Screwy Squirrel, and subsequently broadcast the Screwy Squirrel cartoon "Happy-Go-Nutty" for 12 hours straight.[85] Numerous complaints were received about this particular event, generally fielded by Cartoon Network's cable providers, who had been left in the dark about the stunt.[85] Later April Fools' Day stunts on Cartoon Network have included an 11 hour Cow and Chicken marathon in place of a scheduled Chowder marathon on April 1, 2009, and 14 hours of programming edited to have googly eyes on April 1, 2017.[86]

Cartoon Network's late-night block Adult Swim has held a number of their own April Fools' programming stunts, such as promoting a television premiere of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters before its theatrical release (but displaying it in a comically-small window over regularly-scheduled programming), airings of the cult Tommy Wiseau film The Room, episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Rick and Morty redubbed by children and edited to be family-friendly ("Adult Swim Junior"),[87][88] a one-off revival of Cartoon Network's former action and anime block Toonami (which later relaunched under the auspices of Adult Swim), an airing of Toonami with programs in their original Japanese audio with subtitles (including Masaaki Yuasa's 2004 experimental film Mind Game) rather than an English dub,[89] and preceding an announced season 2 premiere of Smiling Friends with season 1 episodes re-shot with live-action puppets.[90] The stunts have sometimes included unannounced previews and premieres of new and existing series, such as additional episodes of Perfect Hair Forever after its supposed series finale, the third season premiere of Rick and Morty, and an unannounced world premiere of the first episode of FLCL's third season before its second season had even premiered in the U.S. yet.[91][87][92][93]

For 35 days in early-1998, Birmingham, Alabama's CBS affiliate WBMG—which had recently been acquired by Media General—stunted during some of the timeslots of its local newscasts with a clock counting down to a major relaunch of the station (and its fledgling news department) on February 5.[94][95][96]

Nick Jr. Too, a sister to the British Nick Jr. channel, has occasionally aired long-term marathons of Peppa Pig, during which it has branded as "Nick Jr. Peppa".[97] In a similar manner, Sky Sports has also temporarily rebranded some of its channels to devote them specifically to certain major events, such as The Ashes series in cricket (Sky Sports Ashes),[98] the PDC World Darts Championship (Sky Sports Darts; in 2015, this used the Sky Sports F1 channel, since Formula One was in its off-season),[99][100] and golf's Open Championship (Sky Sports The Open).[101] In January 2019, Sky Sports Action was temporarily renamed "Sky Sports USA", with programming focusing on the National Basketball Association (coinciding with the playing of the NBA Global Games series in London), and the National Football League playoffs and Super Bowl LIII.[102][103]

At least three networks have used stunting-type events prior to their formal launches: G4, for example, aired a 7 day long game of Pong before its formal debut on April 24, 2002.[104] This stunt would later be referenced by the network's sign-off December 31, 2014, as well as in the video announcing its 2021 return.[105][106] MLB Network aired a continuous loop of baseball highlights and promos as a "soft launch" in the weeks before its formal debut on January 1, 2009. Canada's Sun News Network employed an on-screen countdown clock graphic in the hours before its April 18, 2011, launch.[107]

Since 2017, one of ESPN's networks has stunted as "ESPN8: The Ocho" on or near August 8 (8/8), carrying a marathon of programming featuring sporting events and competitions that are either obscure or unconventional, such as chess boxing, disc golf, dodgeball, esports, Highland games, kabaddi, lawn mower racing, mini-golf, and roller derby. The stunt pays tribute to a fictitious ESPN channel of the same name portrayed in the 2004 sports comedy film DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (nicknamed "The Ocho", in reference to ESPN2 being nicknamed "The Deuce" on launch), which carries coverage of competitions that are "almost a sport". The stunt was originally held on ESPNU—a channel that normally carries college sports events during the academic year, but moved to ESPN2 beginning in 2018. The film itself has sometimes been screened as part of this lineup as well.[108][109][110][111][112]


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