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Stunting (broadcasting)

Stunting is a practice in radio broadcasting, which occurs when a station begins, abruptly and without advance announcement, to air content that is seemingly uncharacteristic compared to what they normally play.[1] The tactic is most commonly used when a station is about to undergo a major change, such as a change in format, branding, frequency, ownership or management, or occasionally as a simple prank on listeners and rival broadcasters. Either way, stunting is intended as a publicity stunt to generate a greater amount of media publicity and audience attention, by virtue of its shock value, than a straightforward format change could provide.[2] Depending on the station's situation and its management's preference, stunt formats can last anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks before the permanent change is launched.

To a lesser extent, stunting has also been seen on television, most commonly in conjunction with April Fool's Day.

Types of radio stunting and noted examplesEdit

Continuous loopEdit

A station may stunt by repeating the same song or songs over and over on a continuous loop:

Temporary formatsEdit

Occasionally a station dropping an old format will stunt with a transitional format, either containing clues and previews relating to 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.

Sound effectsEdit

In a prelude to a format flip, a series of audio clips and sound effects centered around a certain theme may be played. Known as a sound collage, the theme under which these bits of audio fall may or may not have something to do with the previous or new format.

Christmas musicEdit

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 as a transitional period between formats. Sometimes, Christmas music is used as a more blatant stunt format outside of the holiday season.[26][27]

  • As a soft launch in April 2008, Saskatoon's new radio station CFWD-FM briefly stunted with Christmas music as Santa FM, accompanied by a promotional campaign in which publicists in Santa costumes paraded through the city. The station ultimately launched as CHR Wired 96.3 (with the station's staff joking that they would eventually grow tired of listening to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" if Christmas music was their permanent format). In November 2012, the station laid off its airstaff and flipped to Christmas music for the season, emerging as adult hits 96.3 Cruz FM on December 26, 2012.[26][28][29][30]
  • In late-September 2015, Duluth's WEBC dropped its sports radio format in favor of Ho Ho 106.5, before emerging in early-October as classic rock Sasquatch 106.5.[31][32][33]
  • In November 2017, CBS Radio and Entercom merged, bringing Seattle's two country music stations, KMPS and KKWF, under common ownership. On the day the merger was completed, KMPS switched to Christmas music, ostensibly for the holiday season. However, on the morning of December 4, 2017, KMPS abruptly ended the all-Christmas programming and flipped to soft adult contemporary as 94.1 The Sound.[34][35] The following year, Entercom's Detroit station WDZH flipped from CHR to the same format in an identical manner (with the station dropping its Amp Radio CHR format for The Rudolph Network, before becoming The Breeze three days later).[36]

On televisionEdit

The most prominent example of stunting on television is the annual April Fools' Day programming on Adult Swim; a false schedule grid is given to guide providers for that night, which has obscured a number of programming stunts over the years, including unannounced previews and premieres (such as the third season premiere of Rick and Morty, and additional episodes of Perfect Hair Forever after its supposed series finale), promising a television premiere of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters before its theatrical release (but only airing the first two minutes, already circulating online, before minimizing it into a comically-small picture-in-picture display over regularly-scheduled programming), the Tommy Wiseau film The Room, and an airing of the anime sub-block Toonami with all programming in Japanese audio with subtitles rather than an English dub (including an unannounced preview of FLCL's third season FLCL Alternative, before its second season Progressive had even aired yet, and an airing of the cult film Mind Game).[37][38][39][40]

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".[41] 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),[42] the PDC World Darts Championship (Sky Sports Darts, which in 2015 used its Formula One-specific channel due to its off-season),[43][44] and golf's Open Championship (Sky Sports The Open).[45] From 3 January to 5 February 2019, Sky Sports Action temporarily rebranded as "Sky Sports USA", with programming focusing on the National Football League and National Basketball Association (in anticipation of Super Bowl LIII, and the NBA Global Games series at The O2 Arena in London).[46][47]

At least two networks have used stunting-type events prior to their formal launches: MLB Network, for example, aired a continuous loop of baseball highlights and promos as a "soft launch" in the weeks before its formal debut on January 1, 2009, while Canada's Sun News Network employed an on-screen countdown clock graphic in the hours before its April 18, 2011, launch.[48]

Since 2017, one of ESPN's networks has stunted as "ESPN8" on or near August 8 (8/8), carrying a marathon of programming featuring obscure and unconventional sporting events, with events featured in the marathons having included chess boxing, disc golf, dodgeball, eSports, Highland games, kabaddi, lawn mower racing, mini-golf, and roller derby. The stunt homages the fictitious portrayal of an eighth ESPN channel in the 2004 sports comedy film DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (a film which, since 2018, has also been featured as part of the lineup), nicknamed "The Ocho" (in reference to ESPN2 being nicknamed "The Deuce" on launch), which carried coverage of events that were "almost a sport". The stunt was originally held on ESPNU—a channel that normally carries college sports programming during the academic year, but moved to ESPN2 beginning in 2018.[49][50][51][52][53]


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  11. ^ "Here's one for the books". Johns Hopkins Gazette. 24 (38). June 26, 1995.
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  14. ^ "Pro Active Goes Porn Radio On KFYE". All Access. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
  15. ^ "Some Sexy Fresno Fun". All Access. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
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