How to Name a Show

On names, the public has the final say.  The Staples Center in Los Angeles, home of the Grammys, the Lakers, the Sparks, and the Kings have been renamed the Arena.  Twenty years from now, as those naming rights end, Californians will likely still be calling it the Staples Center.

In naming a personality-based show on television, radio, or podcast, a good rule of thumb is to name the show after the human beings on it.  Think Oprah, Howard Stern, Ellen.  That is what the audience will call the show, no matter what other name is branded on it.

Ask any American.  The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is “Fallon.” As in, “did you see Fallon last night?”  Late Night with Steven Colbert is “Colbert,” and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is “Trevor.” The best late-night TV show name is Jimmy Kimmel Live because it puts the host’s name up front, and the audience says, “Kimmel” anyway.

Most of the strongest radio shows are named after their hosts, like The Bert Show or Preston and Steve in Philadelphia.  You can call a podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” from now until doomsday, but just save everyone some time and call it Joe Rogan.

Few radio shows today use brand names like The Morning Zoo anymore, but there are exceptions when using player names is too much.  The Breakfast Club is fewer syllables for listeners to remember than “DJ Envy, Angela Yee, and Charlamagne Tha God.”  In San Diego, The Show is easier for listeners to remember than “Eddie, Sky, Thor, and Emily on Rock 103.5.”

Some shows become so popular that listeners create an acronym.  Many refer to Saturday Night Live as SNL.  In West Palm Beach, WRMF’s Kevin, Virginia, and Jason is known as The KVJ Show, and in Baltimore, 98 Rock listeners abbreviate Justin Scott and Spiegel to JSS.

When the program is informational and/or has an ensemble cast of presenters, audiences tend to use the brand name of the show, like The Today Show, The View, or 60 Minutes.  On NPR, brand names like All Things Considered resonate with listeners.  A few particularly beloved hosts, like Terry Gross of Fresh Air, might get higher name recognition.

If a show is based on a game, audiences call the show by the name of the game.  Some might say, “I watched Pat Sajak,” but most say Wheel of Fortune.  NFL fans probably refer to Monday Night Football more than the names of the popular play-by play-hosts.

No matter what show brand name we broadcasters and podcasters would like to market to consumers, the human connection with the audience will likely determine what show is ultimately adopted.