Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Followup to a Bombshell

OMW reported earlier today that Salem sports WKNR/850 Cleveland was on the outs with the ESPN Radio Network. We have a little more clarification.

As we mentioned earlier, OMW sources tell us that the folks at ESPN dropped a bombshell on WKNR on Monday...a 90-day notice to get out of the network's contract with the long-time affiliate. We hear that ESPN Radio will eventually be heard on another Cleveland market outlet, and from what we are told, that outlet will be a 24/7 affiliate of the network.

It appears, for now, that ESPN isn't going to be pulled immediately from the WKNR airwaves, despite Salem's obvious displeasure with the exit move.

As we reported here first, the station performed what we've called in the past a "Soviet-style purge" of ESPN's mentions on the WKNR website, including erasing program listings for morning show "Mike and Mike" in at least two places. (We also believe an ESPN news ticker once graced the 'KNR site...that's definitely gone.) By the way, a tip of the OMW hat to long-time reader Nathan Obral for first noticing the absence of ESPN material on WKNR's website.

While station management may have wanted to pull the plug immediately on ESPN Radio, cooler heads seem to have prevailed. Not only would that move mean a mad scramble for a new morning show, nighttime and weekend programming, but it would have cost the station tonight's Major League Baseball All-Star Game. To the on-air listener, there's no riff between WKNR and ESPN. Yet. We'll see how that changes over the next three months, and when.

Now, as far as that "what next" option for the sports network... there really seem to be very few options. Let's ride the Speculation Train, shall we? All of the above is merely open thinking on our part. Feel free to hit the comments or the local radio message boards to dissect this one:

STOP 1: With ESPN leaving Salem, there goes all that company's stations - even if one of them were willing to go 24/7 with ESPN alongside WKNR, which would be unlikely even in the best of a Salem/WKNR relationship. WHK and WHKW aren't changing from their talk and religious formats, anyway.

STOP 2: Clear Channel has no stations to give ESPN for full 24/7 coverage, as they have no other Cleveland AM stations besides WTAM/1100. And even if there were a Clear Channel FM in dire trouble, it wouldn't go all-network sports, ever.

STOP 3: Both of Radio One's AMs have a purpose - WERE/1300 with its new company-driven urban news/talk format, and WJMO/1490 with its long-time local gospel format. Ditto, certainly, with their FM stations.

That leaves no other full-market, full-time Cleveland signals left for ESPN besides one: company-owned Radio Disney outlet WWMK/1260. We'd almost consider the in-house move from kids radio to ESPN a given, except we don't know if ESPN has ever flipped a Radio Disney station to ESPN sports.

Note that ESPN Radio owns a full-time Pittsburgh sports station, WEAE/1250...which does its best to be competitive in the tough Pittsburgh sports radio market.

It just swiped Stan Savran, former afternoon drive competitor (WBGG/970) to WEAE's popular afternoon drive show with Mark Madden, to help with Steelers coverage and fill-in talk.

And in an odd coincidence in this situation, former station owners Jacor and Capstar once swapped WEAE and WKNR in a two-city deal made necessary by regulatory concerns at the time.

Be sure you realize we have NO even rumored information that WWMK/1260 is the eventual destination for ESPN Radio in Cleveland. But if our speculation turns out to be correct, and ESPN Radio does go 24/7 on Disney's own 1260 frequency - it seems likely from the company's history in sports formats that they'll make a run at being competitive...with at least some local presence on the air.

It would be a fun ride...

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

1260?? WHO can get THAT tiny signal? What a mistake that would be. I like the ESPN option, so I hope they land somewhere where the shows can actually be heard throughout NE Ohio.

As for WKNR, Mike Cataan (spelling?) is far and away the most talented and interesting host, whenever I can catch him filling in somewhere. And the two guys on Saturday morning are "can't miss," as well. Any daily inclusion of Mike or the Sat. team would be a much-needed upgrade.

Roda's okay, but can't hold a candle to Cataan. Why not lead off with Roda in the A.M. (since I listen elsewhere), and give the afternoon slot to someone who actually KNOWS sports?

Brian said...

A station in Raleigh flipped from ESPN to Fox Sports Radio a few months ago because evidently ESPN held carriage of Mike & Mike and Dan Patrick as a condition of continuing the contract. The station that picked them up just went under after about 6 months, and they were on a tiny signal as well.

I'm not sure what exactly ESPN is trying to accomplish with this. They certainly must know they're not going to wind up on a 50K unlimited blowtorch, and if the only stations that they can get are ones that don't reach across the street from the transmitter in a stiff wind, then why bother burning the bridge in the first place? Something doesn't pass the smell test here.

Anonymous said...

why not FM? 107.3? Not likely, but why not?

How about WCCD? I can pick up ESPN 1000 out of Chicago better at night than 850 anyway.

Johnny Morgan said...

WCCD will never sell. They've been offered upwarsd of $50 million at the height of the buying spree and turned it down.

It's a HUGE Fm signal, smack in the comm band--and the Moody's won't sell.

Anonymous said...

Johnny--

WCCD is AM 1000, a 1000 watt daytimer run by the New Spirit Revival Church.

You're thinking of WCRF FM 103.3, which is run by Moody Bible Institute.

AM 1000 is a daytimer so as not to interfere with WMVP AM 1000 out of Chicago, which is a 50kw ESPN affiliate.

It sounds funny, but if ESPN wanted to, they could buy WCCD for a song and program it, and at night WMVP would boom in and they wouldn't miss a beat.

Johnny Morgan said...

anonymous,

You're right, I'm wrong. I confused WCCD and WCRF (damn those "C"s!)

OK, time for self-flaggellation with long spaghetti as penance.

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened in Erie. WFNN 1330 "The Fan" was forced to drop Jim Rome for Dan Patrick or lose ESPN Radio & their baseball package altogether. Good thing Rome fans can still tune into the show live on WGR 550 (Buffalo) Noon - 3pm or tape delay on WFUN 970 (Ashtabula) 3 - 6pm.

Joe Lull said...

No offfense anonymous, but now is not the time for KNR to promote their OCB staff...this is their opportunity to actually hire broadcast PROFESSIONALS, not college radio nobodys who haven't even earned accredited broadcast degrees. Have you honestly ever listened to their weekend show..it's no different from any typical college radio show...where they use formulaic sports arguments about the designated hitter rule....yawn. Mike Catan has had over three years on the air on KNR...and nobody listens. Check the ratings.

Anonymous said...

hmm... that wouldn't be someone impersonating the REAL Joe Lull would it???

matt said...

Describing the move of Stan Savran from Clear Channel to ABC/ESPN as "swiping" is a little misleading... Savran was fired by Clear Channel.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06164/697817-194.stm

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06191/704740-194.stm

Anonymous said...

Nice to see the kiddie-core at the station trying to self promote. Mike Catan? You mean the board-op who was promoted to on-air host because he's cheap? Just like the rest of them? They were board-ops and producers for crying out loud. The kids have paid no dues, and it certainly shows in the on-air product (see also: Andre Knott).

Look at the talent that place has lost/gotten rid of because they weren't promoted or the station cut back: Kendall Lewis, Dave Milo, Rich Passan (that could have been more of a personal issue in the end), Marc Kestecher, Ryan McNaughton, and countless others.

The clock is ticking on that joke of a station, and it's sad. It used to be something to reckon with in town.

Anonymous said...

All personal opinons aside, could WKNR make it without ESPN?

True, they have Jim Rome, and Brinda, Karlovec, and Roda have been there for 10 years plus, but can they stretch out their own resources to fill the void left by ESPN?

Fox Sports Radio has far less of a success rate than ESPN has, and they have no sports play-by-play contracts.

And everytime WKNR makes news, the question has to be asked:

Is Salem willing to do what it takes to make KNR a player, or are they just biding their time until they can dump it?

Salem has their signature formats of Christian Radio (WHKW), Conservative Talk (WHK), and Christian Music (WFHM).

IF WKNR was taken off their hands, would they lose any sleep over it?

Anonymous said...

At least Marc Kestecher was hired by ESPN Radio in the first place. He wasn't fired by Metro in 1998 (yes, apparently WKNR farmed out their sports updates to Metro Networks long beforehand!)

I believe that WKNR has simply staved execution only because it made easy money for Salem. FSN Ohio is really the only ones ponying up the money and effort for "Cleveland Rants," for example.

Salem and Mike Luczak can't really run WKNR out of a paper bag. Who in their right minds can expect that? That's why, when ESPN is finally poached from the station, it's certain death for them. Only because current Salem management is far from able to actually "create" and "operate" a sports station. Any yokel or dolt in this region could have seen it coming.

Maybe the sports format is moved to WHK/1420, and is sold/LMAed to CC. Or WKNR simply goes full circle, and plugs in a cheap sattelite-delived oldies format (just like when WKNR was spun off of WGAR in 1990). That's only if the 24/7 Gregorian chants Johnny recommends aren't available yet, hehe ;D

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

I haven't listened to WKNR with the exception of Brinda since sometime in 2004. Programming is tired and there has been no imagination since Legerski left.

Anonymous said...

I am not a radio business expert but IMO WKNR is the worst all-sports radio station I have ever listened to. At least Mike & Mike gave it some credibility.

Let's be realistic...Drennan was a showtunes freak indicted for gambling, Kendall Lewis is a Bengals fan, Kenny Roda is a Steelers fan pimping Steelers parties during the playoffs, etc. I cannot believe there are no local people that could fill the airwaves with respectable programming.

If WKNR disappeared tomorrow I would be missing nothing. Sports talk radio can work in Cleveland but WKNR has done it completely wrong for a long time and maybe completely tearing it down and starting from scratch would be the best way to go!

BTW, I think Chuck Galeti did a nice job filling in for Kevin Keane on WTAM a few years ago. He is likeable, knowledgeable, and he lets callers speak their mind without cutting them off or tearing them down!

Thor Tolo said...

What I will never understand, is how WKNR could possibly continue to net big enough gains for Salem to stand pat. Do their sponsors honestly think they're getting their money's worth? Does the station ever really attract and MAINTAIN new listeners? Do any of the weekend college radio guys garner ANY ratings whatsoever - especially considering there's not one shred of competition??

WDFN has competition in the Detroit area...and does decidedly better than Knr (in respect to its own market). So to simply put up a white flag and insist that money can't be made is sports talk radio...is a completely fallacy.

Anonymous said...

The reason Brinda will NEVER get the morning drive slot is because he is an abomination.

One of the BIGGEST REASONS - per Errol Dengler - as to why Drennan was given that slot back in the day is because Brinda is just absolutely horrible in morning drive and he's not much better anywhere else.

Bob Karlovec as a sports talk show host is as compelling as watching paint dry (and I apologize for just insulting the fine work that paint does).