It would appear that incoming WABQ/1540 Cleveland owner Craig Karmazin will flip the 1000 watt gospel daytimer to a full-time ESPN Radio affiliate, when the network leaves WKNR/850 in the fall.
The Beacon Journal's David Lee Morgan gets the confirmation from a representative of Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting. Well, we think he did, at least of the ESPN affiliation. He didn't confirm the frequency, which is 1540, not 1520. (Is there a law that newspapers have to screw up radio frequencies?)
Morgan says the station rep (a receptionist? a producer? whoever answered the phone?) "confirmed" Karmazin's purchase of the Cleveland station. Well, anyone who can pull up the FCC database can "confirm" that, and they don't even have to work for Craig Karmazin. Here, "confirm" it yourself: FCC Record of Proposed WABQ Sale to Good Karma.
The unnamed Good Karma representative also confirmed the company would change WABQ's format. That's not a terrible surprise...Craig Karmazin doesn't exactly run gospel radio stations.
In the end, this may not be much than a confirmation of the obvious.
And we've said it before, we'll say it again. We can't see Mr. Karmazin running 1000-watt daytimer WABQ as his sole ESPN Radio outlet in the Cleveland market. And ironically, since this story ran in the Akron Beacon Journal, that would mean an exit of ESPN Radio from the Akron radio market. (Is that Media-Com's Bill Klaus we hear, rushing to the phone to change Kent daytimer WJMP/1520 "Fox Sports 1520" to "ESPN 1520"?)
Our best guess - new owner Karmazin parks ESPN on 1540 in mid-October with little or no local programming. Then, he works mightily to upgrade the 1540 signal to cover much more of the Cleveland market, and works out a night-time broker deal - a la his Milwaukee ESPN affiliate - to split the signal into day and night outlets.
The obvious choice for "ESPN Cleveland/Nights" would be Radio One urban talk WERE/1300, but we don't know how willing they are to broker up to 12 hours of their programming day. The Milwaukee urban talker Karmazin uses for his night coverage is owned by an independent operator.
The only OTHER choice is for Karmazin to trade the 1540 signal for something else, like Radio Disney's 1260.
We'll bet someone a steak dinner two years from now, if they believe that "ESPN Cleveland" sits solely on AM 1540. We just do not see it happening in the long term...