Monday, December 04, 2006

The WKNR Fallout Item

Now that we've had a little time to digest the announced sale of Salem sports talk WKNR/850 to Good Karma Broadcasting, some thoughts. The below is primarily our own speculation and educated guessing, and not borne in fact unless we tell you otherwise:

* First, a "victory lap", as it were.

Here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we can't even count the number of times we've written the following sentence - or some variation of it - in connection with Good Karma's purchase of the 1000 watt daytime-only station now known as WWGK/1540: "This can't be Craig Karmazin's end game."

Though much of the speculation surrounded around the rumored nighttime brokering deal with Radio One's WERE/1300, which would have placed WWGK's ESPN Radio programming on that signal after 7 PM, we couldn't help wondering about other possibilities.

Maybe we just couldn't get the very first mention of Mr. Karmazin being connected to local broadcasting out of our minds.

That was in a column long ago by now-former Cleveland Plain Dealer sports/media columnist Roger Brown, who said, at the time, that Karmazin was interested in buying either Radio Disney's WWMK/1260 or...WKNR.

This was long before he ended up purchasing his first station, which now goes by the on-air name "Cleveland's ESPN Radio 1540".

After paying a couple of million for daytime gospel outlet WABQ, Karmazin has finally ended up getting WKNR - and actually did not pay a lot more, considering the relative strengths of the two stations. He got a deal that was a few million less than even Salem paid to return talk WHK/1420 to the company's fold.

* What happens to the two stations now that they'll be under common ownership?

We don't know.

Again, in the "educated guess" category, we like the comment made to our earlier item. WKNR becomes Good Karma's "mostly local" sports talk outlet, with the assumption (likely correct) that the station keeps mainstay Jim Rome noon-3 PM.

WJW/8 sports anchor Tony Rizzo is likely in the conversation somewhere, judging from his existing association with Good Karma, and his desire to return to doing at least some sports talk radio.

The answer there would appear to belong to his TV bosses at "FOX 8" - whether he does a weekday show, a Saturday midday show or none at all. We haven't heard any new developments on that front since Rizzo did that special OSU/Michigan show on WWGK a few weeks ago.

What of "Cleveland's ESPN Radio 1540"? Our guess - it stays that way, with a primarily network lineup, carrying sports events and programming overflow from WKNR, as its broadcast hours permit.

The only wild card to us - does Karmazin keep FOX Sports Radio on 850, or swap it to 1540? That would certainly satisfy ESPN's desire to be on a full-time signal...and remember, FSR is only on WKNR because Salem had to replace ESPN, which...of course, ended up on Karmazin's first signal.

And does Good Karma return ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" to 850, or do a local morning drive show?

If you look at Karmazin's other sports properties, most of them are affiliated with ESPN. The sole non-ESPN sports format outlet in his portfolio, WTLX/100.5 Columbus/Madison WI, is losing FOX Sports Radio to Clear Channel's WXXM/92.1 in the same market.

Karmazin has told local reporters in Madison that he plans to air more local sports talk on the frequency, with the loss of the network feed.

* Don't necessarily assume the current full-time WKNR hosts or staffers will be getting their walking papers, certainly in the short term, at any rate.

We don't know how mid-morning host Greg Brinda or afternoon driver Kenny Roda fit into Good Karma's plans. Heck, at this point, even Craig Karmazin himself may not know that answer.

Ditto with other 'KNR staffers, like the young group of producer/board ops/weekend hosts, or update anchors Jeff Thomas and Daryl Ruiter - who, of course, are actually employed by Metro Networks instead of Salem.

One thing we'd like to do here is *calm* some of the wild, outrageous speculation - by saying, basically, we haven't heard anything to answer any of the above questions yet.

And it would appear likely from this corner that Good Karma is going to take at least the next month or so, if not more, to make some of these decisions.

One thing would appear to be immediate.

With station voice and program director Michael Luczak no longer associated with WKNR, we'll probably start hearing new production on the station - fairly soon. Even that may take some time to put together.

Mr. Luczak would presumably continue in the employ of Salem, overseeing the company's talk WHK/1420 and perhaps performing other duties. We don't know his experience with Christian contemporary music, but of course, WFHM/95.5 "The Fish" is looking for a program director after Sue Wilson's departure to Rubber City country WQMX/94.9 in the Akron market.

But...Luczak won't be voicing WKNR liners and promos anymore.

It'll be fun to watch, at any rate...as Karmazin appears ready to enter "the big leagues" of local sports radio. And he finally is able to compete with WTAM/1100 for the local sports audience.

Will he start going after Clear Channel's pro contracts?

Assuming he keeps the Ohio State rights - and we'd be shocked if he would buy WKNR without that contract being kept - the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers are the big "plums" left.

Our guess? He goes after the rights of one of the three teams.

His problem? All of them would presumably be wrapped up by Clear Channel in multi-year contracts.

But with a full-market full-time signal, and apparently some money behind him ($10 million doesn't grow on trees), he'd appear to be...in the game, at least. OK, so we couldn't resist the pun.

We'll be watching...

31 comments:

VODood said...

ESPN network VO is Jim Cutler. Not sure if WTAM uses him or not. Last I heard 'TAM used Brian James. For branding purposes I'd get Cutler, plus he's really good (just listen to him on WLW...priceless delivery!).

If they need a VO for WWGK.. I'm available in the market, and chea...I mean inexpensive.

Anonymous said...

I think WTAM uses both Cutler and James. Jim Cutler is used for the newscast promos and sports talk/PBP liners, James does the basic show liners. In the past, WTAM also had (current WPGB PD) then-production director Jay Bohannon in the mix, giving them three voices at that point. Kinda like the early years of Mix.

Personally, given the situation, I'd take Chuck for WWGK. For WKNR, why not Chris Duffy? (BTW, he preceeded Jay in WTAM production dept- and was the imaging voice for Jeff 'n Flash's WWWE stint.)

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

Dont bring back Bill Needle! Repeat! No Bill Needle,Ronnie Duncan or any other has been.

Johnny Morgan, Esq. said...

Re: pro sports contracts.

These contracts are made to be broken. Money cures all ills, anyway.

See, e.g., WOIO.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the possibilities here. Cleveland is the original rock and roll market as much as it was the market the really put sports talk into the limelight with Pete Franklin.

Cleveland is a natural sports market and people love to love and hate our teams. The region has seen mostly crap sports talk over the past ten years. Triv has had no competition therefore letting him get lazy and completely off topic. WKNR hasn't really been your dominant sports force. Rome has been the ratings leader, but outside his show the rest have been mediocre.

Bottom line is this is a great opportunity to have a local station really put the screws to WTAM. I hope they pick up the Indians or Cavs in the process.

Anonymous said...

No more Bruce Drennan for that matter either

Pat McCabe #1 fan said...

Bring back Pat McCabe for some serious sports jawboning

Anonymous said...

How about Thor Tolo too?

Anonymous said...

Peter Brown just got fired in Milwaukee. I'm sure Karmazin is familiar w/ Brown since he was direct competition for Craig's WAUK on WSSP. PLUS Brown used to work in Cleveland back in the day. I wouldn't be surprised to see Peter Brown resurface on WKNR shortly.

Also, how much longer will Kendall Lewis be heard on the non-factor that is SportsTalkCleveland.com??? Could Kendall have jumped on-board Paul Belfi's sinking ship just to get back into the game in Cleveland sports talk knowing fully well what Karmazin was up to???

Only time will tell...

Ohio Media Watch said...

We actually had an item a few back about Peter Brown being let go in Milwaukee, and our own speculation. Of course, at the time, we didn't know Good Karma was about to buy WKNR!

Interesting thought. Again, as we said before, we're not sure A) Craig's interested or B) Peter's interested, but it's part of the Speculation Roundtable here...now amplified due to the changes at WKNR...

-The Management

Anonymous said...

Drennan could host a show from jail!

Anonymous said...

Possibly a "shower show" at the circus? Maybe they can invite Hurricane Bob, Sol, Mike Andrasak, Mr. Logical Argument, Quaker Rick, SportsBoy Tony, Pepsi Pete, AJ Agresta, Red, The Sports Professionals, The Syracuse Stiff Matt Dery, Mark from Beachwood, Tony from Brunswick, Andrew the Racist, Stud or Stiff, Survey Wednesday, 1420 questions, Get some guts Less, The Hal Imposter, Jack Kitchen the Viking, How Come Quickies, Stalking Baseball with Dan McDowell, Thank you Howie, Danny "Really and Truly" From Mayfield, Jim CHOWWWWWWnes, "Hitting 38 streets and half of Canton", Hooters, Happy Trails to You, Toad Felte Quiz, Gerald Irons Bentley, Guys in the Know, Doom and Gloom, Blunder Lady, Diminishing Shills, Dumpling, Yes and the Foul, Sports talk for Kids, Buffoonery.

Anonymous said...

WTAM has the Indians for the rest of the decade..that deal was signed last summer..

I can't see them letting go of the Cavaliers anytime soon..that might produce a battle if Good Karma..and this is the big ''if''..has the cash to play hardball with Clear Channel..

I also don't think the Browns are in play..the NFL has made it pretty clear they want their franchises on FM signals where radio is concerened...which is true for all but one franchise last time I looked..they have AM partners..which Good Karma could pursue if it wanted to I suppose..

Anonymous said...

With Clear Channel going through the LBO, all contracts are being looked at with scrutiny. And all contracts sometimes have clauses that allow them to be broken in the event of a sale.

Regardless, the new "investors" will want the company trimmed down -- which is what you're saying. That doesn't mean that CCU is going to dump any of its sports contracts, it just means that they're going to look through them carefully. And I'd bet dump (or not renew) any of them that aren't profitable.

As for Karmazin, his dad signed NUMEROUS NFL contracts while he owned Infinity (prior to Viacom); Infinity had a good amount of them at one point in time. Craig likely knows a thing or two about them -- if not, he's got a great advisor.

74WIXYGrad said...

Where are the Les Levine fans?

Anonymous said...

"Where are the Les Levine fans?"
Yeah... all three of them?

Anonymous said...

George M. Thomas in this today's Beacon-Journal writes:

If I'm Karmazin, I'd go local all day on WKNR and switch to ESPN's programming at night. He's got the rare opportunity to return the station to its heyday -- before Clear Channel pillaged everything including Indians broadcasts back in the late '90s -- when they had beat reporters for each sports team, a complete local lineup of hosts and somewhat of an attitude. (end)

ESPN radio??? zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Anonymous said...

George M. Thomas in today's Beacon-Journal writes:

If I'm Karmazin, I'd go local all day on WKNR and switch to ESPN's programming at night. He's got the rare opportunity to return the station to its heyday -- before Clear Channel pillaged everything including Indians broadcasts back in the late '90s -- when they had beat reporters for each sports team, a complete local lineup of hosts and somewhat of an attitude. (end)

ESPN radio you say ??? ..zzzzzzzzzzzz...

Anonymous said...

ESPN Radio is the cure all for insomnia. I don't care what anyone says at least Fox Sports Radio has some charisma and talent to it.

Typical Hour on ESPN radio

Sportscenter till 5 after
Talk about nothing for 5 mins
Interview for 5 mins
Commercials
Sportscenter again
Commercials
Interview or some other filler talk.
Sportscenter
Repeat scores throughout hour ad nauseaum.

How can anyone find ESPN Sports Radio listenable. The last time it was any good was when Tony Bruno,Chuck Wilson and Peter Brown hosted Saturday Night ESPN Radio back in the mid 90s

Sour Apples said...

I agree ESPN Radio sucks.

Anonymous said...

I used to listen to "All Night with Todd Wright" and found him enjoyable. The only thing I listen to now is Dan Patrick and that is few and far between due to my work schedule.

trefdawg said...

Amen to the Thor Tolo idea! I liked his show on KD. He's much more intellegent then many of the "jabroni's" that are on the air these days in Pittsburgh and heck...850's signal makes it into my neck of the woods, 35 miles west of 'da burgh.

Anonymous said...

Is Mark Schwab done with WTAM, came across this job posting

http://cleveland.careerboard.com/cgi-bin/a/highlightjob.cgi?jobid=162586

Cleveland Indians - Part Time Radio Engineer/Producer - Pre-Game Show Host

Job Grade 26

Minimum Wage: $32,075.00

The Cleveland Indians Marketing Department is currently scouting for a part-time professional (late January through September) to serve as Producer of all Cleveland Indians radio game broadcasts, Engineer for all home and away game broadcasts, and Host of the Indians Radio Network Pre-Game Show. This person will also be responsible for overseeing audio production and communication with broadcast networks. Daily duties include preparation of show materials, information, and baseball updates. This position will be responsible for all transmission of signal, maintenance of equipment, liaison with WTAM and affiliate stations, and coordination of technical needs with away team when traveling, and visiting team when home. Development, creation, and talent for Indians Radio Network pre-game show for all broadcast games are necessary components of this opportunity. The ideal individual needs to possess knowledge of all technical aspects of a radio broadcast, knowledge of radio formats, game broadcast production, and audio production, writing, and editing skills. This professional must also have relevant on-air broadcasting experience preferably in a baseball-related environment. An in-depth knowledge of baseball is required for this outstanding opportunity. Previous experience working in these areas, specifically in minor league baseball environment, would be most beneficial. Ability to work days, nights, weekends, and holidays also required. This unique position will travel with the team, but will not be responsible for engineering of the Spring Training games. Travel to Winter Haven for Wahoo Week (in order to record audio for pre-game shows), and travel for the Press Tour will be required. This position reports directly to the Manager of Broadcasting. Should you be interested in this tremendous opportunity, we require a CD of your Audio Air Check, which can be sent to Cleveland Indians/Part-Time Radio Engineer/Producer & Pre-Game Show Host, 2401 Ontario Street, Cleveland, OH 44115 and your resume, cover letter, and wage requirements should be forwarded www.indians.com, click on Job Opportunities, and follow the on-line application process. EOE.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like the job of the on site engineer that used to be Mike Mullinax for some time. At one time I did the engineering from WKNR in 1996-97. I think Mark Schwab works for WTAM not the Cleveland Indians

Anonymous said...

Bring in Mark Madden from Pittsburgh!

Anonymous said...

I say give Chuck Galeti a show. I like the last 5 mins of his show on WTAM. Those are the best 5 mins of radio much like the old how come quickies

Anonymous said...

ESPN radio from when it aired after KNR signoffs pretty much went down the tubes in the past two years or so. It seemed like they showed the door to all the decent talkshow hosts in favor of the edgier ones they've been running in the past few years while pumping up the bloated ESPN brand. As for the overnight replacement for Todd Wright, well I'd rather listen to the radio static that was there if I accidentally slipped and moved the tuning dial. FSR is just dumped in as filler anyways with the only one I'd actually listen to is Andrew Siciliano but thats pretty much a hour on a blue moon friday night.

Anonymous said...

The Indians application is really taking about a replacement for Matt Underwood's radio duties. Matt hosted "Indians Warm-Up" since 1995, and feeds the morning-drive "Indians Update" to the network. Matt obviously can't do these anymore as he will be the lead PBP voice on SportsTime Ohio.

Mark does works for WTAM as the Indians beat reporter, but also for the Indians itself as host of the network's Saturday "TribeTalk" show. That's why Geoff Sindelar was still a part of the Indians network for several years after WTAM stole the rights - he was employed by the team, not by WTAM.

- Nathan Obral

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why so people have a fascination with Les Levine. He's nothing but a never was/has been. Don't you think there's a reason he hasn't been in Cleveland radio on a regular basis in over a decade? That being said, what Cleveland Sports Talk Radio DESPERATELY needs is fresh, new voices...and no I'm not talking about giving a 'KNR board op a promotion. Cleveland is a great sports town with very passionate fans, but it's sports talk radio has never lived up to that same standard. Why bring bring in Cleveland retreads that were/are part of the reason why Sports Talk Radio has been so bad in this town. Because a handful of people might remember them? If that is done, then there is truly no hope for Sports Talk Radio to ever work in Cleveland. That would be a crying shame. Judging by Craig Karmazin's pedigree, I think he's bringing a fresh, innovative perspective to Cleveland radio that is so desperately needed.

Anonymous said...

If you don't understand the fascination with Les Levine - then you truly don't understand the history of Cleveland sports talk radio.

Les was the drive-time headliner and ring leader at the "Big One - the Large One" original "Voice of the Fan" WHK 1420AM in the early '90's - the true heyday of Cleveland sports talk radio.

Pat McCabe, Dan McDowell, Tony Rizzo, Matt Dery, the 'BSK', Les Levine, and a cast of truly original characters (callers) took to the airwaves daily providing insightful, thought provoking, un-censored, and often very hilarious discourse - driven by the audience itself - the likes of which had never before been heard, and not since.

It's obvious that Les has kept his finger and career on the Cleveland sports pulse over the last ten years through his daily live television show and work for FSN OHIO. Though most would agree Les is at his very best in a daily radio (3-hour) format.

You can thank the de-regualtion of station ownership in the 90's for destroying the independant and creative voice across this nation. Leaving a trail of stale, tired, cookie-cutter thoughtless sports drivel in the Cleveland market.

Hats off to Good Karma for trying to take back a piece of the airwaves one station at a time. Here's hoping they can give a creative forum back to the Cleveland sports fans....

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