The FM News/Talk Watch And CBS

No, not in the Cleveland market, but more on CBS Radio and Cleveland in a bit.

We have a regular feature here we haven’t brought up in a while – the FM Talk Watch.

We should call it the “FM News/Talk Watch”, as we’ve never really used it to track the so-called “hot talk” stations that have dwindled to a very few these days. We’re talking about the move of traditional AM news/talk/sports formats to the FM dial…as either simulcasts or moves.

And CBS Radio has just uncorked a big one out in California.

AllAccess reports that classic hits KFRC/106.9 San Francisco is about to be supplanted…by an FM simulcast of CBS Radio’s venerable all-news outlet, KCBS/740.

The move set for next Monday bumps off the music format reestablished by the company – the reinvention of the long-time oldies outlet at 99.7 FM (and 610 AM) after CBS killed off the “Free FM” talk format on the new 106.9 frequency.

(To tie it altogether, a few years ago CBS swapped 610 to religious operator Family Radio – which owns WCUE/1150 Cuyahoga Falls in the Akron market – and paid a boatload of cash to take over Family Radio’s long-time full market FM home at 106.9. The Family Radio satellite feed you hear on WCUE is now based at 610 AM in San Francisco, though nominally so for FCC purposes from a nearby FM in Sacramento.)

It’s a drumbeat we’ve hit upon here, frequently. Eventually, big AM news/talk/sports stations are going to have to find some home on FM, be it a simulcast, a full-blown move, or even an HD2 or HD3 simulcast.

The latter is a pittance right now, and who knows where it goes in the future, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Clear Channel land its big AM talkers on an FM HD2/3 channel at some point – CBS has already done so in most of its large markets.

Anyway, as silly as it seems to look at Cleveland market AM powerhouse/blowtorch WTAM/1100 and wonder when it’s going to add an FM simulcast…how long can AM hold in there, when younger listeners barely can find the *FM* dial, let alone AM? That’ll become a big problem when those listeners start populating the older news/talk-friendly demos.

There’s also the other problem – right now, Clear Channel really doesn’t have a horribly failing FM station upon which to plant something like a WTAM simulcast, so it doesn’t happen.

For now, most news/talkers are addressing those demo headaches by tripping all-over themselves to grow their Internet presence – from streaming audio to podcasts to extensive news and information sites. Pretty much all news/talkers these days even frequently use their web site branding on the air.

(One of these days, Akron market talker WNIR/100.1 will catch up with the late 20th Century, and unveil their rumored new website. We may actually fall over dead waiting in front of the keyboard before that becomes reality. Of course, in the “FM News/Talk Watch”, “The Talk of Akron” has everyone beat by nearly 35 years if you count the 1974 debut of midday host Howie Chizek on 100.1.)

We’re not sure if CBS in San Francisco sees the “future is now” with the move to simulcast its all-news station on FM, or if the classic hits format just wasn’t catching on, and they had no other options.

Oh, speaking of Cleveland and CBS – yes, we did see DCRTV’s item quoting sources talking about a stall in the sale of the company’s mid-market clusters, believed to include markets like Baltimore and Cleveland.

Quoting Dave Hughes’ site:

Slumping Market Stalls CBS Radio Sale – 10/13 – Reliable industry sources tell DCRTV that the sale of those CBS radio stations in Baltimore and other mid-sized and small markets won’t happen. At least until maybe late 2009 – at the earliest. Because of the current stock crisis, and the severe tightening of the credit market, radio companies that have been and are still solid – a la Bonneville, Emmis, Entercom, and Greater Media – can’t secure the backing of big lending institutions for a purchase. That’s not to say there won’t be some more cuts at CBS Baltimore, but folks still working at WHFS, WWMX, WLIF, WQSR, and WJFK-AM will still be working for CBS for a good while longer, we hear…..

While we have no information beyond Dave’s item, it would certainly make sense…as the massive economic crisis is likely to affect EVERYTHING business-related, certainly the ability to raise large amounts of banking capital to buy expensive radio stations.

Unless they have raised large warchests, like FOX owner NewsCorp’s Rupert Murdoch says his firm has, even the most stable companies may have to wait out the credit crunch.

(And no, we haven’t heard anything about FOX/NewsCorp buying radio stations, though they do have a pretty extensive radio/news network operation these days…)

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