All But Inevitable
July 27, 2011 17 Comments
We have a separate item with a bunch of other news coming soon, but first, the athletic elephant in the room.
There are skeptics, to be sure, that CBS Radio will launch an FM sports talk station soon in Cleveland, probably on the current WKRK/92.3 (now mostly unstaffed alt-rock “Radio 92.3”).
There are also people who doubt man really landed on the moon in 1969.
OK, so we are not ready to confirm on our own that “92.3 The Fan” – or whatever CBS ends up calling it – could launch as soon as next Monday, at very least by Labor Day.
But the noise is so loud, you could probably hear it from outside the two CBS buildings. (Though oddly enough, not much from inside those buildings!)
Too many people, unconnected to each other, with similar details, have come forward and let us know what they know about the formation of the new station.
We know the name of the new station’s program director, who recently ended a very successful run at a well-regarded, successful sports talk station in a smaller market than Cleveland…but still very much a pro sports town. He isn’t coming from Cedar Rapids IA or Billings MT (with apologies to those two towns).
We aren’t naming him here yet, though if we keep describing him, we may as well put up a picture of him.
He is, as far as we know, the only top-50(-ish) market sports radio PD who has left his job in the past month – and with no destination named.
No, despite local rumblings in his home market, he is not headed for a promotion with his now-former station’s parent company.
He’s here (or somewhere else headed here), putting the finishing touches on the new sports talk station at 92.3, or whichever signal it uses.
What will air when “The Fan” starts in Cleveland? (And note, we haven’t confirmed that’ll be the name, but CBS uses that name for sports talkers in other markets.)
We have no confirmation on the lineup, but we hear a combination of talent is either being pursued or close to signing.
One name would mean a return to Cleveland radio for the show’s co-host, reunited with a former partner. (No, we’re not talking about a “Jeff and Flash” reunion or anything similar. The duo, in fact, have never aired together in Cleveland.)
Another would be a big promotion for someone at the CBS Radio sports flagship, WFAN/660 “SportsRadio 66 The Fan”.
And we’re hearing that there may be interest in one current local sports type, though that interest has not yet (as far as we know) translated to a contract offer.
But note this: So far, we’ve heard not one name out of the Galleria being in CBS’, well, eyes, so to speak.
Not one current or former WKNR host is being talked about – and we know for a fact that at least two former WKNR hosts are actually interested.
That is not to say that CBS won’t hire anyone from the Galleria for the station. We might not know that at this point.
But there appears to be a marked lack of interest in “poaching” WKNR talent.
Unless we just haven’t heard it yet, CBS also doesn’t appear interested in the Parade of Unemployed or Under-Employed Sports Radio Hosts that gets kicked around from time to time.
We hear the sports station will air local programming 6 AM to 10 PM at launch.
Nights could well be filled by something like Fox Sports Radio, which counts a current Cleveland affiliate in “KNR Minus 2″…er…WWGK/1540 “KNR2”.
But “KNR 2” doesn’t air FSR programming from 10 PM to 6 AM, because its transmitter near a drug store and former church at 80th and Euclid in Cleveland is blissfully silent in those hours – WWGK is, of course, a daytimer.
We hear the new CBS sports talker would be able to clear FSR in those hours, despite the current use part-time on WWGK…though it it decided to do so, WWGK would lose that programming within a month or so.
Remember: WWGK also airs the uncleared ESPN Radio programming not picked up by WKNR, including the last hour of “Mike & Mike”, and shows hosted by Colin Cowherd and Scott Van Pelt.
Note two things here:
1) We have not at all confirmed that CBS is interested in carrying FSR in non-local hours.
2) CBS did use Sporting News Radio in at least one market for off-hours programming, at the 2009 launch of WBZ-FM/98.5 “The Sports Hub”. We can’t find it on the station’s website, but we believe “The Sports Hub” does indeed now air FSR in the overnight hours.
And the use of FSR (or SNR, or whatever) in the late night hours on the new station could be temporary.
We’re hearing rumors again that CBS wants to provide its own networked sports talk programming for the company’s growing stable of sports talkers, much like it produces the overnight talk show “Overnight America with Jon Grayson” at its KMOX/1120 in St. Louis.
Grayson’s show airs on other CBS talkers, including “93.7 The Fan’s” sister station in Pittsburgh, KDKA(AM)/1020 “NewsRadio 1020”. It aired briefly on “The Sports Hub’s” news/talk sister station in Boston, WBZ(AM)/1030, until that station returned its live, local overnight show with Steve LeVeille.
A similar overnight show for the CBS sports talkers seems more likely with the addition of yet another station in Cleveland.
We’d also expect some weekend local shows out of 92.3-whatever-it’ll-be, though we’ve heard no details about that.
So, here we are.
From everything we’ve heard, the station’s launch could be as soon as Monday, with Browns training camp opening up (last we checked) on Friday.
We will say from the timeline we’ve seen from our various sources, “The Fan” (again, or whatever it’s called) will have to put the pedal to the metal to get on that quick. Our gut feeling pushes the launch to closer to mid-August, but that’s just a guess.
But we’re talking CBS Radio here, which has launched FM sports talk stations across the country. As the saying goes, “this isn’t their first rodeo”.
When this finally hits, and we’d go to the betting window and break open the piggy bank that it is going to happen, this will easily be the biggest radio story in Northeast Ohio in 2011 and beyond.
What about the competition?
We hear that you might hear the first sign of change on WKNR, if the CBS sports talker isn’t yet on by Monday, August 1st.
WKNR uses veteran imaging voice Paul Turner to voice all of its station liners, IDs and whatnot. It’s a move Good Karma chief Craig Karmazin made as soon as he took over the station, sending the imaging voiced by former WKNR program director Michael Luczak to the digital bit bucket
Turner also voices a decent number of CBS stations, including – we believe – at least one or two of its sports talkers.
Turner’s distinctive voice may no longer be heard on WKNR starting August 1st, we hear. You do the math.
Meanwhile, the new station would also be competing to some degree with “The Big One”, Clear Channel talker WTAM/1100.
Though WTAM is not “a sports talk station” per se, it currently airs all three Cleveland pro teams, and hosts like Mike Trivisonno and Bob Frantz can turn on a dime if the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers become Story Number One.
OMW hears that the World Domination Headquarters is not at all worried about this new station.
Over at the Galleria, it may be a different story…