What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

With apologies to former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather…

We’ve covered the upcoming launch of the new CBS Radio FM sports talker in Cleveland, which some believe could launch as soon as Monday, like the proverbial blanket.

You might have noticed that most of our mentions of the new station say something like this – “92.3-or-wherever it lands”. We do that for a reason.

As of this writing, Sunday afternoon, we have no confirmation of which frequency CBS Radio will use as the home of the new sports station.

Most of the off-blog activity among our various sources has mentioned 92.3, but that means nothing.

Many of the sources are not in Cleveland, and couldn’t tell 92.3 from 98.5 even if you handed them a signal map.

So, we took up the offer of a non-radio friend, who was headed from our parts through the western edge of Cuyahoga County on Saturday, and he was willing to endure a heavy diet of alternative rock (with a little classic rock mixed in) for a drive from North Olmsted through Westlake, and even a little beyond.

Ouch.

We had no idea how bad the signal of the current WKRK/92.3 “Radio 92.3” was over there, in some of Cleveland’s most western vital suburbs.

The signal was, well, there, but it was a mile long and a couple of inches deep. It started fluttering when the terrain wasn’t favorable between there and 92.3’s transmitter near I-271.

At one point on the journey, we thought the signal was pretty strong, but realized when the song ended that the noisy alternative rock music was actually hiding some of the defects, with a steady buzz under the liner which followed. (Note: We didn’t have the luxury of choosing a mono signal, but that wouldn’t have helped that particular signal defect.)

Is this any signal to use to launch a new sports station?

98.5, by contrast, was clear and strong all the way, with no fluttering and no buzzing.

To be fair to 92.3, tropospheric conditions were pretty ideal on Saturday afternoon, and it could have had some impact from Detroit’s 92.3, Clear Channel urban AC WMXD “Mix 92.3”.

But that’s part of the problem for the 92.3 licensed to Cleveland Heights.

It’s directional to at least some degree. due to stations like WMXD (to the northwest), Clear Channel’s country giant WCOL in Columbus (to the southwest, also on 92.3), and adjacent channel Canton market D.A. Peterson top 40 WDJQ/92.5 Alliance (to the southeast).

Your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) can’t get it out of his head – if you’re CBS Radio and you want to make a splash with “The Fan”, you do it on 98.5.

That leaves the disposition of two music stations…only one will survive.

The following is all semi-educated speculation. We haven’t heard a thing about it from the Halle Building or beyond.

As a reminder, though we’re usually pretty accurate, do not quit your job based on a blog post, message board post, Twitter/Facebook update or anything of the sort.

So, we move on into Speculation Land.

The conventional wisdom has been that CBS Radio, if it launches “98.5 The Fan”, will scoot WNCX over to the lesser 92.3 signal, leaving “Radio 92.3″‘s mostly unstaffed alt-rock format as the one without a musical chair to occupy.

What if it’s the other way around?

What if “98.5 The Fan” launches, and instead of moving WNCX, it is actually killed off…with “Radio 92.3” remaining in place?

Though it’s no secret that WNCX’s demos are aging, it’s still an iconic station. And it’s also no secret that low overhead is one reason WKRK actually makes money, at least a little of it.

And unlike WKRK, which counts (as far as we know) program director Dominic “Nard” Nardella as its only full-time employee, the end of WNCX would likely mean exits for weekday personalities Bill Louis (PD/middays) and local rock music star and long-time afternoon drive personality Michael Stanley, along with night personality Paula Balish.

(We’ll get to the Maxwell situation in a bit.)

Then again, CBS is taking on a bunch of new salaries to launch “The Fan”, and presumably, they aren’t paying peanuts to reunite former Fox Sports Radio hosts “Kiley and Booms” (expected, from what we hear, in morning drive). And yes, that’s Kevin Kiley paired with Euclid’s own Chuck Booms.

Was that one-day afternoon tryout of Maxwell on 92.3 not a chance for CBS Radio suits to check out how a mono signal would extend range for “The Fan”, but a chance to hear him on “Radio 92.3”? Are they eyeing a Maxwell Move from 98.5 AM drive to 92.3 PM drive? Again, note we’re hearing that “Kiley and Booms” are ticketed for AM drive on the new sports outlet.

Remember, “hot talk” on 92.3 has a history in afternoon drive, with “Opie and Anthony” enjoying ratings success for their delayed broadcast on that frequency. And it’d give him a shot competing against his replacement on Clear Channel rock/talk WMMS/100.7, “The Alan Cox Show”.

Let’s back away for just a bit.

The entire part about 98.5 vs. 92.3 we just posted is SPECULATION, and EDUCATED GUESSING.

We haven’t heard squat about the frequency issue, perhaps because the decision would be made locally…and the Halle Building has been tighter than any drum you’ve ever seen in all this speculation.

We also have not heard a thing about the fates of the current music formats on 92.3 or 98.5.

Again, don’t fear for your job until your bosses say goodbye to you. We’re just speculating, and have no information about how this move will play out, frequency wise. We’re really just guessing.

But as far as we’re concerned, we’ll keep checking both 92.3 and 98.5 from now until this format change hits…

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5 Responses to What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?

  1. Mike says:

    Living in North Olmsted I can tell you that the 92.3 signal is generally weak which makes it a pain to listen to. It gets worse when I travel west towards North Ridgeville and Avon to visit friends. And heaven forbid I am stuck near Great Northern Mall and the two high rise apartments.

  2. The Prototype says:

    A bit of perspective…when CBS started 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, it allowed the rock station that occupied that slot to spend about two weeks saying goodbye..which is likely what would happen before a format flip, which is why Labor Day would be a better switch date than 8-1, if no other promotion has been done
    CBS is not going to blow something up for the sake of blowing it up..its not how they work..
    And I still have issues with the total lack of Play by Play Sports..Boston’s Sports Hub already had the Patriots and moved the Bruins from WBZ AM..
    Clear Channel has everything..the Tribe, The Browns and the Cavaliers..and carryng minor league hockey and a network football package won’t be enough…
    If and when CBS does this, watch Clear Channel flip WMMS to FM Sports Talk, and move games around when needed..
    I’m not buying the 92.3 signal..CBS will leave it alone as long as it makes money..since almost no one works there…

  3. Tim says:

    If WNCX classic rock goes away, WONE 97.5 puts a decent signal into Cuyahoga County. V 107.3 and WMJI also have a lot of classic rock in their playlist. Does anyone think CC would simulcast WTAM on 100.7 FM and put the rock format on an HD subchannel? That would put all of Cleveland major sports teams on FM.

  4. Joe says:

    All I know is that the sooner we have a LOCAL sports talk radio option, the better! WKNR continues to be condescending, whiney and pathetic. Talk about “taking the money” and acting like they had a monopoly!?

  5. 92.3’s signal on the west side isn’t the greatest, but there was a huge issue with DX signals booming in from Detroit over the weekend. 88.7 (WJCU) was barely listenable over 89X’s Windsor signal, and 107.5 WGPR came in loud and clear as far east as Twinsburg. 101.1 WRIF also completely overpowered WHOT, which usually comes in clear as a bell in the area.

    92.3 out of Detroit probably did a number of 92.3 here over the weekend, in addition to any ongoing signal issues they may have on the west side.

    It’s also worth noting that Opie & Anthony went to #1 in Cleveland on the 92.3 signal within a matter of months in 2001…

    For what it’s worth, when I drove back and forth from Cleveland to Toledo in the early-aughts, I could pull in 92.3 on my car radio well into Erie County.

    – DrC

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