Fan Clear For Launch

UPDATE 8/29/11 12:46 PM: Despite what was announced on Twitter on Friday, Jeff Phelps is not on the air alongside Andy Baskin on the station’s midday show, “Cleveland’s Talking Heads”.

The first two hours, former Brown Reggie Rucker took the second chair, and Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Dennis Manoloff will round out the show with Andy.

We have no idea what happened between the announcements Friday on the Twitter accounts of Andy Baskin and producer Lindsey Foltin, but we’ll keep you up to date…

Our original item is below…


It looks like CBS Radio sports WKRK/92.3 “The Fan” is ready for its launch, scheduled for Monday morning at 6 AM.

And we mean ready, as witnessed by this picture taken by a curious OMW reader Sunday night. The “Radio 92.3” logo didn’t last on the Halle Building door as long as the alternative rock format did on the air, losing by a few hours. (At this writing, 92.3 continues its music format late into the night, presumably right up until 6 AM, when it’s expected to slide over to WKRK’s HD-2 channel.)

Just about everything about “The Fan’s” weekday lineup has been officially announced one way or the other, either from the station’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, to tweets by incoming station staffers.

Here goes what we know at this writing, just hours before one of the most complex launches in recent Cleveland radio history.

“92.3 The Fan” has hired at least 10 staffers in its run up…compared to another recent format change – now-WHLK/106.5’s change from hot AC “Mix 106.5” to variety hits “106.5 The Lake”. That Clear Channel station actually let go two personalities (Daune Robinson and Jay Hudson) and hired none.

Some of the changes and confirmed items since our last run at this:

MORNING DRIVE: It is official – former Good Karma sports WKNR/850 “ESPN 850” morning update voice Jeff Thomas assumes the same duties for “The Fan”, doing sports news updates and whatever else alongside “Kiley and Booms” on 92.3’s morning show. Jeff aired his last morning show on Elyria-Lorain Broadcasting talk WEOL/930 Elyria on Friday. (We have no word what the WEOL folks will do in morning drive.)

We already mentioned that Cleveland’s Tony Mazur and Josh Potter, late of WEDG/103.3 “The Edge” in program director Andy Roth’s former home market of Buffalo, will produce the show. Potter has plenty of experience with two-man high-profile drive-time shows…he’s been the assistant producer for the popular “Shredd and Ragan” afternoon drive show on “The Edge”…

MIDDAYS: The hiring of Scripps WEWS/5 “NewsChannel 5” sports director Andy Baskin by “The Fan” was announced by his TV station on Friday – as expected, it’s most certainly an additional job for Baskin, who stays in his perch guiding the sports department at 3001 Euclid.

Joining Baskin in the 10 AM-2 PM time slot will be another veteran Cleveland sportscaster – Jeff Phelps, for a show called “Cleveland’s Talking Heads”. Phelps has most recently been the sideline reporter and pre/post-game host for Cleveland Cavaliers TV coverage on Fox Sports Ohio.

We assume he’ll continue that role…whenever the NBA ends its lockout.

Producing will be Lindsey Foltin, who comes to “The Fan” from WKNR.

Jeff Thomas will continue to provide updates through 12 noon…

AFTERNOONS: We now officially know who will be alongside former WFAN/660 New York City host Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber in the Fan’s 2-7 PM time slot.

He’s former Ohio State Buckeyes player and NFLer Dustin Fox, a Canton native and Glen Oak High School graduate, who is also paired with Fan middayer/WEWS sports director Baskin on NewsChannel 5’s Ohio State coverage.

Fox had some limited on-air time with competitor WKNR, acting as an occasional Ohio State guest/analyst, but he didn’t actually work at the Galleria.

The opening show of “The Bull and the Fox” promises guests including Indians president Mark Shapiro and…now-former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who coached Fox at The Horseshoe, both winning the 2002 National Championship in a much happier era for the Buckeyes and their fans.

We see on Twitter that Keith Britton moves from another “Fan” (non-CBS) sports talker, RadiOhio/Dispatch sports WBNS-FM/97.1 “97.1 The Fan” in Columbus, to produce “The Bull and the Fox”. And he’s getting razzed on social media already for, despite his Columbus ties, being a Michigan fan.

That alone might be worth tuning in to hear, particularly the interplay with former Buckeyes star Fox. Admitting to being a Michigan fan in Ohio is like being a Steelers fan in Cleveland. Not that any radio host might admit to that.

Following Jeff Thomas at noon on the Fan update desk will be a very familiar name to OMW readers, and once a familiar voice to local sports radio listeners – though the voice has certainly changed since Anthony Lima used the moniker “SportsBoy Tony” calling into local sports radio shows as a teenager in the 1990s.

Lima moved on to obtain a solid education, and then a sports media career…starting at Gray NBC affiliate WTAP/15 Parkersburg WV-Marietta OH, then a two year run as a sports anchor/reporter at “YourNewsNow”, the Time Warner Cable 24 hour news channel, in Syracuse NY.

Lima “comes back home” as 92.3 The Fan’s afternoon sports update voice (12-6 PM), and even brings some sports talk radio hosting experience with fill-ins at a Syracuse sports radio outlet.

And he will appear elsewhere on the Fan’s schedule…more details later in this item.

EVENINGS: Our “all but certain” post earlier is now official, with former Clear Channel sports WARF/1350 Akron staffer and Akron Aeros broadcast team member Ken Carman taking the “92.3 The Fan” evening slot.

Carman is a young guy, not that long out of the University of Akron, but has had a meteoric rise through local sports media. He’s also done college play-by-play duties on both radio and TV, and took over the “Fox Sports 1350” local afternoon drive show when co-host Jon Marochino left to concentrate on the sister Canton market AC WHOF/101.7 “My 101.7” morning drive show.

Strongsville native Chris Fillar, until recently the sports director at Clear Channel’s Parkersburg/Marietta and Wheeling WV clusters, will handle the 6 PM-midnight update shift…

BEATS: We know the new Fan beat reporters for at least two of the major sports in town.

Former WKNR veteran/Metro Networks/Digital Sports Network name Daryl Ruiter will cover arguably the most important beat for the new station, the Cleveland Browns. (Don’t agree with us on that statement? Look at the colors in the 92.3 The Fan logo.)

Daryl toiled for many years at Metro Networks in the Independence Media Gulch, being heard remotely doing afternoon updates on WKNR, before moving in-house at the Galleria…handling everything from producing to Browns beat reporting to occasional hosting, not to mention engineering work.

After leaving WKNR, he boarded a ship that quickly started taking on water, Digital Sports Network, an online sports operation that had roughly a cup of coffee or two before sinking off the coast of (And no, that venerable online operation run by Cleveland Plain Dealer parent Newhouse had nothing to do with the wreckage of DSN, which was an independent operation with a marketing/hosting deal with

Ruiter has been helping out friend Glenn Moore’s “Dugout Sports Show” online site/podcast until taking the call from “The Fan”.

Over at Progressive Field, it’ll be another Metro veteran as Indians beat reporter – Matt Loede, who’s also done sports work at WEOL for some 10 years.

Both Loede and Ruiter have already been busy this week, getting to know their new co-workers at the Halle Building, and covering some games along the way for their new employer.

If there’s been a hire of a Cavaliers beat reporter, we haven’t heard it yet. And considering the aforementioned status of the local team and the NBA, they’re probably in no hurry to bring that person aboard…

WEEKENDS: We’ve cobbled together most of the weekend schedule.

Former WKNR fixture Kendall Lewis, also known as “The BSK” (BSK stands for Big Sports Kahuna, for those who haven’t been around for a while), will handle Browns post-game duties, and also host Saturdays from 4-8 PM.

Joe Lull has covered Cleveland sports as a field reporter for the local Metro Networks operation for some time, which means he’s reunited with Thomas, Ruiter and Loede. (With Loede, he’s been doing regular sports work for WEOL as well.) His show will be from 1-4 PM.

Preceding him will be weekday afternoon update anchor Anthony Lima, with his own 10 AM-1 PM show.

And preceding Lima will be local sports radio vet Ken Silverstein, 7-10 AM.

And that’s all we know, which is almost everything at this point.

We’d like to make just one point which should be obvious by now.

A lot has been made at the potential for “92.3 The Fan” to basically wipe WKNR off the sports radio map…much it by those who have issues with “ESPN 850” for one reason or another (midday co-hosts Aaron Goldhammer and Chris Fedor, etc.).

CBS Radio has made it very clear they are in this game, the sports radio game in Cleveland (and beyond), to stay.

They’ve assembled a very interesting live and local lineup, with minimal use of syndication. CBS is committed to the sports format in Cleveland and in dozens of other markets, launching similar stations all over the place.

The stations have mostly been successful.

* “97.1 The Ticket” in Detroit basically knocked Clear Channel’s WDFN/1130 “The Fan” out of the local sports talk game when it moved from AM 1270, and a CC budget cut coinciding with that success prompted the company to fire ALL of 1130’s local hosts. (They’ve since re-added a few.)

“The Ticket” is pretty much a fixture atop the Detroit ratings since its move to 97.1.

* “98.5 The Sports Hub” in Boston has rapidly diminished that market’s established AM sports outlet, WEEI. It’s overtaken WEEI as the number one sports station, a reign that continues even after the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup on 98.5.

There are other CBS Radio FM sports talkers that haven’t had instant top ratings.

* “93.7 The Fan” in Pittsburgh is mid-pack in the ratings, despite losing AM sports talk competitor ESPN O&O WEAE/1250 “ESPN 1250”. That station left the format not because of its new competitor, but because ESPN exited the format on the owned station in a smaller market. 1250 is currently Pittsburgh’s Radio Disney outlet. Clear Channel’s WBGG/970 is 93.7’s remaining competitor, and took the ESPN programming. Recent reports say that “The Fan” in Da Burgh is scoping out taking the Pirates’ rights from Clear Channel talk WPGB/104.7.

But that’s our point.

CBS Radio is not “experimenting” with sports radio expansion.

In Cleveland, the station has no local play-by-play rights, but will certainly aggressively pursue them whenever those rights start becoming available.

(Wouldn’t an interesting first move be to steal the Ohio State University Buckeyes from WKNR, when that contract comes up next year?)

But there’s no mistaking…CBS Radio wants the Cleveland Browns rights, and bad. Look at that logo again…it’s orange and brown. That’s no accident.

We still don’t know exactly when the Browns can shop around again, but we believe there’s an option year next year, and the contract with Clear Channel runs through 2013. (We’d appreciate any correction to that.)

We also hear CBS is also “very interested” in the Indians contract, whenever that comes up.

As for WKNR, well…

We have heard what are surely consultant-driven tweaks on WKNR’s highest profile show, “The Really Big Show” with Tony Rizzo and company, weekdays 9 AM-1 PM.

We heard shows with and without Rizzo’s sidekicks, Aaron Goldhammer and Chris Fedor. We’ve heard speeded up shows that almost sounded like they were sprinting on the air. That is likely because consultants are advising spoken word stations to tighten up their segments in a PPM world.

We’ve heard WKNR respond to the loss of voiceover guy Paul Turner with…another deep voiced guy doing a pretty good Paul Turner impersonation.

We’d like to hear more. Despite some of the hits “ESPN 850 WKNR” gets among those anxious for a new competitor, Craig Karmazin is not going to shrink, fold up his tent and go home.

But will he make major changes responding to his new competitor?

We realize much of this reporting on Cleveland’s new FM sports station has been one sided, since we haven’t heard much from the Galleria. But we’d love to hear if anything is in the works there on Monday, or beyond.

To use a sports comparison here…the Cleveland Browns open their 2011 NFL regular season on September 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just showing up with nice uniforms and good athletes will not mean that the officials will award the game to the Browns without playing, just like beating the Bengals will not mean an automatic berth in the Super Bowl.

“92.3 The Fan” won’t win the Cleveland sports radio ratings race just by going on the air on Monday. There is an entrenched competitor (not to mention the huge competition from Clear Channel talk WTAM and rock/talk WMMS for the male audience!), and we know the folks at the Halle Building are aware of that.

We often suspect that 92.3 program director Andy Roth, assuming he’s reading this blog, has had a bunch of out-of-body experiences reading our items about his new radio station. He may have looked behind him a few times to see if anyone was watching.

We’re sorry for that, Andy, but we look forward to the future of sports radio in Cleveland however it shakes out…and you’re always welcome to proactively drop us a line.

And that goes for the folks over at the Galleria as well…we’ll have a lot of fun listening to and watching the back and forth in this true radio battle.

As we finish this item, just after midnight hours before “92.3 The Fan”‘s launch, a major hat tip to our Secondary Editorial Voice(tm), better known as long-time OMW helper/tipster Nathan Obral.

This was certainly a “team coverage” story if ever there was one for a media blog.

Both Nathan and your Primary Editorial Voice(tm) were inundated with information, most of it so on target that we paused a few times to make sure we had confidence in the information.

We had Andy Roth’s name and destination before he even left Buffalo. Both of us found out about “Kiley and Booms” before Kevin Kiley’s home station in Miami even knew he was coming here.

Nathan had a number of key pieces of information that we didn’t have on this side of the blog.

The kudos, though, go not directly to us, but to those who supplied accurate, updated information from literally all over the country.

As we said early on, “if you saw what we’re seeing, you’d be on board with this, too”, when skeptics said this wasn’t coming.

It’s over with now, at least the debut is about to be.

Let the sports radio battle begin…


17 Responses to Fan Clear For Launch

  1. Lance says:

    Something else to consider for play-by-play rights down the line.

    The assistant GM of the Indians is Mike Chernoff. His father is CBS’ VP of Sports Radio Programming and since 1993 PD of WFAN, Mark Chernoff.

  2. Joe says:

    All I know is that I am done listening to Aaron Goldhammer make a fool out of Cleveland for years. Add in the hanging up on callers, rude ‘tude, mindless chatter on Denver and the completely contrived nature of the RBS…DONE!

    Good luck to the new voice of “The Fan”!!!

  3. Bob says:

    You should talk about the serious lack of a modern rock market in Cleveland Ohio instead of the sports radio battle. Check out the Radio 92.3 Facebook page if you want to see some reactions to this.

    • Bob: Music formats are fading on FM, and sports/talk on FM is growing. Not really anything to talk about. The demo that most favors modern rock – they’re young people going to the Internet/Pandora/Slacker instead of FM radio. I am working on compiling a list of modern-rock alternatives that reach various parts of NE Ohio.

      • bob says:

        I disagree with you. I fit the demographic you described (I am 19), and we are being forced to find alternatives because of the lack of a market. The market is there, the shelves are just empty. I move back to college soon and I planned on listening to the 92.3 stream online. I love FM music stations, its an easy way to discover new music. I am interested to see your post on alternatives though. Its hard to get a decent signal though for 88.3

    • Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says:

      The “lack of a modern rock market?”

      Obviously people have never heard of WNWV/107.3, WBWC/88.3, WAPS/91.3, WSTB/88.9 or WJCU/88.7.

      Besides, WKRK was only a sorta-modern rock station, that was all-automated, for nearly three years. For seven years prior, it flip-flopped between hard rock, alt-rock, punk-pop and playing a Red Hot Chilli Peppers song every hour. Oh, and the call letter and nickname schizophrenia (“Xtreme Radio,” “923X,” “923: It Just Rocks!,” “92.3 K-Rock,” “radio 92.3”) (WXTM, WXRK, WKRI, WKRK).

      It was far, far worse when “Jam’n 92,” clearly in the Top 5 in the Cleveland ratings in the spring of 1999, was axed for “Jammin’ Oldies.” A poorly drawn, poorly executed corporate radio format that never stood a chance against WMJI.

      • bob says:

        Are you able to stand in one spot and pick up all of those stations? Because what Cleveland needs is a real rock station, like what WMMS used to be.

      • Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says:

        Bob, Cleveland has been struggling in the music realm since the early 90s, honestly. The days of a full service rocker like WMMS are long gone.

        And it’s sad that peoples standards have been lowered SO much that they embraced an all-automated corporate pseudo-alt-rocker like 92.3 (the “radio —” format was implemented mostly on Clear Channel-owned stations, 92.3 was the only CBS station) and considered it “legendary.”

        BTW, WNWV is a mostly full-market signal (Lorain, Cleveland and most of Akron) with a few weaknesses in the far East Side, WBWC targets the west side out of Berea, WSTB (outside of Sundays) reaches the East Side suburbs. WAPS is a full-market Akron station, WJCU covers downtown and the East Side from John Carroll.

        And don’t forget about two Detroit-area superstations: CIDR/93.9 and CIMX/88.7. Both stations are fairly receivable in much of the Cleveland area.

  4. Doug says:

    Did anyone actually listen to the launch of the Fan this morning? It was painful. Some observations:
    1) If they rehearsed the board op before the format change, they should fire him. The 8am hour I listened to was a train wreck.
    2) If you’re going to do a segment called “20/20 Sports”, it makes no sense to do it at 8:15. You know why CKLW called it “20/20 News?” Because it was 20 minutes after the hour and 20 minutes before the hour. I thought the clock in my car was off until I checked my cellphone.
    3) Kevin Kiley and Chuck Booms need to do some show prep before going on the air. A couple of callers dropping f bombs and forcing you to dump out the tape delay shouldn’t derail a program up until the next break. Yet that is exactly what happened from 8am until 8:15am. The chemistry was also horrible, but I figure that will improve over time.
    4) An “interview” doesn’t mean you ask Sam Rutigliano a question, then let him talk non-stop for upwards of 2 minutes with no input from the host. Worst of all, we shouldn’t be able to hear the show hosts opening cans of soda and pouring one in to a glass somewhere off the sidelobe of one of the microphones while the guest is talking.

    • Doug: IMHO, don’t read too much into first day/second day glitches. If they’re still having these problems in a couple of weeks, that’s another matter. I heard a lot of what you talk about, and agree, but it’ll be worked on.

    • Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says:

      “20/20 Sports” is an industry standard, set forth by WFAN/New York, pioneer of the format (WKRK is copying their format directly from how WFAN utilizes it, although WFAN’s updates are longer and have a brief weather report at the end).

      WKRK is deliberately doing this to combat WKNR, which has the most irregular schedule for updates an all-sports station could ever have.

      • Doug says:

        Yeah I get it. And I have noticed that they are doing it at 20 20 times now. Maybe they rolled early to it monday morning since Kiley and Booms had run off the rails.

        OMW: true, I might have been a bit harsh for day one. Sounding better already.

  5. Pingback: 92.3 The Fan To Debut In Cleveland – RadioInsight

  6. Clint says:

    Kind of ignorant when it comes to this subject, but 92.3 can be pretty sketchy sounding down here in Stark County and I can only get it on a digital tuner. Would a pro team move their play-by-play to a station w/a significantly smaller area of coverage?

    Anyway, glad to see competition for knr. Can’t listen to RBS anymore w/ goldhammer on there. He, and Rhoda in the afternoon, are absolutely unlistenable-to me anyway. I really like the rest of their local lineup, but have to turn the station anytime I hear those 2. I like to hear hosts w/different views than mine, but goldhammer reminds me more of a teenage girl suffering from PMS than a sports talk show host.

    • Clint: 92.3 has problems in Stark County because of WDJQ/92.5 Alliance. Q92 causes it grief even in parts of Summit County.

      One thing to note: Stark and Summit Counties are not in the Cleveland market. Any ratings “The Fan” gets there are bonuses. And the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers are heard in-market in Akron on WAKR/1590-WONE/97.5 (the latter, the FM Home of the Browns this year), and in Canton on WHBC/1480.

      92.3’s signal problem is more problematic to the west and southwest, where Lorain County and Medina County are in the Cleveland market.

      • Secondary Editorial Voice (tm) says:

        And even when CBS does land a major play-by-play contract for “The Fan,” it’s obvious that the 98.5 frequency will be targeted as their new home. That’s the only realistic option.

  7. Mike says:

    Goodbye KNR….I can barely even pick up that station sometimes in Westlake and before 7:30 AM forget about it all together. Rizzo had a decent little show when it was 2 hours, but no way I need 4 hours of that schtick. I moved here 10 years ago and never lived in a city with a major sports franchise before that. It always boggled my mind that with 3 of them, KNR was the only choice.

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