NYC All Sports to FM; Spanish All Sports on AM

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NYC All Sports to FM; Spanish All Sports on AM

Postby jon » Thu Apr 26, 2012 8:15 am

ESPN plotting big changes to New York sports radio; eyeing more powerful signal on the FM side and All-Spanish sports talk on AM dial
Stephen A. Smith likely moving to day-time slot
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 1:04 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 10:42 PM

While speculation mounts ESPN-1050 could be moving to the FM side, as well as starting a new AM sportstalk operation, a change in the station’s lineup could be coming as early as next week.

The featured player will be Stephen A. Smith. He will likely move from his nightside gig to the 1 p.m.-3 p.m. slot joining Ryan Ruocco, who is currently teamed with Robin Lundberg.

Smith, who according to industry sources is close to signing a new deal, will also get major face time on the TV side. He will be a regular on ESPN2’s “First Take.”

Patrick McEnroe is also expected to join 1050’s team to bolster the station’s weekend roster. McEnroe will probably be paired with Lundberg. McEnroe will also be heard often during the week in a backup role.

Under the new configuration, “The Mike Lupica Show” moves to a noon start time. The afternoon drive offering, “The Michael Kay Show,” will stay in its current 3 p.m.-7 p.m. time period.

As the Daily News first reported in February of 2011, ESPN is interested in purchasing a local FM station as the new home for its New York radio outlet. While ESPN has been seriously pursuing that goal for at least five years, sources said the World Wide Leader is only days away from closing a deal with an FM outlet.

Radio-industry sources contend it would be one of two major switches ESPN makes. In what would be an unprecedented move, ESPN is expected to make 1050-AM the city’s first 24 hour All-Spanish sportstalk radio station, providing ESPN with a key marketing demographic.

ESPN’s flip to the FM side would give it a powerful signal, something it does not currently enjoy. This would accomplish a few goals. It would ratchet up the competition with CBS-owned WFAN. ESPN New York would have a much larger listener universe to draw from. Its chances of closing in on, and passing, WFAN in the ratings department would increase substantially.

The migration of sportstalk stations to the FM side has become an industry trend. WFAN has considered making the switch and wanted to move to CBS-owned K-Rock (92.3 FM), but CBS put the kibosh on the move.

The boost in signal provided by an FM outlet gives ESPN a better chance of landing Yankees radio rights. In 2010, ESPN made a strong move to acquire those rights from incumbent WCBS-AM but was handicapped by its weak 1050 signal. CBS and the Yankees wound up cutting a one-year, $13 million deal following the 2011 season.

If ESPN New York acquired Yankees radio rights, would it mean curtains for the broadcast team of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman? That would be up to Yankee suits. They likely would retain the right of final approval on the team’s announcers. They could reject all candidates and allow Ma and Pa Pinstripe to return to the booth.

While its first preference is the Yankees, ESPN could also make a run at the Mets, whose contract with WFAN expires following this season.
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