“Dave’s not here, man.”
The famous line from a Cheech & Chong comedy routine is what many Atlanta radio listeners – okay, not very many – will be saying this fall, as CBS Radio has announced that WZGC-FM, the rock station once known as “Z93,” currently going by the name “92.9 Dave-FM”, will be replaced by – we’ve heard this before – a brand new FM sports radio station.
CBS Radio has had a recent penchant for launching mostly-local sports stations on the FM dial in major markets. Following the debut of “98.7 The Fan” in Tampa, which is officially scheduled for this Thursday, the Atlanta station will be the tenth FM sports property in CBS Radio’s portfolio.
And while CBS also has a penchant for naming their FM sports talkers “The Fan,” the Atlanta station will reportedly have the simple branding of “Sports Radio 92.9.”
Currently, there are two major sports radio stations in the Big Peach: Lincoln Financial Media’s WQXI/”790 The Zone” and Cumulus’ WCNN/”680 The Fan.” The interesting thing here is that the latter station, which simulcasts on an FM translator at 93.7, has already agreed to carry some programming from the new CBS Sports Radio Network that they will be assisting CBS with.
Does this mean shows like “Buck And Kincade” and “The Rude Awakening” will be moving to 92.9 while 680 becomes a 24/7 repeater of CBSSRN, with “Boomer And Carton” in morning drive? Not necessarily. Rick Caffey, CBS Radio/Atlanta’s market manager, has went on the record as saying Sports Radio 92.9’s “accent will be local personalities,” though he added that having local ties to Atlanta would not be required.
Not only will this not be the first time CBS launches an FM sports talk station in a major or large market, but it’ll be doing so once again in a market that up until that point only had sports radio stations on the AM dial. Think about it: when CBS launched new FM sports talkers in Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., preexisting sports stations were only operating on the AM band – in most cases, at least two of them had been on the air (a longtime ESPN Radio station on AM 1250 in Pittsburgh had shut down in 2010, months after “93.7 The Fan” debuted).
And there’s one more market to consider: not only a market whose sports stations are currently exclusively on the AM dial, but a very major market – and a glaring omission on the vast list of cities which will be graced with the presence of the CBS Sports Radio Network this September at the earliest.
Yep, the City of Angels.
Ever since the announcement of CBSSRN’s launch, rumors had been healthily circulating that CBS Radio would flip one of its FM properties in Los Angeles, specifically KCBS-FM/”93.1 Jack-FM”, to an FM sports station. In the most recent L.A. PPM’s, “Jack” finished in sixteenth place overall. In the April PPM period, they finished in 22nd place with a matching 2.2 rating.
Meanwhile, there are three sports stations in Los Angeles, all on AM: KSPN/”ESPN 710,” owned and operated by the Worldwide Leader’s parent company, Disney; Clear Channel’s KLAC/”Fox Sports 570″; and KLAA/AM 830, owned by the Angels franchise. The highest ranking sports station in the most recent PPM’s is “710 ESPN”, in 25th place. But when it comes to the sports radio format, revenue matters more than ratings because it’s an easy sell. It’s where the dollars are – 1,000+ stations can’t be wrong.
Expect CBS Radio to make an announcement perhaps in the fall for one of its FM stations in Los Angeles to convert to sports. It’s not like it’ll interfere with a local NFL team’s season or anything. But should CBS pull the trigger on an FM sports talker in L.A., you can bet they’ll be wheeling and dealing for radio play-by-play of a local sports franchise. I don’t think the Angels will be going anywhere, but the Dodgers just started a three-year deal with KLAC. When “93.7 The Fan” in Pittsburgh launched in 2010, they waited two years before they finally poached Pirates games from Clear Channel, who had held a local monopoly on sports play-by-play on the radio. And “92.3 The Fan” in Cleveland figures to be active in discussion when the Indians’ current radio contract with Clear Channel expires at year’s end.
Consider how many MLB teams have either made the move to FM or are pining to make the move – which is the catalyst for either the New York Yankees or Mets possibly bringing their broadcasts to FM after many years on AM; both of their current radio contracts simultaneously expire at the end of the season.
Incidentally, the Dodgers were once heard on a CBS-owned radio station for five years starting in 2003, KFWB/AM 980, which recently had been placed in an ownership trust due to CBS reaching the maximum media ownership limit in the Los Angeles market. Meanwhile, KFWB does currently hold radio rights to Clippers basketball games, which could be moved to whichever FM station CBS turns into a sports radio station. (For the record, the Lakers are heard on “710 ESPN”.)
And how about those Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, whose existence had been a rumor throughout their playoff run on their current flagship station, KTLK/AM 1150? I’m sure on a CBS-run sports station on AM, let alone FM, they’d feel like royalty.
One more thing to consider: Once “Sports Radio 92.9” launches in Atlanta, CBS will have a live and local sports station, on AM or FM, in each of the top ten radio markets – all, that is, except Market No. 2. (Edit: As well as San Francisco, but CBSSR will be cleared in that market via two Cumulus stations.)
So don’t be surprised if CBS Radio makes waves by jacking up one of its FM stations and rocking the sports radio landscape in Los Angeles. (Read into that previous sentence what you will, radio nerds.)
And if CBS is not considering such a move in L.A. – well, they could be as high as Cheech and Chong.
(But seriously… don’t do drugs, kids.)