Coming up next on Nashville sports radio: moneyball.
Dave Ramsey, the nationally syndicated radio host known for doling out financial advice to listeners, has been heard for two decades in his home market of Nashville on WWTN-FM (99.7 WTN).
But that era is about to come to an end, as Ramsey was unable to reach an agreement with WWTN’s owner, Cumulus Media, for the show to continue airing on the station. It was “a simple renewal agreement,” according to Ramsey.
Finding a new flagship station in the Music City wouldn’t prove to be so simple. There’s only one other major talk station, Clear Channel’s WLAC/1510 AM, but they’re usually carrying the syndicated shows of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity – programs that are both nationally distributed by Clear Channel’s Premiere Networks unit – while Ramsey is hosting his live show from 1-4 PM local time (2-5 PM Eastern).
Fortunately, Ramsey was able to find a new outlet in the market for his financial talk show: an upstart sports radio station, WPRT (102.5 The Game).
That’s right. Within hours, you might hear discussion about Jake Locker and Lockheed Martin on the same radio station.
Such an arrangement is not unheard of. For years, WFAN in New York was the hub of the previous incarnation of Don Imus’ syndicated radio show, which is usually heavy on political content. And in a recent example, and a very extreme one at that, San Francisco-based conservative firebrand Michael Savage, following successful runs at KSFO and KNEW, had started calling KTRB/”XTRA Sports 860″ his home in early 2010 (the station would drop him by year’s end and switch to its current ESPN Deportes format).
But this development with Dave Ramsey literally mirrors the premise of the old 1970’s sitcom “The Odd Couple”: a man “with nowhere else to go” moves in with his friend, who’s a sports columnist for a local newspaper.
In this case, Ramsey is bringing his radio program, which is effectively being tossed out by station owner Cumulus (no doubt, so they can clear all three hours of their new answer to Limbaugh, Mike Huckabee) and moving in with the new sports station on the block.
Ironically, the leading sports station in Nashville, WGFX/”104.5 The Zone”, is also owned by Cumulus.
And what makes this scenario interesting is that one man, George Plaster – considered the dean of Nashville sports radio – has worked for all three of the aforementioned stations. He co-hosted “Sports Night” on WWTN, but left the station in 2003, not too long after Cumulus purchased it from Gaylord Entertainment Company, which operates the Grand Ole Opry. That same year, he would help launch the market’s first FM sports station, The Zone. At the time, the station was owned by Citadel Communications. And last year, Cumulus acquired Citadel, which did not make Plaster a happy camper. So he left and assisted in putting a Zone competitor on the air in The Game, owned by The Cromwell Group, an independent radio company headed by Bud Walters.
So 2013 will be just like 2003 in that Plaster will once again be co-hosting “Sports Night” right after Ramsey’s show (it currently airs from 3-6 PM local time; in 2013, he will be doing a 3 PM hour for regional affiliates of the show; there will be a new local hour on 102.5 at 6 PM, though it reportedly will be hosted solely by co-host Willy Daunic).
But could Plaster view Cromwell’s move of bringing Ramsey in as somewhat of a slap in the face, now that his current all-sports station will be breaking format for a few hours a day, and during a prime listening period in the afternoon when many people might be tuned in at work?
We may not know the answers to these questions until possibly around this time next year. The Nashville metropolitan area only has two major sports franchises: There’s the Predators, whose radio rights are held by The Game, and who would be in action, had the NHL lockout been resolved. And, of course, there’s the Titans, whose games are heard locally on The Zone – but discussion about the team and the NFL in general might account for a great deal of the content on local sports radio. And don’t forget about college football, including the Tennessee Volunteers and the MTSU Blue Raiders. So with the Titans likely missing the playoffs, and absolutely nothing going on sports-wise in the Music City, this gives Ramsey a good starting point on The Game. It’ll be worth keeping an eye on how many of his loyal listeners follow him over to his new flagship, and perhaps sample the rest of the station’s offerings.
But most of all, it will be interesting to see how Dave Ramsey’s ratings on a sports talk station will hold up once the NFL season is back in full swing.
If the Titans are playing well – or if they’re not playing well, as is the case this year – you’re going to have a lot of angry listeners who care more about the School of Hard Knocks than they do Financial Peace University.
They’d rather talk about Dave Ragone, not so much Dave Ramsey.
The Game might risk losing listeners to The Zone… yeah, I can see why Plaster might be miffed about having Ramsey on board.
But lest Plaster forget that when The Zone first started its sports format back in 2003, they gave the late morning slot to Hallerin Hilton Hill, a person described as a motivational speaker and a Grammy-winning songwriter. Not quite the pedigree you expect from someone you’re offering a show on a sports radio station to, now, is it?
And besides, Ramsey and Plaster have both worked at the same station in the past, and they now share a common goal: sticking it to Cumulus. (Okay, so Ramsey admits he’s not that vindictive – “there are a lot of great people at WWTN and we’ll miss them,” he says.)
Time will tell if the melding of hosts breaking down X’s and O’s and Ramsey breaking down dollar signs will work in Nashville. Remember, it worked for Imus for years – to the point that his show was actually being syndicated to other sports radio stations as an alternative (this, of course, was long before the modern-day era of five national sports radio networks; Imus probably wouldn’t survive in it even if he hadn’t made that fateful Rutgers remark back in 2007).
After all, if Felix Unger could coexist with Oscar Madison for all those years…