It was on this day, July 1, twenty-five years ago, that WFAN in New York signed on the air with the first 24/7 sports radio format. And while the station is immortalized as the first such formatted radio station in history, this would be the perfect time to lay out how history will repeat itself on WFAN.
I’ll explain what I mean.
One of the cornerstones of WFAN’s ancestry, Don Imus, became WFAN’s new morning host through a sale with Emmis Communications, which migrated the then-fifteen-month-old WFAN from AM 1050 to the blowtorch signal on AM 660, which had previously been WNBC-AM, where Imus had held down morning drive for seventeen years. Emmis would sell WFAN to CBS Radio (then Infinity Broadcasting) in 1992, and the very next year, Westwood One, a unit of CBS Radio, started syndicating “Imus In The Morning.” The show’s first affiliate when the show began syndication on June 21, 1993 was WQYK-AM in Tampa. (As we all know, WW1 syndication of the show would eventually be discontinued in 2007; last year, WW1 merged with Triton Media Group, and the brand has been consolidated into what is now known as the Dial Global Radio Network.)
The point I’m making here is that the original morning host on Sports Radio 66 WFAN, Don Imus, was syndicated roughly five years after coming to the station.
And there’s a very good chance that Imus’ heirs apparent to the morning throne, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, could also see their current WFAN morning show begin syndication roughly five years after coming to the station.
The Westwood One Radio Network may be no more – but this fall, there will be two brand new sports radio networks: The NBC Sports Radio Network – which is distributed by the aforementioned Dial Global – and CBS Sports Radio, whose sales and syndication will be handled by Cumulus Media.
And while NBCSRN will gradually be piecing together dayparts to make up a full 24-hour, 7-day programming clock – perhaps taking as much as three years to do so – CBSSR will be hitting the ground running, with a target date of January 2 for their 24/7 network, which will be heard full-time on eight CBS-owned stations – including the aforementioned WQYK-AM in Tampa.
Which means CBSSR is clearly on the clock to find talent – it appears they’re already talking to sports radio hosts across the country, in hopes of recruiting them for a regular airshift on CBSSR.
Of course, CBS Radio owns several sports radio stations, and are likely having discussions with talent among their own stations for potential positions on CBSSR.
But there will be no bigger position than morning drive. CBS Sports Radio will need a show that will relate to their target demographic, be entertaining, and at least some of the time, informative.
And no program fits that bill among CBS’ sports radio stations better than “Boomer & Carton.”
When the duo was hired in 2007, WFAN operations manager Mark Chernoff admitted, “I decided to go after two people in the sports world who knew how to speak to an audience.”
They’ve been speaking to the New York audience so well, why not have them relate to New Orleans at the same time?
Most people across the country have heard of Esiason; as for Carton, many have become acquainted with him earlier this year after an infamous interview with Hank Haney. (In fact, if you Google “Boomer Carton”, one of the top suggested searches that appear include one with “Hank Haney”.) But if CBS appoints “Boomer & Carton” as the morning show on CBS Sports Radio, they will instantly become the face of CBSSR. Just look at “Mike & Mike” on ESPN Radio, which also has a video simulcast on ESPN2. For a couple of years, “B&C” have their own local video simulcast on the regional sports network MSG. It could easily be shifted to the CBS Sports Network.
As you would imagine, the local “Boomer & Carton” program has been dominating the syndicated “Mike & Mike” in the New York ratings. But when you consider some of the guests that have appeared on “B&C” – Kate Upton, Michelle Beadle and Brendan Shanahan, just to name a few – you’d have to wonder if the show is slowly but surely preparing for a foray into national syndication. Even New York sports media columnists are seeing that the writing is on the wall.
Just look at some of the guests that have conducted interviews on the show over the last two weeks alone: Mike Tyson, Drew Brees, would-be top NBA draft pick Anthony Davis, resident CBS basketball analyst Greg Anthony, and Tom Glavine, a former Braves pitcher who is currently an analyst for Braves TV. Mind you, the Mets – whose flagship station is currently WFAN – didn’t play their division rival Braves for the entire month of June. (In fairness, Glavine did pitch for the Mets for five years, and was promoting a charity of his.)
But Atlanta is one of the many markets in which Cumulus Media owns sports radio stations that will be instilling CBS Sports Radio programming into their schedules. Not just content like sports updates, but “programming,” according to the CBS press release, which lists all of the CBS and Cumulus stations that will be involved with the new CBSSR venture.
In fact, let’s run down the stations on this press release, starting with the ones owned by CBS Radio. We’ll obviously exclude the eight markets where CBSSR will be broadcasting 24/7 – and interestingly enough, in six of these eight markets (Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Tampa, Baltimore and Charlotte), CBS owns a preexisting sports station that “will add various components of CBS Sports Radio programming to their lineup”, which could be anything from updates to programming. Here are the remaining stations from that list:
New York – WFAN: Duh.
Chicago – WSCR/”670 The Score”: Chicago embraces its local talk radio, and that includes sports talk. I personally wouldn’t consider WSCR as a “B&C” affiliate until the show achieved success across the country first. Then and only then should CBS consider clearing the show in the Windy City.
Dallas – KRLD/”105.3 The Fan”: This is a market where both CBS and Cumulus own sports radio stations. It would basically be a coin flip between “The New School” on “The Fan” and the long-running “Musers” on KTCK/”1310 The Ticket” – though a scenario where the “Musers” would move to “The Fan” in favor of a “B&C” clearance on “The Ticket” is not out of the question.
Washington, D.C. – WJFK-FM/”106.7 The Fan”: The current morning drive program on the District’s version of “The Fan” is known as “The Sports Junkies,” who have virtually been with the station for a decade. Starting as an evening program, they transferred to a sister rock station where they worked the morning shift. When the rock station flipped formats, the Junkies returned to WJFK, which was a general talk station at the time. It was when Howard Stern left terrestrial radio that the Junkies retained morning drive. Currently, WJFK is the top sports radio station in the market, though both “The Fan” and its closest competitor, WTEM/”ESPN 980″, both languish at around twentieth place in the ratings and the 25-54 male demographic. Who knows if that picture is different come January – WTEM is the Redskins’ flagship station – but WJFK as an initial “B&C” affiliate may be iffy. Though the Junkies have proven that they can work in any timeslot, and as we all know, in the world of radio, anything can happen.
Boston – WBZ-FM/”98.5 The Sports Hub”: They recently dethroned the legendary WEEI – a charter “Imus” affiliate back in the Westwood One days – as the top sports radio station in Beantown. They don’t need “B&C’s” help at this juncture. Next.
Pittsburgh – KDKA-FM/”93.7 The Fan”: The morning show hosted by WFAN import Gregg Giannotti and veteran Steel City sports radio personality Jim Colony has been finding an audience. And like Chicago, Pittsburgh is another market that cares about its sports talk. The only wild card in this equation would be that Boomer was the former quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals, which is in the same division as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sacramento – KHTK/”1140 The Fan”: On the West Coast, the show would air live starting at 3 AM. Of course, it would not air in its entirety, as Don Geronimo will be hosting the regular morning show on “The Fan”.
Cleveland – WKRK/”92.3 The Fan”: The duo of Kevin Kiley and Cleveland native Chuck Booms, the first afternoon drive hosts on Fox Sports Radio, have been the morning hosts on “The Fan” since its launch last year. It’s a situation that mirrors Pittsburgh: notable talent in an AFC North market. I would think the residents of the Forest City would rather warm up to Booms than Boomer, but given Booms’ track record, you never know.
Now, as far as the Cumulus stations are concerned, “Boomer & Carton” could easily begin airing on a large number of the company’s sports radio stations upon syndication. Many of these stations are ESPN Radio affiliates, most of which carry “Mike & Mike”. So, of course, there’s going to be an obvious void in the schedule for a great deal of these stations, now that they will be aligned with CBS Sports Radio. And a handful of Cumulus’ stations are outside the top 25 radio markets, which means any local talent in morning drive in these markets are certainly expendable.
If you think about it, the base of affiliates for the old “Imus In The Morning” program consisted of several large markets and many smaller markets. A similar setup for the stations carrying “Boomer & Carton” across the country is certainly conceivable.
Some more words of wisdom from Mark Chernoff upon hiring Craig Carton, who had previously hosted top-rated shows in Denver, and most recently in New Jersey, to pair with incumbent local talent Boomer Esiason in morning drive on WFAN: “Craig is a radio guy the way Imus and Howard Stern are radio guys. Say what you want about the talent of all those other people who tried out [for replacing Imus, most of which were of the political persuasion], but Craig knows how to run a radio show, he knows how to speak to an audience and how to push the hot buttons that get people to react.”
And if “Boomer & Carton” indeed begin airing in markets such as Philadelphia, they might want to take down subway ads like these.
Or would that be just one less button for them to push?
Know this: They’ll be most likely to hit the “launch” button on the new CBS Sports Radio network when it goes 24/7 on January 2.