Philly AM Station Raptured By Family Radio
Once upon a time, the Philadelphia Flyers announced that they would be relocating from the market’s established sports radio station, WIP (610 AM/94.1 FM) to rival WPEN-FM (97.5 The Fanatic), with games simulcast on WPEN-AM 950, which was station owner Greater Media’s original frequency on the Philly radio dial for sports talk until they flipped 97.5 to “Philly’s first FM sports station” in the fall of 2009. This move came roughly one month after the 76ers abruptly shifted from WIP-AM/FM to WPEN-AM/FM as their flagship, effective with broadcasts of their 2012 postseason run. Up until then, WIP-AM/FM held the monopoly on radio play-by-play rights (sister station WPHT-AM is also the Phillies flagship). So the field is now split between Greater Media and CBS Radio, owner of WIP/WPHT.
And very soon, the programming between the AM and FM sides of both WIP and WPEN will be radically different. We already know that WIP-AM is going to become a 24/7 outlet for the new CBS Sports Radio network on January 2 of next year.
Now comes word that WPEN-AM, the one-time flagship station of the Phillies, has been sold to Family Stations, Inc. for an undisclosed price. For years, Family Radio had been heard in Philly via Camden-licensed WKDN-FM 106.9, but was sold earlier this year to Merlin Media. The sale of this station plus another in Washington, D.C. may have been brought on by the negative publicity Family Radio president Harold Camping received in 2011, when he predicted not one, but two raptures – May 21 and October 21 – that never came into fruition. (And for what it’s worth, the date of Family Radio’s acquisition of WPEN-AM is September 21.)
While Greater Media had planned to simulcast Flyers and Sixers games on both 950 AM and 97.5 FM, it would have been ideal for both frequencies to air both teams’ games in the event of a conflict (though upon the announcement of their new deal with Greater Media, the Flyers announced that some overflow games would be heard on sister station WMMR/93.3 FM). But with the NHL currently in lockout mode, thus no Flyers/Sixers conflicts to be concerned about, Greater Media likely decided that now would be the best time to unload AM 950. And at a time where the AM band is all but being phased out in favor of FM and smartphones, you’ll want to unload those AM sticks as soon as someone has a reasonable offer.
It’s likely that once the NHL lockout ends, Flyers games will be heard on WMMR by default, should a Sixers game be played at the same time (and heard on WPEN-FM – which would become simply WPEN once Family Radio receives a new callsign for AM 950).
But whither WFME in New York? The frequency, at 94.7 FM – which at one point Family Radio applied for the status of its license to be changed from its current non-commercial status to commercial – once rumored to be purchased by ESPN (which eventually turned out to be 98.7 FM in an LMA deal with Emmis Communications)? Does Family Radio’s buying back into the Philadelphia market mean Harold Camping’s got his groove back?
Well, the deal was made exactly three months before the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar…