With less than four weeks to launch, the CBS Sports Radio Network seems to have all of the talent for their major dayparts in place.
Now, they just need to lock down clearances for the networks in three major markets.
We have known since the announcement of the network’s creation this summer that roughly 100 affiliates would be carrying programming from the network, with San Francisco being the biggest radio market (No. 4 overall).
Up until now, the top three markets – New York, Los Angeles and Chicago – have been unspoken for.
But it looks like CBSSR is going to be heard in all three of those markets – in stereo.
Word out of Chicago is that Cumulus is seeking to purchase Merlin Media’s radio properties in the market, WLUP (97.9) and WIQI (101.1). And that an agreement is already in place between Cumulus and CBS to broadcast the network on the latter frequency.
You may recall that CBS and Cumulus are both major partners in the new radio network. Currently, CBS is maxed out on media properties in the Chicago market, while Cumulus owns just one AM and FM station. It would make for quite an odd sports radio situation in the Windy City, where the upstart sports radio service is granted an FM spot, while the established WSCR/”670 The Score”, owned by CBS Radio, remains banished to the AM dial.
Which is a perfect time to focus on New York for a moment. You may recall Merlin Media previously pawned off 101.9 FM to CBS Radio earlier this year; that is now occupied by a simulcast of WFAN/”Sports Radio 66 and 101.9 FM, The Fan”. It is logical to think that this simulcast will break off come January 2, when CBSSR launches full-time (a similar plan is scheduled to be executed on WIP-AM/FM in Philadelphia). But at the time the sale of 101.9 from Merlin to CBS was made public, CBS Radio honcho Dan Mason sounded quite adamant about the AM/FM simulcast of WFAN remaining well into 2013.
Oh, and then there’s WFME-FM in the New York City area, long rumored to be the subject of a sale to a broadcaster for the simulcast of an AM sports radio station in the market. Recently, WFME-FM was sold to Cumulus – the same Cumulus that’s proposing to purchase a couple of FM stations in Chicago – where CBSSR will be supplanted on at least one of them. If this is their plan for Chicago, how can it not be the case for New York? That being said, WFME-FM may indeed end up being a sports station, as we’ve suspected – expect it’ll consist of national sports programming, and not so much local voices.
And rounding out our trifecta is Los Angeles. A market where four sports stations – all on the AM dial – exist. CBS Radio is in a position to convert one of their underperforming FM properties, either KTWV/”94.7 The Wave” or KCBS-FM/”93.1 Jack-FM” to the CBSSR outlet in Hollywood. Or, why not send Cumulus to purchase an FM station. After all, just like in the Chicago market prior to the Merlin deal, and New York City prior to the agreement to acquire WFME-FM from Family Stations, Inc., Cumulus owns just one AM and one FM station in L.A. Any FM sticks for sale in the market? How about an independent broadcaster – did somebody say KKGO? It’s good to see a station make a go of it (no pun intended) with country music in the L.A. market – but for the right price, Cumulus could turn that station from Garth and Trisha to Gottlieb and Tierney.
And don’t forget, Southern California’s own Jim Rome will be joining CBS Sports Radio. It would mean a lot to him for his show to be heard on his turf on the FM dial, I’m sure. Hopefully, it’s as profitable as James Bond movie posters are for film collectors and historians.
For CBS and Cumulus, it isn’t just about having an FM clearance for CBSSR in L.A.: they would be the very first sports radio station on FM in L.A. If all else fails, expect the network to end up on KFWB/980 AM, previously owned by CBS Radio but placed in an asset trust since CBS was approaching the media cap in that market – and I’m sure they’d “trust” Cumulus to take KFWB under its wing.
So expect at least two shoes to drop between now and Christmas.
They’d better be the perfect fit for CBS Sports Radio if they plan to kick ESPN Radio’s butt in the sports radio war.