CBS has fired a shot across the bow of NBC and ESPN with the roll-out of the new CBS Sports Radio. The network will air 24/7 programming as of January 2, and start providing hourly sporting updates starting September 4.
Some of the new programming will be picked up by CBS-owned WFAN (660-AM) in New York, KDKA (1020-AM) in Pittsburgh and WBZ (1030-AM) in Boston — all three stations can be heard in the Hudson Valley at night, and the Boston station has a reach during day-time hours. Chicago’s WSCR (670-AM) will also carry some programming, although that signal is a bit spotty depending on the evening.
Philadelphia’s WIP (610-AM) will become a full-time CBS Sports Radio station while its FM side will mix in its Philly sports programming with the new network.
There’s no word whether any local Cumulus Radio stations will pick up programming from the new network: Middletown’s WALL (1340-AM) and Poughkeepsie’s WEOK (1390-AM) present an oldies music format and host the Army Sports Radio Network, and carries Compass Media sports programming; Kingston’s WKNY (1490-AM) airs local programming, music and some Kingston High School sports plus Compass Media sports overflow; WKXP (94.3-FM) and WZAD (97.3-FM) are country music stations that carry the Yankees; WPDH (101.5-FM) and WPDA (106.1-FM) carry rock music; WRRV (92.7-FM and 96.9-FM) carry alternative rock music; and, WCZX (97.7-FM) carries a popular music format.
Among other Cumulus holdings, Bridgeport’s WICC (600-AM), another Yankees affiliate, has day-long reach into the Valley. Westchester’s WFAS (1240-AM) carries soft music and Rockland Boulders baseball, while the FM side (103.9 and 106.3) carries music variety; Detroit powerhouse WJR (760-AM) carries talk programming and Michigan State sports; and, Chicago’s WLS (890-AM) carries the Chicago Bears and can be heard at night in the Valley.
In all, CBS Sports Radio will be heard in nine of the top 10 markets in the country, with an estimated audience reach of 10 million, with 90 percent in Top-50 markets.
WFAN was the first full-time all-sports station in 1987. It’s unlikely much of its programming will be changed since it already outdraws competitor WEPN, ESPN Radio’s full-time sports station (98.7-FM, and still on 1050-AM until September). Boomer & Carton is a solid draw in the mornings and Mike Francesa has owned the afternoons. Fan favorite Steve Sommers has worked in and around Mets telecasts for years, and I would doubt he would be affected. Where WFAN might venture in change is on overnights and weekends, where ratings are lower and the station could save a bit by running network programming. Also, as part of the new deal, programming from stations like WFAN can be picked up by other Network affiliates.
ESPN Radio has been the leader in all-sports radio, with a huge array of affiliates across the nation, although many stations are small (such as WINE 940-AM and WPUT 1510-AM in Danbury/Brewster, and WEJL 630-AM and WBAX 1240-AM in Northeast Pennsylvania).
NBC Sports Radio will be rolled out this fall, although the early plans only call for sports talk programming on evenings before expanding in the years to come. As of now, NBC Sports Radio has no New York city affiliation, and the introduction of CBS Sports Radio on WFAN would preclude anything on that station, formerly known as the famed WNBC 660-AM.