Ever since the story about ESPN Radio making a move on the New York Yankees and possibly moving them to FM surfaced this week, sports media geeks like myself have been wondering when the company would move its beleaguered 1050 AM station to the FM side. Well, that move is coming very soon. ESPN has announced that it will lease 98.7 FM in New York (long known as KISS-FM in NYC) and flip it to a temporary simulcast of ESPN Radio NY.
Eventually, ESPN Radio NY will become an all-FM station and its 1050 AM signal will become an ESPN Deportes affiliate serving the city’s Hispanic population.
This now positions ESPN Radio to make a move on the New York Yankees whose radio rights are up for bid. The Yankees have been broadcasting on WCBS-AM since 2002 and have long been yearning for a move to FM. But know that CBS Radio which has been the Yankees broadcast partner will not go down without a fight.
ESPN Radio NY is also home to the New York Jets and MSG Radio for the rights to carry the Knicks and Rangers. It’s been missing a baseball team to make it a complete sports radio station and if it can pick up the Yankees, it would be a huge move and one that could possibly give it the push to make a move on WFAN which has been the sports leader in New York since its inception in 1987.
Here’s the announcement from ESPN.
Fall launch of 24-hour ESPN Deportes station and a new timeslot for Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco among upcoming changes
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on April 30, 2012, ESPN Radio New York (1050 AM) will be heard on 98.7 FM as a result of an agreement between ESPN Audio and 98.7’s owner, Emmis Communications. ESPN New York 98.7 is New York’s first 24/7 sports talk station on the FM band.
For now, 98.7 FM and 1050 AM will simulcast content but plans are to turn 1050 AM into an ESPN Deportes New York Radio owned operation in conjunction with Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15).
The addition of 98.7 FM in metropolitan New York reinforces ESPN Audio’s strategy to pursue FM distribution for its content. Of ESPN’s 364 full-time affiliates, 137 are positioned on the FM band, representing a growth rate of 120% in the last two and a half years. FM stations make up 30% of ESPN’s total affiliate base (not all are full-time).
“Opportunities like this don’t come along too often and it’s tremendous that we were able to conclude a deal that will enhance our mission of serving sports fans in not just English but Spanish as well,” said Traug Keller, ESPN Senior Vice President/Production, Business Divisions. “Come Fall, Spanish-speaking New Yorkers will have their first 24/7 sports talk radio station.”
ESPN New York launched 11 years ago and will now feature a local weekday line-up that will remain mostly unchanged with Maxed Out in the Morning with Jared Max (4-6 a.m. ET), Mike Lupica (Noon-1 p.m.), Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco (1-3 p.m.) and The Michael Kay Show (3-7 p.m.). Patrick McEnroe will also have a Saturday show on the station from 10 a.m. to Noon, beginning May 5.
The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show is a new offering and capitalizes on Stephen A.’s widespread popularity on ESPN New York platforms and as a regular opposite Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take (ESPN2, weekdays, 10 a.m.)
National shows, Mike & Mike in the Morning (6-10 a.m.) and The Herd with Colin Cowherd (10 a.m.-Noon), remain on ESPN New York and both continue to see increased listenership and penetration in the market. February’s ratings indicate ESPN New York has had five straight months with at least a 3.0 share, good for 12th place in the market with a 3.1, up 35% year to year.
“This move to the FM dial is in keeping with the industry trend of sports radio shifting (from AM) and offers an even broader reach for our content,” said Dave Roberts, ESPN Radio New York Vice President and General Manager. “By combining the FM reach with our wide variety of digital offerings from ESPN Audio, we are uniquely positioned to provide coverage of all of New York’s sports.”
That is all.