News broke on Monday of ESPN New York dropping its 98.7 FM signal, which it leases from Emmis Communications for $12.5 million annually, instead focusing on distribution through 1050 AM and other digital channels. Good Karma Brands owns and operates the AM frequency, but all programming on that frequency emanates directly from ESPN, while the company contributes to 98.7 FM through a local marketing agreement.
Recent data from the company demonstrates that 60% of ESPN New York listenership comes outside of radio, and eight out of 10 radio listeners are expected to find the station on its AM transmission. As a result, the value proposition of remaining on FM continues to diminish, providing a means for the company to focus its resources elsewhere.
When the lease of 98.7 FM ends on Aug. 31, 2024, Emmis will have the ability to lease the signal to another entity or sell it altogether. In order to sell it, the company is said to be looking for an offer around $50 million. When discussing the announcement on yesterday’s edition of The Michael Kay Show, the program informed its listeners that there are plenty of other ways to consume the program each day and that it is not set to end any time soon.
“We will still be everywhere, but we will not be on the FM dial anymore,” co-host Peter Rosenberg said on ESPN New York on Tuesday.
Sports talk radio consumers and other media pundits viewed this move as the company surrendering to WFAN in the New York ratings battle, the preeminent outlet in the locale for several years. In fact, WFAN Boomer & Gio producer Al Dukes posted an image of a white flag in response to the news. Kay and his program have an opportunity to gain a share in the ratings with the revamped WFAN lineup that includes a new pairing of Evan Roberts and Tiki Barber in the afternoons, but will soon no longer be directly opposed on the FM dial.
“Our competition – I don’t even know if I should say this,” Kay articulated. “I really believe within a calendar year, bankruptcy’s on the table, so would that be a failure of them or just the industry has changed?”
Audacy, the parent company of WFAN, was suspended by the New York Stock Exchange and under consideration for being delisted because of “an abnormally low selling price.” Within the next 12 months, $632.4 million in debt will come due and has reportedly commenced negotiations with lenders to restructure it to avoid bankruptcy. The aggregate total of Audacy’s debt equates to $1.9 million, and the company reported an operating loss of $135.3 million compared to operating income of $23.3 million in Q2 2022.
Adjusted EBITDA for the quarter equated to $14.4 million, down 62.5% year-over-year (YoY) concurrent with total revenues pacing down 4%; however, digital revenue is pacing up 7%. In an effort to avoid filing for bankruptcy, the company recently reached a deal to sell radio station assets in Phoenix, Ariz. and Boston, Mass. Within that filing, the company forewarned that if talks with creditors stall, the resolution of bankruptcy could occur thereafter.
The future of play-by-play rights with ESPN New York is in question following the news since the New York Knicks and New York Rangers have a clause in their contract regarding the cessation of broadcasts on FM radio. Conversely, the New York Jets do not have such a provision and could look to shop their rights to Audacy or iHeart stations, according to a report from Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. ESPN New York also carries New York Islanders games as a network affiliate; however, a preponderance of those broadcasts are moved to the AM signal when Knicks or Rangers games are occurring simultaneously.
KNBR’s Brian Murphy Speaks for First Time After Paul McCaffrey Laid Off
“Paulie Mac is my guy, will forever be my guy. The best thing I could ever wish anyone is that you get to work with someone as loyal, energetic, funny, consistent as the guy his Jersey buddies call ‘Smack’.”
Earlier this week, KNBR underwent a round of layoffs, affecting a pair of programs on the Bay Area sports station, including the departure of longtime morning host Paul McCaffrey. His longtime partner — Brian Murphy — has taken to X to share his thoughts.
In a thread to X, Murphy shared his admiration for McCaffrey, whom he hosted Murph and Mac with for 18 years.
“Paulie Mac is my guy, will forever be my guy. The best thing I could ever wish anyone is that you get to work with someone as loyal, energetic, funny, consistent as the guy his Jersey buddies call ‘Smack’,” wrote Murphy. “So much love.”
He then shared that everything listeners and fans of the program have shared on social media has been read by the duo, and thanked them for the outpouring of love and support.
Finally, Murphy addressed his future. Fill-in host Dieter Kurtenbach shared on Thursday he did not have a definitive answer about Murphy’s future with the Cumulus-owned station.
However, Brian Murphy has shared he will return to the airwaves on Monday morning.
“I’ll be back Monday morning on KNBR with our guy Markus (Waterboy) Boucher,” Murphy wrote. “Come on. It’s Niners-Eagles. Wouldn’t miss it. As Paulie Mac’s board itself would say: The show goes on.”
Mike Mulligan: Sports Radio is More Difficult Than Other Formats Think
He shared that he has worked with people on morning shows that he has seen come to a station fully hungover who play music and proceed to sit on the couch.
On Friday morning’s edition of Mully & Haugh on 670 The Score in Chicago, co-host Mike Mulligan outlined the difference with music radio that hosts are not continuously talking to the audience, instead taking mic breaks and then interspersing commentary with different songs.
Filling in for David Haugh on Friday’s edition of the program was Gabe Ramirez, who used to work in the format with B96 as the host of its morning show. Mulligan’s assertion about the differences between the two formats resulted in a conversation about the differences between the grenres, with Ramirez explaining the difficulties that music radio hosts face on the air.
“The music station’s still creating content,” Ramirez said. “You get to have a guest – since I am going to defend my music stations – you get to have a guest and toss them a softball question and listen to them rant for five minutes.”
Mulligan disagreed with this perspective, conveying that he does not feel their program provides guests with easy questions. Additionally, he shared that he has worked with people on morning shows that he has seen come to a station fully hungover who play music and proceed to sit on the couch.
“As a former sportswriter, we sit around and we talk about sports,” Mulligan said. “We talk about the sports we cover and we talk about other sports.”
“You have to talk about Justin Fields seven days in a row,” Ramirez replied. “As a morning show for music, you have to come up with new content every day.”
Rather than taking umbrage towards the response, Mike Mulligan explained that the key to effectively performing his job is being able to discuss important stories of the day even when they are not the headlines. Furthermore, he expounded on the commitment that it takes to watch the amount of sporting events and to be properly informed on the action so he is able to take the air.
“That I will agree with,” Ramirez said. “I’ve told people this – they ask me, ‘What’s the biggest difference?’ The prep, without question, is way more difficult in sports radio because everyone that’s listening to you already knows the answers and you have to be equally if not more informed in all of those things.”
Minnesota Twins Set to Tab Cory Provus as New TV Voice, Kris Atteberry as Lead Radio Announcer
Provus has been the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins since 2012.
After Dick Bremer exited the Minnesota Twins TV booth in October, the search began for his replacement. The MLB franchise didn’t have to look far, though.
Twins radio voice Cory Provus is reportedly set to become the new TV play-by-play broadcaster for the club, according to a report from Dan Hayes of The Athletic.
Provus has been the radio voice of the Minnesota Twins since 2012. Many immediately tabbed him as the club’s replacement for Bremer, who retired after 40 seasons as the lead television voice of the American League club. Before joining the team in 2012, Provus worked for the Milwaukee Brewers as the number two broadcaster after spending two seasons as the radio pregame host for the Chicago Cubs.
Meanwhile, Kris Atteberry has been signaled as the person set to replace Provus inside the franchise’s radio booth. He has served as the pregame and postgame host for the Minnesota Twins Radio Network since 2007. Atteberry joined the club after spending five years calling games for the then-Independent St. Paul Saints from 2002-2006.
While the television and radio broadcast crews appear set, questions remain about where the team will televise its games in 2024. The club’s contract with Bally Sports North has reportedly expired, and it has yet to sign an agreement with the bankruptcy-laden RSN, or with a local over-the-air television station.