Published on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 18:47
In his latest blog for Crain's Chicago Business, Ed Sherman wrote about the possibility of a third Sports Talk radio station coming to Chicago, with this one on the FM radio frequency. You can read this particular blog at this link HERE
. He specifically mentioned that the Chicago White Sox broadcasts could be a big part of the foundation for this new station and that Emmis Communications (owner of WLUP & WKQX) could be the company that makes this bold move.
I'm having trouble picturing this actually happening, for a number of reasons. There are a great many positives to this move, but there are at least as many negatives.
The biggest issue has to do with the cost. It would take a LOT of money to to start up a new FM Sports Talker. New staffs, new promotions, new everything. Then, in addition to all of the upfront costs, there is the problem of losing all that income that WKQX brings in. The new sports station would have to at least match the revenue that Q101 brings in. That is doubtful right now. Eventually, maybe, but doubtful immediately.
There are a lot of Chicago-centric sports talkers that could quickly fill the need for on-air talent. Sherman mentions Mike North, but his TV partner Dan Jiggetts would be a great on-air reunion for a station. Chet Coppock would attract many listeners. Bruce Wolf's comedic mind would be a welcome addition, although he has relaunched his law career and may not want a full-time radio job. Mike Murphy is is just sitting out his CBS contract before looking elsewhere for work. This new station would be a good fit for "Murph" and help bring in some Cubs fans. Jay Mariotti had a successful show on WMVP at one time and would again enjoy talking Chicago sports and purposely angering people. George Ofman would be the top choice for a baseball news reporter and Steve Stone could be easily brought aboard as a baseball expert from WSCR. Sherman mentions Steve Dahl, but Dahl's current contract with CBS does not expire until halfway into the Sox season in 2011. That doesn't help a station launch. If Emmis is willing to buy out CBS' remaining contract, then it is a possibility. All that said, none of this would come cheap. This doesn't even count the producers & staffers needed to make a top-notch sports station work. It would cost much more than what WKQX now costs. (WKQX would be the target station to make the flip IF
Emmis would consider doing this format in Chicago.) The cost is a huge problem here.
On a slight side note: There are numerous syndicated sports talk shows available that used to be heard in Chicago, but are not right now. The two with the biggest Chicago followings, according to various Internet streaming reports, are Jim Rome & Tony Bruno. Both of which could come fairly inexpensive, but being syndicated, may not connect as well as a local host would. If it costs listeners & advertisers, then the cost savings of the syndicated program is lost by the lack of willing advertisers.
Then you have to look at the ownership... Emmis Communications is not in a very strong financial situation right now. That is why Jonathon Brandmeier was let go from the Loop, along with all of their weekend jocks & many others from Q101 & The Loop, not to mention the majority of all decisions being made, which are now stupidly done out of St. Louis. Could Emmis even afford to take a HUGE loss on a sports station, with the hopes it makes money a year or two later? I'm not so sure that Emmis has that luxury of time or that available income to invest in Chicago. I truly doubt the mindtrust in St. Louis has ANY ability to connect with Chicago Sports fanatics.
Jeff Smulyan is a massive sports fan -- this is especially true of baseball. He has even tried to buy a baseball team before. It would not be unheard of for him to strongly consider doing something like this, and personally pushing for it to succeed. While FM is a weaker signal overall, it is a much stronger signal to the younger demos and has the ability to reach more youth than AM does.
The question isn't whether or not Emmis wants to do this. The question is, CAN
Emmis do this?
Maybe... just maybe with new investors pumping money into this new station (Reinsdorf? Dahl?), but these investors would have to be more in love with the idea of owning part of a station, than the idea of making money from it. Good luck there nowadays.
One other wild card in this deck is CBS Radio. They have the opportunity to quickly torpedo this idea by simulcasting their WSCR-AM on one of their FM signals, more than likely 105.9/WCFS. That would put them in a better position to re-up with the White Sox, putting their games on both the strong AM signal and the FM signal, which reaches more demos than the AM signal can. It also allows them to experiment with more sports programming, putting one show/broadcast on FM and another on AM to check out the reaction from fans. Most of all, it gives Chicago the FM Sports Talker it doesn't have, making any new attempt at another FM Sports Talker a long shot at success.
Outside of new investors blowing large amounts of money to get this station off the ground, I don't see it happening beyond the "talkin' about it" stage.
There is one way this could work for Emmis & the White Sox... I will save that theory for a blog for tomorrow, though...