How To Make An Emmis Sports Talker Work In Chicago

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Posted by Hippy Harry Hoo on February 19, 2010 at 13:19:30:

In Reply to: Emmis to launch a sports station on FM next year? posted by hmmm on February 16, 2010 at 15:14:20:

On Tuesday, the talk around town was all about the speculation about a possible third sports talk radio station coming to Chicago. This was largely based on a blog from very early that morning from Ed Sherman.

My conclusion is that, based on various factors like Emmis' financial struggles and the probable competition for listeners and ad dollars by this time next year, that a third (or fourth by then) straight-up sports talker would not work. Unless...

There is one way it could possibly work. If Emmis went with a hybrid station, all of which openly appealed to one demographic: Males 25-54.

All of the following is based off of the speculation (and speculation is ALL that this is at this point) that Emmis is looking to flip one of its two properties in order to carry Chicago White Sox & sports broadcasts. Between WLUP & WKQX, WLUP has the long-standing "Loop" branding that just can't be thrown away. That leaves WKQX as the likely flippee. For the sake of this blog, I am going with the idea of Jeff Smulyan will flip Q101 to a new format at the start of next year. I'm also assuming that he wants to do this so bad that he is willing to gamble the company's money and give up Q101's revenue in order to achieve this goal.

To do a full-on 24/7 sports station would not work, for the reasons mentioned in the previous blog. There only so many sports fans and so many sports advertisers to go around. With WSCR, WMVP and possibly a WSCR FM simulcast on the air by this time next year, a new sports station has a slim chance of survival. However, flipping WKQX to a station that has sports, talk, comedy and rock, all geared toward men has a much better chance of survival. Most programmers know that sports radio has a predominately male audience. It shows up at or near the top of the Male 25-54 ratings, but near the bottom of the Female 25-54 ratings. Why even bother hiding the fact? Make it a "man's" station.

Absolutely sign the White Sox to three-year deal! Even allow Jerry Reinsdorf to be a partner in the new station. Bring on some sports talkers, too. Mike North wants back in radio. His CBS2 morning show will probably be history by 2011, so you now have a morning show. A very good morning show if Dan Jiggetts joins up. Mike Murphy will be available, too. As long as he is willing to show some love to the southsiders and not just his beloved northside baseball team, he would work fine there. A good White Sox pre- & post-game shows would be needed, too. Steve Dahl is available in the summer of 2011, but for the right price, can leave his CBS contract in early 2011 to be the all-important afternoon anchor. Geoff Pinkus is available to evenings or middays. His Sunday "Man Show" on WIND is the perfect example of what this new 101.1 FM should be. Pinkus' "Living Large" could easily be made into a daily show. Chet Coppock is around for evenings, weekends & fill-ins. Overnights can be hard rockin' -- maybe even a simulcast of Emmis' Loop Loud or just a few hour block of active rock. Weekends can be have more sports talk (especially during the baseball season), as well more "Guy Talk" with programs featuring Pete McMurray locally and syndicated shows like Tom Leykis'. (It was announced earlier today that Tom Leykis is returning to radio. His show will start in LA, but he is also forming his own syndication company to reach nationwide once again.) Shows that attract a male following (sports, autos, outdoors, cigars, booze, gambling, rock & roll, etc.) can fill weekends when the Sox are not playing. Even Dr. Demento can come over from WLUP on Sunday nights and fit in nicely there.

Think of it as a WSCR/WCKG hybrid. "Guy101." Maybe "WMCV -- The Man Cave." (Yes, Mr. Smulyan, those call letters are available.) The imaging should openly flaunt it. "It's a Guys thing. You ladies just wouldn't understand." "You're in the Man Cave. Chicago's radio for guys." "Sorry Ladies, but this is The Men's Room."

An FM talker would only have an audience of so many. Another sports talker would only have an audience of so many. A hybrid of the two, allows both audiences to co-exist perfectly and gives Emmis a better shot at ratings & billings success. It also allows personalities like Steve Dahl, Geoff Pinkus, Pete McMurray, and even Mike North, the opportunity to talk beyond the strict borders of sports talk and capture a wider audience for a longer amount of time. (Although Mike North is at his strongest when he sticks with the subject of sports.)

I personally feel that both WLUP & WKQX should stick around longer. Both have great potential that just isn't being met for many reasons, but they also both fill a need in Chicago radio. Local radio would be the lesser for losing either one of them. However, if Emmis truly wants to make a bold move and Jeff Smulyan truly wants to work with his good friend Jerry Reinsdorf, my idea is one strong way to make it happen.

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