Radio Waves: 6/8/12

Jack Sports?

Led by a story on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com, the latest format change rumor centers around Jack-FM (KCBS-FM, 93.1) dropping oldies/classic rock in favor of sports-talk.

Reasons for Barrett’s supposition? It seems owner CBS has an affinity for sports-talk on FM — since 2007, CBS has launched nine FM sports stations scattered in the top-30 radio markets.

In addition, according to Barrett, the top salesman at AM sports-talk station KSPN (710 AM) recently quit to move over to Jack. One anonymous “sports source” told Barrett that they were asked what they thought of the idea of FM sports on Los Angeles. Finally, the ratings for Jack have been dropping as of late … and while Jack was the CBS jewel for a time, with the format running on CBS stations throughout the country, Los Angeles is one of the few still standing.

Why I don’t think it will happen? Or perhaps more accurately, assuming CBS is stupid enough to do it — and they are — it would fail miserably?

Sports talk stations just don’t work in Los Angeles. We have three. We’ve had them for over a decade. Unlike in other cities, none have ever consistently earned above a 1.0 share in the ratings. 

Ratings are bad because, as some believe, sports stations appeal to men and men don’t listen to AM? Funny, since they seem to find and listen to KFI (640 AM) just fine. And they find sports on AM in some other cities such as New York just fine as well. 

Los Angeles is an interesting city when it comes to sports talk. We do have the occasional show that creates a buzz … such as Petros and Money afternoons on KLAC (570 AM). But for the most part, due perhaps to the numerous other activities locals can do year round in Southern California, listening to people talk about sports on the radio just isn’t that appealing to most radio listeners here.

Market Manager of the CBS/LA Cluster responded to Barrett’s story by sending out a humorous memo to Jack employees stating in part, “Jack was recently voted ‘best station between 92.9 and 93.3’ … you don’t mess with that kind of success!” Then he added, “Jack is not going sports.”

Of course that means nothing. The radio waves are littered with the remains of stations that were — supposedly — not going anywhere. A station that announces an upcoming format change does nothing but give competitors a chance to react … sometimes first. In 1980, KHJ announced they were going Country during the Summer, even though they were not making the change until late Fall. KZLA-AM/FM got a jump on KHJ and stole the thunder.

So I am not sure what will happen. Jack is still successful, though declining, and sports are risky in Los Angeles. CBS has a history of bad decisions especially in other cities, yet they tend to be relatively conservative with changes locally. They had an FM talk station with KLSX (now KAMP, 97.1 FM) that could have easily gone sports, yet they ultimately decided to move to top-40 music. I think Jack has the potential to go either way, but my hunch is that it will stay the course … at least short term.

As Barrett said on LARadio.Com, it will be an interesting Summer to watch CBS.

Cain Talk

Herman Cain in moving from the politics to politics … taking over for Neil Boortz who will be stepping down from his syndicated program in January.

Boortz’ program aired locally when KGIL (now KMZT, 1260 AM)  ran talk a while back; otherwise he has not been heard locally. Reaction to the announcement was nonexistent.