Over the years, some area baseball fans have been angrier in the fall at local radio than New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Baltimore manager Buck Showalter were with each other Monday night.
The fans have been angry because it has been difficult sometimes to find some World Series games on local radio despite having a high-profile sports station in what is supposedly a sports crazy town.
Now that WWKB-AM 1520 has switched formats from liberal political talk to become ESPN Buffalo or ESPN 1520 (I’ve heard it called both), that will no longer be a problem.
Tim Wenger, the operations manager for local Entercom stations that include WGR and KB, has confirmed that every baseball game of this year’s Fall Classic will be on one of the two sports stations via its association with the radio arm of the 24-hour sports network.
That’s one bonus coming from KB becoming the third sports station in town last week, joining WGR and the Cumulus Media station carrying CBS Sports Radio programming, 1270, The Fan.
Due to scheduling conflicts with Buffalo Sabres games, WGR couldn’t carry all the World Series games in years past.
Another bonus from the KB shift is getting Colin Cowherd’s morning radio show back. “The Herd” departed when WGR began carrying a daily Buffalo Sabres program more than a year ago.
Of course, some people wonder why Western New York needs a third sports station that has led Entercom to give WGR internal competition.
“There is a growing and insatiable appetite for sports programming,” said Wenger. “We are constantly moving sports programming around because we have more than we have the amount of time on WGR.”
WGR’s schedule is loaded with Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games and daily programming, which now will compete with ESPN 1520. Wenger views ESPN 1520 more like a complement to WGR than a competitor. Besides national play-by-play, the new KB will continue to carry play-by-play of Syracuse University football and basketball, the Buffalo Bisons, the Buffalo Bandits and Niagara University basketball.
“WGR obviously is local centric,” said Wenger. “ESPN Radio talks about things that WGR doesn’t do like 31 other NFL teams and the NBA. It is a niche sports format from a national perspective. It will embellish WGR and satisfy a need that hasn’t been met. We love the ESPN brand. It’s hard to beat that.”
He also isn’t concerned about competing with 1270, The Fan, for the national sports audience because CBS Sports Radio is a relatively new entity that doesn’t have the play-by-play components that ESPN has now.
“Whether (1270) was there or not had nothing to do with our decision,” said Wenger.
Nor did politics play into the decision, he said.
Some listeners have questioned Entercom’s decision to drop the liberal talk format from Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes that KB had been carrying that is directly opposite the local and national conservative talk opinions it carries on WBEN-AM.
“This decision had nothing to do with politics,” said Wenger.
It had more to do with everything that drives radio or just about any media these days: money.
According to the latest Arbitron spring book, KB was the No. 15-rated station in the market with a 1 share of the audience for listeners 12 and over even though it is a powerful 50,000 watt station. That was less than 10 percent of the share of second place WBEN and less than a quarter of what 10th place WGR averages.
Of course, radio stations program for specific demographics, with sports stations like WGR, KB and The Fan looking for men. Entercom expects the format switch to help ESPN 1520 attract more men, but Wenger isn’t predicting a big turnaround.
“I don’t expect it to grow to WGR levels,” said Wenger. “I do expect it to be at least the same as what KB has been getting and think it has the potential to get a 2 or 3 share.”
The cost of being associated with ESPN Radio in a bigger way isn’t a problem, either. Wenger said Entercom’s expenses haven’t changed from making the switch.
In other words, Entercom really has nothing to lose.