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Thread: WMAL To Split Simulcast, Debuting ESPN 630

  1. #1

    WMAL To Split Simulcast, Debuting ESPN 630

    Set to debut July 1, 2019, ESPN 630 DC "The Sports Capitol" will carry national ESPN programming
    (Golic + Wingo; Stephen A. Smith) which has been heard on WTEM 980.
    Some local programming will likely be added.

    AM 630 will become the flagship of the Washington Redskins.
    MLB and NBA national games (including playoffs) are included.

    News-talk format will continue on 105.9 FM.

    New website will be https://www.espn630dc.com (currently redirects to ESPN.com).

    Story links:

    https://radioinsight.com/headlines/1...unch-espn-630/

    https://www.allaccess.com/net-news/a...ulcast-am-to-f

    https://news.radio-online.com/cgi-bi...line_id=n37008
    Last edited by pjc1961; 06-13-2019 at 03:45 PM.

  2. #2
    Wow, that's a surprise. So I guess this means a change is coming for WTEM?

    WTEM was sold by Dan Snyder to Urban One a year ago, and they got to keep the Redskins. But I guess those rights were only for a year.

  3. #3
    Even without the Redskins, WTEM seems to have a solid enough local line-up, and well as being a Baltimore Orioles affiliate. If they stay with the sports format, they'll most likely add SB Sports Nation programming for nights and weekends.

  4. #4
    It seems in a number of markets where a Talk format has been simulcast on AM and FM, the parent company breaks the AM away for sports. KIRO Seattle, KXL Portland, WDBO Orlando, WOKV Jacksonville, KTAR Phoenix. I guess when management looks at the numbers and realizes the AM is only contributing a small amount of listeners to the total, they see more potential for revenue by making the AM a sports station.

    The trouble is that WMAL's AM's signal is not what it used to be. After sunset, WMAL 630 is only broadcasting at 2,700 watts, not 5,000 as it used to. It's located now in Germantown, some distance from Washington, with an odd directional pattern.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregg. View Post
    The trouble is that WMAL's AM's signal is not what it used to be. After sunset, WMAL 630 is only broadcasting at 2,700 watts, not 5,000 as it used to. It's located now in Germantown, some distance from Washington, with an odd directional pattern.
    Which leads me to believe they'll simulcast the Redskins games.

  6. #6

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    It’ll be a tough road to hoe assuming they’re just going to clear the ESPN Radio schedule + Redskins broadcasts. Considering they can be heard on FM out in the fringes of the suburbs on 105.9 and other local stations.

    My guess is they were given a sweetheart deal to run ESPN Radio on the AM. It doesn’t look particularly good when selling national ads if you barely have clearance in DC (I think 980 runs it at night only).

    Bigger question I’d have is what will happen to 980 after another (likely depressing) Redskins season in 2019-20? They got a pretty good lineup of ‘Skins talk on there...would they swap Praise and WTEM to put (another) sports station on FM to try and keep the house of cards they purchased from falling down? Are you going to see personalities migrating to 630 if 980 loses the broadcasts? Or will they just try and make it work without a major team’s broadcasts to underpin the format?
    As we used to say down in ol' Mexico City...A.M.F.!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by seattlesarchiebunker View Post
    Are you going to see personalities migrating to 630 if 980 loses the broadcasts? Or will they just try and make it work without a major team’s broadcasts to underpin the format?
    That's an interesting theory. I don't think MAL will be adding local sports talk. It's too expensive, and the signal is too weak. I suspect they determined that the simulcast on AM wasn't helping their talk numbers at all, and they could split it off and create another revenue stream after the loss of WRQX. My expectation was they would move WRQX to one of their remaining frequencies, and that didn't happen. Instead they started this sports station and took over as flagship of the Redskins. By becoming the originating station of the Redskins network, they have something else to sell besides talk. So that alone justifies the move. Everything else they do is gravy.

  8. #8
    Probably the fact that this is Washington DC and not another market saved WMAL-FM. In its final days, WRQX was doing quite well in the ratings. In another city, if one FM frequency were being sold off, you'd put the Hot AC on the other FM signal and let the AM stay all-talk. You usually don't waste an older-skewing conservative talk format on an FM station.

    But again, this is Washington. So there's probably a built in audience for Talk, just as there is for All-News WTOP, occupying FM frequencies. In most places, there formats are found on AM only.

  9. #9
    This will prove to be another ESPN Radio ratings dud, just like AM 850 in Boston.

    The thought of anyone listening to the Redskins on AM 630 is laughable; all the games (at least regular season) will be broadcast in entirety on 105.9 WMAL.

    It certainly does make sense to split up AM 630 & FM 105.9 from a day-to-day programming standpoint; I suspect ESPN is paying Cumulus some decent loot to clear their programming in the Nation's Capitol. Most of WMAL's listening came from FM 105.9, not AM 630.

  10. #10

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    Like BigA said, pretty sure this is a way to develop another revenue stream locally as WRQX is no longer with them. Considering the fact that WMAL-AM has been a simulcast of the FM for half a decade, most of everybody has moved on over. May as well throw crap on the wall and see what sticks.

    My guess is the ESPN Radio deal was a barter (or incredibly low cost) arrangement...much like WNTX down the road in Fredericksburg. At night, you just get the national spots -- maybe an occasional local PSA or commercial once per hour, but 90% of those spots are ESPN's, not the local station's.

    During the daytime, you'll get a few local commercials, but still a high load of national commercials to clear. If you're bartering for ESPN Radio, you're probably just happy to insert a few spots an hour during the day and be done with it. Considering there's no talent, dedicated management, or music royalties to pay...you're really just paying the light bill and maintenance/IT costs. It's the perfect "broom closet operation".

    What I picture in a year is 630 and 105.9 remain the same ratings-wise. 980 either tries their damnedest to maintain "Redskins Radio" by putting it on FM or they'll dump the local hosts and run network programming 24/7 minus the O's broadcasts (don't even get me started on the O's this year, or their inability to be heard in most of Northern VA for the past couple years, but I digress).

    Unfortunately, unless either Cumulus or UrbanOne try to enhance their offerings for sports radio, I'm afraid the big winner out of this will be The Fan...who will likely absorb a lot of Redskins hosts that 980 will desire to jettison should they be unable to keep broadcast rights to the Skins and/or enhance their signal to FM.
    As we used to say down in ol' Mexico City...A.M.F.!

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