SBD/April 27, 2012/Media

ESPN Radio N.Y. Shows It Wants To Compete In Local Market With Move To FM Dial

With ESPN Radio N.Y. Thursday announcing plans to move to an FM station, the company "has made a move that could be a game-changer," according to Neil Best of NEWSDAY. ESPN has spent more than a decade as a "muted also-ran in its sports talk radio battle with WFAN, unable to overtake the station that invented the genre but unwilling to give up." Best writes, "No one at ESPN expects overnight success; everyone there hopes this is the start of something bigger." ESPN Radio N.Y. VP & GM David Roberts said, "Our focus isn't on saying, 'Hey, we have an FM, and that means we have a great chance of winning," We know we have to deliver to win, and that's the bottom line." ESPN Senior VP/Production & Business Divisions Traug Keller said, "Finding a New York FM is like finding beachfront property." ESPN likely will try to "make a splash when the Yankees' deal with CBS Radio expires after this season." It is prepared to "pay big and set up a bidding war" (NEWSDAY, 4/27). Keller said, "In some ways, our AM signal might have kept a baseball team from wanting to be with us." In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes ESPN Radio carries Knicks, Rangers and Jets games, while the Mets, Giants, Nets and Devils are on WFAN-AM (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Roberts said, "Our focus is on what we do on ESPN New York. We are mindful of who our competition is and we are in this to win." In N.Y., Bob Raissman notes ESPN 1050 has made "only small in-roads on WFAN in terms of ratings" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes, "The long, short and 44-regular of this new ESPN FM deal? It’s the beginning of the hunting season." Both the Yankees and Mets "are radio free agents after this season," and ESPN is "no longer a non-qualifier because of 1050’s severely limited, after-sundown signal." With a "clear local signal and a long deal to rent 98.7," ESPN now is "prepped to make its next long-plotted move." Mushnick: "First choice, Yankees. Second choice, Mets" (N.Y. POST, 4/27).
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