Options For WABQ and WKNR

Just some random stuff floating around in our head about the past week’s biggest radio news items in Northeast Ohio: the departure of ESPN Radio from Salem’s WKNR/850, and the purchase of WABQ/1540 by a noted sports format operator:

TRIPLE X: We’re wondering if this is an option on Craig Karmazin’s Cleveland table.

Washington DC is abuzz about a brand new sports talk competitor to established Clear Channel sports outlet WTEM/980. The station owned by Red Zebra Broadcasting – the radio arm of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder – will be known on air as “Triple X – ESPN Radio”. It’s reportedly due to start Tuesday, according to our colleague Dave Hughes at DCRTV.

At the start, “Triple X” will launch on three signals.

The central signal is WKDL/730 Alexandria VA, which actually does pretty well in much of the DC market in daylight hours – it’s an 8000 watt signal at a low position on the AM band. At night, it virtually disappears at 25 watts.

But the primary signals “Triple X” will promote are on the FM band. WBPS/94.3 Warrenton VA is a rimshot from the western end of the fast growing Northern Virginia suburbs. WBZS/92.7 Prince Frederick MD is a rimshot from southeast of DC in Maryland. Until now, they’ve all been running a Spanish-language format.

There’s been a lot of buzz that the combo won’t be enough for the Red Zebra folks. The FMs struggle to reach Washington itself. The AM signal drops to “under lightbulb power” at night. And the outlets, the new flagship of Snyder’s team, will air a number of Redskins night games in the pre-season and first part of the regular season…when that AM signal drops to low-power. There are strong rumors that the “Triple X” combo will at least buy airtime on a fourth, in-market signal to carry Redskins games.

Fast forward to Cleveland, and the options being considered by Good Karma’s Craig Karmazin for his presumed new ESPN Radio outlet in this area.

Could Karmazin take a page from Dan Snyder’s playbook, and grab a couple of rimshot FMs to approximate full market coverage? The relative equivalent of the Red Zebra FM signals in the Cleveland market would be WCLV/104.9 Lorain on the west side, and WKKY/104.7 Geneva on the east side.

We mention them just to note their signal and approximate location in this region compared to the Red Zebra rimshots in DC, and not to suggest anything involving any specific stations in the Cleveland area. For that matter, we’re just looking at possible options, and have no idea if Mr. Karmazin’s “Good Karma” is even looking in that direction. And as noted, there has been a lot of negative buzz about the signal strength of the Red Zebra FM stations.

But the general idea of adding FM rimshots to complement the city-based daytime signal of WABQ/1540 is an interesting one.

We just don’t know how many options Mr. Karmazin has to do that in this region…for one, WCLV is not going anywhere due to its long-term commitment to the classical format on the Lorain rimshot, part of its 2001 agreement to move from 95.5 to 104.9. And we don’t believe the Music Express folks would sell WKKY, either…

We also don’t know if Karmazin would approach the owners of the two small Ohio stations on the 1540 frequency, WBTC/Uhrichsville – owned by one Mr. Jim Natoli – and WRTK/Niles, a part of the Harold Glunt World Empire at Beacon Broadcasting.

It would appear to us that if he has any designs of moving WABQ’s tower site south of Cleveland and aiming it to the north with greater power, or of increasing its power in general, those contacts are the first thing he’d have to pursue…perhaps along with calling up Radio One, and asking if the 6 PM-6 AM hours are for sale as a block on WERE/1300…

WKNR OPTIONS: Salem sports talker WKNR/850 has roughly until the end of the baseball regular season to figure out what replaces ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” in morning drive. No, we mean the REAL end of the baseball season, not the end of the Indians’ season, which is basically…um…now.

The smart money is on WKNR program director Michael Luczak going local again in morning drive. One good reason for that…outside of “Mike and Mike”, the network radio options pretty much stink up the place.

FOX Sports Radio has Washington DC-based Steve Czaban (“Czabe”) and his “First Team on FOX” morning drive show. “Czabe” has some talent, but is only the latest in a long string of FSR morning shows.

Sporting News Radio has one reasonably attractive offering with former ESPN and FSR host Tony Bruno…but Bruno runs 9 AM-1 PM in the Eastern time zone, so that’s not a morning option here. SNR’s morning show is something called “The Morning Show with Matt Spiegel and Bill Lekas”. Would you trust your morning drive slot to roughly the 20th morning show SNR has run in the past five years?

There is the option, of course, to more Greg Brinda to morning drive, and run SNR’s Bruno in his current mid-morning slot. But as far as we recall, Brinda has never done morning drive in his entire radio career, and may be one of those folks – like your Primary Editorial Voice – who does not relish the early wake up call.

We’re reminded of a popular afternoon male-female host team at one of our previous radio stops. The male half of the team was tapped to move to morning drive when that time slot’s long-time duo bolted for a larger market. It had been widely expected that his female co-host would follow. But this was something we knew personally…a certain hot place would freeze over before she got up at 3 AM!

The loss of “Mike and Mike” would appear to open up an opportunity, somewhere, for one of WKNR’s stable of part-time hosts. Rather conveniently, summer vacation season has given these folks plenty of exposure…with drive time fill-ins recently by Bob Karlovec, Mike Catan and others.

Then, there’s Neil Bender, who has raised his profile considerably by co-hosting the FSN Ohio-simulcasted “Cleveland Rants” with Les Levine.

Then, there are other options out there…like long-time Euclid-based sports radio host and comedian Chuck Booms – now heard weekend overnights on FSR, locally via WEOL/930 Elyria – or WOIO/19-WUAB/43 sportscaster and sports radio veteran Chuck Galeti.

Our gut still tells us that Mr. Luczak goes local in morning drive…we’re just not sure how…

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