The WKNR Fallout Item

Now that we’ve had a little time to digest the announced sale of Salem sports talk WKNR/850 to Good Karma Broadcasting, some thoughts. The below is primarily our own speculation and educated guessing, and not borne in fact unless we tell you otherwise:

* First, a “victory lap”, as it were.

Here at your Mighty Blog of Fun(tm), we can’t even count the number of times we’ve written the following sentence – or some variation of it – in connection with Good Karma’s purchase of the 1000 watt daytime-only station now known as WWGK/1540: “This can’t be Craig Karmazin’s end game.”

Though much of the speculation surrounded around the rumored nighttime brokering deal with Radio One’s WERE/1300, which would have placed WWGK’s ESPN Radio programming on that signal after 7 PM, we couldn’t help wondering about other possibilities.

Maybe we just couldn’t get the very first mention of Mr. Karmazin being connected to local broadcasting out of our minds.

That was in a column long ago by now-former Cleveland Plain Dealer sports/media columnist Roger Brown, who said, at the time, that Karmazin was interested in buying either Radio Disney’s WWMK/1260 or…WKNR.

This was long before he ended up purchasing his first station, which now goes by the on-air name “Cleveland’s ESPN Radio 1540”.

After paying a couple of million for daytime gospel outlet WABQ, Karmazin has finally ended up getting WKNR – and actually did not pay a lot more, considering the relative strengths of the two stations. He got a deal that was a few million less than even Salem paid to return talk WHK/1420 to the company’s fold.

* What happens to the two stations now that they’ll be under common ownership?

We don’t know.

Again, in the “educated guess” category, we like the comment made to our earlier item. WKNR becomes Good Karma’s “mostly local” sports talk outlet, with the assumption (likely correct) that the station keeps mainstay Jim Rome noon-3 PM.

WJW/8 sports anchor Tony Rizzo is likely in the conversation somewhere, judging from his existing association with Good Karma, and his desire to return to doing at least some sports talk radio.

The answer there would appear to belong to his TV bosses at “FOX 8” – whether he does a weekday show, a Saturday midday show or none at all. We haven’t heard any new developments on that front since Rizzo did that special OSU/Michigan show on WWGK a few weeks ago.

What of “Cleveland’s ESPN Radio 1540”? Our guess – it stays that way, with a primarily network lineup, carrying sports events and programming overflow from WKNR, as its broadcast hours permit.

The only wild card to us – does Karmazin keep FOX Sports Radio on 850, or swap it to 1540? That would certainly satisfy ESPN’s desire to be on a full-time signal…and remember, FSR is only on WKNR because Salem had to replace ESPN, which…of course, ended up on Karmazin’s first signal.

And does Good Karma return ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” to 850, or do a local morning drive show?

If you look at Karmazin’s other sports properties, most of them are affiliated with ESPN. The sole non-ESPN sports format outlet in his portfolio, WTLX/100.5 Columbus/Madison WI, is losing FOX Sports Radio to Clear Channel’s WXXM/92.1 in the same market.

Karmazin has told local reporters in Madison that he plans to air more local sports talk on the frequency, with the loss of the network feed.

* Don’t necessarily assume the current full-time WKNR hosts or staffers will be getting their walking papers, certainly in the short term, at any rate.

We don’t know how mid-morning host Greg Brinda or afternoon driver Kenny Roda fit into Good Karma’s plans. Heck, at this point, even Craig Karmazin himself may not know that answer.

Ditto with other ‘KNR staffers, like the young group of producer/board ops/weekend hosts, or update anchors Jeff Thomas and Daryl Ruiter – who, of course, are actually employed by Metro Networks instead of Salem.

One thing we’d like to do here is *calm* some of the wild, outrageous speculation – by saying, basically, we haven’t heard anything to answer any of the above questions yet.

And it would appear likely from this corner that Good Karma is going to take at least the next month or so, if not more, to make some of these decisions.

One thing would appear to be immediate.

With station voice and program director Michael Luczak no longer associated with WKNR, we’ll probably start hearing new production on the station – fairly soon. Even that may take some time to put together.

Mr. Luczak would presumably continue in the employ of Salem, overseeing the company’s talk WHK/1420 and perhaps performing other duties. We don’t know his experience with Christian contemporary music, but of course, WFHM/95.5 “The Fish” is looking for a program director after Sue Wilson’s departure to Rubber City country WQMX/94.9 in the Akron market.

But…Luczak won’t be voicing WKNR liners and promos anymore.

It’ll be fun to watch, at any rate…as Karmazin appears ready to enter “the big leagues” of local sports radio. And he finally is able to compete with WTAM/1100 for the local sports audience.

Will he start going after Clear Channel’s pro contracts?

Assuming he keeps the Ohio State rights – and we’d be shocked if he would buy WKNR without that contract being kept – the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers are the big “plums” left.

Our guess? He goes after the rights of one of the three teams.

His problem? All of them would presumably be wrapped up by Clear Channel in multi-year contracts.

But with a full-market full-time signal, and apparently some money behind him ($10 million doesn’t grow on trees), he’d appear to be…in the game, at least. OK, so we couldn’t resist the pun.

We’ll be watching…

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