Jim Rome has been immensely popular in Cleveland for a long time. He has had multiple tour stops in Cleveland and his visit to WKNR studios in the Cleveland Galleria last year was a blockbuster for this city. That’s why it is so surprising that WKNR decided to interfere with Rome’s nationally syndicated show when making some programming changes recently.
The new lineup looks like this. Mike & Mike in the Morning will continue to be carried from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM. The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo gets an extra hour from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. This pushes the first hour of the Jim Rome show (from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM) to KNR2 on 1540 AM. Then the final two hours of Rome’s show will continue back on the flagship station 850 from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM.
Get all that?
Yesterday on his show, Jim Rome addressed the topic and was none too happy to have his show split up. And really, why would he be? Rome will now have the first hour of his show pushed to a station with a far weaker signal, not to mention the confusion for fans. Now Rome fans will have to start their day attempting to get 1540 to come in on their radio before switching at 1:00 PM for the second hour of the show.
If you live within earshot of 1350 AM in Akron, you will probably just listen to the entire Jim Rome show there. They are presumably licking their chops down there where they have added a giant banner to their website proclaiming that you can hear all three hours on their station.
So, what in the world is going on here?
Interestingly enough, it sounds as if Tony Rizzo doesn’t appreciate being the guy to mess with Rome’s show. As someone who has been asked to fill in for Rome when he is on vacation, it is hard to believe Rizzo doesn’t at least have mixed emotions about the deal. So that means there must be something else going on.
Only station owner Craig Karmazin knows for sure. Is he trying to boost the profile of KNR2? Jim Rome certainly thinks so and he didn’t mince words on his show yesterday. “It’s not the first time a station has done this to the show… Right now we have more stations than we’ve ever had before.” Then he dropped a bomb. “In this particular case, in this market, in that city, on that town, it bothers me more than any other market because of the nature of our relationship… It’s Cleveland. It’s a very important market to me.”
If you really think about it, there is only one good explanation for this. There is only one person who could maybe benefit from this, and that is Tony Rizzo and his show. Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound as if Tony Rizzo is particularly happy with how he is arriving at an extra hour. Sure, he could be lying, but I don’t get that sense because of how fortunate he has felt to fill in for Rome when Rome is on vacation.
In the end, WKNR is seemingly capitalizing on one of its most popular shows (Rizzo) by cannibalizing a portion of Jim Rome’s show. In the end, I am not sure how it makes sense, but I am also not privy to all the station’s numbers. Maybe Rizzo’s new third hour will out-perform Jim Rome’s first hour. Maybe Rizzo’s third hour will carry new local listeners while KNR2 will retain enough of Rome’s original audience that the net result is a boost when looking at both stations combined. Maybe this is all a plan to boost listenership via streaming on the website and on smart phones.
We’ll have to see, but for now it appears that ESPNCleveland has merely confused its fans, upset the biggest national radio sports personality, and put their most popular host in an awkward position.