With the failed Digital Sports Network (DSN) so recently in our memories, there is a rumor floating around that 92.3 FM in Cleveland could have its format flipped by CBS radio into a sports talk channel. There was one thing that DSN taught us for sure and that is that there is demand for choices in Cleveland sports talk. It seems that there might be one on the horizon according to RadioInsight.com. According to their site, a web domain has been registered anonymously since march at 923TheFan.com. Additionally, Radio Insight is sniffing around CBSCleveland.com and Cleveland.CBSLocal.com where there is a locked down WordPress software installation. But is there any truth to it all?
We did some digging on this just to see what CBS has done in the past. CBS has started up FM sports stations in markets like Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Washington D.C., Chicago and Pittsburgh. In Boston CBS is the flagship station for the New England Patriots. In Dallas CBS is the flagship station for the Dallas Cowboys. In Detroit they have the Lions. In Chicago they have the White Sox and in Pittsburgh and D.C. it appears they don’t have any affiliations. According to sources we talked to, team affiliations are one of the keys to the business plan, particularly with NFL teams. So, when, exactly are the Browns up for radio contract renewal?
The answer is that I am not sure. The last news that I read about the contract that Clear Channel has with the Browns covered a period through 2008 with an option year in 2009. If you assume (just a wild guess) that the new contract that Clear Channel signed with the Browns was also a three-year deal with a fourth option year, that could mean that the Browns contract could be up after the 2013 NFL season, potentially. Again, I couldn’t find any information on this and I haven’t gotten confirmation as to how long the current deal runs as of yet.
Of course, even if having team affiliations is the desired business plan, that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t happen. By all accounts 92.3 FM makes money for CBS because of its ultra-low overheads. They pay music rights and some electric bills at this point and you’d have to think that is about it.
This is all very exciting unless you are a fan of alternative rock music and still rely on FM radio to deliver the Red Hot Chili Peppers hits in between commercial breaks. I know that sounds a little bit harsh, but I think it is becoming plainly obvious to pretty much everyone that terrestrial radio is an outdated medium for delivering music. Between mobile phones, iPods, satellite radio and services like Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, you just don’t need it much anymore. This isn’t even to mention the new cloud services that Google, Apple and Amazon have out now.
Why not drop out of the futile music competition and jump in the much smaller pool of sports talk in Cleveland? WKNR and KNR2 are both run by Good Karma Broadcasting and WTAM is the flagship for the teams when they aren’t running news and political talk. WMMS covers the Browns games themselves on the FM side, but not much else in the way of sports talk specifically. So, basically starting a new FM sports talk station means that you are looking to compete with 1.5 sports stations in KNR and KNR2. Plus, you are competing with a higher fidelity FM signal.
This part of it could all be just a waste of breath if our sources are correct and CBS is looking to make a splash by getting rights to broadcast teams. Once a station buys the rights to the teams the rest of the station’s cracks are easily filled. We’ll keep you informed as this story unfolds and as we dig up info about the radio contracts of the various teams.