Your Opinion: Sports on FM Radio?

May 5, 2008 by

It's become more common in the past few years, especially in Syracuse -- live coverage of sporting events on FM music stations.  What do you think of the practice?  Our weekly poll on the topic is already closed, but you can still post comments with your thoughts.

Perhaps the first recent example of sports on th FM dial was in the mid 2000s, when Citadel's 95X (WAQX) started carrying Syracuse University sports.  In 2007, Galaxy Communications won the contract, carrying SU games and other special SU-related programming on TK99/105 (WTKW/WTKV).

This year, the Syracuse Chiefs are supposed to be carried on Clear Channel's SportsRadio 620 WHEN, but WHEN also has the Syracuse market rights to the New York Yankees.  When both teams are playing at the same time, the farm team's website explains that the Yanks get first dibbs on WHEN, forcing the Chiefs over to Nova 105.1 (WWDG).

Pre-empting FM music to carry local sports isn't just happening here.  The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle recently reported that the Rochester Rhinos games would be broadcast on Clear Channel's Country 107.3 (WCRR) this season.

So what do you think?  Is sports on FM great because the reception is better?  Is it great because it means sports won't pre-empt your favorite AM talk shows?  Or do you think it stinks because you'd rather be hearing music?

6 comments on “Your Opinion: Sports on FM Radio?”

  1. I think it depends on who you are. If you're a hardcore fan of the team in question, all that matters is whether you can hear the game... regardless of what station is carrying it or what had to be "bumped" to make room for the game. But if you're a fan of the music that would normally be played, then you're probably not too happy when the music is put aside for a game.

    Putting sports on FM also tells the public management doesn't really have much respect for the FM stations in question. Seems like Nova and Country are just being used as "dumping grounds" for overflow programming. Even though it's been a few years since Arbitron released Syracuse ratings, I assume Nova is still lagging... and according to R&R, Country 107.3 is getting it's butt kicked big-time by WBEE. How are these stations supposed to lure listeners over from the competition if they're frequently being pre-empted by sports?

  2. Here's the thing with sports on FM. I think there are several reasons this is being done.

    First, SU and WAQX and TK. I think the idea there is signal strength. The whole purpose of sports on these stations is so that the SU fans who can't be at the dome, or, who can't aford the expensive tickets, can listen to the game in their home, or, more likely, in their car. AM radio doesn't normally work in cars because of the engine. Plus, remember,, that SU games are also heard on WAER (88.3) for much longer than the WAQX or TK deals.

    Now, on to the next issue: WWDG and WCRR Rochester airing sports. For these stations, it's a ratings and content issue. Let's look at Nova for a moment, shal we? Nova has:
    *No morning show
    *No established talent
    *voicetracked talent that are only allowed quik mic breaks
    *No promotion
    *Imaging that simply says: "Nova... Nova... 105-1... and"
    *And, a weak signal.

    WCRR is in a similar situation. They have:
    *No on air talent whatsoever
    *Little promotion
    *Imaging that says: "107-3."
    *And, a weak signal.

    Due to these issues with the above mentioned stations, the stations in question are getting little ratings. Noone's listening. And why would they? There's nothing to draw them to the station... That's where the sports comes in. Sports will forcabley draw sports fans to those stations, and from there who knows...

    Let me back that up, and clarify here:

    When the cheefs are on Nova, a cheefs fan has no choice but to hear the station, and afterwords, the hope is that they forget to change the channel, or, get in the car the next day with the same station on that they left on because they turned off the car in the middle of the game, and that the listener will like the music they hear, and keep listening.

    The same is true of WCRR. Fans of Rochester Soccer have no choice but to listen to that station for the game, and, hopefully, in Clear Channel's eyes, they have to stop listening in the middle of the game, and when they turn the car on the next morning, "Country 107.3" is already on for them to try, and maybe they'll like it. It's all a ratings strategy.

    Personally, I feel sports on any station except a sports station is a bad idea. It just doesn't sound right to me. Sports belongs on a sports station, and that's that.

    --The Radio Kid

  3. I agree with the above posts about the lower-rated stations. And carrying SU sports is basically just something to brag about, so that's the real reason why that ends up on FM. The ridiculous move was last year when K-Rock started carrying NASCAR races. NASCAR on a supposedly "Alternative" station? That makes no sense.

  4. Pardon me radiokid, but if you think AM radio doesn't work in cars, then you are insane. Flip through the AM dial at night and you will pick up stations from all over the country. I have quite often picked up Yankees games on WCBS out of new york with a stronger signal than I get from WHEN!

    I quite often pick up WBBN out of Chicago as well.

    In the case of the Chiefs/Yanks, the only reason the Chiefs get shoved to Nova is because they have to move them there and they don't want them on any of the other stations that have a hope of getting ratings.

    As far as SU sports goes...Galaxy can have them. When the football team goes 1-10 anf the Basketball team up and down, not many people are listening. That and the fact that whoever has the rights loses money hand over fist. You can't sell ads during the games...thats controlled by the network. The only chance you have is to have a pre and post game show that can sell ads...which is why TK does a 6 hour pregame before football games!

  5. The MRN Nascar broadcasts ended up on K-rock because Galaxy sold WSCP-FM and apparently had a contract to fulfill, although I've read both ways from direct sources conflicting answers as to if the contract was completed or abandoned. I used to keep up with Nascar via the radio - I can't always be home on a Sunday afternoon or a Saturday night - and it's a dissapointment that no one in this area carries the broadcasts with even a reasonable signal. MRN would like to be on the air in Syracuse, too.

    Something I find amusing is apparently Crunch Hockey superceeds the Yankees, Yankees night games have been running on WSYR occasionally as the Crunch plays in the post-season.

    I'll second that AM radio works in cars, often better than in the home. I can go sit out in the car and listen to WGY out of Albany this evening if I like - if I could get it to come in on one of the radios in the house, it would be set there (no more Reith!). It's all in the power of the station, plus sometimes signals skip or bounce - WGY comes in poorly from Utica to Oneida but past Onieda comes in better. One night trying to find someone else running Savage I picked up a Wheeling WV station - in downtown Utica.

    SU sports must still be some kind of listener draw - how many years has it been since WSYR lost the contract and they STILL run pre and postgame shows? Although you have to wonder what an Arbitron ratings book would actually show. I don't know that moving them was for signal strength, I can pick up WSYR a lot further than TK99 or WAQX. And WGY also carries the SU games, sometimes pre-empting Savage for them.

  6. @radiokid - I agree with hyute... I've never heard of a car engine interfering with AM radio. In fact, AM radio reception is better in my car than it is in my house.

    @pontiac - The ratings in medium and smaller markets like Syracuse don't really "break it down" to specific times like Neilsen does with TV ratings. Generally the numbers are broken down into dayparts: Mid-6a / 6a-10a / 10a-3p / 3p-7p / 7p-Mid. And it's either Monday-Friday, Saturday and Sunday, or the entire week. It's kinda difficult to pick apart the stats to get something as specific as one particular Saturday from 1 to 4:30pm for a football game, for example. When it comes to live sports, stations usually just try to hit advertisers that "fit" with the target audience. In some cases, you get clients who are also fans of the team, and they buy-in because they're eager to be a part of it. Other clients don't know jack about sports, but they'll buy-in because the radio salesperson was successful in convincing them it's a good investment. But in reality, it's hard to say for sure because there's no solid proof of how many people are listening to the games. Pre-game and post-game shows that invite listeners to call in can be a good unscientific indicator, though.

    Also remember, most sports fans are men. Arbitron usually has trouble getting men to fill out ratings diaries, so even if there WAS a way to see the listenership during one specific game, it probably wouldn't be accurate.

    But, as radiokid and others have mentioned (or hinted at), if you're carrying the games on a station that has a pretty small rating to begin with... the revenue from game sponsors may very well be worth more than the commercials that would normally be airing at that time of day. But I don't really know if putting games on a low-rated FM station will attract new listeners. Especially in the case of Rochester's WCRR, where the Rochester Rhinos don't really strike me as a "big attraction" on radio, in person or otherwise. U.S. interest in pro soccer is well below the interest level elsewhere around the globe.


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