Sports radio programming exploded in 2012. The new year promises to be the most interesting since 1987 when WFAN(AM) kicked off.
For years ESPN has long been the only game in town on a national scale when it came to sports radio networks. But nationwide network plans announced in 2012 by CBS, NBC and Gow Broadcasting turned a couch potato industry (with frothy content) into a bubbling cauldron (with frothy content).
CBS Sports Radio has already wheeled out most of its network and is operational. It plans to be fully 24/7 on Jan. 2. Most of its programming is talk shows, and it makes use of CBS Sports personnel. Its biggest coup was signing Jim Rome.
It uses CBS-owned stations and has a partnership with the growing Cumulus Media network as well. The CBS Sports Radio network has some high-profile FMs as outlets.
Oddly, CBS Sports Radio does not have its own website but is folded into CBS Radio.
NBC Sports Radio’s plans are running somewhat behind CBS’s but are no less ambitious. Though programming is on the air, the 24/7 network won’t be fully on the field until April 1, 2013. It recently announced a complete weekend lineup of talk shows but a large hole exists mid-weekdays.
NBC’s network is working with program syndicator Dial Global for college and pro game content and syndication. NBC Sports personnel contribute to the network, as well. Its affiliate list is much weaker than CBS’s (and ESPN’s) at this time.
A wildcard is Yahoo Sports Radio. Houston-based Gow Broadcasting is working with the popular Yahoo Sports website, making use of some of its talent. It operates a 24/7 network though the affiliate list is a little fuzzy and concentrated on small, independent affiliates. Not surprisingly, given its Internet partner, it is strong on streaming content.
Recently it has shown a willingness to add content with big names, such as Bob Costas.
Of course all these players wish to dethrone ESPN Radio from its dominant position. While there have been some raids of its talent, sports hosts, especially the second tier, come-and-go, and ESPN Radio remains strong. Despite Dial Global’s premier content, ESPN can bring its own TV network along with powerful pro and college sports content to bear and the network’s brand is closely associated with all-things sports.
Let the games begin.