Sports Radio News
Altitude Enters The Denver Sports Radio Picture
The worst kept secret in Denver sports radio circles is finally out of the bag! A fifth sports radio station is entering the mix.
KSE Media Ventures, which is owned by Rams, Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke, is diving in, and doing so with an impressive array of local talent and play-by-play.
Before we get into the specifics of the lineup which were first reported by BSN Denver, let’s take a look back at what’s transpired over the past year to bring us to where we are.
In 2015, the Denver market featured a number of sports talk stations. 104.3 The Fan led the pack, but 105.5 ESPN and Mile High Sports Radio 1340AM were also operating the format with local talent, and 1600AM was on the air and carrying national programming from Fox Sports Radio.
By years end, 105.5 ESPN ceased operations, leaving 104.3 The Fan, Mile High, and 1600 as the market’s remaining sports radio brands.
The Fan which consistently led the ratings race, was then sold by its owner Lincoln Financial to Entercom Communications who then spun it off to Bonneville as part of an exchange which helped them gain entry into the Los Angeles market. Entercom also acquired 950AM (KRWZ), which previously served as home to The Fan before the brand moved on to the FM dial in 2008, and sold the AM radio station to KSE Media Ventures, a group owned by Rams, Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke.
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After seizing control of 104.3 The Fan’s day to day operations, Bonneville made a number of big changes. They parted ways with Program Director Nate Lundy and cut ties with on-air hosts Vic Lombardi, Scott Hastings, and Joel Dreesen. The station replaced Lundy with Armen Williams, and ESPN NFL Analyst and former Bronco Mark Schlereth joined Mike Evans in mornings, filling the void left behind from Lombardi and Dreesen’s departures.
The Fan also acquired the ESPN Radio affiliation after 105.5 folded, and turned KEPN 1600AM into ESPN Denver. They’ve since made a few additional weekday lineup changes but we’ll touch on that later in this story.
As 2016 began, iHeart made the decision to flip 760AM to sports. Broncos play by play man Dave Logan, Susan Wargin, Andy Lindahl, and Ed McCaffrey were hired as local talent, market veteran Brandon Krisztal joined the station as Executive Producer, and the remainder of the lineup was filled by Fox Sports Radio’s programs. It appeared that 760 would become The Fan’s main competition.
But then news of a potential fifth sports station began to trickle out. KSE which had purchased a few music stations from Wilks Broadcasting and the 950AM signal from Entercom, was rumored to be exploring a move into the sports format. The only questions were, when would they launch and would there be an AM/FM simulcast or would it strictly be built on the AM dial.
KSE, which also owns and operates the television company Altitude Sports, started having discussions with talent inside and outside of the market about potential on-air opportunities. Job postings went up on All Access and every source I spoke with said the company was targeting a late-March or early-April launch.
Now we’ve learned today through BSN’s report, that the station plans to go LIVE on Friday April 8th, which is the day of the Colorado Rockies home opener.
The move into the sports format for Altitude makes sense on a number of fronts.
First, KSE controls the radio rights of the Avalanche and Nuggets and can use those two brands to drive listening to the radio station’s programming. That should help with attracting advertisers and marketing the new station inside the Pepsi Center. The company also has the option of promoting the sports talker on their other three local radio stations should they choose to do so.
Secondly, to launch a station you need good local on-air talent. Given that there were a ton of radio free agents available due to changes at The Fan and the termination of 105.5 ESPN, plus popular local television personalities were also out there for consideration, that presented an opportunity for KSE to come out of the gate with a strong local lineup.
Weeks ago I was told that Ryan Spilborghs, who spent 7 seasons with the Rockies, and works as a television analyst for Root Sports, was going to be a part of the morning show. That plan though has since changed.
Per BSN’s report, Spilborghs is out of the picture, and the morning show will launch with Tom Helmer, formerly of CBS 4 and Root Sports. No word yet on who his co-host will be. Middays will feature former Fan personality and current Altitude TV host, Vic Lombardi alongside Kyle Keefe, also of Altitude’s TV channel. Wrapping things up in afternoons will be Nate Kreckman and Tom Nalen. The two men previously teamed up on 105.5 ESPN, and also worked part time at The Fan.
If other needs exist, the station still has other local options they can explore. Scott Hastings and Joel Dreesen remain available, plus with The Fan stabilizing their midday shows recently with the additions of Cecil Lammey, and Brandon Stokley, personalities such as Shawn Drotar, Ryan Edwards, James Gomez, and Josh Dover could also be explored, assuming The Fan doesn’t find a way to utilize them in the future.
To program the radio station, Altitude has called upon James Merilatt, who has been involved with running Mile High Sports Radio AM 1340. In addition to assembling the weekday lineup and offering Avalanche and Nuggets games, Merilatt is expected to add some brokered programs to help the company’s bottom line.
What will be interesting to watch in the future is whether or not KSE looks to bring in Nate Lundy, the Fan’s former Program Director, in some capacity. Lundy still lives in Denver, maintains relationships with a number of local talent, and has had success in the market, both as a programmer and on-air talent. That would seem to make him an attractive candidate for a company that is brand new to the space and looking to make a splash.
Meanwhile, the brand is expected to be positioned as “Altitude Radio AM950”. Numerous sources have told me that CBS Sports Radio will be the network affiliate. That fits since ESPN airs 24/7 on 1600AM and overnight on The Fan, 760 partners with Fox Sports Radio, and Yahoo Sports Radio runs overnights on Mile High’s 1340AM.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past twelve months, it’s that when it comes to Denver sports radio, there’s never a dull moment. The Fan remains the market’s top rated brand and with their recent additions they’re well positioned to handle a competitive battle. However, based on the news, it’s clear that Altitude is ready to take their shot and give The Fan a run for their money.
Let the games begin and may the best sports station emerge victorious.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Buck Reising: I ‘Don’t Have Any Kind of Edict’ To Promote MLS
“I’m not going to call you a mouth breather, but I’m saying that you’re displaying the behavior of one if you don’t realize the impact this is about to have on Apple’s bottom line to acquire the biggest international star in sport.”
Lionel Messi is coming to America. The biggest star in sports is leaving Paris St. Germain to join Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami. Buck Reising thought the story was big enough to devote a few minutes to on Wednesday. One of his listeners disagreed.
A texter calling himself TN Berg wrote, “I don’t understand. I understand they have to push it because of Nashville SC, but nobody even watches it lol. It’s Miami Marlins attendance.”
Reising took exception to the idea that he and his producer, Lucas Panzica are forced to talk about Major League Soccer on 104.5 The Zone because there is a franchise in the market.
“We don’t have any kind of edict to push anything,” he said. “Lucas is the voice of Nashville SC. I am curious to know, as somebody who is not a soccer diehard, but who is interested in the United States acquiring the biggest international sports star going at this point, what that means.”
Messi is on the short list when soccer fans discuss the best player in the history of the sport. He joins a long line of international stars that come to the United States in the final days of their playing career.
Resising added that the MLS luring Lionel Messi to Miami is bigger than just a soccer story. The league made a deal last year with Apple TV+ for national coverage of all of its games. Messi will receive a percentage of all of the money generated from those subscriptions. That makes his signing a business story in Buck Reising’s eyes.
“I understand you may not be considering all the different things,” he said directing his frustration at the texter. “I’m not going to call you a mouth breather, but I’m saying that you’re displaying the behavior of one if you don’t realize the impact this is about to have on Apple’s bottom line to acquire the biggest international star in sport.”
Sports Radio News
Boomer and Gio Caller Explains Saudi Investment Realities vs. Media Narrative
“This might get a lot of notoriety, but it’s a different thing.”
Following Tuesday’s news of the merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf, jolting reactions of astonishment and betrayal pervaded the sports and media landscape. The entities are set to operate as one commercial company with a name to be determined in the coming future, marking a seminal moment in the history of golf. The agreement also ended litigation between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, and gave the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) ostensible purview regarding the evolution of the game.
Most players found out on Twitter, and even LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman was informed of the news shortly before its public announcement via a phone call. All of the eccentricities and nuance embedded in this type of situation has led sports fans to wonder whether this is just the metaphorical ‘tip of the iceberg’ for the PIF to expand its sphere of influence in the industry.
“I think it’s going to lead to the other sports doing the same thing,” Dennis, a caller on WFAN’s Boomer & Gio said. “If you have a league or commissioner – MLB; NBA; whatever it is – I think that they may do the same thing. Start their own league; get their own players on the backend or have a big name; give them these big contracts and kind of stir the pot for other leagues to do the same thing.”
The original source of indignation between the PGA and LIV Golf can be traced back to the launch of LIV Golf and its attempt to lure away players from the PGA Tour. The tour was successful in its mission, attracting stars such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, and ultimately resulted in an unexpected, somewhat brash announcement of the agreement.
It has been a topic of discussion across sports media, but one that is perhaps more hyperbolic than it needs to be – at least according to another show caller who works on Wall Street.
This caller, named Mike, said that he visited Saudi Arabia and met with the Public Investment Fund, along with the fact that many businesses already have some presence or involvement with Saudi Arabia.
“The media makes it out to be a big deal, and I sort of look at it and say, ‘Everybody’s there. Everybody is there,’” Mike articulated. “This might get a lot of notoriety, but it’s a different thing.”
Mike divulged how golf was vulnerable to this kind of a transaction because all of its players are independent contractors who sign agreements with different tours to compete. Conversely, athletes in Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL are all under contract, and they could only be lured away through free agency or buyouts.
“The total adjustable market of players that could actually [be] picked off at any one time is basically 100% of all players [in golf],” he stated. “It’s much, much easier to pick off a large swath of players when nobody is really under contract.”
“That’s why we thought Kyrie Irving would be the perfect guy to lead the NBA over there because he’s a free agent right now and no one’s going to give him a supermax [contract],” co-host Boomer Esiason opined.
Despite the difficulties associated with the leagues being able to sign players affiliated with teams in contracts, show co-host Gregg Giannotti believes the affluent Saudi Public Investment Fund will try another way to carry out its mission. The entity simply has too many investors and is flush with cash; therefore, it may consider trying to own teams outright.
“I just don’t think that’s going to stop them,” Giannotti said of the composition of players available. “I know exactly what you’re saying, and it’s a great point and it was a very, very good call, but I still think they’re going to try.”
“I don’t see the NHL playing in Riyadh any time soon to try [and] get rid of the players’ escrow plan,” Esiason replied. “As much as Gary Bettman would love to do that and the players would love to do that, I don’t think hockey is the No. 1 thing over there.”
Esiason believes the PIF is more captivated by the allure of traditional events, such as horse racing, boxing and Formula 1 racing among others. He would not be surprised to hear about interest in acquiring a stake in some of them, an outcome that could aggravate geopolitical affairs because of the country’s human rights record.
“The hypocritical nature of what’s going on here, and all the things that had been said over the last year, and then, all of a sudden, after Jimmy Dunne reaches out to the Saudi investment fund… now everything changes,” Esiason said. “Oddly enough, he gets put on the PGA Tour’s board for policy.”
Sports Radio News
Joe DeCamara: I Hate Giving Chris Simms Attention
“Chris Simms got a football scholarship years ago, clearly not an academic scholarship because the guy’s a moron.”
There is no love for Chris Simms on 94 WIP. Wednesday morning, host Joe DeCamara made his feelings on the former Buccaneers quarterback clear.
“Chris Simms got a football scholarship years ago, clearly not an academic scholarship because the guy’s a moron,” he said after seeing that Simms had Jalen Hurts ranked seventh among NFL quarterbacks.
In April, Hurts signed a five-year contract that makes him the highest paid player in the NFL each season. That comes on the heels of him leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in a season in which he was a legitimate MVP candidate.
“I almost hate bringing this up because I feel like it gives Chris Simms attention that I don’t really want to give him,” DeCamara said. He noted that the quarterbacks Simms ranked ahead of Hurts include Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Trevor Lawrence.
DeCamara’s partner, Jon Ritchie, said that this is actually progress for Hurts as far as Chris Simms is concerned. In 2021, Simms did not even rank Jalen Hurts among his top forty quarterbacks. Last year, he ranked Hurts number 25.
According to Ritchie, Putting Jalen Hurts in the top ten this year is Simms admitting that Hurts is valuable without having to say that his previous rankings were absurd.
“There’s still some spite,” Jon Ritchie said. “There’s still some ‘Hey, I can’t disprove myself by allowing for Jalen to be where he belongs,’ which is the top two quarterbacks in this league.”
DeCamara encouraged listeners to call in and talk about how dumb Chris Simms and his list are. Ritchie said that the piece is clearly a troll job. The show is just giving it more life and attention it doesn’t deserve.
“We’re giving it life, but you know what? We’re giving it life so people can just stomp out Chris Simms,” DeCamara responded. “So, whack away! It’s a whack away day.”
This isn’t the first time Simms has caught heat from Philadelphia. Last year, WIP afternoon host Jon Marks said the NBC football analyst “sounds so silly” for remaining committed to doubting Jalen Hurts after the quarterback had clearly proven him wrong.