950 ESPN moves to 97.5 FM

That’s sports talk coming out of your radio at 97.5 FM, and it's a first in the Philadelphia market.

At 5 p.m. Friday, Greater Media began simulcasting its 950 ESPN station on FM.

Name is "97.5 The Fanatic." (Not "Phanatic," which would have been a legal mess.) Its new logo shows a generic cityscape, befitting an ESPN affiliate whose daily schedule is about half syndicated sports programming. On trhe plus side, the station is carrying postseason baseball. 

The last station on 97.5 was Greater Media’s WNUW, an adult-contemporary station that was mired at the bottom of the ratings pile.

Greater Media, which also owns such powerhouses as WMMR (93.3) and WMGK (102.9) and the middling Ben 95.7, might be solving its two major problems in the Philly market: 950 and 97.5.

Neither station has been a stellar performer. The 950 station, WPEN, has been through a series of formats (oldies, standards, oldies again) before settling on sports talk in August 2005. Since Greater Media acquired 97.5 in 2006, it did horribly with smooth jazz before it flipped to light rock last year. That experiment, in which it tried to compete with powerhouse B101, ended poorly. Most recently, 97.5 was programming adult contemporary. 

Tom Taylor, executive editor of Radio-Info.com, told me that competitively, the move is probably about two things:

  1. Peeling some listeners away from CBS-owned sports-talk leader WIP (610), which should help WMMR in its 25-54 men battle against WIP. (WIP has been beating WMMR in recent Arbitron PPM monthlies.)
  2. Making a better use of a pretty good FM facility that has failed to carve out a niche in music radio, either with smooth jazz or adult contemporary in several flavors. (I'm listening this weekend to 97.5 in beautiful Bethlehem, Pa., while my car radio lost 950 in a blizzard of static on Route 309 somewhere south of Colmar.)

Taylor also posits that Greater Media has borrowed a play from the CBS book in its battle for sports-talk audience. CBS has gone after entrenched AM sports stations by using an FM signal in markets such as Detroit, Dallas, Boston and Washington, D.C. And now, Taylor notes, CBS faces the same attack. (He also finds irony in the fact that many of the CBS attacks have been led by former WIP programmer Tom Bigby.)

The move is good news and bad news in one household. Matt Nahigian, 950’s program director, adds a much better signal. The bad news: Nahigian’s wife, Joey Fortman, lost her job hosting afternoons on WNUW.

Also out of a job are Glenn Kalina and Jenn Ryan.

According to a release, here's the lineup for the stations:

6am-10am - Mike and Mike in the morning (same)

10am-12pm - Dan Schwartzman and Stephen A. Smith (as special guest host; this is supposedly temporary)

12pm-2pm - Harry Mayes and Vai Sikahema (also temporary)

2pm-7pm - Mike Missanelli (he adds the 2-3pm hour as he continues to beat WIP's Howard Eskin in ratings)

An ever-changing 7pm-10pm shift:

*Monday - The Desean Jackson Show from Aloft Hotel by the airport

*Tuesday - The Linebackers Show from Chickie's and Pete's

*Thursday - The Sal Paolantonio Show from Connie Mac's

10pm-1am - Into the Night with Tony Bruno

1am-5am - All Night with Jason Smith

Specialty programs for Monday and Friday evenings will be announced in the near future.

(Post edited and updated.)