More stations are playing the sports-talk game

  • Article by: NEAL JUSTIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2013 - 9:37 PM


This may be Twins Territory, the State of Hockey and Gophers Nation, but just how much chatter about our favorite teams can our ears take?

The Twin Cities is about to find out. This week 105-FM switched its format from soft rock to all-sports under the CBS-run banner “The Ticket” — a change-up that means the local market now has three full-time sports stations.

Sports talk is the fastest-growing radio format across the country. Football, baseball and all its cousins appeal to males 25-54, an elusive audience coveted by advertisers.

“Men don’t treat sports talk as a background mood service,” said Paul Heine, senior editor at Inside Radio magazine. “They’re really paying attention, calling in and engaging. That’s what advertisers want to hear.”

Appealing to guys is the game plan of Scott Jameson, operations manager for the Ticket and rock stations KQRS and 93X, all owned by Atlanta-based Cumulus Media. All three stations skew heavily male, so Jameson plans to do lots of cross-promotion.

He contends that this market has room for another sports station.

“Everything is crowded these days, whether you’re shopping and comparing bottles of ketchup and picking what radio station to listen to,” he said. “You stand out by having great content.”

Whether the Twin Cities can sustain another sports station may be an open question, but one thing is clear: More of us are listening to sports.

KFAN (100.3 FM), owned by rival chain Clear Channel, pioneered the sports-talk format locally when it was launched in 1991, and expanded its reach two years ago by switching to FM. Overall, it ranks only 14th in listenership among Twin Cities stations, but in its target “demo” — men ages 25 to 54 — it’s usually in the top three.

Its numbers dipped only slightly when KSTP (1500 AM) adopted a sports format in 2010 and renamed itself ESPN 1500, in part to keep Twins broadcasts — a gambit that failed when the team moved this week to KTWN (96.5 FM). Owned by St. Paul’s Hubbard Broadcasting, ESPN 1500 initially saw a surge in ratings but has struggled lately. It finished 19th in the February Arbitron ratings and hasn’t cracked the top 10 in the 25-54 male demo since fall.

Heating up the competition are two part-time players: rookie KTWN, operated by the Twins-owning Pohlad family, and veteran news-talk powerhouse WCCO (830 AM), home of the Timberwolves.

According to Arbitron, 3.6 percent of terrestrial radio stations nationwide specialize in sports talk, more than twice as many as a decade ago. Country music dominates, with over 14 percent of AM/FM stations.

Radio is a relatively healthy medium. During an average week, roughly 92 percent of Americans 12 and older turn on the radio at some point. That figure has shrunk by only 4 percentage points since 2001, which means radio has taken less of a hit than newspapers and television.

Identity crisis

One reason FM-105 is getting into the game is that its owner has a deal with the CBS Sports Radio network to run its programming on more than 65 Cumulus stations nationwide.

The station has suffered an identity crisis in recent years, switching between alt-rock and hard rock before settling on grown-up pop in 2007.

Jameson’s competitors insist they’re not worried. One reason is that 105’s signals are shaky — the station actually comprises three separate frequencies (105.1, 105.3 and 105.7) that have limited geographical reach. Also, “The Ticket” currently carries only national broadcasters, most notably the button-pushing Jim Rome.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78


question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question





Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters