Capital Broadcasting made a stunning announcement today that will shake up the sports radio market. In a complex deal, Capital Broadcasting will acquire 620 The Bull and most of the local talent at 850 The Buzz. Curtis Media will take the 850 signal and convert it to a music format (presumably either a Latin variant or Retiree Radio).
The move means the end of the line for the area leader in sports talk, 850 The Buzz. For me it began back on September 6, 1996, Hurricane Fran had devastated Raleigh, leaving hundreds of thousands without power for days. The next day we were scanning the dial for afternoon discussion about the hurricane damage, and landed on the old KIX signal, 850 am. I didn’t realize that they were doing talk radio at that point, but we couldn’t turn it off. In that era they had The Fabulous Sports Babe, Mark Jackson (sports), and some chick who talked about sex every night. Excellent grammarian Pat Mellon took the afternoon drive time for a while and talked about local issues, especially the struggle to land an NHL team and to get funding to complete the planned arena in West Raleigh.
By a couple of years later, under the direction of programming director Craig Schwalb, 850 had dedicated itself to sports talk and firmly cemented its presence as the local sports talk leader. While 620 had some mumbling curmudgeon each evening mocking the future of the Canes, 850 had a strong local lineup including Mike Solarte, Adam Gold, and Morgan Patrick.
I happened to be the big winner of 850’s trip to eat lunch in NYC with The Fabulous Sportsbabe contest. The station put us up in the Helmsley Park Central, gave us tickets to the BOS/NYR hockey game at The Garden (lame crowd), and tickets to see Saturday Night Live. It will go down as one of my favorite weekends, so 850 The Buzz will always hold a place in my heart.
As the sports talk format grew in America this decade, 850 faced new challengers. The race for the all-important 18-40 male market has been an interesting one. With a coveted place on the FM dial and lots of “capital” behind it, Capital Broadcasting buys a strong station and will reorganize its lineup.
99.9 FM carries the ESPN brand, and has a long-term contract with the radio network, so we are likely to see the national programming on that station staying put. The popular Jim Rome Show will likely shift over to 620 The Bull. According to someone close to the situation, local sports talk will fill the gaps on both stations in order to always bring a national/regional + local one-two punch.
In the end what we are really seeing is a shift of 850 The Buzz over to 620 The Bull, with a few exceptions. ACC expert Dave Glenn will take the 99.9 drive time slot, while it is likely that Mark Packer will be carried on 620 opposite.
Many, many questions remain to be answered, though. There is no word on what will happen to other local talent such as Morgan Patrick, Bomani Jones, Amnon Nissan, Scott Jackson, Mark Thomas, and Mike Maniscalco. Who will carry Imus In the Morning? What will happen to the Dan Patrick Show?
The transition date has not been set. In fact we don’t know that it will happen before year’s end. In the meantime, enjoy the “strong” signal on 850 the Buzz while you can, and enjoy some of these local talent people I mentioned…while you can.
8/11 Note: This bit of info comes from the TBJ story:
"In addition, Curtis Media is forming a new sports network, which will syndicate radio shows hosted by 850 The Buzz mainstay David Glenn and WPTF sports anchor Taylor Zarzour. Capitol has agreed to broadcast Zarzour on WDNC weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, while Glenn’s program will air from noon to 3 p.m. on 99.9 The Fan."
Presumably the concept here is to take these two, especially Glenn, and syndicate them to smaller markets in the region. It is perfectly reasonable to see his show, for instance, being carried in markets like Wilmington, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and smaller towns. Perhaps, though, it would be interesting to people in Asheville, Richmond, and beyond given Glenn’s expertise of ACC issues.
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