The Oklahoma City sports radio landscape is about to change…
1:55 PM EDT on July 11, 2013
As we first reported last night via Twitter, big changes are happening to the local sports radio universe. Tyler Media is switching 107.7 KRXO from a classic rock format to local sports talk radio in August. The new station will air OU football, NFL games and has already poached regional radio curmudgeon Mike Steely from the Sports Animal. The classic rock format that KRXO has aired since the 1980s, including some of the station's personalities, will move to 104.5 FM:
Mel Bracht at the Oklahoman conveniently spelled out some of the details for us.
The already crowded sports talk market in Oklahoma City soon will be getting its sixth sports talk station. Tyler Media announced Wednesday that it is launching a sports talk radio station in August on FM 107.7.
Classic Rock KRXO, which had been at 107.7, will move to a new frequency at FM 104.5, the company announced. According to the news release, KRXO's lineup of Bob and Tom, Cara Rice, Buddy Wiley, Kelso, Unkle Dave and Rick Caldwell are expected to move to a much smaller signal on 104.5. Ty Tyler, president of Tyler Media, said in an email the new frequency recently was granted by the FCC and will reach more than 800,000 people in the metro area.
Tyler said it is in the process of hiring local sports talent from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the new unnamed station on 107.7 FM, which he said will have the strongest signal in the market. The station will include play-by-play of OU sports and be associated with NBC Sports. It plans to air NFL broadcasts on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights, and other programming is under consideration.
“We are excited to expand our portfolio of stations,” Tyler said in the release. “A Big League City needs a Big League Sports Station.”
Sports Animal radio personality Mike Steely is expected to join the new station. Steely, a member of the Morning Animals, last appeared on WWLS-FM 98.1 on June 29. He said he could not comment if he was leaving the station.
This is a big deal. The Sports Animal has had a near monopoly on the local sports radio market for 15 years. Others have tried to chip away at this stronghold, and all have done so with limited or no success. I've boiled down this dominance to the following four factors:
• Strong FM signal.
• Resources and Sales Infrastructure.
• OKC Thunder Radio Partnership
• The most popular sports personalities in the market.
With this new venture, all of those advantages have been neutralized. 107.7FM is one of the strongest FM signals in Oklahoma, Tyler Media has the resources and infrastructure to compete, and OU football is still a bigger draw than the Thunder. In addition to all that, Mike Steely may not be the only Sports Animal personality to jump ship. The rumor mill on this story is spinning out of control. Ogle Moles from all corners have been sending me information, gossip, tips, etc. about this story.
I've tried to sort through them and get to the bottom of things. Here's what I know:
1. In addition to Mike Steely, there's a decent chance that Regular Jim Traber and Mark Rodgers may join the new station.
The key words in that sentence is "chance" and "may." From what I've gathered, both Regular Jim and Mark Rodgers (or their handlers) have been approached by Tyler, and there is a mutual interest. Mark is not currently under a contract with the Sports Animal, and Jim is signed through October. So will they go??? I have no clue. Not to sound like Dean Blevins or anything, but I'd say there's a 50/50 chance they leave. A big part of it comes down to money. Can Tyler make the risk of jumping ship worth their while? I guess we'll find out.
Also, I sense there is some apprehension over what role the University of Oklahoma will play in everything. They're bigger sticklers than the Thunder when it comes to brand awareness and positive messaging. That could lead to some uncomfortable moments following football games. For example, say Bob Stoops goes for one of his patented, ill-timed, everyone-sees-it-coming fake field goals in the third quarter of big game. Would Jim be able to criticize a bone-headed coaching decision, or would he have to be homer and say it's a "gutsy" call? Not that Jim would make an astute judgement like that or anything, but it's a legitimate concern.
2. Jim Traber was not kicked out of the Sports Animal yesterday. One rumor making the rounds yesterday was that Regular Jim was walked out of the Sports Animal studios. I'm not sure how this rumor got started, but considering Jim was out-of-town on vacation with his family, I doubt it was true.
3. Tyler Media is trying to poach some talent from KREF 1400AM. Remember, the Metro has more than one local sports talk station. From what I understand, an offer has been made to KREF's Dusty Dvoracek and possibly Toby Rowland. So far, it looks like KREF is refusing to release any of them from their contracts. That's not a surprise, because they did the same thing to Toby Rowland when he was offered the sideline gig with the Thunder a few years ago. Although, I wonder if a call from David Boren or Joe Castiglione would change their stance.
4. Thunder broadcasts are staying with WWLS The Sports Animal. According to several sources, the Thunder and Sports Animal have renewed the radio agreement that expired at the end of this past season. As long as Kevin Durant is in town, that gives the Sports Animal an advantage during the Winter, Spring and Summer. That being said, football season is the Black Friday for the local sports media.
With all of that sorted out, here are some quick thoughts:
• I like this move. I don't listen to sports radio like I once did, and a big reason why is that the Sports Animal really sucks. Most of the guys have been mailing it in for years. Maybe a change of scenery will serve them good. For example, in the late 1990s Mike Steely hosted a great mid-afternoon radio show. He was sarcastic, funny and most of his callers had funny theme songs. I would even occasionally call in and give a vote for the Babe Tournament. It was good stuff. Hopefully we get that Mike Steely instead of the bitter old man who complains about Twitter, trivia team names and kids walking on his lawn.
• Get some fresh voices. I understand why Tyler needs to bring on some established names, but I hope they are able find and showcase some new voices. That's what made Sports Talk 1340 such a big success in the 1990s. They had new voices like Jim Traber, Craig Humphreys, and Dan Lutz. It was a nice alternative to the crap on the old WWLS Sports Talk 640am.
• Leave Regular Jim where he is. I hope the Traber thing doesn't work out. I'd rather hear Mark Rodgers and Toby Rowland discuss OU Women's Softball than hear Jim and Al listen to Foreigner songs and talk about Jerry's pirate shirt. And I think I'm not the only one. Seriously, let Traber rot away on the Sports Animal. Turn 107.7 into a sports talk station for a "New Generation" of listeners.
Anyway, that's it for now. As more news on this develops, will keep you informed. Follow us on Twitter for the breaking news.
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