Miami has market on sports talk radio wars in South Florida

Sep 18, 2012 3:00 AM

As October lurks with the annual confluence of professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey and NCAA football, the radio media goes into hyper drive trying to score during the important November ratings sweeps. Here’s a look at this year’s radio sports talk wars in South Florida.

Ridiculous as it may seem, the four SoFlo counties with 8 million people have four full time sports talk radio stations. That’s three too many. Even in NYC, Philly, LA, DC, Minneapolis, Detroit or Dallas, only two all sports stations might survive.

And, that does not include the huge Hispanic language radio arena.

When WQAM 560, 790/104.3 WAXY “The Ticket,” 940 WINZ “The Sports Animal” and 640 WMEN, go head-to-head, advertisers are in a quandary about buying their male 25-54 demographic. Consequently, high profile talent on these stations look to provide any edge to attract Ford or Budweiser or Harley Davidson. All four sports station’s ratings added together fall short of the top rated FM music station.

Radio AM 560 has been at it for nearly three decades. Station 104.3 FM recently joined the fray by acquiring the programming of 790AM; Station 940AM carries the Miami Dolphins – king of the broadcast rights in the market, and WMEN appeals to the Palm Beach/Boca market due to a weak signal.

For 20 years 560 mega talents Neil Rogers, Hank Goldberg and Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich ruled the sports talk airwaves. In the last decade newcomer 790 put a dent in their ratings causing the 560 Beasley management to fire their high profile talents and their large salaries. Station 790, largely behind the edgy/broader approach of afternoon drive talent Dan Le Batard, assaulted the 560 and stole audience persistently.

In late August AM 790 owner Lincoln Financial, shook up the market by moving its sports talk to FM 104.3. The move exposes their programming to triple the cherished demo audience of the AM band. Similar moves in other markets suggest this will catapult the station into a dominant ratings position.

Having the broadcast rights to the Florida Marlins and Miami HEAT can only add to the ratings. The remainder of the 790/104.3 programming features popular ESPN syndicated host Colin Cowherd midday and ex-ESPN anchor and Heat TV commentator Jason Jackson.

Answering back, WQAM 560 added veteran talent Jorge Sedano as afternoon drive host and program director. Formerly 790’s morning drive DJ, he also hosted late night nationally on Fox Sports Radio and is a television personality doing weekend sports. He also is a member of the Heat broadcast staff.

With Dolphins/TV personality Joe Rose, longtime host of the 560 morning drive the station remains competitive. 560 also carries the broadcast rights of the University of Miami – an eroding but loyal audience. The remainder of the programming includes long time ex-Tampa sports talk fav, UM Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys player Dan Sileo middays, and a polished Kevin Rogers at night. The QAM weekend hosts are by far the best of the bunch. Mike Levine hosts a nightly hour of baseball-only programming during season – the only one of its kind and well done.

Clear Channel station 940 AM WINZ was the market’s longtime all news/talker. The station recently turned all sports and won the Miami Dolphins broadcast rights, which are extremely expensive and involve a complicated advertising agreement with the team. The games are also broadcast on FM 105.9, a sister station.

A Dolphins program aired in afternoon drive is a part of the rights contract. Programming includes syndicated Mike and Mike mornings, Dan Patrick and Jim Rome middays, long time Miami sports talk maestro Jeff Deforrest evenings and Artie Lang’s syndicated show late. The remainder of the airtime is dreadful.

WMEN is making an attempt to be a player in the market, but also seems content to air the New York Yankees games and feature Imus graduate Sid Rosenberg in morning drive. Rosenberg, whose personal travails are well chronicled, has worked for 790 and 560 for short stints since moving to South Florida. He began to show signs while on WQAM of competing opposite Le Batard’s 790 show – when he had another drug/alcohol induced meltdown and was fired by the station.

WMEN grabbed him when his non-compete ended and is expecting Rosenberg, with his national contacts, to attract more audience to the station. The remainder of the programming is weak at best.

With at least 25% of the radio audience Hispanic, the Spanish broadcast rights for the major teams have a significant ratings impact. WAQI carries the Marlins with Hall of Fame broadcaster Felo Ramirez. WQBA with Raul Striker is the longtime Dolphin play-by-play man. QBA also carries the Heat with entertaining Jose Paneda. Those audiences are loyal and ratings are strong. The advertisers, especially the Hispanic directed retail and auto, are prominent.

The Dolphins, heard on both WINZ and FM 105.9 feature ex players Jimmy Cefalo, Joe Rose and Bob Griese in the booth. Long time Heat play-by-play man Mike Inglis, with ex-Heat guard John Crotty, handles the live games on 790 (there’s some question if pro basketball can also be simulcast on the new FM signal 104.3).

The Florida Panthers on WQAM are ably broadcast by ex-NHL bad boy Randy Moller. The UM football games on WQAM feature longtime Hurricanes voice Joe Zagacki.

On the casino front something fishy is indeed going on at Gulfstream Park. The popular 13-foot tall saltwater aquarium sprang a leak on Sept. 3 late at night. Water damage closed both the first and second floor casinos. Repairs were underway quickly to mop up the 10,000 gallons of water and seal the crack.

More than a dozen fish, including sharks and puffer fish, were in the tank. Plans to reinstate the popular attraction were on hold as of mid-month.

Baird Thompson and William Hutchinson bring a combined 80 years of gaming marketing and administration experience to Gaming Today. Contact them at [email protected].

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