Thursday, 24 January 2013 13:57

The case of the missing radio station

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"87.7 FM ESPN Deportes simply disappeared. There’s no signal there at all. Just darkness. What happened to 87.7 – and what could it mean to the Denver Sports radio landscape moving forward?"

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It wasn’t that long ago that 87.7 FM in Denver (KXDP-LP) was known as “the Ticket”. It was the “live and local” sports radio station that housed the Vic and Gary show, Ridin’ Shotgun with Cecil Lammey and other popular local programs.

87.7 was one of three signals operated by Front Range Sports. The company also had 102.3 FM (KDSP) and 105.5 FM (KJAC).

 After co-owners, Tom Manoogian (also known as “Lou from Littleton”) and his partner Doug Moreland (also known as “Dealin’ Doug”), along with various investors including ESPN analyst Adam Schefter, chose to scrap much of the local programming in favor of ESPN’s syndicated offerings such as Mike and Mike in the Morning and the Herd with Colin Cowherd, The Ticket was moved from 87.7 FM to 102.3 FM and the name was changed to 102.3 ESPN to reflect the change in business model.

105.5 FM became “Jack FM” which aired popular music, and 87.7 became ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language answer to 102.3 ESPN. All three stations were operated by Front Range Sports which, as part of its agreement with ESPN, was obligated to provide Spanish language programming.

In September of 2012 105.5 ceased to be Jack FM. It instead became a simulcast of the programming on 102.3 ESPN and quietly became know as 105.5 ESPN.

More recently, within the past couple of weeks, 87.7 FM ESPN Deportes simply disappeared. There’s no signal there at all. Just darkness. What happened to 87.7 – and what could it mean to the Denver Sports radio landscape moving forward? I can only speculate. My best guess is that Front Range Sports is having trouble paying its bills and that they lost their lease on 87.7 FM. I don’t know this for a fact. Like I said, it’s just my best guess having poured over various radio industry chat boards.

Could financial strains also have caused Front Range to scrap Jack FM? It’s certainly possible. Regardless, the company now appears to operate two signals instead of three – and both are airing the same shows and the same commercials. It makes me wonder if Front Range might be at risk of losing their contract with ESPN radio.

If Front Range does cease to be the ESPN carrier in town, it’s very possible that 104.3 the Fan would snap up the popular nationally-syndicated programming. If that were to happen more local shows would get axed, rescheduled and knocked around. It’s very possible that, instead of Mike Evans, Joel Klatt and Sandy Clough in the mornings, that 104.3 would then offer Mike and Mike and Colin Cowherd, pushing their other personalities into afternoon and evening time slots.

If that were to happen, and Front Range were forced to switch back to their old “Ticket” format, we would see a massive shake up in Denver Sports Radio once again. 102.3 would be scrambling to fill air time while 104.3 would have too much talent. It’s also possible that 102.3 would switch to CBS programming, such as the Jim Rome Show which currently airs on AM1600 the Zone, part of the Fan’s empire.

Personally, I hope nothing changes. I am very pleased with the current mix of stations. Between 102.3, 104.3 and Mile High Sports, there’s a good show in every time slot. The National stuff and the local stuff are mixed nicely. A shake up is not at all desirable. But the radio business is just that, a business. Nobody can afford to lose money for long.

What happened to 87.7 FM? Only Lou from Littleton and Dealin’ Doug know for sure. The sense I get is that it’s not looking good.

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