Waiting for WFAN to take its place on the FM band, FishbowlNY spoke to station operations manager Mark Chernoff (left) today, discussing what’s next for the nation’s first all-sports station. As we reported Monday, CBS Radio acquired Merlin Media’s 101.9 FM.
Chernoff tells FishbowlNY, WFAN will begin to simulcast its 660 AM programming onto 101.9 FM “24/7.” Once the local marketing agreement is approved by the FCC, the station will start as WFAN-FM. Chernoff says that should be completed within three to six weeks, with an official purchase of the property thereafter.
Dan Mason, CBS Radio president, was quoted in The New York Times this week saying, “That’s not to say the stations will remain identical forever. We’re taking it one day at a time.”
Chernoff concurs, “Right now, we’re looking at it as a pure simulcast until further notice.”
Any speculation about the future of 660 would be just that–speculation.
CBS Sports Radio is launching round-the-clock early January, leading to the possibility down the road of 660 AM as the local home for the national programming. Chernoff, though, couldn’t discuss any potential plans for after the simulcast ends. He points to the CBS Sports Minute, which already airs daily on WFAN.
“There’s no point in speculating anything, because Dan’s statement really says that we’re doing a simulcast and this is something that he and the company wanted to be consider down the line,” Chernoff says.
Despite ESPN making the leap to FM at 98.7 in April, Chernoff says this was not a last minute decision.
“We’ve been thinking about a move to FM for close to five years,” Chernoff says.
He says the right FM station never materialized until now.
“This turned out to be the right deal, right time, right dial position, right price,” Chernoff says. “So everything came together.”
CBS paid $75 million to take hold of the former WRXP Alternative Rocker, and more infamously, FM News WEMP.
When it comes to the matter of game overlaps, once again, see above. For the foreseeable future, there will be no change to WFAN on AM or FM.
“We will use our regular conflict stations as we do now,” Chernoff says.
It was also premature for Chernoff to comment on possible movement of the Yankees and Mets (both are under contract through 2013).
WFAN celebrated its silver anniversary in July, but Chernoff says FM is where the station belongs.
“The aural quality of FM is better than it is on AM,” Chernoff admits. “If you’re in a building in Manhattan or if you’re driving through the streets, you have a tough time picking up the AM signal.”
Even for a 50,000 watt, clear channel 660 frequency. A much sharper alternative to the previous home at 1050.
Chernoff also pointed out how thunderstorms and AM don’t mix well.
“We feel it’s a great compliment.”
Furthermore, CBS has the track record of flipping AM sports talk stations to FM in Philadelphia and Detroit. Plus, several new FM sports stations were started, including in Boston and Cleveland.
“This isn’t brand new of knowing that [FM] is a good place to be,” Chernoff says.