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CBS Radio Grows FM Sports Portfolio

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CBS Radio wants to be an elite player in sports programming. In two years, the group has launched five new sports outlets in Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Counting its sixth new sports station—set to launch in Pittsburgh on Feb. 15—CBS Radio will have a total of 14 sports stations, 12 in the top 25 markets.

In each city that CBS has added a sports station, it’s the first FM sports outlet in its market. But often the stations are competing with existing AM sports outlets, including such heritage brands as KTCK-AM “The Ticket” in Dallas and WEEI-AM in Boston. In Pittsburgh, KDKA-FM will go up against WEAE-AM, ESPN Radio’s owned-and-operated station. The CBS stations are actually making some ratings headway. WXYT-FM “The Ticket” in Detroit, the first of CBS Radio’s new sports stations, is No. 1 against its target men 25-54 demo, according to Arbitron data. WBZ-FM “The Sports Hub” in Boston is closing in on Entercom Communications’ WEEI-AM, as is D.C.’s WJFK-FM against Red Zebra’s WTEM-AM, an ESPN affiliate.

CBS Radio didn’t specifically set out to expand its sports portfolio but drew on history and expertise when it looked for ways to turn around some underperforming stations. Its WFAN-AM in New York and WIP-AM in Philadelphia, No. 2 and No. 1 among men 25-54 in their markets, were around long before ESPN transferred its brand to radio. “We saw this as an opportunity to take a successful format, like WFAN, introduce it on the FM band, and give us an opportunity for growth,” said Chris Oliviero, svp of programming for CBS Radio. “It’s well documented that younger listeners fish only on the FM band.”

“It’s an attractive package,” said Vanessa Curcuru, associate broadcast manager, Horizon Media, who has bought several of the CBS sports stations for client The History Channel. “Boston is trending really well, and Detroit has been No. 1 since launch.”

To stand out from their rivals, CBS sports stations are live and local from morning drive to late night. The company has brought on about 100 new local radio hosts at a time when most other stations are relying on nationally syndicated talent.

The competition isn’t sweating too hard yet, believing there is plenty of room for multiple sports outlets in a market. “There’s a big appetite for sports,” said Traug Keller, senior vp of ESPN business units. “If having CBS Radio in sharpens our game, that’s good.”