ESPN Radio Switching to 98.7 FM Sunday

In a complicated radio maneuver, ESPN Radio announced today that it will be moving to the FM frequency at 98.7 in New York, the longtime home of KISS FM. The switch to the FM dial begins at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. ESPN’s lackluster 1050 AM signal, which had equally lackluster ratings since competing against all-sports station WFAN in 2003, will simulcast ESPN Radio programming until September. Then, to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, ESPN will debut a 24-hour Spanish sports talk station.

“The bottom line is we’re extremely delighted that the company is providing this resource,” David Roberts, ESPN New York general manager, says. “…We have to make sure that we produce the kind of content and programming that will not only get sampling, but to get people to come back more often.”

Part of the programming will have new times for Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco, together from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., as the lead-in to The Michael Kay Show.  The station also announced Patrick McEnroe will do a Saturday show from 10 a.m. to noon, beginning May 5.

As the rumors about ESPN’s move became more widespread this week, so did the speculation about bringing the Yankees on board in 2013. Traug Keller, senior vice president, production, business divisions, tells FishbowlNY in today’s conference call that no deal is in place.

During the off-season, the Yankees agreed to a one-year extension with CBS Radio. ESPN New York still has ties with the Madison Square Garden entities, the Knicks and Rangers.

It’s not commonplace, but more AM sports stations across the country have been making the jump to FM. Keller looks at this as a trailblazing move.

“I think the biggest benefit right now is [that] the number is somewhere around 75 percent of the listening to terrestrial radio is done on the FM band,” Keller says. “It does make sense that you’ll see certain formats migrate to that frequency.”

Keller couldn’t disclose how the surprise 98.7 deal arose, but did say he’s known Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan for years.

“It just so happened that the timing was right for him to strike a deal, and struck a deal we did,” Keller says.

KISS FM/WRKS last year celebrated its 30th anniversary. This weekend, before leaving the air, the KISS personalities will say goodbye to their loyal fans.

As part of the deal, the KISS intellectual property is headed to YMF Media, the company taking control of Inner City Broadcasting, which filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reportedly, there will be a merging of KISS and WBLS at 107.5 FM. We’ve already learned that KISS midday personality Shaila and nighttime jock Lenny Greene will keep those slots at ‘BLS.

However, syndicated hosts Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden will not have a home on WBLS.

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