Air Waves
by Laura Nachman
Philadelphia Metro
September 1, 2005


WPEN 950-AM will change formats from Oldies to Sports Talk to compete directly with sports talk WIP 610-AM on October 3. 


Are there enough listeners in one town for two sports talk stations?  Bob Burke, vice president of the radio trade publication “Friday Morning Quarterback,” says “yes.” 


“Most towns have a local sports station and a syndicated sports station.  The local one usually does better.  Though this is definitely a “David v. Goliath” situation, if WPEN provides niche programming that WIP doesn’t (fantasy football, high school sports, NASCAR, golf, horse racing), it could attract an audience.”


WPEN 950-AM General Manager Bob DeBlois said WPEN will be more interview-driven than WIP.  WPEN’s first local hire is former WIP personality Jody McDonald, who will compete against WIP’s popular Howard Eskin weekdays from 3-7 p.m.  One of the reasons McDonald departed WIP for New York’s WFAN-AM in 1999, was because he preferred straight sports talk to WIP’s “guy talk” format.


The lineup will also include syndicated personalities such as Jim Rome, whose show will air from noon-3 p.m.


DeBlois added that WPEN will attempt to add live sports programming.  However, at first glance, the Phillies recently signed a ten-year deal with WPHT 1210-AM, the Sixers signed a multi-year contract with WIP 610-AM, and it’s highly unlikely WYSP 94.1-FM will let go of the lucrative Eagles’ contract.  That leaves the Flyers and college sports.  Currently, “St. Josephs’ University basketball” is the only team on WPEN.


A with WPEN broacasting games at night is the signal.  When it had the Phillies from 2002-2004, listeners complained that it was difficult to get.  Though WPEN says it is working on upgrading its signal at night, it lost the Phillies contract to WPHT this year and the Sixers decided to re-sign with WIP this summer.


Though formats come and go (this is WPEN’s third format in a year), WIP will be enjoying its 20th anniversary as a sports talk station next year.  In the early 90’s, 1210-AM attempted to compete with WIP with a similar strategy – a local afternoon sports show called “The Sports Attack” with Big Daddy Graham, Scott Graham, and Neil Hartman, with syndicated sports programs throughout the day with the unfortunate call letters of WGMP.  It lasted a year and a half.


WIP overnight host, Big Daddy Graham has the unique perspective of formerly competing against WIP as part of the old WGMP.


“Believe me, I know personally that WIP is a very powerful station,” he said.  



Beginning in September, “Starting Over” will air at 11 a.m. and “Martha Stewart” will air at noon on NBC10.  “Days of Our Lives” moves to 1 p.m. and “Passions” moves to 2 p.m.


Programming Notes:

Sunday marks the season finales of “Entourage” and “The Comeback” on HBO.  In its second season, “Entourage,” the male version of “Sex and the City,” became the “in” show to watch.  I hope that HBO gives rookie series “The Comeback” another chance next summer.  Like “Entourage,” in its first year, it didn’t get “Sopranos” size ratings, but a huge laugh is guaranteed every episode.