Cox Media Group’s WDBO-AM, Central Florida’s oldest radio station, flipped to ESPN Radio, from a simulcast of its 96.5 FM News/Talk sister station with the same calls. That means Orlando will have four full-time sports-talk stations to choose from. Currently, sports fans can choose from Clear Channel’s WYGM-AM, the Fox Sports affiliate “740 The Game”; Rivalz Sports Group’s WRSO-AM, the Yahoo! Sports affiliate; and Genesis Communications’ WHOO-AM, also known as 1080 The Team. The station used to carry ESPN Radio and now carries NBC Sports Radio from Dial Global.
The 88-year-old WDBO-AM has been the flagship for Orlando Magic since the team started 24 seasons ago, but aired news-talk since 1985. In August 2011, it began simulcasting its shows on former rock station WHTQ-FM. But Cox Media Group decided to end the simulcast and make the switch to just sports programming on the AM station by adding ESPN.
As of 2011, there were 708 sports stations in the U.S., with 200 stations being added in the past five years. It’s one of the fastest growing radio formats in the country and is gobbling up music formats just about everywhere on FM.
Len Weiner believes the market for sports talk radio is growing and Orlando can support four Sports Talkers. “The industry is growing, but what that means for us is there is more shelf space, so certainly more consumers can come in and grab some really good sports programming,” Weiner, vice president of programming for Genesis Communications, owner of 1080 AM, told The Orlando Sentinel. “We thought that there was a demand for more exclusive content. We decided that the whole goal was to present a great sports product to the Orlando market.”
810 AM made the switch to sports in July, joining the Yahoo! Sports Radio network.
What will WDBO bring to the sports radio game? For one thing, power. 580 AM has “one of the strongest signals in the Southeast,” Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president, production and business divisions, said in a statement.
The new sports station also plans to play up connections to Disney-owned ESPN and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. “The partnership with Disney and Disney Sports here in Orlando is a great move for Cox Media Group,” said Susan Larkin, Cox Media Orlando’s vice president and market manager.
The ESPN 580 AM lineup will include “Mike & Mike in the Morning” from 6 to 10 a.m., “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and “SVP & Russillo” from 1 to 4 p.m.