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Can 3 Sports Stations Last In Indy?

Jason Barrett

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As 3 p.m. hits each weekday, fans with an insatiable appetite for Indianapolis sports talk have choices.

Three local drive-time radio shows commence, each claiming to have a special recipe for success.

For the “Kent Sterling Show,” it’s all sports all the time, no veering into pop culture. On “The Ride” with JMV, Lady Gaga (and almost anyone else) is fair game. “Query & Schultz,” the only two-man show in the time slot, is somewhere in between with a twist — banter sparked by their differing viewpoints.

In the cutthroat industry of radio — which is battling a seemingly ever-increasing ocean of competing media from the Internet to iTunes to satellite radio — sports is as cutthroat as any genre.

How many people are listening to the local shows? In Indianapolis, the 40th largest among U.S. radio markets, JMV’s station leads the way. Nielsen audio rankings show WFNI (107.5 FM, 1070 AM) garnered a 3.8 rating in January. Query & Schultz’s WNDE (1260 AM) received a 0.4 rating and WXNT (1430 AM), where Sterling airs, finished the month with a 0.1 rating.

When it came to afternoon drive time ratings for individual shows, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., WFNI received a 4.2, WNDE a 0.6 and WXNT a 0.2.

In a market such as Indy, home to the Colts, Pacers, IU, Purdue and Butler, there is room for plenty of sports talk. But is there enough room for this much? Or is it just a matter of time until one falls off the airwaves?

“I think there’s room. I sure hope there is,” said Jeff Smulyan, founder and CEO of Emmis Communications, which owns WFNI. He’s also the man who invented the format, launching the first 24-hour sports talk station in New York in July 1987. “Ultimately, it’s up to what the audience wants.”

The hosts of the three shows say that there is a market for all to survive. All three shy away from talking ratings. In fact, all say that they don’t even consider one another competitors, and that the more high-quality shows there are, the better.

“That is smoke,” said Scott Bridge, internship director for the college of communication at Butler University, who teaches electronic journalism and sports broadcasting. “Everybody is being professional and that’s nice. But I think when behind closed doors, they want to kick each other’s asses.”

They are all trying to nab the biggest share they can of the sports talk radio pie in Indianapolis, appealing to an audience that is two-thirds men ages 25 to 54, according to Bridge’s research.

Sterling, who previously worked at WFNI and has been doing his show less than a year, delivers analysis to the diehard sports fan without references to what Lady Gaga did at the Academy Awards.

“We talk about sports. That’s just what I do best,” said Sterling, 52. “It wasn’t a competitive decision to do that. It’s just what I think this format does best and what listeners like best.”

JMV, who moved from WNDE to WFNI in 2010, mixes pop culture and some non-sports stories into talk about the games, teams and players. He wants to grab those listeners who want entertainment beyond sports.

“It’s like the Super Bowl,” said JMV, whose real name is John Gliva, 45. “They don’t have to have Katy Perry because people are going to watch, but I’m trying to get everybody into the club to hang out and have fun. It’s all about trying to fish for what is going to pull in and keep that person that maybe wouldn’t necessarily be listening, while also keeping that person that’s your top-level listener.”

“Query & Schultz,” which started in 2011, combine the two approaches while using the dynamic duo approach to banter, argue and make fun of each other.

“When you have two people, you have a greater opportunity of diversity of thought,” said Jake Query, 42. “One of the benefits of having a two-person show is Derek and I never intentionally disagree. We never pre-write who’s going to take what stance but, because we’re of different ages (Schultz is 11 years younger), because we’re of different backgrounds to an extent, I think that by and large people listening are going to have their opinion expressed.”

None of the hosts would comment on how successful their approach affects ratings. Some voiced concerns that the method Nielsen uses to measure audience listening is inaccurate and doesn’t tell the whole story.

Smulyan said it’s clear that JMV is running away with the sports talk market in Indianapolis.

The ESPN backing, radio signal strength and affiliation with the Colts, Indiana, Pacers and Butler give WFNI a decided advantage, Bridge said. (WNDE broadcasts Purdue.) He doesn’t believe that means the others can’t survive.

“People need their sports,” Bridge said. “We are a nation of rabid sports fans. I think they are always going to have an audience.”

Credit to the Indy Star who originally published this article

Sports Radio News

Andrew Fillipponi: Peter Burns Made ‘Innocuous Joke’ To Ben Watson

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

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The on-air spat between SEC Network host Peter Burns and analyst Ben Watson continues to be bandied about in sports media circles, with 93.7 The Fan hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller discussing the topic Tuesday.

“I’m on Team Burns,” Fillipponi said.

“Forget who’s team you’re on,” Chris Mueller said. “I think you’ve do have to keep the wives and children out of this.”

“What are you talking about, keep the wives and out of it?!,” Fillipponi asked.

“Do we believe this is work or shoot here?,” Mueller wondered.

“Oh, I think this is real,” Fillpponi added, which Mueller agreed.

“Do you think a close fist from Ben Watson hit Peter Burns?,” Mueller asked.

“No, I think he picked him up by the lapels,” Fillipponi said.

When the subject of Watson’s religion was brought up, Fillipponi then pointed out the absurdity of the situation.

“So wait a minute? Because you believe in Jesus Christ you care about your wife more than other people? What are you talking about?”

“I think he might have a shorter fuse and not taking in humor that Peter Burns was giving out,” Mueller said.

“It was an innocuous joke!,” Fillipponi stated. “It wasn’t a joke! Why is it in bad taste?”

Mueller then added the idea of Watson’s wife texting Burns insinuates there’s an inappropriate relationship.

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Sports Radio News

Craig Carton: Booger McFarland’s Zach Wilson Analysis ‘An Embarrasment’

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Craig Carton

ESPN NFL analyst Booger McFarland raised eyebrows on Monday Night Countdown this week by saying New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has never been held accountable for his actions because he was a “young man who grew up with a lot of money”. WFAN afternoon host Craig Carton called out McFarland’s comments Tuesday as outlandish.

“It was an embarrasment,” Carton said. “Someone should ask Booger McFarland if his kids — who grew up with amazing wealth — have accountability in their lives or if having a little bit of money in your pocket immediately discounts the possibility to have accountability. He’s an idiot and we learned that last night.”

“It’s funny that Steve Young was on the other side of it,” Evan Roberts noted. “Because a long time ago, Steve Young criticized Chris Simms because he’s the son of a famous quarterback.”

“You don’t have to invent reasons for why Zach Wilson isn’t playing well,” added Carton. “Just watch his tape. He’s not playing well. Maybe he’s just not good!”

Carton later said NFL reporters “will try to make a name for themselves by putting out a story” about quarterbacks who take responsibility for their teams failures, while Wilson wouldn’t accept the blame.

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Sports Radio News

Greg Hill: Ben Watson, Peter Burns Drama Was A Bit

“Be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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Peter Burns and Ben Watson shared an awkward exchange during the halftime show of an SEC Network football game over the weekend, and many are still debating whether Watson walking off the set was serious or not. Count part of the cast of The Greg Hill Show on WEEI as doubters.

“That was a a bit,” Courtney Cox said. “That was absolutely a bit.”

“Yeah, unlike the Chris Rock/Will Smith thing, I assume that was a bit,” Hill said. “I can’t believe that Ben Watson is really angry about that.”

“I dunno, man. There’s been a lot of speculation that it isn’t,” Jermaine Wiggins added. “There are people who are very sensitive about you clowning on them or joking with them. Especially with joking about their wife. Some people can’t handle jokes like that.”

After a back-and-forth with Cox about the legitimacy of the joke, Wiggins concluded by saying for some folks family is off limits.

“I’ve learned something in my 47 years on this Earth: be careful when you’re talking about somebody’s wife and their kids. ‘Cause not everybody jokes the same way.”

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