The worst kept secret in Denver sports radio circles is finally out of the bag! A fifth sports radio station is entering the mix.
KSE Media Ventures, which is owned by Rams, Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke, is diving in, and doing so with an impressive array of local talent and play-by-play.
Before we get into the specifics of the lineup which were first reported by BSN Denver, let’s take a look back at what’s transpired over the past year to bring us to where we are.
In 2015, the Denver market featured a number of sports talk stations. 104.3 The Fan led the pack, but 105.5 ESPN and Mile High Sports Radio 1340AM were also operating the format with local talent, and 1600AM was on the air and carrying national programming from Fox Sports Radio.
By years end, 105.5 ESPN ceased operations, leaving 104.3 The Fan, Mile High, and 1600 as the market’s remaining sports radio brands.
The Fan which consistently led the ratings race, was then sold by its owner Lincoln Financial to Entercom Communications who then spun it off to Bonneville as part of an exchange which helped them gain entry into the Los Angeles market. Entercom also acquired 950AM (KRWZ), which previously served as home to The Fan before the brand moved on to the FM dial in 2008, and sold the AM radio station to KSE Media Ventures, a group owned by Rams, Nuggets and Avalanche Owner Stan Kroenke.
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After seizing control of 104.3 The Fan’s day to day operations, Bonneville made a number of big changes. They parted ways with Program Director Nate Lundy and cut ties with on-air hosts Vic Lombardi, Scott Hastings, and Joel Dreesen. The station replaced Lundy with Armen Williams, and ESPN NFL Analyst and former Bronco Mark Schlereth joined Mike Evans in mornings, filling the void left behind from Lombardi and Dreesen’s departures.
The Fan also acquired the ESPN Radio affiliation after 105.5 folded, and turned KEPN 1600AM into ESPN Denver. They’ve since made a few additional weekday lineup changes but we’ll touch on that later in this story.
As 2016 began, iHeart made the decision to flip 760AM to sports. Broncos play by play man Dave Logan, Susan Wargin, Andy Lindahl, and Ed McCaffrey were hired as local talent, market veteran Brandon Krisztal joined the station as Executive Producer, and the remainder of the lineup was filled by Fox Sports Radio’s programs. It appeared that 760 would become The Fan’s main competition.
But then news of a potential fifth sports station began to trickle out. KSE which had purchased a few music stations from Wilks Broadcasting and the 950AM signal from Entercom, was rumored to be exploring a move into the sports format. The only questions were, when would they launch and would there be an AM/FM simulcast or would it strictly be built on the AM dial.
KSE, which also owns and operates the television company Altitude Sports, started having discussions with talent inside and outside of the market about potential on-air opportunities. Job postings went up on All Access and every source I spoke with said the company was targeting a late-March or early-April launch.
Now we’ve learned today through BSN’s report, that the station plans to go LIVE on Friday April 8th, which is the day of the Colorado Rockies home opener.
The move into the sports format for Altitude makes sense on a number of fronts.
First, KSE controls the radio rights of the Avalanche and Nuggets and can use those two brands to drive listening to the radio station’s programming. That should help with attracting advertisers and marketing the new station inside the Pepsi Center. The company also has the option of promoting the sports talker on their other three local radio stations should they choose to do so.
Secondly, to launch a station you need good local on-air talent. Given that there were a ton of radio free agents available due to changes at The Fan and the termination of 105.5 ESPN, plus popular local television personalities were also out there for consideration, that presented an opportunity for KSE to come out of the gate with a strong local lineup.
Weeks ago I was told that Ryan Spilborghs, who spent 7 seasons with the Rockies, and works as a television analyst for Root Sports, was going to be a part of the morning show. That plan though has since changed.
Per BSN’s report, Spilborghs is out of the picture, and the morning show will launch with Tom Helmer, formerly of CBS 4 and Root Sports. No word yet on who his co-host will be. Middays will feature former Fan personality and current Altitude TV host, Vic Lombardi alongside Kyle Keefe, also of Altitude’s TV channel. Wrapping things up in afternoons will be Nate Kreckman and Tom Nalen. The two men previously teamed up on 105.5 ESPN, and also worked part time at The Fan.
If other needs exist, the station still has other local options they can explore. Scott Hastings and Joel Dreesen remain available, plus with The Fan stabilizing their midday shows recently with the additions of Cecil Lammey, and Brandon Stokley, personalities such as Shawn Drotar, Ryan Edwards, James Gomez, and Josh Dover could also be explored, assuming The Fan doesn’t find a way to utilize them in the future.
To program the radio station, Altitude has called upon James Merilatt, who has been involved with running Mile High Sports Radio AM 1340. In addition to assembling the weekday lineup and offering Avalanche and Nuggets games, Merilatt is expected to add some brokered programs to help the company’s bottom line.
What will be interesting to watch in the future is whether or not KSE looks to bring in Nate Lundy, the Fan’s former Program Director, in some capacity. Lundy still lives in Denver, maintains relationships with a number of local talent, and has had success in the market, both as a programmer and on-air talent. That would seem to make him an attractive candidate for a company that is brand new to the space and looking to make a splash.
Meanwhile, the brand is expected to be positioned as “Altitude Radio AM950”. Numerous sources have told me that CBS Sports Radio will be the network affiliate. That fits since ESPN airs 24/7 on 1600AM and overnight on The Fan, 760 partners with Fox Sports Radio, and Yahoo Sports Radio runs overnights on Mile High’s 1340AM.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past twelve months, it’s that when it comes to Denver sports radio, there’s never a dull moment. The Fan remains the market’s top rated brand and with their recent additions they’re well positioned to handle a competitive battle. However, based on the news, it’s clear that Altitude is ready to take their shot and give The Fan a run for their money.
Let the games begin and may the best sports station emerge victorious.
Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610
Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.
“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”
Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.
In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.
“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”
Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.
“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”
Dave Rothenberg Can’t Stand Hearing Kenny Albert Mispronounce ‘Raleigh’
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it.”
Dave Rothenberg has a tiny bone to pick with Kenny Albert, and it’s over the way Kenny pronounces the Carolina Hurricanes’ home city.
Talking on his show on ESPN New York on Tuesday, Rothenberg, who spent three years working in Raleigh on 99.9 The Fan, said he wished someone would get in Albert’s ear and correct the way he’s been saying it adding that it has made him wish one of the top play-by-play voices in hockey wouldn’t be on the call for the playoff series between the Canes and New York Rangers.
“I would think a true professional, like somebody that cares about their craft, would get that kind of feedback and welcome it,” Rothenberg said.
Albert has been pronouncing the city’s name as “RAW-lee”. It is properly pronounced “RAH-lee”.
Co-host Rick DiPietro and the rest of the show crew thought Albert would take offense to the correction, especially since it’s such a minor thing, but Rothenberg thought that was ridiculous.
“See, no one can deal with tough love anymore,” Rothenberg said.
The New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series shifts back to Raleigh on Thursday for Game 5. The series is tied 2-2.
NBC Sports Names Al Michaels To Emeritus Role
The partnership will keep Michaels on for the Olympics and NBC’s NFL playoff coverage.
NBC Sports, which had been the home of Al Michaels since 2006, will still feature the veteran broadcaster despite Michaels’ moving to Amazon for Thursday Night Football.
The network announced that Michaels will still be a part of NBC Sports’ high-profile broadcasting properties including the Olympics and NFL Playoffs. Michaels’ last broadcast with the network had been Super Bowl LVI in February, his eleventh Super Bowl.
NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said in a statement, “Revered by viewers and colleagues, Al has been the soundtrack for many of the greatest moments in sports television history. We are thrilled that he’s staying in the family and raising the stature of our events for years to come.”
“I’m looking forward to continuing my longtime NBC relationship while also launching the Thursday Night Football package on Amazon this fall. A special thanks to NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua and the folks at NBCUniversal for their help in making this happen,” Michaels said.
Michaels moved to Amazon Prime Video this season for their Thursday Night Football package. He will be paired with ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. This season will mark his 37th NFL play-by-play campaign in primetime.
Following another historic broadcasting moment in which Michaels deftly demonstrated his expertise and versatility, he became just the second sportscaster in history to receive a News Emmy nomination for his coverage of the San Francisco earthquake during the 1989 World Series.
In addition to the 11 Super Bowls, Michaels has worked nine Olympics and called eight World Series.
In December 2020, Michaels was honored with the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Michaels is one of only five distinguished broadcasters to be recognized with the baseball honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Award (Dick Enberg, Lindsey Nelson, Jack Buck, and Curt Gowdy).
One of television’s most respected journalists, Michaels has covered more major sports events than any sportscaster, including 20 years as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football. He is the only commentator to call the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and host the Stanley Cup Final for network television. In addition, Michaels called the classic 1985 championship boxing match between Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler.
Among his many accolades, Michaels has captured eight Emmy Awards – seven for Outstanding Sports Personality – Play-by-Play and one in 2011 for the Lifetime Achievement Award, and has three times (1980, 1983 and 1986) received the NSSA Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association; he was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame in 1998. Michaels was named Sportscaster of the Year in 1996 by the American Sportscasters Association, and, in 1991, he was named Sportscaster of the Year by the Washington Journalism Review.