Looks like Boston will the latest place for a battle of the bands — AM band versus FM band, that is. Established sports talk station WEEI-AM (850 AM) is about to have a rival on the FM frequencies: new CBS station 98.5 – The Sports Hub. For those paying attention, this is part of a small but growing trend on FM to adopt more of the talk radio content , particularly sports, that is usually on AM. With FM receivers being vastly better real estate, as the publisher of Talkers magazine put it, this will give them a competitive advantage they will need when coming up against established AM players.
Dan Aucoin of Boston.com notes the ongoing trend:
More broadly, yesterday’s announcement underscores the continuing extension of the talk radio format, long a mainstay of AM radio, into FM territory. Sports radio has proven to be a lucrative format because of its appeal to a demographic that can be hard to reach: young and middle-aged male listeners. FM stations are increasingly trying to grab a piece of that audience, with sports-talk shows on FM in Detroit, Dallas, Washington, and, soon, Boston.
I wonder how many stations are beginning to lean in this direction as a result of the performance tax currently making its way through Congress? A transition to a talk format, sports or otherwise, would be a move that would handily eliminate a lot of the expense and complication of the proposed royalty fees if enacted. Unfortunately, it would also have the effect that I, as a music lover, most dread: decreasing the amount and variety of music on the air.
There are many factors at work here, and I am sure that there will be forthcoming stories of both success and defeat on this topic. Sports talk is a great starting point because it avoids the partisan divide of political talk radio: conservatives and liberals alike love their sports. Additionally, sports fans tend be very enthusiastic and engaged.