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In Sports Commentary

Milwaukee doesn't need another sports talk radio station. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Milwaukee doesn't need a Madison sports radio station


Falling victim to the "if that first hot dog tastes great then I'm sure a dozen of them will taste wonderful," Milwaukee welcomed The Big 920 to the world Monday morning.

In the bitter fight for dozens of radio listeners, there is now a new contender among the sports radio stations serving (and I use that term loosely) Milwaukee sports fans. It's 920 WOKY in the latest incarnation of a once-proud spot on the AM dial.

During the rock 'n' roll era, WOKY battled for supremacy with WRIT in one of the fiercest fights Milwaukee ever saw. They played the same music and fought for every teenage pair of ears tuned in for this new, hot music.

Most recently, WOKY has been classic country, playing country music that used to be popular and some of which passes the test of time. That wasn't a ratings winner, so we now have The Big 920 Milwaukee sports radio.

It is not, however, Milwaukee sports radio. It is Madison sports radio. University of Wisconsin sports radio. But most definitely not "Milwaukee's sports station" as it presumptively calls itself.

Here's the way this works with a request for relief from a couple of errors of fact. The big picture is clear even if a couple of wrinkles around the edges may be foggy.

WTSO in Madison has been a successful sports radio station for 10 years. So somebody had the idea that if the Madison station had listeners, why couldn't it get listeners if it was in Milwaukee?

So they took the show. The whole show, website and all, put a new label on it (The Big 920) and moved it to Milwaukee. In Madison they call it The Big 1070. Both stations are owned by the monster Clear Channel Communications, which owns 23 radio stations in Wisconsin alone.

The two morning hosts who opened this experiment are Mike Lucas and Matt Lepay, who do Badgers football and basketball and get financial support from UW.

Monday morning Lucas opened the Milwaukee version of the show by saying "How come I don't feel any different?"

Lepay replied, "It's all the same."

Prophets in their own time.

The Big 920 joins the battle for listeners already being fought by SportsRadio 1250 and ESPN-Milwaukee, 540 AM. Those stations have ratings that rarely climb into single digits. The number of people who are interested in and listen to sports radio in Milwaukee may well be in the hundreds and not the thousands.

ESPN Milwaukee comes closest to being an interesting and entertaining radio station. With Steve "The Homer" True, Dan Needles and Drew Olson, the station has credibility you can't buy. These guys have earned it.

Sportsradio 1250 is built on the crazed belief that listeners want to hear screaming from some people who have grave problems with the English language and a non-athletic white guy who tries to sound like a black guy when he shouts his empty opinions.

The Big 920 has its Badgers talking heads and an hour from the voice of the Wisconsin hockey program later in the day. Milwaukee hockey doesn't go over that big here, can you imagine the audience UW hockey will draw?

Then there are three guys nobody ever heard of in drive time in the afternoon. They do have the excellent Dan Patrick in the morning but then ruin that by carrying Jay Mohr, an unfunny comedian who is trying to be funny about sports.

Oh, wait. I almost forgot. they have live broadcasts of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee women's basketball. And the men.

I'm guessing that the financial arrangements of this deal are pretty simple. WOKY doesn't have to pay much for anything anymore. Everything, on both sides of the coin, goes right to the Clear Channel bottom line. There are no real losers here.

Unless you consider people who actually listen to the radio. Our options continue to dwindle. You can't go anywhere on the dial in Milwaukee. We stand a better chance of hearing a preacher or a shiny-tooth, happy sounding Christian kid band than we do of hearing George Jones sing "He Stopped Lovin' Her Today."

Something is screwed up here, and one more bad sports talk radio station isn't going to make things any better.


Talkbacks

FuloCrappie | Jan. 8, 2013 at 1:10 p.m. (report)

LegallyBlonde, a quick Google search for Arbitron ratings will help answer your question. For the Milwaukee-Racine listening area 620 consistently ranks highest (8s and 9s), although the station is not an exclusive sports talk program and certainly gets a boost by being the home station for the Brewers, Bucks, and Packers, among others. However, broadcasts of the games certainly draw in an audience that in interested in sports, but not necessarily wants to listen to people talk about sports. Of the dedicated sports talk stations, 1250 has only a 1.0 share. and WAUK, which hosts 540ESPN, doesn't even show in the rankings, suggesting that it's rating is south of 0.7. These are rock bottom in the ratings as far as the Milwaukee-Racine market goes. (For what it's worth the Big 1070 in Madison draws about double of 1250, admittedly in a smaller market and still near the bottom in the Madison-area rankings). Dave Begel can be excused for using some hyperbole in describing the sports talk fanbase as numbering in the "hundreds", but the audience is definitely limited and I doubt it will be able to support 3+ sports talk stations.

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LegallyBlonde | Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:40 p.m. (report)

I can't comment on 920, but I will say that your assumption that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of sports talk fans in Milwaukee is way off base. Milwaukee has two professional teams and obviously is a huge fan draw to Green Bay. Between 540 (great), 1250 (Okay) and 620, there is a pretty decent sports radio culture in Southeastern Wisconsin. Begel, I like you, a lot actually, but you're not helping your cause by throwing out rash generalizations about the number of people who listen to sportsradio. What are the actual rankings of those 3 stations in Milwaukee? Let's start there, and then decide. Right?

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AndrewJ | Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:19 p.m. (report)

I was all set to take offense to your description of WSSP's "Sparky" character, calling him a "non-athletic white guy who tries to sound like a black guy". Then I realized I knew exactly who you were talking about without mentioning the name... so I guess that makes it valid? Anywho: Agreed on all fronts. ESPN Radio and WSSP offer plenty of Badger coverage and ramp it up when it's relevant to do so. What is an all Madison station going to talk about April - September? Badger Baseball? Oh... wait a second...

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milROCKeeguy | Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:05 p.m. (report)

1250 WSSP might be the worst. I was a HUGE listener when it was DP in the morning, then Rome, then The Big Show. Now, it's Chuck and Wickett in the morning. Chuck stutters whne he doesn't know what he's talking about, and when he does say something, it's ususally something somebody already said, meaning he has no original thought. He would rather talk about Monday Night RAW than anything. Then it goes to Bill Michaels. Yippy. Then onto the "Big Show," which is just a show for small advertisements for Prokop Jewelers, Badgerland Health Center, Law Offices of Bob Menard (sp? who cares), Ray's Specialty Meats, WJ Kuhn Automotive...and they rarely talk sports. It's embarrassing. It was nice when the day was broken up by NATIONAL radio shows, because you could hear good sports talk from around the country...not strictly Packers, Brewers, Badgers, and Bucks...and a million advertisements on the ride home. I really hope someone from WSSP see's this (Jim O), and changes something. If not there, Milwaukee radio in general.

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quickened | Jan. 8, 2013 at 12:01 p.m. (report)

Dave I really agree with you here. This is a horrid call. I would be curious to know what was going through the heads of these individuals. Putting the Wolf on 920 wasn't a terrible thing. I actually know a number of people personally that listen to it. It's not the biggest percentage of my friends, family and acquaintances but it was fair nonetheless. Out of those same people I cant think of literally one person that listens to sports radio. Well thank goodness for the internet. The radio is fast becoming irrelevant. devidia I feel your pain. I was bummed when our classical and Jazz stations disappeared. It offered nice diversity. Some people think we need more top 40!!!!!!!1111one No thanks. devidia if you utilize the internet for listening purposes I would recommend KCSM in San Mateo for your listening needs (Jazz) http://kcsm.org/. I spent a while searching across our country via the internet and found this fills a nice gap.

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