Indy gets its first FM sports/talk station

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Indianapolis now has its first FM sports/talk radio station.

In late January, Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp. bought FM 107.5 from Frankfort-based Kaspar Broadcasting.

The Kaspar station, which could be heard in Boone and Hamilton counties and parts of northern Marion County, played soft rock before selling to Emmis. It is not to be confused with WYXB-FM 105.7, a soft rock station Emmis already owns.

In mid February, Emmis began simulcasting The Fan sports talk show, which also plays at WFNI-AM 1070, on its new FM frequency—with a few twists.

The FM version of The Fan will air “The Herd” featuring ESPN’s Colin Cowherd from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the “SVP & Russillo” show featuring ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The Fan at 1070 AM will continue to run the “Grady & Big Joe Show” from 10 a.m. to noon and “The Dan Dakich Show” from noon to 3 p.m.

“This is all about giving people more options,” said David Wood, The Fan's program director. “There are some people that really like those national shows.”

The primary reason for acquiring FM 107.5 and simulcasting The Fan is to allow Emmis to have fewer conflicts with its live game coverage and to strengthen its reach with its sports/talk station at night.

The FM dial should also give The Fan access to a bit larger, and younger, audience than its AM frequency. Those will be important factors to some advertisers.

Emmis has contracts to broadcast Pacers, Colts, Butler and IU basketball, IU football, Indiana Fever, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indiana High School Athletic Association events. Many of those events air on The Fan.

“Certainly on weekends and especially in the winter, we’ve had conflicts with multiple events,” Wood said. “[The FM station] will give us more options.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for the acquisition is because the AM 1070 signal gets substantially weaker during the evening. The AM station is difficult to get in much of Boone County, parts of Hamilton County, especially to the northeast, and in Hendricks County. Emmis moved the tower and bolstered the signal for its new FM station, Wood explained.

“Our signal at night was a big problem,” Wood said. “A lot of our listeners simply couldn’t tune in. With this [FM station], that problem is solved. This gives us full market coverage with The Fan.”

There’s one other big reason for the FM acquisition, Wood explained. Sports is a hot commodity—especially in a sports crazy town like Indianapolis.

Since launching in January 2008, 1070 The Fan has had a growing audience. It quickly became the No. 1 sports/talk station in the market and is often ranked in the top 15 among all stations across all demographics in central Indiana, according to New York-based Arbitron Inc. Among men ages 25 to 54, an important demographic for certain advertisers, it is consistently among the ratings leaders in this market.

Emmis officials have told IBJ that 1070 The Fan has the fastest-growing revenue stream and profit margin among all its Indianapolis stations, which in addition to WYXB-FM 105.7 includes country station WLHK-FM 97.1 and new/talk station WIBC-FM 93.1.

Emmis' primary competition in the sports/talk category comes from Clear Channel Radio's WNDE-AM 1260. Entercom recently changed its format on WXNT-AM 1430 to carry CBS Sports Radio content.

“You’re seeing more people around the country trying to get into sports,” Wood said. “This format has been very good to us and this is just another investment in it.”

Emmis officials haven't divulged exactly how much they paid for its new FM frequency, but in a recent public filing said the company's lenders allowed them to buy certain translators (Terre Haute and Indianapolis) for an amount not to exceed $437,000.

The likely acquisition price for FM 107.5 is between $150,000 and $250,000 industry sources said. The simulcasting and use of national programming means it won't cost Emmis much addtionally to operate the station, so it shouldn't take long for the company to recoup its investment.

Emmis officials said they aren’t sure how the ratings will fare on their new FM sports/talk station. “It’s unknown because it’s never been done in this market before,” Wood said.

But one thing is certain.

“As ratings increase,” Wood said, “ad rates could increase.”

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