Radio vet launches Indy’s third local afternoon sports show

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Then there were three.

With the addition of Kent Sterling as host of CBS Sports Radio’s afternoon show at WXNT-AM 1430, there are now three local sports-talk shows on during afternoon drive time in Indianapolis.

Sterling, who replaced the nationally syndicated Doug Gottlieb Show, will face The Drive with JMV on WFNI-AM 1070 and the Query and Schultz Show on WNDE-AM 1260.

The competition for Sterling will be stiff. The show hosted by John Gliva—better known as JMV—is the runaway sports-talk ratings leader during the afternoon drive-time slot, and Query and Schultz have built a growing following among listeners and advertisers.

WXNT launched The Kent Sterling Show with little fanfare June 16. Now that the show has found its voice, Sterling said a marketing campaign including social media, press releases and on-site broadcasts at the Tilted Kilt downtown will kick off in the coming weeks.

“Driving traffic to a show that wasn’t necessarily ready, I mean we didn’t know what it was going to sound like, wasn’t very appealing to me,” Sterling said. “Now we’ve better determined what the show is going to be. We’re getting great guests and great content.”

Sterling’s show has already nabbed its first major local sponsor, Today’s Dentistry in Fishers, and he is confident the show’s stable of corporate partners will grow this fall.

On Jan. 2, 2013, WXNT benched its news-talk lineup featuring Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller and Michael Smerconish and became a CBS Sports radio affiliate. But until Sterling joined WXNT and began broadcasting his show on weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., the station owned by Entercom Communications Corp. had an all-syndicated line-up.

Sterling, 50, is no stranger to the local market. He has resided in Indianapolis most of his life, graduating from Indiana University with a journalism degree in 1986.

For nearly 17 years, he worked for Emmis Communication Corp.’s Indianapolis radio cluster, helping launch WFNI, better known as 1070 The Fan, in 2007.

After a management change at Emmis in early 2010, Sterling was shown the door. After a two-year stint working in sports-talk for Hubbard Broadcasting in St. Louis, he returned to Indianapolis.

Until now, Sterling has primarily worked in radio management. He said he’s more than ready to leave management for an on-air job.

“I’ve always wanted to be on-air, but somehow got pushed into management,” said Sterling, who spent the early 1990s as an on-stage performer for The Second City in Chicago. “You can only sit in so many meetings where increasing efficiencies are talked about and derive joy from it.”

So how will Sterling differentiate his show in the crowded market place?

“We talk about sports and nothing but sports,” Sterling explained. “The [market’s] other [sports-talk] shows during that time slot are all over the place. I think there’s an opening we can exploit.”

There’s been much discussion about the market’s demand for three sports-talk stations. In December, 2007, 1070 The Fan joined WNDE and WXLW-AM 950 as the market’s third sports-talk station.

A battle ensued, with The Fan swiping the ESPN Radio affiliation from WXLW and eventually JMV from WNDE. Derek Schultz left WXLW to join forces with Jake Query at WNDE. WXLW eventually abandoned the sports-talk format for political talk in September 2012.

WXNT jumped into sports less than four months after WXLW left the arena, but has struggled to gain a strong local audience with little local content. Sterling is confident his show can gain a solid footing here.

“I don’t know if this market is big enough for three sports-talk stations,” he said. “But it’s big enough for this station to survive. We are well-positioned in sports. I think this show can build an audience quickly in a market that is not served by a show that just talks about sports in this [afternoon drive-time timeslot.]”

Sterling will continue to produce his web site covering topics involving the media and sports, but said his primary focus will be his new radio show.

“I get up in the morning thinking about this radio show and I go to bed at night thinking about this radio show,” Sterling said. “I’m driven to do whatever it takes to make it a success.”

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