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'The Fan' Is Crushing Radio Competitors

By Dave Hughes,

Baltimore may have four all-sports radio stations, but only one is attracting listeners.

Columbia-based radio ratings firm Arbitron has added Baltimore to the markets that have the new electronic Portable People Meter radio ratings system. This involves a small, wallet-sized device that a listener carries which automatically senses what stations are being tuned in by tracking electronic codings from nearby receivers.

That technology follows Baltimore radio ratings on a monthly and even weekly basis, instead of quarterly with the old diary-based system.

The PPMs have been good news, so far, for CBS Radio sports talker WJZ-FM, 105.7 The Fan, which placed 10th in the overall full-week age 12-plus numbers for the second week of October. Since the PPMs debuted market-wide in September, WJZ-FM has been as high as eighth place in the overall demographic, and even higher in all-male demos.

What’s really interesting is how poorly Baltimore’s other sports talkers are doing in the PPMs.

WJZ-FM’s sister, WJZ 1300-AM, which relays ESPN’s national sports radio output, placed a distant 35th in the age 12-plus numbers. Nasty Nestor Aparicio’s WNST (1570 AM) ranked a dismal 48th place, below a number of out-of-market DC stations. WVIE Fox Sports 1370, ranked an even worse 51st, despite a powerful 50,000-watt daytime signal. That year-old sports station is owned by political talker WCBM.

In fact, DC sports talker WTEM 980-AM, also known as ESPN 980, which is widely available in the Baltimore market via its 50,000-watt daytime signal, placed 26th.

Another Washington sports talker, WJFK, 106.7 The Fan, a CBS sister of Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan, tied with WVIE for 51st place in Baltimore, even though its signal is hard to get north of Laurel and Columbia. That station features the morning "Sports Junkies," who aired on Baltimore's 105.7 when it was known as talker WHFS.

In morning drive, WJZ-FM’s Ed Norris ranked 11th in the age 12-plus demo.

It’s clear that Aparicio’s WNST is an Internet-based labor of love and will continue despite its lack of radio listeners, but will WVIE stay with the sports format after posting such anemic numbers? Or will 1370 go back to a more general talk format that it had in mid-2008? Or maybe older oldies from the 1950s and 1960s, as it was at WWLG several years ago?

Stay tuned.


ESPN continues to re-air Baltimore film director Barry Levinson's critically-acclaimed documentary "The Band That Wouldn't Die," about the Baltimore Colts’ old marching band.

“I think this film should be required viewing for all snobby Washington and national media that often ridicule Baltimore for its inferiority complex or small town fixation on the Colts," said Dan Rodricks of the Sun. "It's about as clear an example as you can get of how differently the media covered the Baltimore story as opposed to, for instance, the Browns leaving Cleveland, or even the Raiders leaving Oakland. Most people in the national media or even our current local media don't even know the Baltimore story.

Posted Oct. 23, 2009