By Dave Hughes, DCRTV.com
Baltimore sports talker WVIE, 1370 AM, is making some big changes.
First, it is no longer carrying sports talk in the mornings.
The station, a partner of news talker WCBM, 680 AM, is now carrying the "America's Morning News" talk program in morning drive, from 5-9 a.m. That replaces early morning fare from Fox Sports Radio.
The Washington, D.C.-based TRN syndicated show is supplemented with local news, weather, traffic and sports headlines from WVIE, which is now dubbing itself as "V1370" instead of "Fox 1370."
Also, WVIE has hiked up its nighttime power almost three-fold, to 24,000 watts (AM stations often have different day and night powers and different coverage patterns).
The station, which is owned by the Baltimore-based Mangione family's M-10 Broadcasting, remains an affiliate of Fox Sports Radio, even though it's no longer using the "Fox 1370" moniker.
WVIE remains the main station for Towson football and UMBC men's basketball. WVIE also airs Washington Wizards basketball and carries Washington Capitals playoff games.
Before June 2006, the station carried adult standards and big band music as WWLG, "Legends 1370."
Way back when, the station was WHLP and WEBB with a variety of soul and oldies music formats. It used to be on the 1360 frequency, but moved to 1370 in 2002 with a daytime power hike to 50,000 watts -- making it one of the most powerful AM stations in the Baltimore market.
The station got re-branded as WVIE when it debuted an all-female talk format, but that was dropped in 2007 for male-oriented, largely political talk. WVIE then switched to sports talk Sept. 8, 2008.
As part of the changes, Rob Long's morning show got shifted from an 8 a.m. to a 9 a.m. start time -- trimming it from four to three hours. Long hosts the 9 a.m.-12 p.m. show and maintains a Web site covering local sports, roblongshow.com, while Jerry Coleman hosts "Sports With Coleman" during afternoons and maintains sportswithcoleman.com. Coleman, previously with WTEM, 98 Rock and WBAL radio, is also the station's sports director.
Despite the recent flip to non-sports talk in the morning, "This station is committed to sports 100 percent," Coleman said. "We carry the NBA, NASCAR, Towson, and we're looking to expand. The Mangione family is dedicated to sports. The owner is a former professional soccer player."
Examiner sports media columnist Jim Williams said the "news in the morning" strategy is actually a good deal for 1370.
"Adding 'America's Morning News' was not a bad move," he said. "It has attracted some new listeners. News and traffic makes 1370 a destination for many listeners. News fans leaving the dial there for sports. It's a wise move."
Plus, Williams points out, Orioles flagship WBAL radio is not a fulltime sports talker. And other sports talkers in the market, including 105.7 The Fan, WJZ-FM, also feature a healthy dose of non-sports talk.
One big plus 1370 now has is coverage of motor racing, including NASCAR.
"That's big in Baltimore," Williams said. "Especially on the weekends, 1370 focuses on its motor racing network. No one else (on the Baltimore radio dial) is doing that."
There's little an up-and-coming sports station like 1370 can do to nab the high-priced Orioles and Ravens, but the station can position itself differently from Baltimore's other sports talkers.
Williams said 1370 was orienting itself more as an "I-95" talker that, while not entirely focused on the Washington, D.C. market, does stand out because its talk show hosts don't belittle Washington sports fans.
"Our signal is strong in D.C.; I can hear it at Redskins Park," Coleman said.
"1370 serves a melded market, not just D.C. or Baltimore," Williams said. "Both markets have fans living in both regions."
Oh, and what about PressBox founder and publisher Stan "The Fan" Charles's one-hour noon show on 1370?
"It's kinda nice to have an hour of old school," Williams said. "That's content you won't find on other shows, does a lot for the relatively short hour time frame.
"Everything you need to know in an hour about Baltimore sports. That's the beauty of the show -- Stan being Stan."
Issue 162: June 2011