Acadiana Business

Let the sports talk competition begin

by Leslie Turk

Dyed-in-the-wool Acadiana sports fans now have two listening options in their cars and workplaces.

Dyed-in-the-wool Acadiana sports fans now have two listening options in their cars and workplaces.

Delta Media Corp. in Carencro, which operates five radio stations and four low-power television stations, switched formats on the former SNAP 103.7 at 6 a.m. Monday morning. The new entity, known as 103.7 "The Game," becomes the first 24-hour FM sports talk station in the region and joins traditional outlet Sports Radio ESPN 1420 AM of Lafayette in the genre.

The new station will carry national programming from FOX Sports Radio as well as nationally known sports radio personalities Dan Patrick and Jim Rome in its lineup. Its only locally produced show airs from 6-8 a.m. daily with 103.7 program director Chris Numan and KLFY-TV weekend sports anchor Jeff Horchak. Delta Media General Manager Chuck Wood says that more local programming will join the lineup in the near future.
"I've been involved with every sports station that Lafayette's ever had," Wood says. "There's not a day that goes by, whether I'm at the golf course or a UL function or anywhere, that someone doesn't ask me when we're going to put sports on FM."

ESPN 1420/KPEL-AM went to an all-sports format 14 years ago in 1998 and at the time also had only one locally produced daily show: Jay Walker's "Bird's Eye View" that still airs from 3-6 p.m. daily. Since then, ESPN 1420's local programming has increased to cover most daylight hours, including Steve Peloquin's "Thinking Out Loud" from 7-9 a.m., Kevin Foote's "FooteNotes" from 9-11 a.m., Billy Ryckman's "The Sports Note" from 11 a.m.-noon, Walker from 3-6 p.m. and Scott Prather's "The Great ScottĀ  Show" from 6-7 p.m.

"You look at the fact that we do nine hours of local radio every day, and we've been doing that for so long, that's a strength," says Peloquin, ESPN 1420's station manager. "We pre-empt a lot of ESPN programming, shows like Mike and Mike, Colin Cowherd and Doug Gottlieb. There's a reason they're at ESPN radio, because they're very good, but our numbers show people want to listen to local radio rather than national. We also try to give them different tastes with all our shows, and I think that's why people pay attention to us."

ESPN 1420 is the home station for UL sports play-by-play and aired approximately 170 UL events during the past athletic year, including all football, men's basketball, baseball and softball games - becoming the first commercial station in the country to air an entire collegiate softball schedule. The station also carries Acadiana High football.

The Game will be the new local home of LSU sports, shifting the Tigers from Delta's 107.1 spot. The station begins its LSU programming with this weekend's airing of the NCAA baseball Super Regional contests against Stony Brook from LSU's Alex Box Stadium (11 a.m. Friday and Saturday, noon Sunday if necessary).

The station will also carry St. Thomas More High football, and Wood says The Game plans to add a regular golf show and an on-location football show to its fall lineup.

Wood maintains that the stronger signal on 103.7 (currently 3,000 watts at 1,000 feet) will be a boost to nighttime listeners.

"Music programming is all about morning drive," he says, "but there's more listening to this format nationally in the afternoon and evening. Our goal is to put out a quality sports product on a local level that people can listen to 24 hours a day and offer coverage that hasn't been available before."

ESPN 1420's 1,000-watt AM signal covers the Acadiana area during daytime hours but drops off sharply at night. The station supplements its UL coverage by simultaneously broadcasting Ragin' Cajuns football and men's basketball on its Townsquare Media sister station Hot 107.9 FM - which has a 100,000-watt signal - and also airs UL baseball on weekends over NewsTalk KPEL-FM 96.5. Townsquare Media operates seven radio stations from its Lafayette studios.

"We have the ESPN name and people recognize that as the leader in sports," Peloquin says. "People here are used to what we're doing, plus we're 14 years old. People know we're not going anywhere."