Tom Manoogian, known to local radio listeners as Lou From Littleton, is the manager of Front Range Sports Network -- and he'll be overseeing some switching around of the properties he oversees. On March 31, The Ticket, currently heard at 87.7 FM, will swap places with ESPN Desportes, at 102.3 -- and on January 1, 2012, FRSN will begin broadcasting ESPN Radio, currently at 1600 AM. Does that mean Jack FM/105.5, the other FRSN outlet, has less than a year to live? Not necessarily.
"We've got nine months to make the decision where ESPN goes," Manoogian says. "And Jack right now is top ten in the market between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, with men ages 18 to 54. So there are opportunities for us to decide if Jack will continue its strong presence in the market."
One possibility: "There are options for us to buy other radio stations in the market."
Such a move would be a vote of confidence in the future prospects of FRSN properties, whose audience numbers thus far haven't gone through any roofs, at least as far as we can tell. The Ticket, whose call letters are KXDP, features a slew of ultra-recognizable local sports talkers, including CBS4 anchors Vic Lombardi and Gary Miller, as well as Les Shapiro and the G-Man, formerly of The Fox. Yet the signal is tied for 41st place (aka last place) in popularity among listeners age twelve and over in the Denver-Boulder market according to Radio Online. The same service puts Jack-FM (KJAC) in 24th place and ESPN Desportes (KDSP) in the 37th slot.
As radio pros know, twelve-plus ratings are far less important than target demographics for each station -- and because FRSN doesn't subscribe to the Arbitron ratings service, Manoogian says he doesn't have specific stats for The Ticket and ESPN Desportes. But what's most important at this stage, he says, is "building a quality on-air product. And I believe as you continue to grow that on air product, the people will come."
Still, he thinks trading the places of The Ticket and ESPN Desportes will help make both stations more accessible. According to him, the 87.7 frequency, which FRSN leases rather than owns, has a greater reach into Northern Colorado, where there's a sizable Spanish-speaking population. "I thought we were missing a huge portion of that Hispanic audience," he allows. Meanwhile, the 102.3 frequency is strongest in the five-county Denver metro area, on which The Ticket focuses. Plus, as Manoogian points out, "The call letters for 102.3, KDSP, stand for Denver Sports. If we're truly going to be Denver's Sports station, that's where we belong."
As for FRSN's acquisition of ESPN Radio beginning in 2012, those rights were available because Lincoln Financial Media, which oversees ESPN Radio/1600 and The Fan, at 104.3 FM, isn't renewing its contract. "I read that in the paper over the weekend," Manoogian notes. "Well, whatever. But the fact that we've only been in business for nine months and ESPN has the confidence to move their product to us is huge. We're just happy that the biggest four letters in sports has decided to partner with us."
In the meantime, Manoogian remains a true believer in the power of the much-beleaguered terrestrial radio format.
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"You hear about Pandora and Sirus and XM," he concedes, "but terrestrial radio still has a big impact in the market, and especially in the sports market, where people want to hear about their local teams."
Beginning this week, however, English and Spanish speakers alike will have to look in different locations to do so.
More from our Media archive: "Vic Lombardi on making the jump from ESPN Radio to the new KDSP."