Airing Mile High on Denver Sports Radio

The folks behind Mile High Sports magazine have announced that they'll begin broadcasting a radio version of their print product at 1510 on the AM dial -- the current home of KCKK, a classic country purveyor known as "15 Kicks" -- beginning on July 30. But plenty has to go right for that to happen. According to Kevin Medina, the chief executive officer of Hass Rock Publishing, which owns the mag, "We have a lot of forces working for and against us in terms of launching this radio station."

That's an accurate assessment of the challenges confronting Medina and his squad. Tim Brown, the head of NRC Broadcasting, the company that owns KCKK, says, "We are still in the process of finalizing the deal, and we feel very confident that everything will come together. These guys have a very unique business model that is going to be pretty cool." However, he notes that no paperwork has been filed with the Federal Communications Commission to date, and other housekeeping matters need to be worked out. In his words, "This is a deal that's still in progress" -- and moving from that point to an on-air debut in less than three weeks won't be easy.

So why did Medina authorize the press release teasing a specific birthday for Mile High Sports Radio? Because, he maintains, "there's been so much speculation. We've been inundated with calls from advertisers saying, 'We're hearing this.' Quite honestly, we just wanted to be ready once the deal is finalized and goes through. We didn't want to be caught with our pants down." He's confident that by August, when Mile High Sports celebrates its fifth anniversary, the magazine will have a new sibling to join its website and Mile High Sports TV, a program that receives monthly airings on Altitude and CET, Comcast channel 5 (click here for the Altitude schedule).

At first glance, Denver doesn't seem in desperate need of another sports-talk radio outlet. AM 950/The Fan is still rolling along, thanks in large part to its broadcast agreements with the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets, and ESPN radio's syndicated fare is available at KEPN-AM/1600. Moreover, KLZ-AM/560, the former home of ESPN, tried to continue sports programming with an assist from Sporting News Radio after its previous network made the leap to 1600 in late 2006 (this More Messages blog tells the tale), only to pull the plug a few short months later (the end game is detailed here).

Even so, Medina doesn't see the market as saturated. "I think we can be very effective and get what I call the emerging sports-talk listener," he allows. "We'll tend to skew a little younger in terms of sound and content. It'll still be good, solid sports-talk, but with the same tone as our magazine. It's written for the big sports fan -- someone who likes to hang out with his buddies and talk sports, but who's younger and wants a different sound."

Medina has a strong talent around which to build: Tim Neverett, who hosted KLZ's morning sports show during the ESPN days, and went down with the format's ship after the Sporting News Radio experiment went awry. He'll helm the same time period for Mile High Sports Radio, joining the likes of former Colorado Rockies pitcher Mark Knudson, a longtime member of Medina's team. "Tim has been instrumental in helping us strategize where to place this on the map, and how to get from here to there," Medina notes. "And he's proven his mettle as a broadcaster as well. He's one of those steady guys you like to have onboard. He's a real professoinal, and a great reputation follows him."

In Medina's view, Mile High Sports Radio, which will likely open for business under a local-marketing agreement with NRC Broadcasting, can survive without the death of another sports-talk station. "I have nothing but high regard for the Fan and what they do, and if they're successful, that means we're going to be successful," he argues. In the meantime, he touts the multiple platform approach to building the Mile High Sports brand, which he hopes will develop into "a mini ESPN."

The FCC, and Denver's radio listeners, will have something to say about that... -- Michael Roberts