Transitioning at FM 104.3/The Fan and ESPN Radio

Mike Evans, Jim Armstrong and Sandy Clough of FM 104.3/The Fan.

"FM 104.3/The Fan's Morning and Afternoon Teams to Go Head-to-Head," a blog published on October 17, reported about a quizzical strategy by the folks at Lincoln Financial Media Company in an effort to jumpstart one of their most moribund properties: KEPN/1600 AM, an ESPN affiliate. First, they moved longtimers Irv Brown and Joe Williams from their afternoon slot at The Fan to the same time period at KEPN. Then they shifted The Fan's morning team, Mike Evans and Sandy Clough, to afternoons, where they'll compete for ears against Irv and Joe with help from the latter's former partner, Denver Post columnist Jim Armstrong. Finally, they transplanted ESPN Radio's morning staple, Mike & Mike in the Morning, from KEPN to The Fan.

How's the transition been thus far? A little bumpy...

At this point, it appears that Lincoln execs are simply writing off early mornings at KEPN. Instead of installing interesting material, they're running SportsCenter Express -- basically an endless series of updates in search of a program. Meanwhile, over at The Fan, they've replaced the SportsCenter segments in Mike & Mike with something they've dubbed Denver SportsCenter, which is essentially a collection of Colorado, as opposed to national, headlines. Why? Probably because they're able to sell local sponsorships to the inserts, thereby generating a little extra income from radio's most popular time period.

In the afternoon, Irv and Joe are adapting just fine to being a duo again. That's how they spent most of their career prior to Armstrong's arrival, and his absence allows even more room for their trademark byplay. Not that space is at a premium right now. There are so few ads on KEPN at present that they seldom have to break at all. Lucky thing their regular callers seem to have already found them at their new location.

As for Evans, Clough and Armstrong, they're searching for the right balance -- and not always finding it. Monday in particular, they seemed to be literally fighting for the microphone, with the always loquacious Clough sounding more splenetic than usual as he tried to hold off the almost-as-gabby Armstrong long enough to make his assorted points. As a result, there were times when Evans seemed to have left the studio, knowing that when he returned, the conversation would still be going.

Such awkwardness should ease over time. After all, these three have been in the radio game for a long time. But there's no guarantee the switches will pay off in additional revenue. Right now, Lincoln has put mornings on automatic pilot in order to let its marquee talent battle among themselves over the afternoon sports demo. Hard to see how that adds up to ratings victory... -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts