There are more changes ahead for ESPN Radio.
According to The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, ESPN New York will relinquish its 98.7 FM signal on Aug. 31, 2024. After that, the focus will be on its digital distribution for its top programming, which includes The Michael Kay Show and Radio broadcasts of the New York Jets, Knicks, and Rangers.
While ESPN New York still maintains its signal on 1050 AM, it leaves WFAN with its signal on both 101.9 FM and 660 AM, which means that ratings war(s) between WFAN and ESPN Radio that used to send Kay and Co. in a tizzy are no more.
As Marchand maintains, the move by ESPN New York to drop its FM signal highlights the changing landscape of radio, where digital platforms are now the preferred way to listen to audio content.
“We’re committed to serving the New York sports fan and with the combination of our AM signal, the ESPN New York App, podcasts, smart speakers, YES, and other additional audio and video distribution, investing in an FM signal was not relevant in the way it was a decade ago,” Good Karma Brands CEO and founder Craig Karmazin told The Post.
Earlier this summer, ESPN hired Good Karma Brands (which owns 12 radio stations across the U.S., including eight ESPN Radio affiliates) to run operations and sales for both ESPN Radio and the company’s podcasts, with that deal taking effect as of July 28.
According to Marchand, ESPN signed a lease more than a decade ago with Emmis Broadcasting for the 98.7 signal. Here’s more from Marchand on the financial details and implications:
ESPN paid more than $10 million per year, according to sources.
At that time, ESPN was only on 1050 AM, which was the original signal for WFAN, created and owned by Emmis Broadcasting’s Jeff Smulyan.
The lease rate is currently in the $12.5 million per year range, according to sources.
After the lease with ESPN New York ends on August 31, Emmis can sell or rent the FM signal to another party. Citing sources, Marchand reports that Emmis is asking for $50 million to sell the signal outright.