CC’s Cutbacks To Spell End Of LA Sports Station?

Dark day in sports radio today in the aftermath of an astonishing 1,850 job-cut by radio behemoth Clear Channel. Caught in the massive undertow were on-air personalities across the nation, including former Detroit PM drive stalwarts Stoney & Wojo of WDFN-AM in Detroit.

SbB Girls Radio Montage

(Good news! SbB Girls survived today’s sports radio bloodbath)

WDFN, which broadcasts Pistons games, whacked all of its local hosts, and will instead run Fox Sports Radio programming 24/7. The FLORIDA TIMES-UNION also reports severe cuts at WFXJ sports radio in Jacksonville. Where local personalities have been slashed.

There will be much more fallout in the next couple days, as job cuts become public market-by-market. Worst-hit will be sales staffs and local market personalities, who can be replaced by syndicated programming from ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio. (But I’ve also confirmed some layoffs at CC-operated Fox Sports Radio.)

Not yet known is the effect the layoffs will have on L.A.-sports station KLAC-AM, which recently lost the Lakers broadcast rights to local competitor KSPN-AM. That said, I’ve been hearing rumors for months about the demise of KLAC’s sports format.

Before the loss of the Lakers, there were already rumors swirling that Clear Channel was pondering junking KLAC’s all-sports format and moving Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura over to the station from talk radio KFI-AM. With the CC announcement today, I expect a resolution on the direction of KLAC in short order.

KSPN’s move to take away the Lakers from KLAC was, at least in part, designed to injure its local competitor. What may result though is the complete destruction of its sports radio counterpart.

Though even if KLAC goes away from 24/7 sports and adopts a talk radio format middays, I still expect the station’s successful “PMS” Show to survive in some form. Likewise the long-running “Loose Cannons” show. There’s still plenty of sponsor dollars tied up in those programs, and both also have followings too large to ignore.

In the wake of the bloodbath today, I wonder if radio companies think the local sports radio format is really financially viable in cities outside of the northeast and a few scattered, sports-frenzied burgs like Dallas and Chicago. I think we might see the end of days for stations devoted to local sports talk programming in dozens of cities in the very near future, as sponsor dollars dry up and Americans re-prioritize their listening habits.

More likely, we may return to the days of stations featuring news/talk programming throughout the day, and sports talk in the afternoon and evening. Before the advent of the sports radio format, that was the predominant lineup for hundreds of stations across the country.

Or perhaps the sports talk radio format is just suffering the onset of the economic downturn like all other businesses, and will return to prominence once we enter a financial recovery.

I’m more inclined to think that sports radio stations will only exist in the future where they can make an absolute financial killing. Which means here in Los Angeles, we’ll soon be a one-station town, thanks to ESPN’s ability to leverage its assets to completely own the marketplace.