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Radio Disney & ESPN AM Cutbacks

Radio Disney 550 WDDZ Providence 600 WBWL Jacksonville 580 WDRD Louisville 1550 WDZK Hartford ESPN 1250 WEAE WTAE Pittsburgh 540 WWCS

Update 10/1: Chesapeake-Portsmouth has purchased WBWL from Disney for $650,000 and began an immediate LMA to move WBOB’s programming to 600 as reported below.

Update 9/28: Disney confirmed plans for WEAE Pittsburgh to drop ESPN Radio for Radio Disney on 1/1/11. All local programming has been eliminated as of yesterday with the exception of some specialty programs.

Meanwhile one of the stations pegged for shutdown may have a new format lined-up. Chesapeake-Portsmouth Broadcasting, which happened to purchase the former Radio Disney outlet in Norfolk, VA earlier this year, looks poised to do the same in Jacksonville. Conservative Talker 1530 WBOB, registered 600WBOB.com on September 20. WBOB just moved in June from its previous perch of 1320 (and a translator on 103.7) after those signals were sold to a sister non-commercial company. Cheseapeake-Portsmouth is run by Nancy Epperson; the wife of Salem Communications Chairman Stuart Epperson.

Original Report 9/24: The Walt Disney Company continues to pare back on its collection of small and medium market AM’s. Scott Fybush at Northeast Radio Watch tweeted today that four Radio Disney outlets will go dark at 12am on September 30. 550 WDDZ Pawtucket/Providence, RI, 580 WDRD Newburg/Louisville, KY, 600 WBWL Jacksonville, FL, and 1550 WDZK Bloomfield/Hartford, CT will all cease broadcasting until the stations are sold. Disney shut down similar stations in Tulsa, Norfolk, Greensboro, and Wichita earlier this year.

Additionally one of the 5 ESPN Radio O&O’s appears to be nearing its end. Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that “ESPN Radio 1250” WEAE Pittsburgh will cease all local programming next week and switch to the national ESPN feed until the end of the year. Smizik goes on to report that if the station is not sold by the end of the year, 1250 will switch to Radio Disney programming as the company will not renew its LMA of 540 WWCS when it expires on 12/31.

1250 currently airs local programming from 10am to 8pm daily. It was recently surpassed by CBS’ “93.7 The Fan” KDKA-FM as the highest rated sports station in the market. Pittsburgh is the only market where ESPN has not launched a local web portal to supplement its locally owned radio station.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

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