The Other Side Of Moving Brands From AM To FM

WFAN 660 101.9 Mets FM Howie Rose Josh LewinLast night I came across a Twitter discussion that shows some of the difficulties faced by AM brands that have made the move to FM over the past few years.

The topic was in regards to New York Mets radio broadcasts which are in their first season being available on FM since the 1970’s in addition to their longtime home on 660 WFAN. Since the launch of the FM simulcast in November, WFAN has been attempting to move its audience to the new signal. Currently the station is running an “FM Means Free Money” contest.

The responses to the original Twitter shared similar sentiments.

While these comments are coming from a traditionalist belief based on how they’ve listened to baseball and sports on radio their whole lives, it is also likely they make up a significant portion of the station’s audience. Some stations have already retreated from their FM simulcasts as they were unable to move and expand their audience on FM.

Is WFAN’s mistake that they are keeping the station available on both bands? The station is still reliant on the AM signal to reach the fringe of the market and adjacent markets, yet it is expected that CBS’ long-term plan is to move the station exclusively to FM and use the AM to clear the CBS Sports Radio network. However, the station doesn’t want to give their current audience any reason to abandon them for “ESPN 98.7” WEPN-FM just yet. But that may be costing the company the ability to currently shift the remaining AM listeners to FM.

Many sports franchises are actively pursuing FM flagship stations in their markets. 28 out of the 32 NFL teams will be heard on a full-signaled FM in their home market this upcoming season, while 12 of the 30 MLB teams have FM flagships or co-flagships including the aforementioned Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and Detroit Tigers. With all leagues also offering their games on digital properties and SiriusXM the need for 50kW AM signals to distribute their games is no longer necessary. While it was a great thing to be able to use a transistor radio and hear multiple games and voices on the AM band each evening, DXing is now a novelty at best.

WTOP Washington and WXYT Detroit became powerhouses following their moves from AM to FM in the past decade. If the brand is strong it will survive regardless of where its located on the dial.

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  1. johndavis says

    “If the brand is strong it will survive regardless of where its located on the dial.” We have a winner.

    Some people pine for the warm sound of vinyl, but try keeping a record store afloat.

    Moving to the FM band won’t grow a mediocre radio station, but it will help a good AM station outlive the usefulness of Ancient Modulation.

  2. MattParker says

    The main differences between the sounds of AM and FM are absence of static and sound frequency rage. AM can only carry sounds up to 5,000 cycles per second. FM goes above the range a human can hear. As people age, their ability hear higher frequencies diminishes. There have been news stories about stores using high frequency sounds to drive away young people with noise adults can’t hear. And about kids with high frequency ring tones teachers can’t hear. As people leave the money demos, their hearing approaches the sound frequency of AM radio.
    More than any other sport, much of the radio experience of baseball comes from crowd noise. On AM crowd noise sounds like it’s being heard at a distance and somehow that shapes the experience of listening to baseball on the radio. Baseball is a radio sport. Baseball on TV is different. Even on FM it’s different.
    Now, if they could hire real radio broadcasters to do play by play, not ex-jocks waiting to move up to TV who don’t get that nobody can see what they see and people care more about the game now than the game they played 15 years ago.

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