WKTI Milwaukee To Flip To Sports “94.5 ESPN”

ESPN Milwaukee 94.5 KTI Country WKTIGood Karma Brands has announced that Country “94.5 KTI” WKTI Milwaukee will flip to Sports as “94.5 ESPN-FM” when the company closes on its acquisition of the station on November 1.

WKTI will assume the programming currently heard on Good Karma’s 540 WAUK Jackson. The two stations will simulcast for the short term. Good Karma is purchasing WKTI and sister News/Talk 620 WTMJ Milwaukee from Scripps for $16 million as Scripps exits radio. WTMJ will continue to serve as the flagship station for the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks and Green Bay Packers while WAUK/WKTI carries Marquette University sports.

WKTI currently ranks thirteenth in the Milwaukee market with a 3.5 share trailing iHeartMedia’s “FM 106.1” WMIL’s 5.6 share.

The current WKTI on-air staff including Program Director/midday host Ryan Wild, morning host Carol Vonn, and Music Director/afternoon host Karen Dalessandro will all exit the company with the format change.

Good Karma Brands announced today that when it assumes ownership of 94.5 FM WKTI on November 1, the station will become 94.5 ESPN FM, featuring local sports talk, play-by-play and ESPN programming.

Craig Karmazin, CEO and Founder of Good Karma Brands (GKB), said: “This is a natural evolution of our sports marketing, event and broadcast business in Wisconsin. 94.5 FM’s powerful signal, along with the synergy of its legendary sister station WTMJ-AM, will provide new and exciting ways for fans to stay close to their favorite teams and provide new ways for our marketing partners to engage with Wisconsin sports fans”.

WTMJ-AM is the flagship station of the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Milwaukee Bucks. 540 ESPN carries Marquette University basketball along with other high profile national play-by-play broadcasts.

Steve Wexler, currently Vice President of Radio for E.W. Scripps, will become Vice President & Market Manager of GKB’s new combined business in Milwaukee once the Scripps transactions are complete, which will include: 94.5 ESPN FM, 540 ESPN, news radio WTMJ, the Wisconsin Sports Awards and the Tundra Trio.

At the onset, both 94.5 ESPN FM and 540 ESPN and will carry the same programming, including the popular Wilde and Tausch show, featuring Packers Hall of Famer Mark Tauscher and award-winning Packers writer Jason Wilde – as well as the Homer & Gabe show, featuring Steve “The Homer” True and Gabe Neitzel.

In addition to the two radio stations, fans can listen via the ESPN App and online at ESPNWisconsin.com.

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  1. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    The official start is apparently scheduled for 5:00 a.m., per https://twitter.com/ESPNMilwaukee/status/1055866042919063552.

  2. Mark W. says

    This is unfortunate.

    Prior to E.W. Scripps’ decision to spin-off the radio division, KTI Country was gaining some ratings steam and putting up a respectable fight. They were beginning to close in on FM 106.1 ratings wise.

    Milwaukee is capable of supporting two Country-formatted radio stations on full market signals. Unfortunately, the only company out there with a poorly performing station on a full market signal is none other than iHeart! They are obviously not going to flip a second FM signal of theirs to Country. That leaves Saga’s 106.9 as the most likely candidate to flip to Country, and we all know the 106.9 signal is total garbage.

    ESPN’s national line-up is garbage. If multiple dayparts are filled using the national ESPN line-up during the work week, expect the new “ESPN 94.5” to generate very underwhelming ratings.

    If play-by-play currently found on WTMJ is moved to – or simulcast on – the new ESPN 94.5, that will only serve to erode WTMJ’s cume.

    1. Eric Jon Magnuson says

      I wonder, though, just how many people specifically within Milwaukee County listen to either WMIL or the current WKTI. If Magnum decided to flip WVTY to Country–in order to complement (or even simulcast) its WMBZ–that might cover enough of the metro to be a viable replacement, despite not being strong in the city or the immediate suburbs.

      That said, I’m still concerned about ‘KTI’s soon-to-be-former airstaff–and even about the longterm future of 540. And, as Tom Taylor has been saying often, Good Karma doesn’t subscribe to Nielsen Audio ratings–and, therefore, might let any of Scripps’ contracts lapse.

    2. Charles Everett says

      Don’t be surprised if the Brewers go to 94.5 full-time. They already have conflicts with the Bucks in the spring and the Packers from August through October.

    3. Nathan Obral says

      What is most notable is that WTMJ ranked #1 in the “beauty pageant” 12+ top-line as Tom reported on this morning… that will be a very significant absence when the contract lapses.

      Non-subscribers apparently can still be covered in the trades; Crain’s Cleveland has occasionally mentioned Good Karma sister WKNR’s demo ratings, but not that often (the most recent instance I’ve seen was back in April). It’s just that Tom Taylor and Chris Huff, both very much pro’s-pro’s, won’t be able to on a regular basis.

  3. Mark W. says

    With hot baseball teams earning good ratings on other FM stations across the Country, I think that is a good theory, Charles.

    But man, there are gonna be a LOT of disappointed Brewers fans in outlying areas if 620 WTMJ drops those broadcasts completely.

    Let’s face it – with the Brewers coming off a great season and the Bucks expected to go pretty far in the NBA Eastern Conference this year, now is probably a pretty good time to do FM Sports on a full market signal in Milwaukee. That is, *if* you have game broadcasts.

    Nonetheless, I think it stinks that a reasonably successful Country station is being tossed to the curb to make it happen when door mat stations such as 97.3 & 106.9 continue to exist.

    Perhaps I’d feel better about this move if I were confident usage of ESPN Radio national programming would be limited to unimportant dayparts.

    1. Nathan Obral says

      It sounds like Good Karma is planning to split 540 and 94.5 after a simulcast period. If so, the obvious move would be to have 540 take the ESPN feed full-time and 94.5 be heavily-local like WTMJ is, even with the ESPN brand and programming in off hours. (Yeah, 540 could also take ESPN Deportes Radio, but there wasn’t an audience for that when it ran on 1510.)

      Of course, Good Karma could simply sell off 540 if they wanted…

  4. Nathan Obral says

    iHeart splits the flagship rights for the Indians and Cavaliers on WTAM/1100 and WMMS/100.7, and both stations haven’t missed a beat. Doing the same with the Brewers and Bucks on both stations isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

    Simulcasting Packers games on WTMJ and WKTI is an obvious move; it alleviates any Brewers/Packers conflicts on WTMJ and gives 94.5 one of the big “name” teams. (AM/FM split flagships happen all the time in the NFL).

  5. Eric Jon Magnuson says

    It’s too early for the flip’s true impact to show up in the ratings, but the recently released numbers for the “November” period suggest that Good Karma is now a subscriber–as WTMJ, WKTI, and (most notably) the previously non-listed WAUK are all included.


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