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A parting of the ways for 790 and ESPN

 

BARRY JACKSON

 

bjackson@herald.com

 

 

In less than five months on the air, 790 ESPN Radio already has delivered several surprises. But the biggest came Thursday, when the station and ESPN abruptly ended their partnership. Beginning Monday, 790 will be called Sports Talk 790 The Ticket.

 

ESPN wanted 790 to carry more of its national programming, while 790 preferred more local talk.

 

''We enjoyed our affiliation, but we wanted to provide South Florida with local programming all day,'' said 790 general manager Jon Weiner, one of five local businessmen (including majority owner Joel Feinberg) who are leasing the station from Jefferson-Pilot Communications.

 

ESPN Radio spokesman Dan Quinn said the network initiated the breakup and seeks another local station that would air more of its programming; 1400, which carries Fox Sports Radio, would be a good fit. What prompted ESPN's move was 790's decision to replace Dan Patrick's show (1-4 p.m.) with local talk and start Joe Rose's show at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than it had before Jan. 10.

 

As expected, former Marlins radio announcer Jon Sciambi will replace Craig Minervini and Jason Solodkin as host from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning no later than March. A potential future role for Minervini has not been determined.

 

Starting Monday, the 1-4 p.m. slot (previously held by The Dan Patrick Show) will be filled by Greg ''Toast'' Lemega, who was replaced by Jeff DeForrest as evening host, and ex-Dolphins receiver O.J. McDuffie. But 790 hopes -- and needs -- WQAM's Jim Mandich to fill the 1-4 p.m. slot on a long-term basis, preceding Dan Le Batard's 4-7 p.m. show.

 

Mandich has delayed a decision and still could opt to stay at WQAM to work 2-4 p.m. or 4-7 p.m. But if the Dolphins move to 790 -- negotiations are in the late stages -- the likelihood of Mandich moving would be enhanced because he likes being the team's radio analyst.

 

If Mandich leaves, WQAM will have miscalculated by asking him to sign an 18-page document that he has deemed ''restrictive and onerous.'' Mandich vows he will never sign the document, which gives WQAM the right to fire employees for multiple reasons.

 

Adding the popular Sciambi was a smart move for 790. But luring Mandich is essential, because losing him would leave WQAM with a major void in the afternoon.

 

If Mandich joins 790, mid-to-late afternoons would be when the station would have its best opportunity to close WQAM's ratings lead. Hank Goldberg, who had discussions with 790 before moving to mornings, signed a contract this week to continue in the 7-10 a.m. slot on WQAM.

 

TIDBITS

 

? 790 will carry Fox Sports Radio programming overnights, including J.T. The Brick (10 p.m-2 a.m.) and WIOD Heat pregame/postgame host Jorge Sedano (2-6 a.m.). 1400 will continue airing the same two shows. . . . ESPN Radio will allow 790 to carry its NBA package.

 

? WQAM's Orlando Alzugaray again is paying his own way (about $1,200) to attend Senior Bowl activities this week. ''The contacts I make there are second to none,'' said Alzugaray, who will be paid to do sideline reporting for a syndicated broadcast of Saturday's game.

 

? ABC wisely has re-united Bill Walton and Steve Jones, TV sports' version of The Odd Couple, for its NBA pregame show, including Sunday at 12:30 p.m. before the Heat-Rockets game.

 

''As bizarre and wrong as he always is, I love the guy,'' said Walton of his former teammate and NBC broadcast partner.

 

On the Heat, Walton said, ``There will be naysayers who say Miami's not a complete team, that their power forwards are not good enough, that Damon Jones is not a complete player and Eddie Jones [is] inconsistent, but never discount how incredibly dominant Shaquille O'Neal is when he wants to be. They are serious championship contenders.''

 

? Jim Rome's midnight Thursday show on ESPN will expand to five days a week and shift to 4:30 p.m., beginning Feb. 14.

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Tip #1 in Sportsradio: Play-by-play wins

 

WQAM has the Marlins, Hurricanes, and Panthers locked up.

WIOD has the Heat. WINZ has the Gators.

So WAXY can only get the Dolphins and keep the FIU and FSU rights.

 

The Marlins, Hurricanes, and Panthers (once they start again) are much more programming hours for the dollar than the other rights. If WQAM lands ESPN Radio again (which would be an improvement) and lets some hosts like Goldie and Hank do their thing, then WQAM would be unstoppable.

 

ESPN Radio only requires that Mike & Mike air (easily done by WQAM by moving the Big 0) and Dan Patrick air live and in its entirity. (WQAM could just shift Neil Rogers up 1 hour)

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Tip #1 in Sportsradio: Play-by-play wins

 

WQAM has the Marlins, Hurricanes, and Panthers locked up.

WIOD has the Heat. WINZ has the Gators.

So WAXY can only get the Dolphins and keep the FIU and FSU rights.

 

The Marlins, Hurricanes, and Panthers (once they start again) are much more programming hours for the dollar than the other rights. If WQAM lands ESPN Radio again (which would be an improvement) and lets some hosts like Goldie and Hank do their thing, then WQAM would be unstoppable.

 

ESPN Radio only requires that Mike & Mike air (easily done by WQAM by moving the Big 0) and Dan Patrick air live and in its entirity. (WQAM could just shift Neil Rogers up 1 hour)

670873[/snapback]

 

What are the chances ESPN hooks up Foster & 1400? 1400 is a sinking ship, unless they team up with ESPN they will be gone in a month if not sooner.

 

Also, what's your take on Mandich??? I say 790 breaks the bank for the Fins and there is no way Mandich doesn't follow. QAM will have Fat Hank and the broadcasting rights to Marlins, Panthers & UM...while 790 will have the Dolphins and all of the top talent in the market.

 

Interesting stuff.

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I wonder what ESPN gets by pulling out...

 

I really don't think there's any kind of market for ESPN's programming here. I could see how that stuff might work in smaller towns that don't have a big local sports scene. But I don't think people here want to listen to Terrell Owens talk all day. They'd rather hear about the local teams.

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I wonder what ESPN gets by pulling out...

 

I really don't think there's any kind of market for ESPN's programming here. I could see how that stuff might work in smaller towns that don't have a big local sports scene. But I don't think people here want to listen to Terrell Owens talk all day. They'd rather hear about the local teams.

671530[/snapback]

ESPN just wants clearance so they can sell having more markets to advertisers. They don't care if the station only reaches a certain distance or what. WFLL-1400 looks to be their landing spot unless WQAM snatches them.

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