Comcast's NBC Sports to launch radio network, compete with ESPN

Posted: June 13, 2012

This isn't trash talk.

As part of an NBC brand extension, NBC Sports will launch this September a radio network that will air five-minute hourly updates and three hours of nightly programming but is expected to broaden into around-the-clock talk and news.

The NBC Sports Radio Network will be distributed through Dial Global, a publicly traded company that provides news, sports and entertainment to 8,500 AM and FM stations. Dial Global acquired Westwood One, a major provider of traffic reports, in 2011.

The new radio network is part of heightened competition among media giants for sports fans. NBC Sports is building a new headquarters in Stamford, Conn., and has expanded its sports programming since Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, acquired control of it in early 2011. One of Philadelphia-based Comcast's goals in acquiring NBCUniversal was to create a viable cable-sports challenger to the undisputed giant in the genre, ESPN, which has a sports-radio network.

Fox Sports is reportedly considering launching a new national sports cable channel that would compete with ESPN and the NBC Sports Network. The vehicle, industry experts say, would be Speed, one of Fox's existing channels.

NBC says it will use talent from the NBC Sports Network cable channel, the Comcast/NBCUniversal regional sports networks and local NBC broadcast-TV stations for content for the new radio network.

"By adding radio to our broadcast, regional and digital assets, the NBC Sports Group will give sports fans a new way to interact with the NBC Sports Group day in and day out," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group.

Chris Corcoran, executive vice president of Dial Global, said he was very confident in a new NBC network. "Right now, we have play-by-play and with this the goal is to move into longer-form sports, in other words sports talk," he said. Dial Global owns the rights to air NFL football games, the Olympics and March Madness. Dial Global would target existing sports radio stations with the new NBC network he said.

In Philadelphia, the two big sports radio stations are CBS-owned WIP (Sportsradio) and Greater Media-owned WPEN (the Fanatic), which airs ESPN programming.

Andy Bloom, operations manager with WIP, said sports radio "is one of the fastest-growing segments in radio." He attributed the growth partly to escapism among men because of the long and stubborn recession. Soaring prices for professional sports tickets has priced some fans out of games and they may have redirected their passion to sport radio, he said. "Almost all our content is live and local," Bloom said. "You won't hear us spending time running down what happened in the American League West," he said.

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com.

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