Two disclaimers upfront: (1) I only listened to about 20 minutes of the new sports talk radio station while I was driving home from work so this will be a total first impression on a small sampling of data and (2) I am a regular contributor in the comments section at the 850 the Buzz blog, THF is linked over there and I have been interviewed on 620 the Bull before. I do enjoy the work they do over there so that might make me a little biased in how I view the new station.
For those who have not heard Capitol Broadcasting which owns WRAL-TV and Mix 101.5 in Raleigh purchased 99.9 FM with the intent of converting it to a sports talk station. Since CBC had the rights to broadcast Carolina Hurricanes and NC State sports it makes sense they would want to ride those two properties to create a local talk format. At 3 PM this afternoon the station changed format from country music to sports talk with the debut of their drive time show called “The Insiders” with Scott Jackson and Mark Thomas. Jackson has recently been doing sports talk in Washington, DC and Thomas is a former NC State
basketball football player.
The 20 minutes I heard this afternoon was an interview with former Tar Heel basketball player Antawn Jamison who is now playing for the Washington Wizards. I suspect Jackson’s connections as a former radio host in the DC market went along way towards securing this interview. The interview was decent with the most glaring annoyance being Mark Thomas who wore his NC State connection proudly and obnoxiously by stating he was glad Jamison “was not wearing the baby blues any more” and asking him “How many times did you lose to NC State when you were at UNC?” Jamison said he thought it was twice one in Raleigh and once in Chapel Hill. They were actually both in Raleigh. I also noted other comments/questions Thomas brought to the table were obvious attempts at humor and also he tried to come off as a “regular guy” who did not know that much or not very sophisticated. Jackson struck me as a pro at being a radio host, had a good voice and posed good questions in the interview. Let me again stress this is a very limited sample I heard today so take it for what its worth.
Based on this one segment I have to ask the most obvious question and that is: How NC State heavy this 99.9 The Fan going to be? The fact they will be broadcasting NC State games sort of identifies the station with the Wolfpack. That does not have to be the case seeing that 850 the Buzz broadcasts Duke games as well as Roy Williams and Butch Davis radio programs. The Buzz comes off as very balanced and the fact they run ACC guru David Glenn in the afternoon really sets them up as an objective radio station covering all the area teams. Based on what we saw today Mark Thomas seems fully intent on showing his red and white colors even when talking with an ex-Heel. The problem I foresee with being Wolfpack-centric is there is a huge risk 99.9 ends up alienating Duke, UNC and ECU fans from listening. There are often complaints from certain sectors of the Wolfpack fan base that the media in Raleigh is anti-Wolfpack and pro-UNC or Duke. Based on today’s content 99.9 The Fan could be to NC State fans what Fox News is to conservatives. And perhaps that is the intent. The station is Raleigh based and NC State is the local team with their games being broadcast there so it is not too crazy of an idea that they would lean that way.
99.9 The Fan starts off behind the eight ball. 850/620 are fully entrenched in the market. Their hosts are completely familiar with the area teams and their histories. They understand how the fan bases think, have great connections with the Carolina Hurricanes who are also broadcast on 99.9. The two AM frequencies also syndicate the two big dogs in sports radio ESPN and Fox Sports as well as numerous national interest games like Monday Night Football. I would expect 99.9 will have a lot of growing pains as they figure out how to capture the listeners. Having the material come out of radio speakers in stereo is not enough to get people to change their listening habits. We will have to see how the rest of the lineup is….during 850’s commercials.