Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Thoughts on Vanderbilt Leaving 104.5 The Zone (Or, Why I Was Right and Many of you were Wrong)

Well, the other shoe dropped. Today, 104.5 The Zone, Nashville's only Sports Talk Radio station announced that it would be Middle Tennessee's new home for Tennessee Volunteer Sports. A few weeks ago, Vanderbilt announced it had found a new home for the Commodores on WRQQ 97.1, a rock station in Nashville. The rationale behind the decision was to ensure that all Vanderbilt men's basketball and football games were on the air and not subject to preemption or a spot on another station on the dial due to 104.5's deal to become the official home of the Tennessee Titans. Fair enough, but I think it's fair to say this move will leave the Commodores worse off than they were before.

My initial reaction to the change was that the move was a mistake and wouldn't ultimately serve the Commodores well. I backed off that comment when it came to light it was this or preemption and therefore less Commodore coverage. With the addition of the Volunteers to the line-up of the only Sports Talk station in town, I am now convinced that my initial reaction was spot-on and that everyone who disagreed with me was...wait for it...DEAD WRONG (sorry, I really do love saying "I Told You So." I acknowledge it's not the most endearing quality in a person, but I truly can't help myself).

Like it or not, sports stations' coverage is driven by the events they broadcast. (Remember when ESPN covered Arena Football because they were stupid enough to pay money for it?). Vanderbilt will always stuggle to fans in a city and area dominated by UT and the Titans. But Vanderbilt's relationship with the only Sports Talk station in town meant we could count on coverage than we might not have otherwise gotten before. Now, sports fans who listen to the 104.5 The Zone going forward are likely to get less Vanderbilt talk than before. That will probably translate to fewer "walk-up" fans for games, and more importantly hurt the Commodores (at times) concerted effort to get Nashvillians to identify Vanderbilt as "their team." Worse, not only have Vanderbilt lost prime-billing on the only Sports Talk station in town, but they've done so while ceding the territory to our arch rivals.

I never liked the move, even if the new station was giong to make us their "#1 sports priority." Who cares? Before now, they didn't have any sports priorities. Now, with Tennessee replacing the Commodores, Vanderbilt now runs the risk of getting even less exposure locally at a time when we are finally poised (in my view) to break on through and give the area a winner on a more consistent basis, and thus a team to support.

14 comments:

AD said...

I have been disappointed in Nashville radio generally (Music City?) and Nashville sports radio in particular almost since I moved here a few years ago. At that time, there were two stations, both on the FM dial, that carried sports talk. 106.7 had maybe one local drive-time show and otherwise parroted ESPN programming. 104.5 was more local, although it carried 2/3 of Jim Rome's national show and maybe Dan Patrick at that time too (not sure when they added him). Between the two, I could find just about everything I wanted.

106.7 turned into music during the summer of 2009, leaving Nashville without any ESPNRadio coverage. Maybe a month ago, 104.5 dropped the two hours of Jim Rome they were carrying, leaving Nashville without any nationally syndicated programming (save the few generic ESPN hours 104.5 has picked up).

Now that 104.5 has dropped VU coverage, why do I want to listen to it at all? They barely talked about VU before, and shows like "Big Orange Sunday" dominated the weekday chatter as well. I can't count, but this may be the third strike for me. I know radio is a (struggling) business, but I've never seen so many format shifts and other changes in any other market.

I plug my computer into my stereo to get Mike&Mike and Rome. I'm thinking about giving up on Nashville radio all together.

I guess we'll still get Joe Fisher on 97.whatever during gametime?

Douglas James said...

I think it is a mistake as well. How does titans coverage affect vandy games? Nfl is on sunday and college football is a sat sport. The only time a conflict COULD happen is if they both had thursday games. Which would rarely occur. However I don't think it will have the effect bobby thinks it will. One thing the school should do is better promote the university radio station. We have one right?

Douglas James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AD said...

Absolutely, Douglas. 91.1 WRVU. Their format is almost 100% music. It would be cool to do games on that station, but I think the larger issue is financial. An outside commercial station (which WRVU is not) will pay the University for the right (indeed, the exclusive right) to broadcast all things Vanderbilt sports, including the games, coaches' call-in shows, and other exclusive VU-related interviews. Doing the broadcasts on WRVU creates no new revenue for the University. It's not just about broadcasting. It's about turning a profit off of your profit-turning sports (i.e., football, men's basketball).

Douglas James said...

understandable but they could have more of a presence on campus and in the community (especially in the sports dept). A student based sports talk show would be awesome. Wish I had looked into it when I was an undergrad.

Anonymous said...

Pretty solid preview...

http://www.docsports.com/2010/college-basketball-sec-tournament-preview-predictions-670.html

VandyGold28 said...

i give up on 104.5. i'm not listening to it any more. join me

Anonymous said...

I listen to sports talk on 560-am WNSR in the mornings. They interview people like Joe Fisher on a regular basis. The host of the show used to be a beat writer covering VU.

Steven said...

Besides the obvious financial reasons AD pointed out, I don't think it would be possible for WRVU to do sports-talk. All the programming is music, with a few "alternative" talk shows. The entire mission of the station is to offer programming unavailable on commercial radio (such as Top 40), which may preempt sports talk as well. As a recent grad and former WRVU DJ, I can say that I'm pretty sure no one currently involved with the station would be interested in covering Commodore sports anyway. I'm sure there are students who would love to do that type of thing, and I think it'd be great, but it would be a major change for WRVU.

Unknown said...

Great thoughts. Between talking about the Titans, Vols, Predators, and Nashville Sounds, there will be no room for Vanderbilt.

Or at the very least, no heavy promotion of the teams and games. I wish they could have went to 560 am. At least its a sports station.

Anonymous said...

560 needs to increase it's power at night...you can hardly pick it up at night anywhere

Beauregard said...

WRVU can't run commercials because of its place on the "non-commercial" portion of the FM dial, and Vandy counts on commercial revenue from its broadcasts to offset some of the costs of the broadcasts.

When the Zone first came on the air, they tried to get UT sports first and then settled for Vandy (they know what's going to be the bigger draw). I wouldn't be surprised if Vandy moved before they had the chance to be dropped. Both UT and Vandy contracts were up this year.

You people who say you haven't liked the Zone since "you moved here" give it all away with that statement I put in quotes. You want to hear Mike & Mike and Rome because you are not interested in Nashville or Tennessee sports. You come to a place because it is so great, and then you don't want to be a part of what makes it so great.

Anonymous said...

I think this speaks to an even larger issue and it was mentioned in the article . . . Nashville has only ONE Sports Talk station. We need more.

With no competition 104.5 can do whatever they want and get away with it. Take their move to sign with ESPN - they are now an affiliate but the only ESPN programming they play are periodic Sports Center updates and overnight stuff. Where are Mike & Mike, The Herd and SVP? You are fooling yourself if you think they aren't doing this intentionally. They don't wnat ESPN radio programming in this market. How many times did they refer to ESPN as "the 4 letter network?" And now they are in bed with them? Come on. This is merely a guess, but I bet that Nashville is the only market in the nation with an NFL team that has only one major Sports Talk station.

Beauregard said...

You have it wrong about how the Zone ended up with ESPN Radio. Once 106.7 died its long-lingering death, ESPN Radio started looking for a new radio home in Nashville. None was found, most likely because ESPN radio comes with a high price tag and a set of restrictions. Once enough time passed, ESPN concluded no one in the Nashville market wanted ESPN Radio. This wasn't a good thing in the eyes of ESPN because Nashville is a major league market and no one here would be running their sponsors' commercials. Since they already had a relationship with the Zone's parent company because Citadel, while not the content owner or creator, is the distributor for ESPN Radio, ESPN went to the Zone and said, if you will run ESPN nights and weekends, then will give you this really great deal in exchange for playing our commercials.