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OKC a hot spot for sports talk radio

by Mel Bracht Published: August 17, 2007
Caribou Broadcasting (later acquired by Citadel Broadcasting) struck gold in 1998 when it launched the Sports Animal radio network and purchased WWLS-AM 640 for $3.7 million from John Fox.

The Sports Animal turned the sports/talk format into a cash machine, providing throngs of male listeners for advertisers and six-figure incomes for its top personalities. Al Eschbach, one of the Sports Animals' on-air talents, brought the sports/talk format to Oklahoma City in 1976 when he began a one-hour show on KTOK-AM 1000.

Last fall, the Sports Animal ranked No. 1 among sports/talk stations in the top 50 markets with a 4.5 share. Boston's WEEI was second with a 4.4. Both stations were featured in May on an ESPN "Outside the Lines” series on sports radio.

The Sports Animal's success has spawned two new competitors this year — Fox Sports Radio (KEBC-AM 1340) and Jox 930 (WKY-AM 930) — along with Norman's The Ref (KNOR-AM 1400). News talk KOKC-AM 1520 also launched an afternoon drive sports/talk show. Oklahoma City now has four sports stations, and that's not counting Enid's 1640 the Score and Perry's Triple Play Sports (FM 105.

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by Mel Bracht
Copy Editor, Sports Media
Mel Bracht is a copy editor on the presentation desk and also covers sports media. A 1978 graduate of Indiana University, Bracht has been a print journalist for 34 years. He started his career as sports editor of the Rensselaer (Ind.) Republican...
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Rating the five afternoon drive shows is highly subjective, but here are my favorites:

1. Jox 930, Ron Thulin and Jack Mildren: Thulin, a former TBS college football broadcaster, and Mildren, the former OU quarterback and lieutenant governor, quickly have become an entertaining team. Although Thulin works out of a studio in his San Antonio home, he does a good job of keeping tabs of local sports.

2. The Sports Animal, Al Eschbach, Jim Traber (contributors Dean Blevins, 5:20 p.m.; Mildren, 6 p.m.): They occasionally get sidetracked from sports (I never was a fan of "The Sopranos”) and Eschbach can lower the conversation into the gutter. Traber is at his best when he's irritated and his blood gets boiling.

3. The Ref, Berry Tramel and Rusty Olson. Similar to his columns in The Oklahoman, Tramel likes to stir things up and make controversial statements. Olson, a former Sports Animal producer, has been a good replacement for Myron Patton. Station is hindered by a weak signal.

4. KOKC, James Hale, Jimbo Elrod and Dave Lanning: As a recruiting guru and devout OU follower, Hale likely will generate an audience once listeners find him on the news/talk station. A former OU All-American defensive end, Elrod is a knowledgeable Sooner observer. Lanning doesn't fit into the mix.

5. Fox Sports Radio, David Garrett and Jenni Carlson: Although David and Jenni make a good team, the lack of callers forces them to fill the three-hour show with too much of their own conversation. Also hurt by a weak signal.


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