Could another (positive) way to grow WNBA be … flagship radio stations?

Photo Credit: Akiem Bailum

The last couple of weeks have seen the somewhat toxic side of the WNBA’s growth. 

As the conversation shifts towards more positive ways to expand the W’s reach, one cannot help but think that one method could be ensuring that our soon-to-be 14 teams each have a flagship radio station. 

Finding WNBA content is easier than ever – and much of it is audio content. The WNBA has done deals in the past with iHeartMedia and channels on Sirius XM have simulcasted television broadcasts of games. 

Our very creative heads here at Beyond The W began turning towards the possibility – and we have come up with some interesting concepts for flagship radio stations for each of the 14 teams. With one major caveat – in our world, every team will be on FM. The WNBA is too good to have any of its teams relegated to AM radio.

Let us start in the far northeast with the Sun. They are in an interesting scenario where they would need at least two stations – and maybe a third. 

Connecticut would need a station in Hartford, a station in Uncasville and a station in the Bridgeport-New Haven area given Bridgeport is the Nutmeg State’s largest city. 

For Hartford, 97.9 WUCS is our pick to click. It is a Fox Sports station that is owned by iHeartMedia, but it was once the defacto flagship station for ESPN Radio given Bristol is part of its coverage area. For Uncasville, Mohegan Sun already operates an outlet in that part of the state. That station is Classic Rocker 102.3 the Wolf WMOS-FM. Cumulus actually owns the outlet.

As for Bridgeport, our pick to click would be R&B station 94.3 WYBC-FM. The station is a partnership between Connoisseur Media and Yale Broadcasting Company. 

New York Liberty

The Liberty are in an interesting scenario because its NBA brother in the Brooklyn Nets have been carried on WFAN 101.9/660 for some years. 

One would hypothetically think that because ESPN Radio in New York has the Knicks and Rangers that WFAN would want to counter with the Liberty and Nets. One problem is that WFAN is also the flagship station for New York Yankees baseball which would create plenty of conflict during the W season. 

If not WFAN, then perhaps 107.5 WBLS could be an option – especially given how active the Liberty are in New York’s large Black community. 

Also – Mega 97.9 sounds not too bad as a Spanish flagship.

Moving down Interstate 95 brings us to Washington. 

The two teams that have flagship radio stations under Ted Leonsis’ Monumental Sports umbrella are actually on different stations. The Washington Capitals are carried over WJFK-FM 106.7 The Fan and the Washington Wizards have their games airing on WTEM-AM 980 The Team. 

Both The Fan and The Team have the same owner in Audacy. It would be disrespectful to place one of our teams on AM and The Fan has that Washington Nationals commitment. So…where to place the Mystics?

Update…apparently we missed a release that came from Monumental Sports and the Mystics a bit earlier. Apparently, Leonsis is completely fine with placing the team on an AM station to start its newfound flagship life. 

On June 6, it was announced that Washington’s games will indeed be carried on 980 The Team. 

We have no idea what the name for the Toronto team will be but recent indications have hinted that colors and team name may be arriving as soon as later this summer. 

Obviously that is happening because they want to get those merchandise sales up. In Canada, sports stations on FM is not as common a phenomenon as it is in the United States, so Toronto may hypothetically be in a bit of a pickle. 

SportsNet 590 The Fan (Rogers) already has a near-monopoly on the sports radio market in Toronto with the Blue Jays, Raptors and Maple Leafs. TSN 1050 (Bell) has Toronto FC. It is fitting given Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is a subsidiary of Rogers, but the Toronto bid occurred outside of MLSE albeit with former MLSE executives. 

If Bell, we are thinking CHUM-FM 104.5. If Rogers either 590, 680 News or Kiss 92.5. 

Now to the southeast’s lone WNBA team. 

If there were a bidding war for Dream radio rights, one can expect the two leaders of sports radio coverage in Georgia to both be in the running. 

Those two stations are WZGC-FM 92.9 The Game and WCNN-AM 680 The Fan. One disadvantage of The Fan is that it is also an Atlanta Braves flagship and that likely would not jive well with ensuring a WNBA team gets full radio coverage. 

On the other side, The Game is the flagship radio station for the NFL’s Falcons, the NBA’s Hawks and MLS’ Atlanta United FC. During the summer months, only Atlanta United would cause significant overlap with the Dream. 

We could see “The Dream Plays Here” being a slogan – for 92.9. El Patron 96.7 for a Spanish flagship?

Moving west into Texas…

Dallas is also an interesting sports radio market. It was not that long ago that the flagship station of the Mavericks (KEGL-FM 97.1) flipped back to a Rock station after some months airing a hybrid of sports and “hot” talk to better fit being a Mavs’ flagship. 

Then there is Audacy-owned 105.3 The Fan which airs both the Cowboys and the Rangers. 

Then there is 96.7 The Ticket. It is actually, per the latest PPM numbers, the highest-rated sports radio station in the Metroplex despite only being the flagship station for one team – the NHL’s Dallas Stars. That sounds like a good landing spot for the Wings, doesn’t it? Also – get this team on Que Buena 94.1.

To the Midwest…

What does it say for a city’s sports radio market when the leading station in said market is on AM along with an FM translator? 

That is the case with Indianapolis. 1070 The Fan also has a simulcast on 107.5. 

Since translators can be a bit iffy at times, we decided to look elsewhere as to which station might serve as a great landing spot for Aliyah Boston, Caitlin Clark and company. 

How about…WTLC 106.7 – an R&B station. Basketball teams being on R&B outlets is not a new thing as the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Hornets were once on R&B stations. Also – find an affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa for good measure. 

This one also appears to be an interesting dive into how the Sky have been covered lately by Chicago radio stations. 

It appears that Audacy’s 670 The Score WSCR-AM has taken the lead on Sky coverage. One problem with 670 is that it also is the flagship station of the Chicago Cubs. 

As for The Score’s archrival in ESPN 1000, it too has a baseball commitment via the White Sox (though given how bad the South Siders have been this year their games probably ought to be pre-empted for the Sky). 

Instead we are looking elsewhere since we are not trying to stick any of our teams on FM. Perhaps iHeart’s V-103 could be a landing spot for the Sky along with Que Buena 105.1 on the Spanish end of things. 

The Lynx have been one of the more proactive teams throughout WNBA history when addressing its radio status. 

There was once a period of time where Lynx contests did have an audio element via a Country station called Bob-FM. It had three frequencies throughout Minnesota. 

Nowadays, KFAN 100.3 is the flagship station for Lynx basketball. The Lynx announced the pact earlier this calendar year. It was the first time since 2019 that Lynx games were carried on the aforementioned country outlet. In addition, Minnesota struck gold by announcing that Wendell Epps would be the voice of the Lynx on the radio. 

To the desert…

Anyone who knows anything about Arizona radio knows that there is one station that holds a virtual monopoly on the Phoenix sports radio market. 

That station is KMVP-FM Arizona Sports 98.7 which is owned and operated by Bonneville International. The station airs the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Suns and Arizona State. 

The tempting is aplenty to place the Mercury on the same 98.7 but given it is also the D-backs flagship opens the possibility of scheduling conflicts. If those scheduling conflicts were to happen, this means games would hypothetically be placed on ESPN 620 or KTAR-FM 92.3 which is a talk station and probably not one that would receive the approval of the majority of the X-Factor. 

If there is any team that deserves to be heard in crystal clear FM stereo, it is the Aces. 

With Vegas having emerged as a professional sports town that wins championships, more attention is being paid to its sports radio market. 

Fox Sports 98.9 happens to be where Vegas Golden Knights hockey airs and KOMP-FM 92.3 – a Rock station – is the flagship for the Raiders. 

A team as vibrant and successful as the Aces could certainly use a flagship radio station to compliment what they do. And while we are at it, ensure that the Aces have an affiliate in South Carolina for good measure.

Our picks? Q100.5 for English and La Buena 101.9 for Spanish.

Ten down and three to go…

The first of those three is another Original Eight team. 

An outsider who probably does not study Los Angeles radio regularly is probably thinking that as crowded with sports teams as the country’s No. 2 market is that it is a guarantee it has at least one sports station on FM. 

Los Angeles has no sports stations on FM. AM 570 makes its keep as the flagship station of the Los Angeles Dodgers while ESPN 710 makes its as the primary station airing Lakers games on the radio. 

Perhaps KNX-FM 97.1 would be a great fit for the Sparks while its AM simulcast still airs its All-News format. And 97.9 La Raza for a Spanish flagship.

Golden State Valkyries

We know what the Bay Area’s team will be called. 

We know their team’s colors, where they will play and where said team will be headquartered. 

As far as who will locally air Valkyries games, that is still a mystery. Obviously that question pertains to the television side, but what if, hypothetically, there was also a radio or audio side to this as well. 

KNBR is on 680, 1050 and 104.5 – but it is a San Francisco Giants-centric outlet especially during the summer months. 

The obvious choice has to be 95.7 The Game. When the Valkyries name and colors were announced, it was an opportunity for the team to have an identity completely separate from the Golden State Warriors. And this new team is already swimming in season ticket requests. Having the power of the Warriors brand to peak interest in the team even more would certainly help.

Last but not least…

The last time we checked, there are two primary sports stations in Seattle. One of them is on the FM dial and the other is not.

The one that is not on the FM dial is Seattle Sports 710 – the flagship radio outlet for both the Mariners and the Seahawks. The one that is? KJR 93.3 which also happens to be the flagship station for the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. 

It would be appropriate if the WNBA team that plays at Climate Pledge Arena was on the same station as the NHL team that also plays in the same venue. In addition it would be a great way to even further strengthen the relationship between the venue and iHeartRadio. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *