A new management team is about to take charge at WMVP AM-1000, the sports/talk flagship of ESPN Radio in Chicago.
In a surprise move Wednesday, ESPN Radio, a unit of Walt Disney Co., announced a long-term local marketing agreement with Good Karma Brands. Effective September 29, the Wisconsin-based company will lease the station and assume control of all operations at ESPN Radio Chicago.
Terms of the deal, including whether it provides for an option to buy the station, were not disclosed.
While the station will continue to be branded as ESPN 1000 (and licensed to ESPN Radio), it’s unclear how the move will affect the local talent roster.
The announcement said only that Good Karma would “expand its affiliate relationship” with ESPN Radio and that the station would “feature a lineup of local and national sports talk programming and ESPN Radio’s national play-by-play lineup,” including the NBA, MLB, NFL and college football.
It’s a good bet that the popular afternoon team of Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman will continue for the foreseeable future. But the fate of other local hosts, including David Kaplan, Carmen DeFalco, John “Jurko” Jurkovic and Jonathan Hood may be less certain.
Jim Pastor, vice president and general manager of ESPN 1000, announced he will retire at the end of the year. He told friends Wednesday he was “100 percent on board” with the move.
“Few people will ever match the experience I’ve had over 27 incredible years with Disney, including the last 15 with ESPN,” Pastor said. “I could not be more proud of what we’ve accomplished at ESPN 1000 or more supportive of the decision to affiliate with Good Karma. . . . For me, I’m ready to dial it back, spend more time with the family and go back to sitting in the cheap seats.”
Founder and CEO of Good Karma Brands is Craig Karmazin, the son of Mel Karmazin, former CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio and former CEO of Viacom.
“Our Midwest roots have afforded us the opportunity to see the passion of Chicago sports fans up close for over two decades,” Craig Karmazin said in a statement. “We are so excited to extend our commitment to being ESPN’s best in class local operator into what will now be our largest market.”
Good Karma Brands includes WTMJ, a news and sports station in Milwaukee, seven ESPN-affiliated radio stations, and two other radio stations in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Traug Keller, ESPN senior vice president, said in a statement: “Good Karma has proven to be an excellent local affiliate that has shown expertise in local media operations and sales while being a strong steward of the ESPN brand. This is a smart business decision that allows us to continue to serve local sports fans with the compelling content they crave.”
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, ESPN 1000 tied for 25th place overall with a 1.5 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 418,900. Its main competitor, Entercom sports/talk WSCR 670-AM, tied for seventh place with a 3.8 share and weekly cume of 946,200.