New Years brought more than just a change of date to the Baton Rouge area. At the stroke of midnight, marking the calendar change from 2011 to 2012, listeners to 1210AM (WSKR) “The Score” were greeted to a change in format from sports talk to gospel.
Friday, December 30th, was business as usual on 1210 “The Score”. Hosts showed up for their shows, board operators showed up to produce the shows, and callers called to discuss the topics of the day in Baton Rouge sports.
Hosts even promoted where they would be broadcasting during the national championship game on January 9th in New Orleans.
The format change came just 9 days from the biggest weekend in Louisiana sports history. Outside of LSU competing against Alabama for the national championship on January 9th, the New Orleans Saints will be hosting the Detroit Lions on January 7th in an NFC Wild Card playoff game.
There were rumors circulating amongst the media in Baton Rouge that significant changes were coming to 1210. Some thought the station was going to be sold, others believed that there would be an on-air talent shake-up. None thought a format change was coming.
1210AM started out as a Christian talk station, but changed to an all-sport's talk format in 1997 when it was acquired by Clear Channel communications. The station became an outlet for women's basketball games to be broadcasted on since the sister station, 1150 WJBO, served as the flagship station for LSU sports.
The following year in 1998 Clear Channel and WJBO lost the contract to LSU sports to rival Guaranty Broadcasting which began broadcasting games on 98.1FM.
“The Score” often prided itself on its 11 straight hours of local sports programming. Jordy Hultberg started the day at 7am and was followed by the Press Box Show with Jimmy Ott at 9am. Buddy's Sports Talk with Buddy Songy began at noon followed by Pelican Sports Radio at 3pm and the station ended it's local programming block with Condon's Corner with Richard Condon from 4pm-6pm.
On the weekends, 1210 continued with local programming by airing The Real Deal High School Sports Show and on Sunday's with Sports Sunday, the first show to be cut in preparation for the format change. During high school football season, the John Fine Show, which broadcasted Denham Springs football, could be heard as well. That show was the second to be released from Clear Channel in preparation for the change in format.
The 11 straight hours began shrinking in early December when Richard Condon was placed on an extended leave of absence by station management. Rather than bringing in guest hosts to sub for Condon while he was on leave, WSKR management instead chose to broadcast The Loose Cannons, a FOX Sports syndicated show.
Early December was the last time Richard Condon would be on-air for “The Score” in Baton Rouge.
It was in December two years ago that ESPN radio was re-introduced to the Baton Rouge area. Initially, ESPN programming was heard on WIBR (1300AM) beginning in February 2007 but Hurricane Gustav, which hit Baton Rouge in September 2008, damaged the tower to such an extent that it never was brought back up.
WIBR had been a staple on the Baton Rouge airwaves since 1948.
ESPN has proven to be very successful since returning to Baton Rouge. To go along with national programs like Mike & Mike, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, and The Scott Van Pelt Show, ESPN Baton Rouge also introduced a new drive-time show: After Further Review with Matt Mascona.
Since his introduction, Mascona has been the premier local on-air talent for ESPN Baton Rouge. A former producer and host for 1210AM, Mascona consistently interviews quality guests such as broadcasters, coaches, and national media to go along with his regular segments with local sports figures like Lee Feinswog, Mike Detillier, and Jacques Doucet.
After Further Review's regimented, organized format with limited callers was a significant change from 1210's caller driven radio format.
Since returning to the airwaves on an FM station, ESPN Baton Rouge has pulled in three times the revenue that 1210AM did.
The operating cost of 1210 was the main reason for the format change.
Out of Clear Channel's cluster of stations in the Baton Rouge area (KRVE, WYNK, WJBO, WFMF), it was WSKR (1210) that demanded 46% of the labor cost while only generating 3% of the cluster revenue.
Outside of Richard Condon, the other 1210 personalities were all sports contractors and had to pay for their air time.
ESPN Baton Rouge also made its presence felt at LSU press conferences which is something that 1210 did not do. When Matt Mascona and his co-host, Josh Innes, hosted the popular show The Fastest Hour on 1210AM, they would be able to play several clips from press conferences while having several quality guests lined up for their hour long program.
That type of dedication and effort shows up in Mascona's show on ESPN Baton Rouge.
There were ways to continue broadcasting 1210 as an all-sports channel considering it was a Fox Sports affiliate. The format that New Orleans based station WIST 690am has established seems to be working well.
Dan Patrick and Jim Rome, both Fox Sports shows, could have been played while 1210 broadcasts it's own morning show (Jordy Hultberg) and have two local shows in the afternoon. If not both Dan Patrick and Jim Rome, then one or the other to allow for more local programming.
A move to include more national programming (Dan Patrick, Jim Rome) coupled with a handful of local shows would have allowed Clear Channel to include more of their own advertisements during peak listening hours while also still providing the same local angle that Baton Rouge listeners have appreciated throughout the years.
This move coincides with the previous moves made by Clear Channel to lay off long-time Baton Rouge radio personalities Scott Innes and Clarence Buggs along with Margie Maybe and several full-time and part-time employees in late October.
The death of “The Score” 1210AM ends an era in Baton Rouge radio by not having two competing sports stations in the same market while also having only one local show being broadcast during peak listening hours. Mascona's After Further Review will be the only local show to air between the hours of 6am-6pm Monday through Friday in the Baton Rouge area.
The all-local sports talk 1210AM made a valiant run but now the Baton Rouge community has lost its last outlet to listen to local sports topics all day.