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Austin has four stations focused on nothing but sports

Gary Dinges, Static

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Austin's in love with the Longhorns.

The Round Rock Express, Texas Stars, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Cowboys, too.

So it's not too hard to believe our fair city has four – yes, four – stations focused 24/7/365 on nothing but sports. Combined, they broadcast 35,040 hours of news and analysis each year.

Border Media's 104.9 FM the Horn and Clear Channel-owned 1300 AM the Zone lead the pack but, looking at the average quarter-hour ratings, you usually won't find them in Arbitron's Top 10. Or even the Top 20.

They're still plenty profitable though, thanks to their laser focus on male sports fans, primarily in the 25-54 age demographic.

"A sports radio buy is a passionate buy," says Jon Madani, who co-hosts the "Buck on Sports" morning show on the Zone and serves as the station's program director. "The sales numbers have never been a problem for us."

The Horn is Border Media's most profitable station in Central Texas, according to Bob Proud, senior vice president and Austin market manager. The company also runs 1530-AM ESPN Austin and 1260-AM ESPN Deportes.

"We couldn't be happier with the progress we've made," he says. "The Horn's performing just incredibly."

Though all four stations focus on sports, that's where the similarities end. Each has a distinct personality.

With broadcast rights to a number of UT sports, the Zone brands itself as the Longhorn Station.

"This is Longhorn country, first and foremost," Madani says. "It's the big dog."

A number of the station's personalities have ties to UT. Morning host Bucky Godbolt was a running backs coach, afternoon co-host Rod Babers played Longhorns football, and his "Sports Buffet" partner Craig Way is the football team's play-by-play voice.

Proud points out that the Horn has programming originating in Austin from 6 to 10 a.m. and noon to 7 p.m. weekdays, more than any other sports station in the market.

"The Horn is predominantly a live and local station," he says. "The feedback we're getting is almost universally positive."

The Horn airs Express and Stars games, and it has local broadcast rights for a number of pro teams from across the state, including the Spurs, Cowboys and Texans. It's also the place to turn for Baylor and Texas Tech football.

Sister station ESPN Austin carries that network's national programming, including "Mike and Mike in the Morning."

"People continue to move to Austin, and many of them are focused on things beyond Texas," Proud says.

And Border Media's ESPN Deportes offers round-the-clock sports news and analysis in Spanish. Its listeners are tuned in, on average, 7 hours and 15 minutes each week, Proud says. That's more than any other station in the market.

The three sports stations have helped the company see huge gains in ad dollars year to year.

"Our revenues are leading the market in growth," Proud says. "We've already surpassed last year's revenue."

Sports on Austin's radio dial

104.9 FM, the Horn

1260 AM, ESPN Deportes

1300 AM, the Zone

1530 AM, ESPN Austin

Blues on the Green update

KGSR reports 12,000 music lovers — a record — attended the station's first Blues on the Green show of the season, June 8 at Zilker Park, catching a free performance by Bob Schneider.

A typical show draws about 8,000 folks.

Upcoming acts include Bright Light Social Hour with Suzanna Choffel (Wednesday); Marcia Ball (July 6); Old 97's (Aug. 3); and Los Lonely Boys (Aug. 17).

All shows start at 7 p.m.

National honors for KUT

Austin NPR affiliate KUT has — for the first time — won a pair of prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Awards.

Presented by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the awards recognize excellence in electronic journalism.

Competing against radio stations from across the U.S., KUT took top honors in the Audio Reporting: Hard News category for a piece on health care by reporter Nathan Bernier and in the Audio News Series category for a look at the end of the space shuttle program.

Emily Donahue served as producer for the NASA series, which featured reporters Nathan Bernier, Mose Buchele, Matt Largey, Ben Philpott and Jennifer Stayton.

Both pieces advanced to the national competition after winning regional Murrow awards earlier this year. Four other KUT entries also won at the regional level. The station competes in Region 6, which includes Oklahoma and Texas.

Around the dial ...

The list of nominees for the Texas Radio Hall of Fame is out, and a number of Austin broadcasters – past and present – made the list. They include John Aielli, Bama Brown, Fred Cantu, Jeff Carrol, Kevin Connor, Mac Daniels, Angela Davis, Dave Dossett, Scott Gillmore, Charlie Hodge, JB Hager and Sandy McIlree, Todd Jeffries, Red Jones, Loris Lowe, Ed Mayberry and Matt Sadler.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987