The sun has risen again for Grand Strand fans of “Mike & Mike in the Morning” and ESPN Radio.
WRNN-AM 1450, a sister station of WRNN-FM “Hot Talk” 99.5, has become an affiliate of ESPN’s radio network, which is based in Bristol, Conn., and where Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic broadcast 6-10 a.m. Mondays-Fridays. Their show also is simulcast on WKZQ-FM 96.1 of Myrtle Beach and on cable TV at ESPN2.
When Cumulus Media’s WSEA-FM 100.3 “Sports Radio – The Team” joined the nationwide launch of CBS Sports Radio on Jan. 2, that took ESPN Radio off the horizon from Myrtle Beach radio.
John Sheftic, market manager for NextMedia Group of Myrtle Beach, said his company had “been working for a while” to join the ESPN Radio family,” an arrangement that took effect Thursday.
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“We’ve been chomping at the bit to promote it,” he said, especially with “Greeny” and Golic in town April 15 for their annual visit and broadcast from the “Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am” in North Myrtle Beach.
Sheftic said NextMedia waited until Thursday for “kind of a soft opening” to go on the air with ESPN Radio, “with no technical issues.”
“It seemed to run just like silk,” he said later in the morning.
The process for shifting a station’s format takes much preparations, especially for WRNN-AM, which had its own lineup of talk-radio programs such as “The Clark Howard Show replaced with the ESPN Radio lineup, Sheftic said.
“You want to make sure it’s all ready before you invite everyone to the party,” he said.
WKZQ, which had carried “The Free Beer and Hot Wings Show” into this year, before adding “Mike & Mike,” will remain a rock music station outside of the weekday morning drive time, Sheftic said.
“ ‘Free Beer and Hot Wings,’ it was a good show,” he said, “but we didn’t feel audiences would relate to that as well as ‘Mike & Mike.’ And, ESPN brand is the No. 1 brand in sports broadcasting.”
He said local listeners missed having an ESPN outlet on their radio dial.
“People are just so passionate about that brand,” Sheftic said, “that as soon as it came open, we knew if we had the opportunity, we had to do something with it. ... The ESPN folks were great to work with, too. They also wanted to be in our radio market.”
Plans for “local tie-ins” have begun, such as a program for the local golf scene, and that NextMedia will continue airing Clemson University Tigers football and men’s basketball games, Sheftic said. He said Clemson’s Atlantic Coast Conference games have aired on WRNN-FM, and nonconference games on WRNN-AM.
Feedback from the first day under ESPN’s banner scored well, Sheftic said, “with not one negative call.”
He also said he saw firsthand just how “Mike & Mike” are “beloved in the market,” when fans were lined up at 5 a.m. two weeks ago to pack House of Blues at Barefoot Landing and watch their radio broadcast.
As the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next week, sports lovers on the Grand Strand can boast of having a hat trick of stations, with ESPN and CBS Radio sports outlets, and two Cumulus stations that simulcast mostly Fox Sports Radio programs, on WHSC-FM 101.9 and WHSC-AM 1050, which carry Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball games with host Travis Lucian.
Sheftic said he ran a Cumulus group of stations locally about a decade ago, and later worked in Panama City, Fla., before joining NextMedia in September. NextMedia also owns two other stations: adult contemporary WMYB-FM “Star” 92.1 and classic rock WYAV-FM “Wave” 104.1.
“I never sold my house here,” Sheftic said. “I always wanted to come back to the market.”