WEPN (1050 AM) is a 24-hour Hispanic sports talk formatted radio station in New York City featuring national and local sports talk programs and live broadcasts of sports matches. It is the New York affiliate for ESPN Deportes Radio, owned and operated by The Walt Disney Company, the network's owner. Its transmitter site is located on the border of Secaucus and North Bergen, New Jersey, and its studios are on the 17th floor at 2 Penn Plaza in Midtown Manhattan.
It is the radio home for the New York Jets of the National Football League. There are also partnerships with Syracuse University and the United States Military Academy to air college football games, but those usually air on former sister station WABC or current sister station WQEW due to scheduling conflicts. WEPN currently has overflow agreements with WNYM and WWRL, the former airing Knicks or Rangers games that overlap with each other or with the Jets and the latter airing when there are two overlapping games.
The 1050 frequency has a long history prior to this format. Starting in the 1920s as WHN, it played a diversified format. It was renamed WMGM in the late 1940s, continuing the same format until a switch to rock & roll in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As WHN again, it played adult standards in the 1960s and country music in the 1970s and 1980s (the format it was best known for). In the late 1980s as WFAN it was the original frequency for the very successful first of its kind all-sports station. Then began a truly convoluted set of ownership, call letter, and format changes from the Spanish language WUKQ to WEVD, a low-rated brokered station in the 1990s, to today's incarnation as WEPN.
Originally owned by the Ridgewood Times newspaper, WHN was one of the first radio stations in New York City, going on the air on March 18, 1922 at AM frequency 833. Original shows included children's programming. A court case in the 1920s against AT&T established some of the early legal principles for American broadcasting.
The station played jazz and contemporary dance music, including Sophie Tucker, Fletcher Henderson, and Duke Ellington, as well as broadcasting Columbia University football games. In 1928 the station was bought by the Loew's Theatre Organization. During the 1920s the station's frequency changed to 830, 760, and then 1010. In the 1930s it broadcast the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, which was picked up by the CBS Radio Network.
WHN made its final frequency change to 1050 in 1941. During the 1940s the programs Radio Newsreel and Newsreel Theater were prototypes for what would later become the all-news radio format. The station broadcast Brooklyn Dodgers games with Red Barber as well as the New York Giants and New York Rangers with Marty Glickman.
On September 15, 1948, the station changed its call letters to WMGM, reflecting Loew's then-ownership of movie studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer. The station had a diversified format that included pop standard hits, drama, talk, and sports, and briefly featured New York talk legend Barry Gray.
In the mid to late 1950s the station switched to playing Top 40 rock and roll hits, which covered a broad spectrum of music. The '50s brand of Top 40 played by WMGM and its competitors included what might today be considered rhythm and blues and country music, in addition to popular instrumentals (Percy Faith's 1960 "Theme from A Summer Place" and Acker Bilk's 1962 "Stranger on the Shore" hit the top of the charts during this era).
Nevertheless, WMGM was overall more up-tempo than the competition, featuring artists like Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Lymon, the Crystals, the Tokens, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Ricky Nelson, and Bill Haley. Playlists were narrower and more predictable than mainstream MOR stations'. WMGM's deejay lineup included morning man Ted Brown and the Redhead (Ted's then-wife), Jerry Marshall, Peter Tripp, Norm Stevens, Dick Shepherd, Bob Lewis, Ed Stokes, and Bob Callen. Among its newsreaders were Bill Edmunds, Dick DeFrietas, and Aime Govin.
WMGM had a theme song incorporating the names of many of its DJs in the 1960s. The words were:
He was a US Marshal and Jerry was his name.
So they called him Jerry Marshall and widespread was his fame.
He went to catch the outlaws, Bob Callen and Ted Brown
Who were roping old Dick Shephard's sheep and herding them to town.
Sing a song about Western hero men will never ride the range again.
They're on 1050 WMGM.
During its Top 40 incarnation, WMGM was for a time home to New York Yankees baseball with Mel Allen, Red Barber, and Phil Rizzuto. Ex-athletes Marty Glickman and Gussie Moran worked Yankees pre- and post-game shows from the studio.
By 1962, with 1010 WINS, 770 WABC, and 570 WMCA also playing predominantly rock and roll music, WMGM-1050 was sold by Loew's to Storer Broadcasting, which owned mostly TV stations, but also owned WIBG, a rock and roll radio station less than 100 miles away in Philadelphia.
Storer immediately dropped Top 40 for slow-paced standards and beautiful music, the province of much of FM radio at the time. The station was renamed WHN again on February 28, 1962 with special permission of the FCC. (Three-letter call sign sets are a rarity and have not been issued to broadcast stations since the early 1930s, let alone on the AM band; WHN, WGH in Newport News, Virginia, and KHJ in Los Angeles are the only known AM stations that have been able to revert to their original three-letter calls.)
Through the 1960s, WHN became New York City's Mutual Radio Network affiliate. On-air hosts included Jim Ameche (brother of actor Don Ameche), Jack Sterling, and, early on, the comedy team of Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding (Bob and Ray). (Morning host Ted Brown remained with WHN for only a short time of transition, heading eventually to MOR WNEW.)
Longtime WABC fixture Herb Oscar Anderson moved in to the morning slot by the late 60s. The station played vocalists such as Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, and Johnny Mathis, plus a heavy dose of instrumentalist groups, notably Percy Faith, Al Hirt, Ray Conniff, Henry Mancini, and others. The station was about 75% vocal and 25% instrumental. Ratings were decent, but the demographic was older by a generation or two. WHN eventually picked up New York Mets baseball (with hosts Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner), after the team's original NYC flagship, WABC 770, dropped the rights. The station became a launching pad for the radio sports broadcasting career of Marv Albert, who hosted the "Interwoven Scoreboard" after Mets games and later on reintroduced New York fans to the Knicks and Rangers on radio.
Initially, Rangers games were broadcast in small doses: the last two minutes of the first and second periods, then the entire third period. The entire metropolitan area enjoyed Red Holzman's miracle 1969–70 Knicks championship run, much of which was blacked out on TV.
Overall, though, WHN's ratings were still low. By 1971, WHN began mixing in softer songs by artists like Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, The Beatles, The Association, and others with their easy listening format. Still, the ratings were below average. After a lot of research, on February 26, 1973, WHN became a country music station. The New York Metropolitan Area had never been a country music hot spot, and prior to WHN, the area had only had two country music stations: WJRZ in Hackensack, New Jersey (which changed to a Top 40 format with the call letters of WWDJ in 1971, and to a religious format in 1974), and WTHE in Mineola, New York, which also later changed to a religious format.
In the early years of WHN's country format, it featured on-air personalities such as Lee Arnold, Del Demontreux, Larry Kenney, "Big" Wilson, Ray Otis, and Jack Spector. Some of these were holdovers from the previous middle of the road format.
As a country music station, they played artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, Lynn Anderson, Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, Charley Pride, Mickey Gilley, Ronnie Milsap, and many more. Also, they mixed in non-country artists that had country-friendly songs such as The Eagles, Elvis Presley, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt, and others.
Over the years, as WHN evolved as a country station, on-air personalities such as Mike Fitzgerald, Dan Taylor, Sheila York, Dana Lauren, Bob "Wizard" Wayne, Dan Daniel, Jessie, Sheila York, Alan Colmes, Robbie Roman, Brian Kelly, Stan Martin, Ed Baer, Robbie Roman, Jerry Carroll, and others moved in. During this era, WHN was programmed by Ed Salamon, who was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2006. WHN is considered the most listened to Country radio station in history.
In the late 1970s, Mutual Radio bought WHN from Storer. In 1980, WHN got some competition when WRVR was sold to Viacom and dropped jazz for country and became WKHK (also known as "Kick 106 FM"). As a result, ratings went down for WHN. They added New York Mets baseball to their lineup in 1983. WHN had previously carried the Mets from 1972 until 1974.
In 1984, WKHK became Lite FM WLTW, playing a soft adult-contemporary format. Without direct competition, WHN remained country, with decent ratings. In 1985 Doubleday Broadcasting bought WHN. In 1986 Emmis Communications bought WHN. Emmis added sports talk in the evenings, but kept the country format the rest of the day until 1987.
In late April 1987, Emmis announced that WHN would drop country on July 1 for an all-sports format, the first of its kind on radio. They would drop the WHN calls and become WFAN (The Fan). In May, NBC announced that Adult Contemporary WYNY 97.1 (today's WQHT) would go country on July 1, the same day as WHN ended the format. Dan Taylor signed off at 3 p.m. with "For The Good Times" by Ray Price on July 1, 1987.
The first voice heard on WFAN was that of Suzyn Waldman with a sports update at 3:00 pm, followed by the first show, which was hosted by Jim Lampley. Waldman would report for the station, covering the Yankees and Knicks, for 14 years. Other personalities that hosted shows besides Lampley in the 1050 kHz years included Bill Mazer, Pete Franklin, Greg Gumbel, and Ed Coleman. WFAN also inherited broadcast rights to the defending World Series champion New York Mets from WHN, who had held the rights for several years. Ratings were low initially but gradually improved.
In early 1988 General Electric, which now owned NBC through its purchase of RCA two years earlier, announced that it would sell off the NBC Radio division. In February of that year GE made a multi-station deal with Emmis and, in New York, the WNBC and WYNY licenses were included in the sale. This ended up giving Emmis control of four frequencies: 97.1-FM, 103.5-FM, 660-AM and 1050-AM, whereas duopolies were not permitted yet by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Emmis ended up moving their Dance/R&B "Hot" format and call letters WQHT over to the 97.1 frequency (while selling the 103.5 facility and WYNY's intellectual property over to Westwood One), and then moved WFAN's format and call letters from 1050 to 660 on October 7, 1988 at 5:30 pm, replacing "66 WNBC" which signed off forever.
As for the 1050 license, the Spanish Broadcasting System bought it, intending to swap it with cash to the Jewish Daily Forward for their FM station, WEVD 97.9. However, Spanish Broadcasting already owned WSKQ, AM 620 in Newark, New Jersey. The deal for WEVD could not be consummated at the same time as Emmis' purchase of 660, which left Spanish Broadcasting owning two AM stations in the New York market, which (as was the case with Emmis earlier) was not permitted under FCC rules at that time.
The FCC granted them a temporary waiver to run 1050 on a noncommercial basis until it could be transferred. Therefore, following WFAN's move to 660, 620 WSKQ flipped from Spanish Adult Contemporary to Spanish Oldies while the 1050 facility became "KQ 1050" WUKQ, playing Spanish Adult Contemporary music (commercial-free, to satisfy the FCC requirement).
For the first few hours after the switch of WFAN to the 660 facility, WUKQ broadcast a recorded message which was continuously looped stating:
"This is WUKQ-AM New York, operating at 1050 Kilohertz. If you are looking for SportsRadio 1050, we've moved... down the dial to 660-AM. Join us now for the new SportsRadio 66 WFAN."
The FCC approved the trade of WUKQ for WEVD on February 1, 1989. Under the deal, the Spanish AC format on 620 would move to 97.9-FM, and the station would become FM-98 WSKQ-FM. Meanwhile, WEVD's call letters and programming moved to the 1050 facility. Dating back to October 20, 1927, WEVD had been the radio station owned by the Workman's Circle (Arbeter Ring) in New York City. Its call letters were a tribute to legendary Socialist Party leader Eugene Victor Debs, who died one year earlier.
This was WEVD's second existence on the AM dial, as it was originally a time-share at 1330-AM with WPOW, an arrangement that lasted until 1984. WEVD soon added an FM counterpart at 107.5-FM in 1950, which then moved to 97.9-FM in 1952. Both stations maintained the same programming through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The AM station was sold on March 2, 1981 for $1.1 million to Salem Communications, and changed the call letters to WNYM (today WWRV) while WEVD continued on the FM dial.
By 1988 the station was mostly an outlet for leased access foreign language programming. WEVD had a brokered format with Jewish programming (in Yiddish and English), ethnic programs, talk shows, and a big band show with Danny Stiles. The station generated cash flow by selling blocks of airtime, which allowed it to be profitable despite minimal ratings.
By the mid 1990s, WEVD was branded as News-Talk 1050 WEVD, and had a talk format with a liberal emphasis on weekdays, with ethnic programming at night and on weekends. Talk hosts included New York sports legend Bill Mazer, former New York mayor Ed Koch, Jay Diamond, Sam Greenfield, and Alan Colmes.
During most of 1050's existence as WEVD, the station broadcast Mets, Jets, Knicks and Rangers games produced by WFAN, when WFAN was already broadcasting another game. WFAN game overruns are now broadcast on WBBR.
In 2001, WEVD entered into a local marketing agreement with ABC/Disney and added ESPN Radio's The Dan Patrick Show to the talk lineup. Despite a public campaign to save the old format, the LMA was signed into effect. During its final day on-air as News-Talk 1050 WEVD, the outraged public campaign was subtly extended into the station's control room, as soon-to-be terminated staffers occasionally interrupted portions of the brokered programming with audio clips, some of which contained obscenities.
On September 2, 2001, WEVD began running ESPN Radio full-time, albeit having simulcast WABC's coverage of the September 11 attacks nine days later. The first local voice on 1050 ESPN Radio was Don La Greca.
The call-sign was changed to WEPN on April 28, 2003 after being sold to ABC/Disney outright for $78 million. They continued to run the station as 1050 ESPN Radio. For years, WEPN billed itself as New York City's only all-sports station, since competitor WFAN's former morning show, Imus in the Morning, was primarily a politically-based talk show. However, this is now a misnomer, since Don Imus has been replaced by a sports-themed show, Boomer and Carton in the Morning.
Despite the fact that it is a 50,000 watt station, it cannot be heard clearly in many parts of the New York metropolitan area, especially west of New York City and in Suffolk County on Long Island. WEPN has a highly directional signal, due primarily to the fact that there is another 50,000 watt station on 1050, CHUM a few hundred miles to the northwest in Toronto, and yet another 50,000 watt station, KYW, in Philadelphia next door on the dial at 1060 AM. WEPN must also suppress its signal to the southwest to avoid interfering with a high-powered Mexican clear-channel station in Monterrey, Nuevo León.According to Arbitron data of as early 2006, WFAN's daytime ratings are about 3 points higher on average than WEPN's, though WFAN's most-known and now-defunct Mike and the Mad Dog show had been airing since 1989, or well over a decade longer than WEPN has existed. Because of WEPN's limited signal, all Jets games once were simulcast on WABC, which reaches more of the suburbs. The station has also worked with MSG Network to find affiliates for Knicks and Rangers games outside WEPN's coverage area. Early in 2008, to strengthen the reach of WEPN, ESPN reached Local marketing agreements to simulcast WEPN on WLIR in Hampton Bays, extending WEPN's reach to eastern Long Island, and on WNJE in Flemington (for New Jersey's ESPN), extending WEPN's reach into the Skylands Region and the Trenton market. WNJE broadcasts the WEPN signal full-time. WLIR broke off the simulcast in the summer of 2011 when the station was sold to a religious broadcaster.
Programs on WEPN (Up to 9/6/12)
While WEPN does broadcast ESPN Radio's programming, many preemptions are made.
The daily schedule starts at 5 a.m. with Maxed Out in the Morning, hosted by Jared Max. Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN Radio's morning program, follows from 6-10 am. The first two hours of The Herd with Colin Cowherd follow. The remainder of The Herd as well as one-third of The Scott Van Pelt Show is preempted by WEPN's midday show, now hosted by Ryan Ruocco and Robin Lundberg, which airs until 2 PM. Mike Lupica then follows with an hour-long program to lead into The Michael Kay Show, WEPN's long-running flagship talk show. Kay's program airs from 3 PM until 7 PM, preempting the remainder of Van Pelt's show as well as The Doug Gottlieb Show. ESPN SportsCenter AllNight airs overnights.
WEPN does not air any of ESPN Radio's regularly scheduled weeknight programming either, choosing instead to feature games from the New York Rangers and New York Knicks during their respective seasons, local programming hosted by Stephen A. Smith and Bill Daughtry, and various other games that ESPN Radio might not necessarily carry including coverage of college basketball games provided by ISP Sports and Westwood One and college football games provided by Compass Media Networks. Since 2006 WEPN has been the New York home of Westwood One's NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship coverage; although the station still shares coverage of some games with Westwood One's flagship WFAN, WEPN is home to most of the tournament's action including the Final Four and the National Championship.
WEPN's weekend lineup largely consists of ESPN Radio's national programming.
During baseball season beginning in 2008, the 6 p.m. hour of The Michael Kay Show is devoted to baseball and is known as New York Baseball Tonight, where Kay co-host Don LaGreca presides with Buster Olney over an hour of strictly baseball talk. For the 2010 football season, New York Football Live followed Kay's program. WEPN contributor Bonnie Bernstein and former New York Jet linebacker and WEPN studio host Greg Buttle discussed football for two hours five nights a week.
WEPN alumni include Max Kellerman, who hosted The Max Kellerman Show on both WEPN and XM Radio's ESPN Xtra; Stephen A. Smith, whose Stephen A. Smith Show originated at WEPN before becoming a national broadcast over ESPN Radio; Brian Kenny, who co-hosted Kellerman's show for several months in 2008 (coincidentally, Kenny returned to radio in 2009 to host The Brian Kenny Show on ESPN Radio, which WEPN preempts); and others. For several years WEPN was the New York affiliate for the syndicated Jim Rome Show, where it aired on a ten-hour tape delay. The station stopped airing the show in early 2009.
In preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Irene in the Tri-State area, WEPN suspended regular programming on August 27, 2011 to simulcast live Eyewitness News coverage from sister station WABC-TV.
Bidding for baseball
WEPN is expected to bid for the radio rights for either the New York Yankees, currently on WCBS or New York Mets, from their longtime home of WFAN. Both teams have contracts that expire at the end of the 2013 season, with the Yankees purposely extending their deal with WCBS to expire at the same time as the Mets, for better leverage. It has been reported that WEPN has been looking to move to a stronger frequency to accommodate having a Major League Baseball team full-time.
Move to FM
On April 26, 2012, it was announced an agreement was made to move WEPN's programming to WRKS 98.7 FM. 1050AM and 98.7FM began simulcasting at Midnight on April 30, 2012. At Midnight on September 6, 2012, the AM-FM simulcast ended, with 1050 AM airing a loop of sweepers alternating bilingually in English and Spanish announcing that ESPN New York 98.7FM will no longer be heard on 1050 AM and that ESPN Deportes Nueva York will launch at 2PM on September 7, 2012. The English language sweepers were voiced by various hosts on ESPN New York 98.7FM including Mike & Mike, Michael Kay, and Colin Cowherd, among others. The Spanish language sweepers were voiced presumably by an announcer for ESPN Deportes as well as some of that network's hosts. The loop aired for 38 hours until September 7, 2012 at 2PM, at which time WEPN commenced ESPN Deportes Nueva York programming. Promos highlighting the network's programming aired during the first half-hour, and regular programming began at 2:30PM.
- Official website
- AIRWAVES RADIO Journal V9 #89 - "Re: 1050 NYC (was: Relate These Phrases For Me)" explains the complex callsign changes related to WHN.
- New York Radio Guide station history
- NYC AM Radio History station history
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