Six weeks after news talk radio station WTDY abruptly went off the air, the station has re-branded itself and is up and running in a new sports talk format.
Mid-West Family Broadcast Group launched WOZN "The Zone" on 1670 AM and 106.7 FM on Wednesday as CBS Sports Radio introduced its national talk show lineup nationwide the same day.
With numerous national radio personalities like Ed Schultz departing for other radio companies, it was becoming difficult for WTDY to be successful as a news talk station, said Randy Hawke, operations manager for WOZN and three other Madison stations.
"CBS Sports became available. It's a brand new product. When we found out about it, we had to evaluate whether we wanted to be the CBS affiliate for Madison," Hawke said.
WTDY went off the air in November, leaving eight employees jobless, including longtime Madison radio personality John "Sly" Sylvester.
Hawke said by the time WOZN is fully running, there will be just as many local employees at the new station.
Under the new format WOZN will air local talk programming from 5 to 8 a.m., including the "Farm Report with Pam Jahnke" and "Kidd Snuff and the Benchwarmers." From 8 a.m. on, WOZN will broadcast nationally syndicated sports talk shows featuring John Feinstein, Jim Rome, Doug Gottlieb and others.
WOZN is looking at additional local programming related to college football, but with the season nearly over, Hawke said that programming will have to wait. "Some of it is timing," he said.
After playing holiday music for more than a month, the former WTDY station aired two songs on repeat for more than five days leading up to WOZN's launch. Those songs — "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses and "Wherever I May Roam" by Metallica — were meant to build up excitement for the return of Jim Rome's show, known by fans as "The Jungle," Hawke added.
WOZN becomes Madison's third sports talk station, joining the Clear Channel-operated station The Big 1070 on 1070 AM and ESPN Radio, operated by Beaver Dam's Good Karma Broadcasting on 100.5 FM.
ESPN Radio started in Madison on 1070 AM in 1998, but switched to 100.5 FM in 2009, said Tim Scott, program director for The Big 1070.
Scott said the expansion of sports talk radio has been a win-win for sports fans in the region, but said it remained to be seen whether the market could accommodate all three.
"(Madison) is one of the richest sports markets in the Midwest and certainly in Wisconsin. Only time will tell whether it's big enough for three," he said.