The Upstart Sports-Talk Station Is Making Some Strides

We've been hearing this since 1560 The Game went on the air, but the time is finally coming.

Pending one last final approval from the FCC, come some time next month, the station should be broadcasting a booming 15,000-watt signal from Katy that will cover the entire city. The new signal will be coming along at just the right time for the station as 1560 has claimed Sporting News Radio from 610 and will be broadcasting Sporting News' late-night programming.

Increasing its signal strength has been a lengthy process for 1560. The station had to put in a request to the FCC. Then it did an engineering bandwidth and footprint study which was filed with the FCC. The FCC reviewed the study, then posted the review for public comment, which gave other license holders the opportunity to have a say -- for 1560, this was every radio station on the dial from 1460 to 1600 and within 1,000 miles of the proposed transmitter. It was found that the proposed signal would affect the signal of a station in Mexico which caused 1560 to slightly modify it's proposal, which then caused the process to start over.

Then came the construction permitting process, then the construction.

Then there was field testing of the signal. Then the FCC reviews the field-testing results, there's more time for prospective complaints, then, if everything passes muster, the station can go with its new transmitter.

"It was a $1.8-million build out," 1560 program director Chance McClain said regarding the new signal. "In this bad economy...I like to think of it that we infused a couple of millions dollars back into the economy, particularly in Katy. It's amazing. It's massive -- nine 200-foot towers....It's an enormous undertaking to go from a little bitty 100-watt nighttime [signal] in Bellaire" to what the station is about to have.

"We are literally waiting for the FCC," McClain said. "We've already passed [all the tests], we're just waiting for the stamp."

Without the stronger signal, 1560 wouldn't be getting Sporting New Radio for overnight. "We wanted SNR from the very beginning," McClain said. "Eighteen months later, [SNR says] hey, maybe they do know what they're doing. And they see the trends, everybody can see how things are trending and you want to get on a rising ship, I guess."

And 1560 is the rising ship, especially during morning drive. While 610 has more overall listeners at a given point in the day, 1560 claims the greater number of listeners over a longer time period. This means more loyal listeners, and more loyal listeners makes the advertisers happy.

And while 97.5 FM seems to have found a spot as a national sports programmer, the other two sports stations in the city are in flux. Along with losing Sporting News, 610 has been losing talent, and 790 has been caught up in the Clear Channel layoff mix, losing employees and being stuck with Fox Sports Radio which now, at night, just repeats highlights from the daytime programming.

Along with Sporting News at night, 1560 is also adding Tim Brando's mid-morning Sporting News program, which will be heavy on college sports, starting on August 17, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (Sporting News overnight will not begin until September 14.) The morning show with John Granato and Lance Zierlein will move to 6 a.m.-10 a.m. Ken Hoffman and David Nuno's show will then air from 1 p.m.-3 p.m.. And John Harris and Sean Pendergast will have the afternoon shift from 3 p.m.-7 p.m..

As for other potential programming moves, to go along with the LSU football games 1560 already airs, the station is close to signing a contract to air the football games of a Big 12 school, and they are attempting to negotiate a deal with the Houston Aeros to air games this coming hockey season.

So as it finishes it second year of broadcasting, 1560 appears to be catching up ratings-wise, signal-wise, and programming-wise with the more established sports talk stations in the city. That in and of itself is kind of surprising seeing that 1560 is a locally-owned, independent station that has none of the corporate backing of the others.

And it's that fact of which McClain is proudest: "We're playing the same game on a level field with the big boys, and winning."

Just think of what's possible for the station if it is ever able to get that new signal up and running.

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