WTEL (AM)

Last updated
WTEL
WTEL 610ESPNPhiladelphia logo.jpg
City Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Broadcast area Greater Philadelphia (Delaware Valley)
Branding610 ESPN
Slogan Philly's ESPN Radio
Frequency 610 kHz
First air dateMarch 17, 1922 (as WIP)
Format Sports
Power 5,000 watts
Class B
Facility ID 28626
Transmitter coordinates 39°51′56″N75°06′43″W / 39.86556°N 75.11194°W / 39.86556; -75.11194
Call sign meaning Previously used on sister station WWDB prior to acquiring the 610 AM frequency from CBS Radio
Former call signsWIP (1922-2014)
Affiliations ESPN Radio
Philadelphia Union (MLS) Reading Fightin Phils
Owner Beasley Broadcast Group
(Beasley Media Group Licenses, LLC)
Sister stations WBEN-FM, WMGK, WMMR, WPEN, WTMR, WWDB, WXTU, WJBR-FM
Webcast Listen Live
Website 610espn.com

WTEL (610 AM) is a Philadelphia radio station with an all-sports format. Owned and operated by the Beasley Broadcast Group, the WTEL studios are located at 555 City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania and its transmitters are located in the Crescent Park section of Bellmawr, New Jersey.

Contents

WTEL broadcasts in the HD Radio format on 610 AM. [1]

Overview

The station was formerly known for its influence on the Philadelphia sports fanbase. Its prominent hosts included Angelo Cataldi, who arranged for a group of Eagles fans to attend the 1999 NFL Draft in New York City and demand the Eagles select University of Texas at Austin running back Ricky Williams with their #2 pick (which led to the infamous booing of the decision to select Donovan McNabb), and Howard Eskin, whose achievements included the Terrell Owens "funeral" (following the announcement of Owens's four-game suspension from the Eagles during the 2005-2006 season), and a short-lived hunger strike in support of trading Philadelphia 76ers superstar Allen Iverson. The station was also known for hosting the annual eating contest, the Wing Bowl.

WIP was formerly owned by CBS Radio, and at that time was considered to be a sister station to another CBS Radio station, WFAN, in New York City. Both stations serve New Jersey in addition to their licensed cities.

WIP was the flagship radio station for the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Phillies. When both teams were playing at the same time, WPHT and/or WYSP usually carried one of the games. WIP was the flagship radio station for the Eagles until 1992, when Eagles broadcasts moved to WYSP, which at the time had a classic rock format and aired Howard Stern's syndicated morning show. On February 20, 2008, the station announced that broadcasts of Eagles games would return to WIP, plus remain on WYSP, with each radio station broadcasting different feeds to make it easier for local fans to watch television coverage of Eagles games but to lower the volume on their TV and listen to the game on the radio. The advent of digital television signals was putting television and radio signals too far out of sync. The station also carried Philadelphia Phillies games on Friday nights during the 2005 season, allowing WPHT to pick up some regularly scheduled programming on Friday nights. In 2008, WIP broadcast the Phillies' March 31 season opener against Washington along with WPHT.

History

Founded by Gimbels department store, the station first went on the air on March 17, 1922 as Philadelphia's first commercial radio station with the call sign WIP, which people mistakenly think stands for "Wireless In Philadelphia," "We're In Philadelphia" or "Watch Its Progress." In fact, WIP was a call sign randomly issued by the federal government.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the station was an affiliate of the Mutual Broadcasting System. From the 1950s until the early 1960s, the station was owned by Metropolitan Broadcasting (successor to Dumont) and had a rock and roll format. In the early 60s the parent company name was changed from Metropolitan to Metromedia, and WIP adopted an MOR format (after an unsuccessful attempt at a Top 40 format branded as Color Radio). With this format, the station played pop hits of the 1960s, along with some 50s pop mixed in. Announcers during this time period included Joe McCauley (the "Morning Mayor"), Ned Powers, Tom Brown, and Chuck Daugherty.

During this time WIP called themselves "The Big W" after a phrase in the 60s comedy, "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," and the slogan was justified. WIP was number one in the market ratings through the 60s and for most of the 70s.

In the late 60s they began including more soft-rock until the format gradually evolved into an Adult Contemporary format which survived through the 70s and into the 80s. The music mix continued to include pop from the previous two decades. In addition, the station was full service in approach, as they had a heavy emphasis on news as well.

After many years of ownership by Metromedia the station was purchased by Ed Snider's Spectacor Group, the longtime owner of the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers, in 1988. Snider sold the station to CBS Radio in 1994.

1970s and 1980s

By the early 1970s, WIP evolved to an adult contemporary format, and for a while, they were heavy on 1950s and 1960s rock and roll oldies. At the height of its popularity as a full service/adult contemporary station in the early to mid-1970s, WIP was the home to some of the most well-known air personalities in the city, including popular rush hour host Ken Garland (who had replaced legend, Joe McCauley, the "Morning Mayor,") late morning host Bill "Wee Willie" Webber, early afternoon host Tom Moran, late PM host, Dick Clayton, evening host Tom Lamaine, and overnight host Nat Wright. Weekend coverage included Allan Michaels, Alan Drew, Bill St. James, and Mark Andrews. During this time, Metromedia's station in New York, WNEW, had similar programming and it was not uncommon for DJs to swap back and forth for subbing duties. WNEW's Julius LaRosa was a frequent guest. WIP's presentation, like other full-service stations, was heavily dependent on its personalities to entertain the audience as much as the music itself.

In addition to music, full-service music stations in that era were typically home to strong news operations, and WIP had local newscasts every hour, seven days a week (at one point they offered half-hourly newscasts around the clock). The weekday morning news was so extensive that they had two anchors in later years, and even introduced a 5 a.m. 30 minute newscast. One of WIP's news reporters, Jan Gorham, remained with the station after the switch to sports and continued to work there until retiring in 2009.

The station hosted a popular radiothon for one weekend a year for several years, raising funds to fight leukemia. The events were staged on a large scale, in venues like hotel ballrooms, with local and national celebrities visiting the live broadcast.

WIP's best-known contest was Cash Call, a call-out game in which the DJs picked numbers out of the phone book or from postcards submitted by listeners. The intro to the contest was the first 10 seconds of a song called "The Sound Of Money" by the J's with Jamie, a vocal group that recorded lots of commercial jingles and three albums. If the person at the other end of the call could identify the exact amount of money in the “jackpot,” down to the standard 61¢ ending, they won the current jackpot. Players who knew the 61¢ but not the dollar amount typically won a token prize from a sponsor. Every incorrect guess lead to a few dollars being added to the jackpot; a correct guess resulted in the jackpot being reset to $61.61.

Another long-running contest late in WIP's run as a music station was Team Trivia. Two area businesses competed, one on the morning show with Ken Garland, the other on the afternoon show with (Bruce) Stevens and (Nick) Seneca (who had replaced Tom Moran).

As the popularity of music on FM radio grew, stations like Magic 103 (now 102.9 WMGK) and Kiss 100 began to eat away at WIP's audience. For a time, the station experimented with general interest talk. Michele Iaia was brought on to host “WIPeople Talk,” a weeknight call-in show from 8 p.m. to midnight. The show would later expand to include a weekend edition, and over time the talk block was expanded to run from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (with the station touting that it played music all day and talked all night). One of the regular features was a Friday night segment called Desperate & Dateless, a show that eventually spun off into a stand-alone Saturday night program that included music mixed in with the calls from single listeners.

The local talk was scaled back to make room for Larry King's syndicated radio show in the overnight hours, and eventually most of the local talk was replaced by music once again. The station later tried a programming experiment known as Midday Infotainment, a features-based midday show hosted by Bill Gallagher and Lynn Adkins. That move pushed Bill Webber out of his longtime midday slot into the early evening shift. The show was canceled in less than a year, and the regular music format, hosted once more by Webber, returned.

As WIP continued adding more current music, it also added the weekly countdown show “Dick Clark’s National Music Survey.” WIP aired the version produced for adult contemporary stations, while WSTW in Wilmington, Delaware, listenable in much of the Philadelphia market, aired the top 40 version.

Sports radio

WIP's transition to sports was gradual, unlike many so-called format flips that happen instantaneously. The station began adding sports programming in the mid-1980s. More and more sports hosts were brought on to replace the music hosts that left, including Ken Garland, who moved to cross-town WPEN, then a nostalgia-based music station. Garland was initially replaced by WIP part-timer Jeff Brown before the sports-based morning show debuted. Bill Webber's show, then limited to 9 a.m. to noon, was the last regularly scheduled weekday music program. Webber also would eventually join WPEN, hosting his familiar midday slot on Saturdays.

WIP continued playing music on Saturday mornings for a short time before the transition to all-sports (save for an overnight talk show with Larry King/Jim Bohannon) was complete in 1988.

On September 2, 2011, WIP began simulcasting on 94.1 FM, replacing rock station WYSP. The simulcast of WIP and WIP-FM soon began to gradually split, as certain sporting events are not heard on both frequencies (such as most Philadelphia Phillies broadcasts, which began to air on WIP-FM in 2012 but are still carried on the AM dial by WPHT), and the syndicated The Nick & Artie Show was added to 610 AM's programming in February 2012, while local programming airs on WIP-FM; [2] the simulcast ended entirely January 2, 2013, when WIP became a full-time affiliate of CBS Sports Radio, airing national programming to complement the local programming on WIP-FM. [3]

On October 2, 2014, CBS Radio announced that it would trade 14 radio stations located in Tampa, Charlotte and Philadelphia (only WIP (AM) would be sold) to the Beasley Broadcast Group in exchange for 3 stations located in Miami and WRDW-FM and WXTU in Philadelphia. [4] The swap was completed on December 1, 2014. As a result, WIP changed its call letters to WTEL, the longtime former call sign of Beasley-owned sister station WWDB, as CBS Radio (which has since been merged into Entercom) continues to own WIP-FM. [5]

logo as WTEL, 2014-15 610AM WTEL lgo.png
logo as WTEL, 2014-15

In early 2015, WTEL became an affiliate of ESPN Radio, dropping affiliation with CBS Sports Radio. The station began airing Mike and Mike in the Morning on April 20, 2015, on the day that former ESPN affiliate WPEN started a local morning show with former WIP host Anthony Gargano. WPEN continues to be affiliated with ESPN, but only airs live sporting events distributed by the network. WTEL airs ESPN shows almost around the clock, except for Philadelphia Union Soccer Games, the Philadelphia Phillies farm team, the Reading Fightin Phils, and public access shows on week-ends which include food, real estate, gardening and Italian-American programs.

Notable dates in WTEL's history as WIP

Specialty programming

Personalities

Rob Maaddi, Doug Horton, Kyle Horner -Faith on the Field

Matt Silver- Silver Standard

Ryan Lennox- Studio Host of Villanova Men's Basketball, Reading Phils and Delaware Blue Coats

Jason Sringer and Jeff Cohen- Heart of Sports, High Hopes and The Regiment

Former

Frequent broadcast locations

Former special weekly shows

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References

  1. http://www.hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=52
  2. "Heritage Philly WIP-AM adds syndicated Nick and Artie to all-sports line-up". Radio-Info.com. February 29, 2012. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  3. Marcucci, Carl (June 21, 2012). "CBS Radio, Cumulus pact for "CBS Sports Radio" network". Radio Business Report. Retrieved June 22, 2012.
  4. CBS And Beasley Swap Philadelphia/Miami For Charlotte/Tampa from Radio Insight (October 2, 2014)
  5. Venta, Lance (December 1, 2014). "CBS Beasley Deal Closes". RadioInsight. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  6. Dan Gross, "Martorano's Final Day at WIP" - http://www.philly.com/dailynews/features/20080325_Dan_Gross__Bum_rap_for_Philly.html