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Changes at WIP Continue With Move to FM, Addition of Michael Barkann

Aug 18, 2011, 10:54 AM EDT

The time of leaks, rumors, and speculation regarding the future of Sports Radio 610 WIP is for the most part, over, with the official announcement coming down this morning that the station will indeed take over the broadcast signal of sister CBS Radio station 94.1 WYSP, a long-time rock staple of the Philly landscape.

The time of leaks, rumors, and speculation regarding the future of Sports Radio 610 WIP is for the most part, over, with the official announcement coming down this morning that the station will indeed take over the broadcast signal of sister CBS Radio station 94.1 WYSP, a long-time rock staple of the Philly landscape.  

94 WIP. Try saying that regularly without mixing up the letters after all these years of hearing and saying “94 WYSP” and “610 WIP.” Along with the move to FM, effective Tuesday, September 6, comes a major shakeup of the station’s programming schedule. 

94 WIP.jpg

Thanks to Jamie for the new logo image

We already knew that Howard Eskin was leaving the post he’s impressively held for 25 years, that of the PM drive time. On the WIP Morning Show, Angelo Cataldi and company announced that the station’s current midday team of Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano will move to the PM drive shift. I enjoy Glen and Anthony’s show, so this was, to me, a natural next move to fill that slot if the station was not in full “blow it up” mode, which clearly they aren’t. Moving into the 10-1 slot will be Comcast Sportsnet’s Michael Barkann and Eskin’s former host, Ike Reese. The morning show will remain intact, and Rob Ellis will take over at 6-10PM.

On paper, the moves appear to be a good fit for the station, which despite largely keeping its teams together, manages to make some significant changes. Eskin’s departure alone is significant, whether you mourn it or celebrate it. The addition of Barkann is to me, a no-brainer. As divisive as Eskin was, that’s how universally liked Barkann has always appeared to me. I can’t speak for everyone else’s thoughts on him, but I’m not sure there’s a more popular figure in the Philly sports media. If you listen to sports talk or other morning shows, particularly 93.3 WMMR’s Preston and Steve show, you’ve no doubt heard Barkann. He’s knowledgeable, and he’s genuinely funny. Exactly what I tune in to hear.  

Barkann is the anchor of Comcast SportsNet’s Daily News Live, Eagles Pre- and Postgame Live, and various other shows, and he’ll keep those roles. CSN says that they are excited for the new lineup at SportsRadio WIP, including the new Barkann and Reese show.

Sports talk radio is a tough, tough job that very few people can do well. I try and often fail to remember that when I hear someone say something I don’t like, disagree with, or know to not be true, whether intentionally or not. I also know I’m not the only member of their target audience, which I’ve learned in my much more limited exposure writing for this site, can disagree on just about anything. I think if anyone can handle that pressure and manage to stay true to what made him so likable in the first place, it’s Michael Barkann. What remains to be seen now is whether the safe choice is the smart choice, but that’d be true of adding any new host.  

I also came to like Ike Reese as a buffer to a host I wasn’t a big fan of in Eskin. Whether the edict came down from management or there was pressure from Mike Missanelli’s increasing popularity and ratings on 97.5 The Fanatic, already on FM, Ike usually complemented Eskin in a way I wasn’t expecting. Though they would fight too, for the most part, the show was less caustic than when Howard was on his own.  

With Barkann, I don’t think ‘caustic’ will enter the equation, though he can snark with the best of them while somehow staying positive (something else I think will benefit the station, whose two previous biggest personalities enjoyed going negative with the best of them). I thought Reese did reasonably well in a complementary role though, and after listening to him on his own evening show and then with Eskin, I do think he earned his place in the new lineup. I know others don’t agree, and he still has some growing to do as a host. There has been a very noticeable effort in developing his radio voice and personality, and especially his knowledge of sports other than the one he played professionally. I’ve been impressed with that effort and the results, and apparently, so too were the folks who make decisions at WIP and CBS Radio.  

In many ways, the loss of WYSP is not unlike the departure of Eskin. It’s monumental in that the station was a staple of our listening lives, whether we were listening or not. But radio has for a long time been shifting more toward talk than music, and people have every song they’ve ever wanted to hear on their iPod or phone or whatever else now. Rock certainly isn’t dead, but rock stations have been suffering in the ratings battle against many talk formats. One guy I hope to see emerge in a sports capacity is Spike Eskin, Howard’s son, who has been a host at WYSP but currently is not part of the WIP takeover. He’s a likeable guy with great music and sports knowledge, and I’ve really liked him as a Sixers personality and general man about town. 

The ongoing ratings battle between Missanelli and WIP should be interesting if you’re into that kind of scorekeeping. Mikey Miss has drawn a lot of listeners in his return to Philly. Some of those listeners simply wanted any alternative to Eskin, whereas others are just huge Missanelli fans. Whether he’ll lose listeners as a result of the change in WIP’s drive time remains to be seen. He too can be a polarizing figure, but as Eskin’s run proved, that draws listeners and advertisers.   

More changes could be on the way as well. Brian Westbrook might be getting some on-air time, Jody Mac’s appearances could become more frequent, and Larry Anderson will be doing a weekly segment with Glen and Anthony.  

So what are your thoughts on the changes at WIP? This is a topic that often brings out the opinions, just as the sports talk format itself is designed to do.