CBS Radio will simulcast WFAN on 101.9 FM beginning later this autumn, giving the iconic sports talk station a place on the increasingly important FM dial.
"It's been something we've been thinking about for a very long time," afternoon host Mike Francesa said in making the announcement on his show Monday. "It's the next step for the company; it's the next step for WFAN."
The station will continue to be heard on 660 AM "for the foreseeable future," CBS spokeswoman Karen Mateo said, adding, "For decades, listeners have tuned to WFAN on 660 AM, and we anticipate many of them will continue to do so even after this move."
But the added station gives CBS a potential New York outlet for the national sports network that is to begin 24-hour programming Jan. 2, 2013. The company eventually could air national shows on AM and local programming on FM. In recent weeks, WFAN listeners have been hearing the "CBS Sports Minute," an element of the national network.
ESPN eyed FM outlets in New York for years before settling on 98.7 FM after looking into 101.9 FM, among other options. Talk stations have aggressively migrated to FM throughout the nation, often finding better (and younger) ratings there.
CBS eventually pounced, signing an agreement to purchase 101.9 FM for $75 million from Merlin Media.
Unlike ESPN, which struggled with a spotty signal at 1050 AM, WFAN's 660 AM is a 50,000-watt, clear-channel outlet that can be heard on the far East End of Long Island and in states hundreds of miles from New York.
That extended reach will be lost if WFAN eventually moves exclusively to FM, but for now, the station hopes to have the best of both worlds.
Said Francesa: "You can stay on 66 AM or venture over to the FM dial and test the signal there and see if it's more to your liking."
The move will not affect existing deals with the teams whose games appear on WFAN -- the Giants, Mets, Nets and Devils. But with the Yankees' and Mets' deals with CBS Radio expiring after 2013, the local baseball radio landscape is in flux.
The Yankees -- currently heard on WCBS-AM 880, yet another CBS-owned station -- are the marquee attraction. An FM outlet could be an added incentive for them to stick with CBS if ESPN makes a play for them.