Owner of rival ‘The Ticket’ to operate ESPN/103.3 FM programming

Cumulus Media has reached a local marketing agreement with ESPN to manage and operate Dallas-Fort Worth station KESN/103.3 FM ESPN Radio.

ESPN will retain ownership, but since Cumulus owns rival sports-talk station KTCK/1310 AM “The Ticket” and FM signals are often seen as more desirable than AM signals, this has stirred the rumor mill.

“They have a great sales team and great talent and we are looking forward to our partnership,” Dan Bennett, vice president/marketing manager for Cumulus Dallas, said in an email. “We are looking forward to working with them.”

A source said the executives at ESPN Radio in Dallas were unaware of this merger until Tuesday night. The source also said that ESPN’s radio personnel will relocate from its office in Irving to downtown Dallas at Victory Park, where The Ticket operates. ESPN’s Dallas affiliate built and moved into new offices in Irving approximately four years ago.

Another source said ESPN’s national programming, primarily Mike & Mike in the Morning and Colin Cowherd, will remain priorities. A third source said ESPN programming will remain on 103.3 FM.

As for the local programming, which includes venerable radio voice and Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway and other shows such as Fitzsimmons and Durrett, not as much is certain.

The Texas Rangers and Dallas Mavericks have contracts with 103.3 FM in Dallas to carry their games. It’s uncertain how the acquisition affects those broadcasts.

The Ticket has had an FM simulcast for years on Sanger-based KTDK/104.1 FM, which hits the northern parts of Tarrant and Dallas counties and points north into Oklahoma. Cumulus recently sold that frequency, although The Ticket is still broadcasting on it pending completion of the deal.

The local marketing agreement deal with ESPN will take effect once the KTDK deal is closed.

KESN’s Allen-based transmitter is much more powerful, and reaches all of Tarrant and Dallas counties, which is important when it comes to ratings.

Cumulus’ owning one sports station and managing another in the same market might seem unusual, but Cumulus has other similar double-ups in DFW. It owns talk stations KLIF/570 AM and WBAP/820 AM/96.7 FM outright, as well as country stations KSCS/96.3 FM and KPLX/99.5 FM “The Wolf.”