Sports radio is coming back to the Rogue Valley.
Medford's Opus Broadcasting confirmed its affiliation with Fox Sports Radio Network Wednesday, marking the return of 24-hour sports programing after a 22-month drought. KEZX (730-AM), which has aired progressive talk shows for the past year, will begin its new format sometime in February.
Mapleton Communication-owned Radio Medford's KTMT (580-AM) ended a 10-year run with ESPN-Radio in April 2005, when the station flipped to Radio Lazer and Spanish-language programming. The announcement by Opus President and General Manager Dean Flock is sure to please sports fans who lost access to professional sports broadcasts as well as major sportstalk hosts.
The programming includes former ESPN hands Dan Patrick, weekday mornings at 6 a.m., followed by Jim Rome later in the morning.
"The demand for local sports is strong in Jackson County, and has come from both local business leaders and individual sports enthusiasts," Flock said.
Opus Broadcasting Sales Manager Brian Frazier said no contracts have been signed, but suggested the station will carry a wide-range of play-by-play and major event broadcasts.
He said Fox Sports put out word of the arrangement prior to the station's own scheduled changeover.
Prior to converting to progressive talk, the station played music from the big-band era forward. In recent months, it mixed talk, music and Sporting News Radio segments in the evenings.
The station presently carries Crater High School football and basketball and Southern Oregon University football and basketball.
"We're not sure what we're going to carry, but there are a lot of choices," Frazier said.
Nonetheless, the format change will alter some listening habits.
Jay Reese, who has both done play-by-play and talk shows locally in recent decades, counts himself among that number.
"A lot of people went away to satellite radio when ESPN Radio went away," Reese said. "Hundreds of people have told me that over the years."
With three stations vying for the newstalk listener, KEZX found itself chasing from behind.
"My first reaction, because I'm a sports guy, is that it's awesome for the public and community," Reese said. "There's so much newstalk going on. I think people are tired of hearing about rising gas prices, the war and politics. Sports is a wide open market. I was able to have success for four years with ratings and revenue in Grants Pass. They gave newstalk a try and it didn't go."
Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org