The Ticket 105 FM: Ticket To A Trimulcast

Is four hours of local programming per day enough to make a dent?
The Ticket 105 FM: Ticket To A Trimulcast

The new all-sports station in town perhaps best represents the new world of radio economics. What last fall was Love 105 is today an FM sports format known as the Ticket. It airs on the trio of FM signals owned by Cumulus Media, yet it mostly programs the syndicated offerings of the CBS Sports Network. 

But paired with Cumulus’ other local formats, male-dominated classic rock KQRS and hard-rock 93X, the Ticket rounds out a buy for a sponsor interested in a male audience that insists on a sports format in the mix.

No one quite understood how serious The Ticket was about adding expensive local programming until its September announcement that former KFAN morning man (and ex-Viking) Mike Morris would co-host PM drive with Pioneer Press sportswriter Bob Sansevere. 

The frosting on the cake is a 6-7 p.m. programming hour hosted by KQRS AM-drive king Tom Barnard with ex-WCCO-TV news anchor Don Shelby (who co-hosts a daily podcast with Barnard). 

The Ticket’s Dossier

  • Format debut: 2013
  • Owner: Cumulus Media (Atlanta)
  • Format: CBS Sports Network
  • Marquee talent: Tom Barnard
  • Triple-signal setup a real Achilles’ heel.

“It was Tom’s idea,” says Cumulus Twin Cities Operations Manager Scott Jameson. “He just wants to work.” Jameson says the Ticket is focused on afternoons because sports lends itself better to PM than AM drive. “In the afternoon you have a whole day of fresh [sports] news.”

But why a third full-time sports format? Simple economics. 

“Cumulus is one of the biggest operators,” notes WCCO exec and CBS Radio Market Manager Mick Anselmo, “and CBS has assets to create programming.” The partners each sell advertising and thus control part of the revenue stream.

“Love 105 was an underperforming format geared to women in a crowded market,” Jameson says. “Time spent listening is much stronger with sports. And local advertisers will buy sports without big baseline ratings.”

Last year Cumulus could deliver local males, but not sports. Plus, appealing to the same listener profile across Cumulus’ products, says Jameson, allows for cross-          promotion and economies of scale. 

That’s key, because the Ticket’s signals are diffuse—each of the three can only be heard in portions of the metro area, and it’s never delivered great ratings, whatever the format. 

The fly in the ointment? No matter how compelling its national programming (led by Jim Rome), the Ticket is fighting two full-time local sports formats. 

“Their format strategy makes sense,” says Compass Point Media’s Jen Walz, “but syndicated programming never does that well in the Twin Cities.” 

But the Ticket’s reason for existence is a national distribution deal that requires merely a respectable Twin Cities market presence, and Cumulus’ expectations seem relatively modest. What looked iffy a month ago seems far less so now.