There soon will be a third sports radio station on the Boston airwaves, though its personalities, call letters, and home on the dial are already familiar.
ESPN Radio will return to the Boston market on the 850 AM signal, which has long been held by WEEI. According to multiple industry sources, the deal is not finalized, but some personnel at ESPN whom it could affect have been assured it is happening.
The target, according to the same sources, is to be on the air no later than early fall.
Unlike local sports radio stations WEEI 93.7 — which made the long-anticipated move to FM last September and has been simulcasting on 850 since — and 98.5 The Sports Hub, ESPN’s Boston affiliate will be built around its national programming, which includes the popular “Mike & Mike in the Morning’’ program featuring Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, as well as the afternoon “Scott Van Pelt Show.’’
It is uncertain whether Colin Cowherd’s midday program will be part of the lineup, according to one source.
ESPN took a telling step toward the move Aug. 1 when it discontinued the “Adam Jones Show,” a daily online program on ESPNBoston.com that was of high quality but struggled to draw traffic.
“We have a great relationship with ESPN and we talk often with them about ways we can enhance it,” said WEEI program director Jason Wolfe.
ESPN’s four other regional websites — in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles — all are partnered with an ESPN Radio affiliate in those cities. ESPNBoston.com ventured into online radio because the city lacked an affiliate on the airwaves.
ESPN Radio and WEEI partnered in October 2009, announcing an agreement that resulted in some ESPN programming airing on the Entercom-owned local station and ESPN personalities such as Buster Olney becoming regular WEEI guests. A month before that, ESPN’s neglected affiliate on weak-signaled 890 AM went dark after four years on the air.