|Broadcast area||Columbus metropolitan area|
|Frequency||97.1 MHz (HD Radio)|
|Branding||97.1 The Fan|
|Subchannels||HD2: Sports (WBNS simulcast)|
First air date
Call sign meaning
|Carried over from WBNS|
|HAAT||238 meters (781 ft)|
Public license information
|Webcast||Listen live (via TuneIn)|
WBNS-FM (97.1 MHz) – branded 97.1 The Fan – is a commercial sports radio station licensed to serve Columbus, Ohio, and services the Columbus metropolitan area. Owned by Tegna Inc., it and WBNS (1460 AM) are the only two radio stations currently owned by Tegna; the studios for both stations are co-located with WBNS-TV (channel 10) in Columbus's Brewery District.
WBNS-FM is the FM flagship for the Ohio State Sports Network, the Columbus Blue Jackets Radio Network, and the Columbus Crew, and the market affiliate for the Cleveland Browns Radio Network, the NFL on Westwood One Sports and ESPN Radio, the latter in a shared affiliation with WBNS. The WBNS-FM transmitter tower is co-located with WBNS-TV's tower west of Downtown Columbus. In addition to a standard analog transmission, WBNS-FM is also available online.
WBNS's sister station, WBNS (AM 1460), was established in 1922, and in 1929 was acquired by the Wolfe Family, which also owned the major daily newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch. WBNS experimented with FM broadcasts as early as 1940 with experimental station W8XVH, which in 1941 became commercial station W45CM, and later WELD. But few people owned FM receivers in those days, so management suspended operations in July 1953, and WELD was formally deleted on July 14, 1953.
WBNS-FM signed on in 1957, on the same frequency, 97.1 MHz, previously used by WELD. At first it largely simulcast the AM station.
In 1970 it began airing a beautiful music format, playing quarter-hour sweeps of instrumental cover versions of popular songs, Broadway and Hollywood show tunes. In the 1980s, the station began playing more soft adult contemporary vocals, in an effort to appeal to a younger audience.
In November 1991 the station moved from easy listening, to oldies, calling itself "Oldies B-97.1". The playlist was made up of Top 40 hits of the 1960s and 70s. Almost ten years later, in July 2001, WBNS-FM moved to modern AC as "The New 97.1", with a mix of pop alternative music.
Eventually, the station evolved with a hot AC format as "97.1-More Music, More Variety." In August 2005, the station began using the "Mix" name and became "Mix 97.1-80s, 90s, Now." Meanwhile, co-owned WBNS 1460 AM had good ratings as an all-sports AM station, as more cities were getting FM sports outlets. Management decided to capitalize on its sports franchise.
On January 26, 2009, at 2 PM, WBNS-FM began a simulcast of AM sister station WBNS "1460 The Fan." WBNS-FM became "97.1 The Fan." The final song played on Mix 97.1 was "Leave Out All The Rest" by Linkin Park.
On June 11, 2019, The Columbus Dispatch announced it was selling its broadcasting assets, including WBNS-AM-FM-TV, to Tegna Inc., for $535 million in cash. The deal was expected to close in the third quarter of 2019, pending Federal Communications Commission approval. The sale was completed on August 8.
Over time, WBNS-FM became the exclusive home of local Columbus-based sports shows, while WBNS 1460 AM airs the national ESPN Radio Network feed.