WRNW
Broadcast areaGreater Milwaukee
Frequency97.3 MHz (HD Radio)
Branding97.3 The Game
Programming
FormatSports
SubchannelsHD2: WISN simulcast (news/talk)
AffiliationsFox Sports Radio
Packers Radio Network (flagship)
Wisconsin Badgers (Learfield Sports)
Westwood One Sports
Milwaukee Admirals Hockey
MRN - PRN - IMSRN
Ownership
Owner
WISN, WKKV-FM, WMIL-FM, WOKY, WRIT-FM
History
First air date
January 1961; 63 years ago (1961-01) (as WISN-FM)
Former call signs
WISN-FM (1961–78)
WLPX (1978–84)
WBTT (1984–85)
WLTQ (1985–2004)
WQBW (2004–10)
Call sign meaning
"Radio Now" (previous format)
Technical information
Facility ID26609
ClassB
ERP15,500 watts
HAAT278 meters (912 ft)
Transmitter coordinates
43°06′40″N 87°55′37″W / 43.111°N 87.927°W / 43.111; -87.927
Links
WebcastListen Live
Website973thegame.iheart.com

WRNW (97.3 FM) is a commercial radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, known as "97.3 The Game." It airs a sports radio format and is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. The studios are on West Howard Avenue in Greenfield.

WRNW is a Class B FM station, with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 15,500 watts. The transmitter is atop the WISN-TV tower in Lincoln Park, near the Milwaukee River.[1] WRNW broadcasts using HD Radio technology. Its HD2 digital subchannel carries talk radio programming from co-owned WISN 1130 AM.

Programming

On weekdays, WRNW features local sports shows during the day and evening. Steve Czaban and Brian Butch are heard in morning drive time. He's followed by former Green Bay Packers linebacker John Kuhn and Bill Schmid. In afternoons, Mike Heller, Nick Bruesewitz, Drew Olsen, Kevin Brandt, Matt Schneidman, and Doug Russell host shows focused on Wisconsin and national sports. Nights and weekends, programming from Fox Sports Radio is heard.

WRNW "97.3 The Game" is the flagship radio station for the Green Bay Packers Radio Network. In addition, it is the Milwaukee affiliate for the Wisconsin Badgers Radio Network through Learfield Sports. It also carries Westwood One Sports, Milwaukee Admirals AHL Hockey and weekend motor races.

History

Beautiful Music (1961-1978)

The station signed on the air in January 1961; 63 years ago (1961-01). The original call sign was WISN-FM, the sister station to WISN 1130 AM. This was actually the second iteration of WISN-FM, after a short-lived attempt in 1949 on 102.9 FM, where WHQG is now heard.[2]

At the beginning, 1130 AM and 97.3 FM mostly simulcast their programming. They were co-owned for many years with television station WISN-TV (channel 12) as part of the Hearst Corporation, a newspaper and broadcasting conglomerate. From the late 1960s until 1978, WISN-FM carried an automated beautiful music format. It played quarter-hour sweeps of mostly instrumental music, with some Broadway and Hollywood show tunes. Its longtime easy listening rival was 94.1 WTMJ-FM, owned by the Milwaukee Journal.

Rock (1978-1983)

In January 1978, the station flipped to album oriented rock (AOR) as WLPX. It used consultant Lee Abrams' "SuperStars" format.[3] The formula for the station was to play only the biggest rock stars and concentrate on their best selling albums.

The station became an immediate success in the ratings. WLPX pushed rival 98.3 WZMF to tighten its format, and later drop it altogether for beautiful music. WLPX also sponsored future NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Alan Kulwicki on local racetracks on the ASA, ARTGO, and regional circuits, which led to the association of his car number 97 in the Midwest with the radio station.

Top 40 (1983-1985)

In the summer of 1983, WLPX abruptly switched to Top 40 (CHR), first as 97X, then shortly after as WBTT, B-97. WBTT was an affiliate of Dan Ingram's Top 40 Satellite Survey for a short period of time. The Top 40 hits only lasted two years.

Adult contemporary (1985-2004)

Soft adult contemporary became the format in April 1985. The station became "Light 97" with the call letters WLTQ.[4] The station's disc jockeys often appeared on WISN-TV in various roles, including hosting a telethon and doing remote broadcasts. They were also seen on programs involving the Wisconsin Lottery.

WLTQ featured the popular syndicated call-in and request show Delilah in the evening shift.

The station enjoyed high ratings through the late 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, particularly in the "at-work" audience. But by 2003, WLTQ's ratings started dropping. The station's "Light" image turned many younger listeners away.[5][6]

Classic Rock and Adult Hits (2004-2010)

On September 17, 2004, at Noon, "Light 97.3" signed off with "We Said Hello, Goodbye" by Phil Collins. WLTQ then began stunting, playing songs with the words "air" or "America" in the title, telling people "Milwaukee will be TALKing about 97.3." It also aired clips of Al Franken, telling listeners to tune in the following Monday at 6 a.m. Station management played into rumors of conversion of the station into a progressive talk outlet, using Air America-based shows. That network was already carried by WLTQ's sister station in Madison, WXXM 92.1 FM.[7][8]

When the new format was revealed, it turned out the station was adopting a 1980s-based Classic rock format. It called itself 97.3 The Brew, launching with "(You Can Still) Rock in America" by Night Ranger.[9] The call sign was changed to WQBW to match the "Brew" branding. The station's initial slogan was "Rock of the '80s and More". The slogan eventually changed to "The Biggest Variety of Rock Hits".[10] The television ads and billboard advertisements featured an obese shirtless man named "Dancin' Kevin" based on an imaging campaign at WLUP-FM in Chicago. The station's personalities were mainly voicetracked from other markets.

WQBW immediately experienced ratings success with the new format, which led to direct competitors WKLH and WLZR (both owned by Saga Communications) adjusting their playlists and formats accordingly. WLZR dropped its active rock format for a mainstream rock sound as "The Hog", while WKLH adopted new on-air imaging. Both of these changes drew listeners back from WQBW, prompting the station to shift towards adult hits by 2008. In addition, rival WKTI (then playing Hot AC) flipped to adult hits that same year, with a playlist featuring many of the same artists being played on WQBW. With all of these changes, WQBW ended up with declining ratings.

Top 40 (2010–2018)

Logo used as 97.3 Now.

At 9 a.m. on May 28, 2010, after playing "The Final Countdown" by Europe, the station returned to Top 40 (CHR) with the branding "97-3 Radio Now." The first song was "Tik Tok" by Ke$ha.[11][12] The move was made quickly to pre-empt an expected format change by WJZX.

A day earlier, WJZX ended its smooth jazz format and began a stunting, calling itself "Tiger Radio." WJZX was apparently ready to flip to Rhythmic Top 40 under the new call sign WNQW. That prompted 97.3 FM to act quickly and begin using the "Now" name and brand before WJZX owner Saga Communications could claim it.[13] The airstaff and the morning show returned to the station on July 26, though the title of the morning show changed to "Connie and Curtis".[14]

On June 10, 2010, WQBW's call letters were officially changed to WRNW. That call sign had previously been used from 1960 until 1982 for WXPK in the New York City suburb of Briarcliff Manor, the station where Howard Stern first hosted mornings.

WRNW's format change gave longtime top 40 powerhouse 103.7 WXSS its first in-market competition since WKTI's switch to country music. WRNW's Top 40 musical direction favored a pop/rock approach, as it plays less Rhythmic/Hip-Hop than WXSS and most other large market contemporary hit stations.[15]

On August 31, 2012, the Connie and Curtis morning show ended on both WRNW and Madison sister station WZEE. It was replaced with Premiere Networks' syndicated Elvis Duran and the Morning Show on September 4. That same week, WRNW picked up new competition from WZBK-FM, which made the switch to Rhythmic Top 40 as "Energy 106.9." It took the new call sign WNRG-FM on September 7, 2012.[16]

In late April 2015, the station re-branded as "97-3 Now". It began using a logo similar to KISS-FM branded stations. On September 14, 2016, the station announced that the morning show would be brought back to being hosted locally in-house, with former WXSS morning personality Rahny Taylor returning to Milwaukee after a three-year stint on the national K-Love network to host the new show, starting the next day.[17]

Sports (2018-present)

Just after midnight on November 27, 2018, after playing "Eastside" by Benny Blanco, WRNW flipped to sports talk. It began using the moniker 97.3 The Game.

It was able to make use of local sports programming from sister AM station WOKY 930 AM. That included such shows as Drew & KB, The Crossover, The Mike Heller Show, and The Double Team. Fox Sports Radio programs began airing nights and weekends.[18] With this change, WOKY shifted to a largely syndicated lineup, carrying most of the national Fox Sports Radio lineup.[19] WRNW also carries coverage of Wisconsin Badgers sports from Learfield Sports, along with WOKY's former national rights to carry Westwood One Sports and the three NASCAR radio networks, MRN, PRN and IMSRN. It also picked up Wisconsin Badgers football and basketball. Those games continue to also air on WOKY.

Much of WRNW's daytime schedule has been subsequently syndicated across the state of Wisconsin, to other sports radio stations. Some of WRNW's programming is heard on WNFL in Green Bay, WRIG in the Wausau market, and WDSM in Duluth–Superior. Like WRNW, WDSM uses "The Game" branding.[20] In March 2021, WTSO in Madison, formerly co-branded with WOKY, began to air the full WRNW schedule in Madison. It had already taken "The Game" branding in association with Fox Sports Radio in early 2020.[21]

On October 27, 2021, the Green Bay Packers announced that WRNW would become the team's Milwaukee affiliate for the Packers Radio Network in 2022. That ended a 93-year run on WTMJ 620 AM, which had served as flagship station for most of that time. The team was already airing on iHeartMedia stations in Madison, Eau Claire, and Moline, Illinois.[22]

WRNW-HD2

On April 25, 2006, Clear Channel announced that WQBW's HD2 subchannel would carry Radio Radio from the company's "Format Lab". The music would include modern rock hits of the 1980s and 90s. It was later replaced by the Rock Nation feed from "Format Lab," which features active rock. Later on, from February 2011 until August 2012, the HD2 signal carried iHeartRadio's "Spin Cycle" Dance and EDM tracks.

At the beginning of August 2012, the HD2 signal began to carry the talk radio programming of co-owned WISN 1130 AM. This returns what had begun as WISN-FM to carrying its AM sister station in some form for the first time in decades.[23]


References

  1. ^ Radio-Locator.com/WRNW
  2. ^ "WISN-FM Starts" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 19, 1949. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  3. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1979-04-28). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  4. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (1985-04-27). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. ((cite book)): |last= has generic name (help)
  5. ^ "WLTQ - Light 97 FM 97.3 - While You Work (1993 Milwaukee) [15 sec]". Retrieved 31 July 2023 – via www.youtube.com.
  6. ^ "Light 97.3 FM - WEZW is gone. [15sec] (1996 Milwaukee)". Retrieved 31 July 2023 – via www.youtube.com.
  7. ^ "'Light 97' gone; new format Monday". Milwaukee Business Journal. September 17, 2004. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  8. ^ "Light 97 off; Air America may land Monday". 17 September 2004.
  9. ^ "Light 97.3 WLTQ becomes The Brew". 20 September 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  10. ^ "WQBW 97.3 The Brew changes to more familiar retro hits". Archived from the original on 2018-10-07.
  11. ^ "Flip Wars Brewing In Milwaukee Now - RadioInsight". 28 May 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  12. ^ "97.3 The Brew Milwaukee Becomes Radio Now". 28 May 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  13. ^ "Smooth Jazz, Brew and Radio Now Recap", Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (May 28, 2010)
  14. ^ "'Fish' Leaves 'Connie & Fish' Radio Show - Entertainment News Story - WISC Madison". www.channel3000.com. Archived from the original on 2010-06-06.
  15. ^ Ross, Sean (June 10, 2010). "Punch Wars #5 – Milwaukee's New CHR Battle". Radio-Info.com.
  16. ^ "Saga Gives Milwaukee An Energy Boost" from Radio Insight (September 7, 2012)
  17. ^ Tarnoff, Andy (14 September 2016). "Rahny Taylor returns to Milwaukee with morning show on 97.3 NOW". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Find 97.3 The Game's Sunday Live On-Air Schedule". 97.3 The Game. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
  19. ^ Venta, Lance (27 November 2018). "iHeartMedia Flips 97.3 Now to Sports". Radio Insight]. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  20. ^ Ellis, Jon (31 October 2020). "iHeart's "Game" To Be Heard in Four Markets". Northpine.com. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  21. ^ Venta, Lance (18 March 2021). "97.3 The Game Milwaukee Programming Comes To Madison". RadioInsight. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  22. ^ Kirchen, Rich. "Green Bay Packers switch Milwaukee radio home from WTMJ-AM to iHeartMedia sports station". Milwaukee Business Journal. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  23. ^ http://hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=32 HD Radio Guide for Milwaukee