accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

790/The Zone now part of Lincoln Financial

790Zone_4c_logo_1_ab11f41d71

As I wrote a few weeks back, Big League Broadcasting, the operator of sports talk station 790/The Zone, has been having ratings issues and lost a bundle on some St. Louis radio station properties.

Now, Lincoln Financial, which has had a local marketing agreement with Big League Broadcasting for years, is buying Big League’s assets and wrapping 790/The Zone into Lincoln, which also owns Star 94. (Big League never owned the 790 signal. Lincoln had given them a long-term lease for use of it.)

Stephen “Steak” Shapiro and Andrew Saltzman, who created the Zone in 1997, will become employees of Lincoln Financial. Rick Mack, general manager of Star 94, will become the Zone’s senior vice president and general manager. Saltzman’s title will be VP/GM. Neal Maziar will remain station manager, Matt Edgar will stay on as program director and morning host Shapiro gets the new title brand manager. (That’s a lot of managers!)

This will have no immediate impact on what you hear on air. “These guys run an incredibly successful operation,” Mack said in a phone interview today. “We’re proud to be a part of it.  We don’t want to mess up a good thing.”

The station for years generated revenues far in excess of its ratings, a testament to management’s plucky ability to sell its loyal listeners to advertisers and inserting sponsored segments anywhere they could. Saltzman said as recently as 2007, the Zone was bringing in $14 million in revenue despite a relatively weak AM signal (especially at night). Obviously since the recession hit, the Zone is nowhere near that number anymore.

It has also nurtured plenty of talent, including the 2 Live Stews and two mid-day hosts now on rival 680/The Fan: Matt Chernoff and Chuck Oliver.

But more recently, 680/The Fan began pulling in stronger ratings, fueled partly by the Braves. In July, the Zone ranked 22nd among men 25 to 54 while the Fan ranked 17th. The Zone recently lost the Atlanta Hawks to Cumulus, which will air the games on 99X and make 680 partners. (Dickey Broadcasting owns 680 but the Dickey family also have a stake in Cumulus Media.)

Rumors of this transaction leaked out last week but both Saltzman last Tuesday and Mack himself last Friday denied it had happened. Mack said the papers were finalized over the weekend.

This was Saltzman and Shapiro’s baby from day one. But Shapiro denied the station is in financial duress.

“Owning your own company is extremely rewarding,” Shapiro said. “We decided to trade in the day-to-day stress for the security of a great job at a great company.”

Here’s Saltzman in the press release:

“We have accomplished a great deal as entrepreneurial broadcasters, and this acquisition allows 790 The Zone to compete at an even higher level,” said Saltzman. “I am pleased with the development of this strategic partnership.”

UPDATE: Shapiro was always about promoting the Zone to me when he was the owner. But when I called him after he became a Lincoln Financial employee, he said he had to refer me to Saltzman, the designated spokesman for the Zone. (Now all on-the-record interviews with Zone employees have to be pre-cleared through Saltzman — even poor Steak.)

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

117 comments Add your comment

George G.

August 30th, 2010
3:27 pm

Not surprising. 790 is crumbling at the seams. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more major movement in the not-too-distant future.

True 790 fan

August 30th, 2010
3:37 pm

Keep Chris, Nick, and Mike all others can move one. (plus Dave Hubbard)

True 790 fan

August 30th, 2010
3:38 pm

KEEP DAVE Hubbard.

True 790 fan

August 30th, 2010
3:38 pm

Old School

August 30th, 2010
3:51 pm

Never listen to 790— always 680. They have better talent, and their affiliation with ESPN is a plus.

Blue Cross Mole

August 30th, 2010
3:53 pm

No wonder why I saw Steak driving a Kia. Not sure how Steakie will be as just an employee. I suspect a much different station come the end of Football season. Also, it must make Lincoln’s Atlanta property that much more attractive to Cumulus.

steakiefan

August 30th, 2010
3:58 pm

Big League Broadcasting has been an integral part of radio for the past 13 years, BLB has provided us with one of the leading sports stations in the southeast. Thank you to Salsa and Steak for giving Atlanta a new take on radio! 790 will remain at the top of my dial!

Big Will

August 30th, 2010
4:11 pm

Why all the Steak hating? I met the guy at a UGA basketball game years ago. He took time to talk with people and was very nice. He “plays radio” with his character on Mayhem. Why can’t some people figure this out? Matt Chernoff sounds like a complete jerk and has made a living riding The King’s coat tails.

790andbeyond!!!

August 30th, 2010
4:13 pm

Great times!!! If your a fan of the station, you’ve been treated to some truely great times, events, festivals, interviews, games, etc. 790 The Zone is as much a part of the Atlanta sports fabric as the Falcons, Braves and Hawks are. If this move means keeping the identity of the station intact, CONGRATULATIONS.

dillion

August 30th, 2010
4:18 pm

The radio dial in my car is on 790 about 90% of the time (and has been since I moved to Atlanta in ‘98). Steak and the crew have put together a great product and I just hope Lincoln won’t bring them down. Thanks Steak and company for what you have done for Atlanta radio!

Dan

August 30th, 2010
4:22 pm

So what exactly is Andrew Saltzman’s new job title as an employee – “former owner”?

If Lincoln wants to focus the station back to sports, Steak’s value as a morning drive host presumably is significantly diminished now that he does not call the shots as an owner.

.

Brennan Huff

August 30th, 2010
4:22 pm

Agree with Big Will’s comment above regarding Steak. I’ve crossed paths with him twice over the years and he was always very polite and took the time to talk to myself as well as the people I was with at the time. He’s not at all like his radio persona when he’s off the clock. Based on the two times I met him, he seems like a good guy.

George G.

August 30th, 2010
4:55 pm

Looks like the 790 staff got the memo to flood the AJC with positive blog comments!

The Coach

August 30th, 2010
5:18 pm

That means Lincoln loses out on $500k-$1mil a year just on rental. BLB was their biggest Customer. They’ll make it up by managing it better though I think. Keeping the leadership there is a plus.

educated listener

August 30th, 2010
5:18 pm

What had happened was…. BLB was hemorrhaging money like water in the Titanic. Just like with this article and the responses, they say it was just a small leak.

I think it’s plainly obvious by 790’s actions over the years or so, that people are just fed up with the BS. And when you don’t pay your talent and allow them to go away… and bring in “all new” unproven talent, which is code for CHEAP… it won’t be long until all at 790 will go bye-bye.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Jim N Buckhead

August 30th, 2010
5:33 pm

How the mighty have fallen

scott

August 30th, 2010
6:09 pm

I have been with the zone since day one. I was with Steakie, Chris and AJ when they were at 680. These guys are knowledgeable, funny and have better guests. Listneing to the Fan morning show is like having nails rubbed on a chalkboard. I have attended many live broadcasts and Steak, Chris and Nick could not be nicer and more down to earth to everyone. I left Matt Edgar a message a year ago asking abount something and he got right back to me that day. Listne to them instead of reading crappy emails from haters

Matt the Brave

August 30th, 2010
6:35 pm

I have to say that where I live, I can rarely pick up 790. Even when I am in town, I usually still keep in on 680 because I never particularly hear them talking about sports on the station, but that just might be my luck of the draw. That all said, I hope that 790 will continue to keep going. Competition makes 680 the Fan better.

As for Chuck and Chernoff starting there…they kind of ran themselves off the air because they were going up against ESPN broadcasting and didn’t really do a lot of sports it seemed. Their show now seems much more tight. They still will go off-sports from time to time, but they generally stay within the strata of what ESPN would do.

I wouldn’t be surprised that within in the next few years you see 2 Live Stews jump ship to a larger sports market (i.e.: NYC or LA) to take on morning radio or afternoon drive. If that does happen, then it’ll be a hard road for 790 after that.

Julian Mouton

August 30th, 2010
6:39 pm

Steak is obnoxious, pushy and arrogant – and that’s just on the basketball court. I choose Mayhem over Rude because of Dimino & Cellini.

hirsutedawg

August 30th, 2010
6:43 pm

Bring back The Bottom Line.

David

August 30th, 2010
6:44 pm

It was only a matter of time before the station went out of business. Steven burned a lot of bridges threw the years, and he thought he was the big radio star when he wasn’t. Instead running the station with good on-air talent, they ran it like a club house. You had to be in the “click” with management to get air time.

790 will be on for a few more months, then it will be replaced with the Sporting News Radio full time or the format will be changed.

Will

August 30th, 2010
6:54 pm

steak,,,nice? I’ve seen him out and about and he is arrogant and aloof, as has been reported millions of times over the past 20 years, the 790 PR team is working overtime on this blog. Forget how nice or not nice he is, he is easily the worst on air personality I have very heard. And no, dont give me that crap about it being “radio”. He’s unprepared, unprofessioanl, predictable and basically unaware or uncaring that there might be someone listening and out of respect for the process he might want to put in at least a mild effort. I couldnt figure out he kept his job. Now I know, he owned half of the station! If the new company has any clue, he will be a former employee in 90 days, and good riddance chc-cha.

Jon

August 30th, 2010
7:06 pm

Once Lincoln figures out that they need to make cuts to save that mess, they’ll start at the top. Methinks Steaks isn’t long for this one…

getbuzzed

August 30th, 2010
7:10 pm

680 sucks! I only listen to Chuck and Chernoff. The rest of the station is HORRIBLE! I’ve been with 790 from day one and still like it. They do need a midday upgrade and the Stews are unlistenable, they make everything in sports about race.

Dave

August 30th, 2010
7:14 pm

I listen to both 680 and 790, I gotta say I prefer Mayham over the Rude Awaking. I think Steak, Chris, and Nick do a great job. I enjoy Matt and Chuck in the afternoons because they stick to local sports however I do switch over and listen to the stews as well.

agt45

August 30th, 2010
7:29 pm

I listen to both stations. Mayhem is best when Steak is not there. Chuck and Chernoff are good when I can catch them and the afternoons for both statiosn are awful. I’ve switched to 640 and 750 for my drive home because both afternoon crews are just plain awful.

Lodney Ho

August 30th, 2010
7:35 pm

St. Louis = Fail, huh S&S? They were losing cash left and right and Lincoln threw them a lifering. That being said, I don’t see how they can be successful and not carry one of the major sports franchises in this town, and Tech’s not one of them. What you’ve got on air isn’t going to help you if your broadcast range is as pitiful as 790 is. Why do you think the Hawks were so quick to drop them?

bernard rolax

August 30th, 2010
7:43 pm

hey, most of the comments or just that the truth THE STEWS are really keeping the station a float you see them on that four letter station and hear them on SPORTYNEWS and also TJMS SHOW so if you take them off the station would have to close shop for real…. Also that morning show is really weak and that bald guy sorry all of them are bald NICK needs to go back to that tried town CLEV. GOOOOOOO STEWS will listening at 1:00 everyday.

Radio Hall of Shame

August 30th, 2010
7:52 pm

They were doomed when they started all of the left wing liberal hack talk. Look at the polls people, coincides with the ratings of 790 and the demise of the AJC. This isn’t rocket science. They chose to ride the Obama “Change” wagon, and people with any sense tuned out. That’s the only tie in to the recession. Smart people with money listened to stations that bellowed common sense rather than nonsense. I just wish they would have kept Chernoff since he’s such an annoying POS. i don’t mind Steak, can’t stand the condecsending Chris, or the turd with sibling envy NIck. Funny how I haven’t read any comments about afternoon drive…..Take a hint Lincoln, they suck even worse than the rest of the lineup. Won’t comment on the Stews, they aren’t worthy. Hope the whole thing changes. Atlanta radio is embarrassing.

Financial Terms not Disclosed

August 30th, 2010
8:15 pm

Rodney,
What are the terms of the deal? Report like a real reporter please…

dd

August 30th, 2010
8:15 pm

I didn’t know 790 & 680 are still on the air.

Don Imus

August 30th, 2010
8:23 pm

Steak, you can come work for me my son. Your life long dream. But Steak a few things

1) Enough with cheesey teases. At every break you tease some story like a one of the cheap advertising sales girls.

2) You broadcast more commercials than 680. Way more, and listeners turn the dial.

3) Things grew old, weak and played. You forgot what is to battle the Evil Empire with wqxi.

4) Morning Motivators! Morning Motivators! Morning Motivators! Loyal listeners year for that bygone carefree jingle.

Another Steak Shapiro Hater

August 30th, 2010
8:32 pm

One day, that pig Steak Shapiro will be chained on the end of Satan’s dogleash and forced to serve the “Horned One” in Lewinsky-like fashion with that irritating lisp he has.

XM Rocks!

790 The Zone? Eh, not so much.

BRW

August 30th, 2010
8:33 pm

They call “2 Live Stews” talent? I better look up the definition of that word again.

Bhahahahaha

August 30th, 2010
8:34 pm

As long as Shapiro is on the air, I will never listen to 790. Hopefully the folks at Lincoln will do what 680 had the foresight to do many years ago: Fire Stephen Shapiro.

Mitch

August 30th, 2010
9:00 pm

I hope this ownership change doesn’t mean 790 changes format or goes national syndication anytime soon. Signal is one thing and the profits generated off a stronger signal is another thing, but if you can hear both stations, there is no question that 790 has been a much better on air product than 680 over the years. At present, the only listen-able show on 680 is two radio personalities who cut their teeth at 790. Does anybody remember the days before 790 when 680 was the only game in town? For those of you that don’t remember, 680’s flagship show in those days was The Max & Morgan Show who talked more about Florida State Football than all the Atlanta – GA sports teams combined. I for one hope Atlanta Sports Talk doesn’t go back to those days. Atlanta is a big time sports city and deserves the full time attention that 790 has given Atlanta sports over the last 15 years.

Joe Q Public

August 30th, 2010
9:12 pm

I used to listen to 790 the zone but every 15 minutes they interupted all the commericials with 5 minutes of Sports Talk. (If you call Dinner Menus sports talk)

ATL Sports Fan..

August 30th, 2010
9:16 pm

The morning show on 790 kills 680…2 Lives Stews used to be funny but I cannot listen to them anymore. I understand what they try to do but it got old fast in my opinion..I do listen to Chuck and Matt on 680 mid day..and then bounce back between 790/680 in the afternoons…Yes, i am a loser in my car all day doing sales calls..

ATL Sports Fan..

August 30th, 2010
9:19 pm

Oh on another note…even my african american friends have gotten tired of the Stews….? Do the Stews get better local ratings than Chuck/Chernoff?

Big Will

August 30th, 2010
9:27 pm

I agree that the Bottom Line should be brought back. Nick and Chris still sounded great together when they filled in for Pollack and Bell last week. I also would prefer the old Mayhem with Beau, Steak, and Bell. HELL YEAH, I said it, BRING BACK THE DEAN!!!!!! And make the Tony Barnhart and Wes Durham show full time and maybe add Pollack to it when he desides to be in town.

Big Will

August 30th, 2010
9:29 pm

The stews should get their old time slot back. 8 pm that is.

Woodstock Woody

August 30th, 2010
9:40 pm

I still listen to Mayhem every morning and have for five years. I also listened to the Afternoon Saloon for the year or so it was on, and still catch Bell on occasion but wish he hadn’t been neutralized by teaming him with a holy-roller (and I’m a UGA grad and season ticket holder). I hope Lincoln doesn’t change things, but just writes the checks to possibly enhance things.

790 the Commercial Zone

August 30th, 2010
9:52 pm

The positive comments about Shapiro are a joke, he is a complete jackass in person and is unbearable on the air. Inside sources at 790 confirm that these were planted by employees and friends.

Drive your Kia out of town Cha Cha and don’t come back.

Dingo Charlie

August 30th, 2010
9:56 pm

Nick and Chris are MONEY, Chuck and Chernoff are MONEY. Everyone else is a wanna be!!

C

August 30th, 2010
9:57 pm

Bring Toucher and Rich home to Atlanta, Lincoln! Get Crash in there too!

Rodney Ho Moe

August 30th, 2010
10:14 pm

Fire Steaky and that OTHER obnoxious jew Saltzman.

Bring back the Kimmer !

InTheBiz

August 30th, 2010
10:17 pm

While I like The Stews, trust me, they are not making a lot of money for anybody. Their ratings are not great and Sporting News Network is the lowest rung of the sports syndicator ladder.

Big Will

August 30th, 2010
10:18 pm

I’m a 12 year listener and do not work at the Zone. Funny how idiots can’t grasp that people take on a persona on the radio to make it a great listen. How many other radio personalities last this long?

RogerT

August 30th, 2010
10:44 pm

Big Will when you own the station you can last as long as you want to.

Rich

August 30th, 2010
10:44 pm

Okay big Will, so it’s a “persona”. Well, the “persona” sucks! it’s arrogant, incapable and unlistenable. The “persona” has been fired from every job its had until the “persona” bought his own station. The “persona” is not a “great listen” if it was it wouldnt have tanked and needed a bail out. Now, the “persona’s” days are numbered and the “persona” has no one to blame but himself. Oh and how many other radio personalities have lasted that long? Rude, Baron, Southside, Vicky, Katy, Buck, Mckee, Boortz, Clark, Moby, Chuck, Dimino, Jordan, Frank, Wachs, Fram, Beau, Imus, Rush, Bert, Von Hoestler…..get the point cha cha?