KMBZ-FM (98.1 MHz; "Newsradio 98.1 FM") is a commercial FM radio station licensed to Kansas City, Kansas, United States. KMBZ-FM airs a news/talk radio format. Owned by Entercom, its transmitter is located near 56th Street in Kansas City, Missouri and its studios and offices are located in Mission, Kansas. KMBZ-FM broadcasts at 98,500 watts, covering the Kansas City metropolitan area including parts of Missouri and Kansas. KMBZ-FM's schedule is mostly local talk shows, while its sister station 980 KMBZ (AM) carries mostly nationally syndicated hosts.
The 98.1 frequency was originally KUDL, which debuted on the AM band in 1953, broadcasting from Fairway, Kansas at 1380 kHz (now KCNW). KUDL played Top 40 music since at least 1956. With FM radio growing in popularity, KUDL began simulcasting its AM signal on 98.1 FM in 1965. From 1968 to 1973, the stations had split formats, with progressive rock (dubbed "The Rock of Kansas City") on the FM and Top-40/oldies on AM. In the early '70s, KUDL-FM had a Rhythm and blues music format and switched back to a progressive rock format until 1975 when KUDL AM began an All-news format. The FM station played began playing top 40 music in 1975 and called itself 'Disco 98' in 1976 with a disco format. After attempting Top-40 again during the rise and fall of disco, KUDL's soft rock format debuted in 1977.
In 1993, Apollo Broadcasting bought KUDL and one-time rival WHB from Shamrock Broadcasting, then sold WHB to a local broadcaster on the same day. In 2003, current owner Entercom dropped the smooth jazz format of KCIY at 106.5. However, KUDL continued airing Smooth Jazz on Sunday Mornings. The show aired from 7 AM to 11 AM and was hosted by Taylor Scott. In 2010, the station changed its positioner from "98.1 KUDL" to "Soft Rock 98.1."
On November 1, 2006, KUDL switched over to the all-Christmas format, continuing through Christmas Day, and switched early again in 2009. After switching to Christmas music, the station made its regular "soft rock" format available online and on its HD-2 channel.
On March 23, 2011, sister station KGEX flipped to a more modern-leaning Adult Contemporary format as "99-7 The Point" that contained some overlap with KUDL. One hour later, KUDL announced that they would terminate their 34-year-old adult contemporary format, most likely due to low ratings, despite holding a 3.4 share in the latest Kansas City Arbitron ratings report (February 2011). Another reason for the format change could be a negative connection to the call letters KUDL, which possibly could have turned away younger demographics, which is a common trend among adult contemporary stations today. KUDL then began running liners directing listeners to 99.7. KUDL morning host Tanna Guthrie moved to afternoons on KGEX, and afternoon host Roger Carson moved to mornings on country music sister station WDAF-FM, where he replaced one-year veteran Blake Powers. The station held a two-hour farewell show on March 28, at 6 AM, before flipping to a simulcast of The Point at 8 AM, which would allow for KUDL listeners to sample the new station for three days. KUDL closed out its heritage format with "Hold On to the Nights" by Richard Marx. On March 30, 2011, at 2 PM, KUDL broke from the KGEX simulcast and became KMBZ-FM, simulcasting sister station KMBZ. In addition, KMBZ-FM replaced its HD2 simulcast of KXTR (a classical music station that then warehoused the KUDL call letters) with one for KCSP; the KXTR/KUDL simulcast moved to KRBZ's HD2 service, replacing all-comedy (it is now a simulcast of KCSP). Currently, KMBZ-HD2 carries a simulcast of KMBZ (AM).
The simulcast was split on January 5, 2015, with the AM adopting a mostly syndicated talk format as "Talk 980", while the FM revamped its schedule by airing a more local talk line up weekdays.