KFNC is a sports radio station in Houston, Texas. Owned by GOW Media, it is an affiliate of ESPN Radio. The station's transmitter facility is located east of Houston in an area of Chambers County south of Winnie, Texas, and studios are located in Uptown Houston one block from The Galleria.
In December 2001, Cumulus entered the Houston market by purchasing the station and later relocating the station's transmitter from the Beaumont area to Devers, TX to include service into the Houston area. The station signed on with an Urban Contemporary format as Power 97.5 under the temporary calls KKTT but IDed as KRPW (the station was unable to get the callsign in time for sign on and acquired the KRWP sign weeks later) and also continued to serve the Beaumont area. (KAYD has since moved to a different frequency.) The station, renamed KRWP (PoWeR spelled backwards) had modest success in the early months of 2002. However, KRWP faced stiff competition from longtime Houston hip-hop stations KBXX and KPTY-FM as well as rhythmic CHR station KTHT (which was also somehow competing with sister urban station KTCX in Beaumont).
KRWP later skewed to an Urban Adult Contemporary format with the intent of challenging the market's heritage R&B station, KMJQ. However, KRWP never challenged KMJQ in the ratings due to the location of the transmitter, which resulted in a lack of decent coverage for the market. KRWP was transmitting from a site 50 miles east of Houston in Chambers County, whereas the transmitter for KMJQ and almost every radio and television station serving Houston was based in northeast Fort Bend County east of Missouri City. The station was home to Doug Banks in the Mornings, even through the format altering in 2003.
Switch to rock (and later talk)
In late 2004, there were plans for KRWP to switch frequencies from 97.5 to 103.7 or otherwise have a simulcast with the objective of providing better coverage in Houston. At the same time, Houston's heritage rock station, KLOL, dumped its rock format after 34 years in favor of a Hurban (Hispanic Urban) format. In January 2005, under new management, KRWP inherited the former KLOL format of album-oriented rock (AOR) and flipped to KIOL as Rock 97.5. The format change was headed by former KLOL personality Jim Pruett and program director/jock Pat Fant (who assumed market manager for Cumulus Houston as a result) in response to heavy outcry from misplaced KLOL listeners. When the 103.7 signal signed on May 23, 2005, Cumulus began simulcasting KIOL on the new frequency for the next 8 days.
On May 31, 2005, at 6am, 97.5 broke the simulcast and launched Houston's third attempt at an FM news station, KFNC FM News Channel 97-5 (102.1 KLYX—now KMJQ—was the first in 1975 as an affiliate of NBC Radio's now-defunct 24-hour NBC News and Information Service. 97.1 was the second FM News/Talk station, and is now classic country.) Adopting a News/Talk radio format, the station consisted of former KLOL morning personalities Jim Pruett and Brian Shannon (the voice of Eddie "The Boner" Sanchez), who reunited to host the afternoon talk show "Back Talk", which was later moved to mornings. Other KLOL alumni on board for the station's news department were Laurie Kendrick and Martha Martinez. Non-KLOL personalities included former KILT newsman Jim Carolla, former KRBE and "NewsRadio 740" staffer Michael Shiloh as morning host/anchor. Former "Newsradio 740" reporter and editor Belinda Babinec, and former KPRC-TV sports director Craig Roberts.
KFNC went through format tweaks and house cleaning, and the FM News Channel moniker was dropped around spring of 2006 for Supertalk 97.5. However, the station's ratings failed to keep the talk format afloat, and on the morning of December 22, 2006, after tearful goodbyes from Pruett and Shannon along with Kendrick, Martinez and news/traffic/producer Julie Takahashi, the talk format left the airwaves for its current sports format that officially launched in mid-January 2007. KFNC's on-air branding, ESPN 97.5 The Ticket, is similar to that of its sister AM sports station in Dallas, KTCK. It has become the Greater Houston FM radio affiliate for ESPN, which began moving its programming from Clear Channel's KBME-AM.
As part of a prepackaged bankruptcy filing, the lenders took over the license of four Cumulus Media Partners stations; two in the Kansas City metro area (KCHZ and KMJK) and the two rimshot signals in the Houston metro, KHJK and KFNC in November 2011. Station broker Larry Patrick emerged as the majority owner of the stations and set out to sell the stations to recover the value for the lenders. While Cumulus lost the licenses in bankruptcy, they continued to program the stations under an LMA. Cumulus had the opportunity to buy the stations back, but ultimately the highest bidder for KFNC was David Gow, owner of sports-formatted AM station KGOW and the highest bidder for KHJK was the Educational Media Foundation, a Christian broadcaster. KFNC remained affiliated with ESPN Radio following the sale to Gow and no major programming changes occurred.
KFNC serves as the Houston affiliate for ESPN, which has been looking to add FM radio affiliates to its nationwide radio network. Various ESPN Radio programs, most notably Mike & Mike in the Morning and The Herd with Colin Cowherd, air on KFNC's schedule.
To compete with KBME and the market's long-time leading sports station, KILT-AM, KFNC brought on long-time Houston sports guru, Carl Dukes, to host "Put Up Your Dukes" on weekday mid-afternoons. Dukes' role expanded to drive-time (The Drive 5-7pm) with program director Dave Tepper and assistant program director Julie Takahashi.
KFNC also brought in a mid-day show, "The Blitz" (Weekdays 12-2pm), with Fred Faour, Matt Dean and Jong Lee in October 2009. In May 2010, Dean left for business school and was replaced by AJ Hoffman, from .
Houston Rockets [Basketball Hall of Fame|hall of fame]] member Calvin Murphy used to host a two-hour sports talk show that aired weekday evenings. This is Murphy's first broadcasting job in Houston since his unceremonious departure in 2004 from his position as the Rockets' television analyst alongside longtime Rockets play-by-play announcer Bill Worrell. Saturday mornings are filled with the extreme automobile ramblings of John Clay Wolfe.
Callsign & moniker history
- KAYD -
- KAYD-FM - 10/06/1995 (KD 97)
- KKTT - 01/01/2002 (Power 97-5)
- KRWP - 01/18/2002 (Power 97-5)
- KIOL - 01/26/2005 (Rock 97.5)
- KFNC - 05/31/2005 (FM News Channel 97.5, Supertalk 97.5, ESPN 97.5 The Ticket)