WDFN is a sports-talk radio station in the Detroit, Michigan, market. It broadcasts in the AM radio band at 1130 kHz, which is a clear-channel frequency. WDFN is not considered a clear-channel station because of its Class B status. WDFN is owned by iHeartMedia, and until the end of the 2008-09 NBA season, was the flagship station for the Detroit Pistons. It is affiliated with Fox Sports. WDFN is one of several sports-talk stations in metro Detroit, the others being 1270 AM (CBS Sports), 1090 AM (NBC), and 97.1 FM ("The Ticket"). WDFN is the only one of the four sports stations that carries a significant amount of community programming and infomercials unrelated to sports.
AM 1130 has been on the air since December 17, 1939, and bore the WCAR calls from its inception until 1979. WCAR was originally licensed to the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, Michigan. It initially broadcast on 1100 kHz with 1,000 watts (daytime only). The owners were "a group of Pontiac citizens," including H.Y. Levinson, who owned half of the stock and managed the station. Levinson also was publisher of the Farmington Enterprise, a weekly newspaper in Farmington, Michigan.
For many years the station aired a middle-of-the-road/adult standards music format, as Levinson insisted that WCAR air only "good music" and refused to allow anything even remotely resembling rock and roll on his station's playlist.
1970s: Giant 1130
Levinson would eventually relax his anti-rock stance when it became evident that the conservative "good music" approach wasn't making him enough money. By 1970, "W-Car" had transitioned to a personality MOR Contemporary format (what would likely be considered Hot Adult Contemporary today), playing more hit singles and fewer MOR album cuts while shying away from very hard rock, and featuring new jingles and a "hipper" image built around slogans such as "W-Car Cares About Detroit and Its People" (including inventive homemade public service announcements and promos for local businesses such as marriage counselors). By the summer of 1971, the station had added more harder rock and roll records to its adult contemporary format, and that fall the station made the full transition into Top 40 as "All Hit Music, The Giant 1130," similar in presentation to market leader CKLW. This incarnation of W-Car was consulted by Ken Draper, who at the time was programming similar formats on WFDF in Flint (which was known as "Giant 91") and WJIM-AM in Lansing.
W-Car's Top 40 incarnation featured an airstaff including Detroit radio veterans such as Dave L. Prince, Scott Regen, and former CKLW and WIXY (Cleveland) personality Steve Hunter. Hunter recalled on the CKLW tribute Website () that although WCAR sounded good, its locally based ownership didn't have the money needed to sustain cash giveaways and other prizes, and the format was changed just before a new ratings book came in showing promising growth in the station's ratings. W-Car would trudge through several more failed formats during the remainder of the 1970s, including progressive rock (being one of the few AM stations to feature this kind of music, now known as album oriented rock), all-news (using the NBC News and Information service), and another try at adult contemporary with new owners Golden West Broadcasters (who bought the AM and FM in the summer of 1977) switching the station from news and talk back to music in October 1977.
In early 1979, WCAR changed its format to country and adopted the calls WCXI ("Country 11"; the "C" stood for Country, and "XI" is "11" in Roman numerals) in March. General Manager John Risher, who had run popular country station WDEE during the early to mid-1970s, brought back popular award-winning morning personality Deano Day, Bob Burchett and a few others who had worked at "The Big-D" to the air staff. Program Director Bill Ford was held over from the previous WCAR AM 1130 adult contemporary format as well as new music director Bob "R.T." Griffin. After his success with WCXI, Ford left the station to program WKHK in New York. Dan Dixon (later of XM Radio), Larry Patton and Greg Raab were the following Program Directors, with Raab also being the station's Promotions Director from early 1979.
With WDEE gone and its only competitor in the country format being Windsor, Ontario's CKLW-FM (which focused its programming on the Canadian side of the border), WCXI became very popular for a year or two. However, WCXI took a hit once WWWW changed its format from album-oriented rock to country in 1980, becoming (apart from CKLW-FM) Detroit's first live country station on FM since WDEE-FM a decade earlier (WCAR-FM was automated country in 1977 until it became WTWR in early 1978). To better compete with W4 Country, WCXI/WTWR-FM's owner, Gene Autry's Golden West Broadcasters, again changed Top 40/oldies-formatted WTWR to WCXI-FM, and was programmed separately from the AM - but simulcasting Deano Day for a short time when he returned again to the station after a brief run in Los Angeles in early 1982. WCXI-FM was unable to beat W4; new owner Fritz Broadcasting changed format in May 1986 to adult contemporary as WNTM (later becoming WVAE and then WMXD). In the meantime, WCXI was sold to Shamrock Broadcasting, owners of W4, on the same date as the FM station and continued to suffer from low ratings through the 1980s. By the latter part of the decade, the station had adopted the "Real Country" branding and began to focus more on classic country.
Finally, in 1992, WCXI became WWWW, staying with country music but now simulcasting W4 FM.
WWWW-AM changed its calls to WDFN in May 1994, and on July 11 of that year, the "Fan" sports-talk format was born, and has continued ever since. WDFN now competes with CBS Radio's WXYT 97.1 FM for Detroit's sports-talk audience.
Unlike many other sports stations across the country, which choose to air their sports updates three times every hour, WDFN airs its sports updates at the top and bottom of each hour.
The WCAR call signs are now in use at AM 1090 in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Michigan, which airs a sports format. AM 1160 in Fenton, Michigan now uses the WCXI calls, playing oldies and can be heard in much of the metro Detroit area.
Notable station events
In 1971-1974, George Noory, now host of the highly rated Coast to Coast AM syndicated late night radio show, worked at WCAR.
WDFN's afternoon program, Stoney and Wojo, conducted comedic tournaments similar to the NCAA Tournament complete with 64 "teams" representing brackets split into geographic regions. Called Stoney and Wojo Invitationals, several times each year. These tournaments have featured such random items as body parts, soft drinks, cartoon characters, even people with the first name of Mike. To determine the result, listeners called in and picked a winner in each game.
On Friday July 13, 2007 Stoney and Wojo were the substitute hosts on the popular nationally syndicated The Jim Rome Show (for the vacationing Jim Rome).
On Tuesday, January 20, 2009 WDFN's local sports programming was replaced with syndicated programming consisting primarily of Fox Sports Radio. Sean Baligian signed off at noon, leading into coverage of the presidential inauguration, with no mention of changes at the station. After several weeks with no local programming aside from Pistons broadcasts, Matt Shepard returned on April 6, relaunching his live morning show, Shep, Shower and Shave from 6–9 am weekdays. Longtime sports director and University of Detroit Titans basketball announcer Matt Dery left the station for competitor WXYT. Rob Pascoe also joined WXYT after being released from WDFN, and on April 28, 2009, Rob Otto was also given his release.
Until the end of the 2008-09 NBA season WDFN was the Detroit Pistons' flagship radio station. On February 5, 2009, WXYT-FM "97.1 The Ticket" acquired the rights to become the Pistons' flagship station starting in the 2009–10 season. The move comes after WDFN laid-off most of its local on-air talent in January 2009, switching to a line-up of nationally syndicated shows like The Dan Patrick Show and Fox Sports Radio's Myers and Hartman. The change is also because WDFN has a very weak directional signal, and listeners have complained that its hard to receive without interference.
The Fan returns
On October 1, 2010, WDFN dropped the "Detroit Sports Talk" branding and returned to being "The Fan," but in 2013 they altered their on-air program format significantly, deviating from their former sports format.
Matt Shepard hosts the morning show from 7am-10am. After Shepard's show, The Dan Patrick Show. runs from 10am to Noon. In 2013, Jay Mohr Sports replaced The Jim Rome Show in the 12pm to 3pm slot. From 3pm to 6pm, The Loose Cannons, a Fox radio show, is broadcast, and from 6pm to 7pm BTN Live is broadcast.