790/The Zone is now gone for good

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Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Sunday, July 5, 2015, updated Monday, August 17, 2015

790/The Zone has been Dead Radio Station Walking for a year now since Lincoln Financial threw in the towel, dumped all its local talent and turned it into a fully syndicated ESPN station and relinquished the Atlanta Falcons to 92.9/The Game.

Now ESPN is moving back to Dickey Broadcasting's 1230/WFON-AM (The Fan 2) on August 17. This multi-year deal also gives 680/The Fan (WCNN-AM) access to ESPN programming.

Dickey carried ESPN Radio on either the Fan or the Fan 2 from 2000 until 2012.

Lincoln Financial is selling its two Atlanta radio stations (The Zone and top 40 station Star 94.1) to Entercom. Nobody at Lincoln or Entercom is talking until the deal is officially blessed by the Federal Communications Commission. That should happen soon.

It's easy to conclude now that Entercom will dump the format at 790 in mid August.

A metaphor for 790/The Zone.
Caption
A metaphor for 790/The Zone.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

The question: will Entercom simply simulcast Star for the time being on the AM dial?

UPDATE: 8/17/15. Yes. As of today, 790/the Zone is dead and gone. It is now a simulcast of Star 94 until Entercom comes up with a better alternative.

The Zone was once the top sports talk station in Atlanta back in the early to mid-2000s under charismatic owners Andrew Saltzman and Steven "Steak" Shapiro despite a weaker signal than the Fan. But the Fan pecked away at the Zone's dominance as Saltzman and Shapiro in the late 2000s were distracted by financial issues at St. Louis sports stations they had purchased. Eventually, losses from those stations forced them to sell their ownership stake in the Zone.

The Fan added an FM simulcast in 2010, followed by the arrival of the first full metro-wide FM sports talk station at 92.9/The Game. The Zone, without an FM signal, steadily lost audience until Lincoln Financial dumped local talent last year. This latest move is the equivalent of pulling the plug on someone already in a coma.

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Credit: Rodney Ho

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