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North to launch Internet sports-talk station
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff

Mike North plans to try to launch an Internet sports-talk radio station.

 

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Published: 3/10/2009 1:16 PM | Updated: 3/10/2009 2:41 PM

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Mike North is once again trying to launch an Internet radio venture.

This time, however, it's not just his own show, but a new 12-hour-a-day sports-talk station with programs featuring local fixtures such as Chet Coppock and Jonathan Hood.

The programming, streamed through North's chicagosportswebio.com site, will kick off with a simulcast of "Monsters in the Morning," North's weekday Comcast SportsNet Chicago TV show with co-host Dan Jiggetts, which already streams on the site, soon to be followed by shows with lead hosts Teddy Greenstein, Hood and Coppock.

"It's the best lineup we could come up with, and we're very, very happy with it," North said.

North plans a formal announcement Thursday with a launch date, but for now said only that it would debut "sometime very soon."

It's a joint venture with David Hernandez of Next Step Medical Staffing, a major sponsor of North's CSNC show and Web site.

After North and WSCR 670-AM couldn't agree on a contract extension last summer, he tried a weekday morning show on a Web site for one of Rich Melman's restaurants before launching "Monsters" shortly into the new year.

Other familiar names to be involved include former boxer Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, who will be paired with Coppock, and former Northwestern basketball player Tim Doyle, now with the Big Ten Network, who will team with Hood. Score producer Matt Weber will leave the station to join Greenstein.

North insisted it will be run like any radio station, based in studios in Morton Grove, with Program Director Jesse Rogers, who recently left the Score, and producers and update announcers to be unveiled Thursday.

"We basically did a lot of hiring," North said. "People are getting fired from their jobs, and papers are folding, and radio stations are down. We're putting people to work."

The question is, will the venture generate the money to pay their salaries? The Internet has been moving closer and closer to the mythical "convergence" with TV and radio, with many people now watching TV shows and streaming radio feeds over the World Wide Web. Yet newspapers, for instance, have had trouble generating Internet revenue while giving away a product they charge for on the street for free on the web.

The advantage with an Internet radio station is that, like broadcast radio, it's free to its audience, unlike satellite radio, which has been struggling for survival even with the Sirius-XM merger.

"You're asking people to pay money for satellite radio," North said, "and you go to the Web and you've got a lot better lineup, and the web goes everywhere."

"I think it's great for the industry, the Internet industry, and great for Chicago," said Score Program Director Mitch Rosen. "I wish him the best." Yet he wasn't prepared to grant Internet radio equal footing with broadcast just yet. "I still think, at the end of the day, traditional radio is the way people go," he added.

His counterpart at WMVP 1000-AM, Justin Craig, said he was adopting a wait-and-see approach toward Hood and Coppock until anything is formally announced.

Selling ads for Internet radio is no different from selling ads for broadcast radio, provided the audience is there. North expects technology to continue to place broadcast and the Internet on a more level playing field, citing how U.S. automakers are planning to add radios that can link directly to the web in their cars.

"The Big Three delayed it to 2010, but next year it's going to explode," he said.

Credit North for looking ahead. Now he - and his employees - simply have to hope they're not too far out in front of the technological curve.