Curtain closes on Scott Kaplan of Mighty 1090

San Diego sports radio star moves over to internet for now

Might Kaplan move to The Fan and replace Tony Gwynn, Jr.?
  • Might Kaplan move to The Fan and replace Tony Gwynn, Jr.?

When Wolfman Jack voiced his last show on “The Soul Express” (XEPRS-AM 1090) on a Saturday night in April 1972, the legendary R&B disc jockey was allowed to give a proper on-air goodbye to his fans throughout the western United States.

But Scott Kaplan, the dean of San Diego sports radio, was not given the same opportunity for a proper sign-off when he left the same station 47 years later, almost to the day.

Wolfman Jack obit in the New York Times, July 3, 1995

Wolfman Jack obit in the New York Times, July 3, 1995

Kaplan has been a high-profile sports talk show host on The Mighty 1090, San Diego’s leading sports station since it debuted on XEPRS in 2003. But Andreas Bicharra, the Mexican owner of 1090’s transmitter and tower some five miles south of Tijuana, notified San Diego-based Broadcast Company of the Americas that the Mighty 1090’s sports programming would no longer have access to his 50,000-watt “border blaster” transmitter starting at noon on Wednesday, April 10.

Kaplan found out he would not be on the air when he showed up to the Sorrento Valley studios.

Numerous media reports in the first 24 hours suggested it was a temporary, technical glitch that knocked Mighty 1090 off the airwaves and that the problems would soon be corrected.

“Yeah, you could say it was a technical problem,” says one wag connected with Mighty 1090. “Technically, we lost the use of our transmitter, but you don’t have to be a genius to figure out what’s really going on.”

As was first spelled out in a December Reader article, that Broadcast Company of the Americas has not been able to keep up with monthly lease commitments to two separate owners of the Mexican towers and transmitters that carried their stations Max 105.7 FM and Mighty 1090. Company chief Mike Glickenhaus said in December that his company would work out issues between his classic hits station Max 105.7 FM and Jaime Bonilla who owned its Tecate-area broadcast towers. After two months of streaming online, Max FM completely disappeared in February.

That article said the monthly leasing cost for Max FM 105.7 was $125,000 based on one source. The monthly expense to lease the Mighty 1090 is considered to be between $75,000 and $100,000. Neither 105.7's Bonilla or 1090's Bicharra would comment.

Now most of the sports talk shows on the Mighty 1090 are continuing to air online and Glickenhaus says he is optimistic that his sports station will return to the airwaves. The morning show with Ben Higgins and Steve Woods, the mid-day show hosted by Darrin Smith and the afternoon Scott and BR show anchored by Kaplan were all available via internet and are originating from the company’s Sorrento Valley studios the day after the Mighty 1090 went off the air.

Meanwhile the 1090 airwaves are simulcasting “Ultra 104.9,” a Spanglish dance/Top 40 music station from the Rio Grande Valley near McAllen, Texas. It is owned by the family of Andreas Bicharra.

On Wednesday, a few hours after Kaplan found out he would not be on the air, he taped a video from his office at the station offices suggesting he was part of a group that is looking into resurrecting The Mighty 1090 on the airwaves. He said legal agreements kept him from going into details. John Lynch, who has been general manager of Mighty 1090, XTRA Sports 690 and 91X, has been spotted at the offices over the last few weeks.

On their first day on the internet, the Ben and Woods team sounded undaunted, though they just lost their access to one of the most powerful “blowtorch” radio signals in the west.

“We have decided to stick together,” Woods proclaimed on the air. He said the recent uptick in the ratings has made all the Mighty 1090 air personalities want to keep the station alive on the internet for now.

Recent Nielsen ratings have showed that The Mighty 1090 has almost double the ratings of the two local sports radio competitors (“The Fan 97.3” and “XTRA Sports 1360”) combined.

Insiders at the Mighty 1090 have said they do in fact hope that a “white knight” will emerge and get Mighty 1090 back up and running. But should that not happen, many said a talent raid by The Fan 97.3 may be on deck. The Fan morning host Dan Sileo has been promoting his recent nighttime work on Boston’s WEEI, an Entercom-owned sister station of The Fan, prompting some to suggest he could very easily segue to that East Coast station. WEEI is famous for a talent lineup populated by gruff, Trump-loving sports hacks like Sileo.

And might Kaplan walk across town to replace an underperforming afternoon sports show hosted by the understated Chris Ello and Tony Gwynn Jr. whose best attributes is that he sounds like his late father?

One insider with connections to both Mighty 1090 and The Fan but who declined to be named had this to say about 1090’s talent pool availability: “I’m sure those guys [at The Fan 97.3] are walking around thumping themselves on the chests, popping champagne. But they should be shitting themselves. I am sure underneath all the talent at The Fan is very nervous right now.”

The fact that 105.7 has been operating without commercials for four months and apparently is being programmed by the random shuffle of an iPod or automatic CD changer suggests that Bonilla has not been able to find anyone to lease his station. One insider says Bonilla rejected an offer of $25,000 a month to lease his station but would accept $50,000, a great decrease from the reported $125,000 per month he used to get.

That suggests that the lucrative lease payments that have flowed to Mexican radio facility owners from American broadcasters for four decades seem to be drying up.

Wolfman Jack (Robert Smith) has been dead since 1995. But Jim LaMarca remembers his when “The Wolf” worked for him at oldies station “69 XTRA Gold.” Like 1090, it was another 50,000-watt Tijuana-area radio powerhouse at 690 AM. Fourteen years after he left Soul Express/1090, he moved to XTRA Gold/690.

“We worked together from 1986 to 1987,” recalls LaMarca. “When he was on 690 they used phone lines. When he joined us it made it so we had to figure out how we could originate his show from Beverly Hills so it could be carried down in Mexico. It was tricky with the Mexican government, because that wasn’t legal. All the other 690 jocks had to drive down to Rosarito. But he got the ball rolling so that eventually all the jocks at 690 and 91X didn’t have to drive across the border every day.”

LaMarca predicts it will tough for The Mighty 1090 to get back up and running, but not just because it’s in Mexico. “My friends in the business tell me that AM radio simply will not work in electric cars going forward. AM radio will now be unlistenable.”

“The landscape has changed so much in radio,” says LaMarca. “The fact that they can’t even pay for their sticks [transmitter towers] speaks volumes about how over-the-air conventional broadcasting has changed.

But 30 years ago Mexican radio was the wild frontier. “It all depended who you paid off in the Mexican government. For instance, we [690 AM] were licensed for 50,000 watts but I found out later we were actually well over 100,000 watts most of the time. It was all about greasing the right palms.”

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Like newspapers, AM radio is being replaced by internet radio services like TuneIn. It's true about electric cars that the reception is bad because of the frequency converter in the electric power system. Tesla and BMW only have FM radios in their cars.

You're a dreamer Ponzi. The nonsense that AM Radio is too outdated to be successful must come as a shock to KFI, KNX, KCBS, WINS, and Mighty 1090. They all share super coverage that goes far beyond the metro market. This is one of the reasons why in spite of Mighty issue, they still beat the snot out the FM Sports Station, as well as 1360. The average low power AM station may not be long for this world, but the big sticks still can be very successful. Good luck to the station, its certainly far superior to the other offerings in the market.

Rollyflopper- Yes The Mighty 1090 "beat the snot" out of the FM sports station in the ratings, because, I would guess, of 1090's superior on-air talent. Only problem, 1090 hasn't paid its transmitter rent since last year. So what good does that snot beating do? Not enough. That's why it went away. And while a handful of stations like KFI and KNX remain huge, many traditional powerful AM stations (like KCBS/San Francisco, WBBM/Chicago, KOA/Denver) have started simulcasting on a separate FM signal to make sure they will still matter going forward. Yes a handful of 50,000-watt AM "big sticks" like KFI and KNX can still be successful. Trends don't look for AM stations overall.

Good to read the ol' school radio terms; boarder blaster, blowtorch, to describe Mexican transmitters. Don't forget "honker" for those 50,000 watt sticks.

According to the latest news reports the owner of the transmission tower (in Mexico) claims that the owner of the radio station has not paid him since January. Ya gotta pay your bills.

I am sorry to see the station go off the air, but surprised to hear that their ratings had been up. To me they had been going steadily down hill for a couple of years. They lost the Padres AND the Aztecs and that superior talent comment is quite a stretch. I used to like the Darin Smith show quite a bit and considered it something of an intelligent show, but even that show had resorted to reading TV listings as a regular bit. (Snore.) Scott Kaplan had become unlistenable to me. I thought they had done something smart for once when they finally dropped Jim Rome - the worst radio show of all time - and brought in Dan LeBatard, another network show, but the #1 show nationally. LeBatard immediately became their best show by a long shot, consistently funny, creative, not-pretentious, in other words the opposite of the Rome show, but they cut LeBatard down to two hours right off the bat and then replaced him after just a couple of months with Stephen A. Smith? Really? Another guy who takes this stuff way too seriously. Just an opinion but I think that snafu may have had something to do with Kaplan actively campaigning against LeBatard on the air! It was beyond weird. I also have to disagree with you about Tony Gwynn Jr. That guy has a very bright future in broadcasting on a national level. The kid is bright, funny, engaging, very knowledgeable, a revelation really. Any way, too bad. It was really a pretty good run for a radio station. Sayonara.

In the ratings just released today....among the most prized group of sports radio listeners (men 25-54) during the Scott and BR hours 3-6 pm, The Mighty 1090 averages 4400 listeners....The Fan 97.3 averages 1400....XTRA 1360-AM averages 800. I think what this says is that Mighty 1090 is clearly beating the competition. But Nielsen ratings says that only 6,600 men aged 25-54 in all of San Diego County is tuning in to sports radio in afternoon drive. That doesn't seem to suggest sports radio is a viable format in San Diego in my opinion. And more to the point. If a San Diego FM (97.3) can only get 1400 of its most desired listeners in afternoon drive, it's time to hang it up, in my opinion. I am speaking only for myself.

You read it here first last week. The Mighty 1090 has announced Dan Sileo is in fact leaving San Diego and is headed for WEEI, Boston. John Kentera is hosting mornings on The Fan for now. As the dominoes continue to fall....look for a recently displaced sports morning show to end up on The Fan if negotiations can succeed.

1090 has now lost the Gulls (for whatever that is worth), as they have moved over to 1360. The Gulls have now been on three stations this season.

John Crawford- "Trump loving" was not meant as an insult. Why be so defensive? But it is (was) true, and I think it helped the reader to understand Sileo's shtick. He tried hard to paint a picture of himself as a gruff right winger. I hope his act works better for him at his next gig than it did in San Diego. The morning show host at 97.3 is like the drummer in Spinal Tap. They keep blowing up. First Kevin Klein who never made it on the air, and now Sileo who tanked in the ratings. is getting really interesting. I reported John Lynch has been seen over the last month at BCA headquarters. Yesterday on the air Scott Kaplan said that he represents a group with former Charger Shawn Merriman who is trying to get 1090 back on the air, while John Lynch represents a different group also trying to bring it back. This is a Game of Thrones battle between to former NFL players. What is unknown is if the Mexican owner of the towers/transmitters wants his back pay first, or, if he will negotitiate his monthly rental to a lower fee. Kaplan said a resolution could come next week.

It's ironic that you mentioned Game of Thrones, as in the last few months the station was broadcasting over the air, there was a good chance that from noon to 6 pm, sports talk would cease for long periods, and GoT talk would begin. Not interested.

Tio Rosa: Thank you for your comment. I disagree with you where you say Mr. Kaplan is "no talent." I absolutely disagree. Scott Kaplan is, in my opinion, one of the best local talents on the airwaves. He makes very good radio in my opinion. Some longtime print sports journalists say they hate him because of his history of unethical behavior. They say he is a creep. Either way, I think he is a solid radio talent. Except for Dave Rickards, which local radio person is better? The only comparison to Wolfman Jack was that they were on the same frequency. So what? What is your point?

As far as local talent on a sports radio station, I would take Darren Smith over Kaplan. No contest.

If they owe the Mexican owner of the sticks (transmitters) lots of money, let's hope some people don't get whacked in their kneecaps.

Although John Lynch has been showing up at the BCA studios for the last month or so, I was told this weekend by someone from within the 1090 group that Lynch actually has no realistic chance to put 1090 back on the air because he has not put together the backing and because the owner of the transmitter would probably not want to deal with anyone connected with BCA going forward since he was burned by BCA for non payment. Lynch helped launch BCA. If Kaplan and company is the only group in the mix, that could mean two things: A/If they are the only group, that means the Mexican owner may be realistic and come down to earth for what he can realistically ask to rent his facility. If there is no one out there willing to pay $75k, it may make it easier for Kaplan. But also.....B/ If it is just Kaplan et al trying to resurrect 1090, this may help the The Fan 97.3's position as it negotiates to hire 1090's talent no longer on the air. Entercom, which owns and operates The Fan 97.3, is nationally not known for paying well. Entercom may use the fact that 1090 is doomed to their advantage. Also, the person from within 1090 wondered (while admitting he does not know for sure) that if BCA hasn't paid its 1090 lease fees since December, what's to say they won't be evicted from their Sorrento Valley headquarters since they probably have not paid rent either. Does BCA even exist anymore? Kaplan said on the air his BCA contract is no longer in effect which suggests he might be working for free. If eviction happens, then it would be really hard for the guys to even stream their shows if they don't have a studio. Then The Fan would really be in the driver's seat. This is all so weird.

And today, the internet streaming stopped, and the website states they have ceased operations.

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