KFFN'S OEHLER MOVES TO PHOENIX SPORTS-TALK STATION
On a national scale, sports-talk radio is the fastest-growing format in terrestrial radio, and in larger markets, where ratings are more precisely tabulated, its popularity is bordering on saturation.
Take Phoenix, for example. The Valley has four sports-talk stations, all with a local host presence. In a business that has seen its share of dramatic cutbacks over the years, good sports-talk hosts are finding opportunities.
Jody Oehler, the host of Happy Hour weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on KFFN 1490 AM/104.9 FM, has benefited from the Phoenix sports-talk push. Beginning Tuesday, Oehler will host a four-hour afternoon show alongside Mike Jurecki on Fox Sports affiliate KGME AM 910 AM.
"I'm very excited about having a larger group of sports fans, but it's one of those things where the folks who have listened or enjoyed screaming at their radio down here can still listen to the station because it's streamed and on the I-heart-radio app," Oehler said. "I can talk UA, and I plan on talking UA. Everything I've been able to talk about professionally down here can be taken up there. It's just going to be done on a bigger stage. It's very exciting."
Oehler's UA knowledge will come in handy. KGME recently inked a deal to broadcast UA football and men's basketball games. Additionally, Oehler utilized KFFN's affiliation as a broadcaster of Diamondbacks baseball games to spend many a show breaking down the merits and demerits of the NL West participant. Clearly, that will come in handy in Phoenix.
"I love baseball and I'm excited I can translate the many, many, many hours of Diamondbacks baseball-watching into something useful and practical, which on my deathbed I'll be able to look back and smile on," Oehler said.
With four major sports franchises, not to mention ASU and successful teams in more minor professional endeavors such as the WNBA and Arena Football, there are obviously a lot of conversational outlets for Valley radio listeners. But even though Tucson is Wildcat-centric in its sports interests, Oehler will remember the years he spent in town fondly.
"I'm incredibly grateful. Not only did I get to attend the University of Arizona and have the best time of my life, but the amount and quality of opportunities I've stumbled into in Tucson have been overwhelming," Oehler said. "It's the place where I met my future wife; it's the place I bought my first house; it's the place where I got my career started. It's definitely a very special place.
"I started when I was 23 at (the Journal Broadcast Group). I had a lot to learn, and they were patient. I've been incredibly fortunate with the kinds of people I've worked with, from general managers, program directors, salespeople. It's crazy. To stay at one station for eight years, I don't care if it's Tucson or Timbuktu or New York City, you owe that to a lot of patience, people believing in what you do and people listening. When people get in their car and make the decision to listen to what I have to say, even if it's total nonsense like a random top-five Thursday or if it's breaking down a UA basketball or football game, it's still genuinely flattering that someone makes that decision that what I have to say is something that entertains them."
ENTER JONAS HUNTER
Oehler also handled public address announcer chores for UA football games. Once he announced he was making the move to Phoenix, the university didn't hesitate to reach out to Jonas Hunter, the former KLPX 96.1 FM program director who has handled P.A. for UA softball and the Tucson Padres, not to mention the Toros and Sidewinders, and even the Casino del Sol all-star football games and Tucson Gila Monsters hockey.
"It's a dream opportunity," said Hunter. "I hope the fans go easy on me that first game."
WEATHERMAN BRACKETT HEADING TO OKLAHOMA CITY
When Aaron Brackett arrived in Tucson in October 2011, one of his initial weather reports for KGUN Channel 9 included a comment that the Old Pueblo had received seven-tenths of an inch of rain.
That's barely worth mentioning if your meteorology career featured previous stops in the Midwest. But in Tucson it was a record amount of rainfall for the date.
"From that point on, I knew that even if you had under an inch of rain, it could potentially be a record-setting rainfall, so I had to recalibrate what I had learned in Illinois, and recalibrate for the desert," Brackett said.
It's time to recalibrate again. Brackett has accepted a meteorologist position with KFOR TV in Oklahoma City. Yes, Oklahoma City, the site of two devastating tornadoes in the last three years.
"Weather is big in most markets, but in a market like that, where you're basically doing play-by-play with helicopter footage of intense storms, chasers on the ground streaming live, multiple Doppler radars—people will watch you and they'll react," Brackett said. "Their actions based on what you told them to do can help save their lives, and that's something I want to be a part of. I have this lifelong passion for severe weather, and I want to apply that to what I think is the busiest weather market in the TV industry."
KFOR is increasing its weather staff to five full-time meteorologists. For Brackett, it's an opportunity to get back on the ground and follow the action.
"I did a lot of (storm) chasing in college," Brackett said. "I have more than 25,000 miles logged, and have seen 13 tornadoes. Severe weather is an interest I'm never going to lose. I've always been interested in that market and that city and the severe weather that happens there. In May, I watched that station ... minute by minute. My passion grew for that market after seeing what happened ... knowing I could be there with my talents to help save some lives. That's where I want to be."