KTAR (620 AM) is an All-Sports radio station in Phoenix, Arizona owned by Bonneville International Corporation. It airs programming from ESPN Radio, becoming a full ESPN affiliate effective September 15, 2015. On that date, many of the local sports shows previously simulcast on both 620 KTAR and co-owned 98.7 KMVP-FM moved exclusively to KMVP-FM. KTAR's studios are located in Phoenix near Piestewa Peak and its transmitter is near the corner of 36th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix.
|Broadcast area||Phoenix metropolitan area|
|Branding||ESPN Phoenix 620 AM|
|First air date||1922 (as KFAD)|
|Callsign meaning||K-The Arizona Republic (second station ownership)|
|Former callsigns||KFAD (1922-1929)|
|Owner||Bonneville International |
(Bonneville International Corporation)
|Sister stations||98.7 KMVP-FM, 92.3 KTAR-FM|
KTAR was the exclusive flagship station of the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns, the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona State University Sun Devils' football games, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. Today, 98.7 KMVP-FM is the primary flagship station for those teams, while 620 KTAR airs some of their games when KMVP-FM is carrying other sporting events. KTAR also airs live sporting events carried by ESPN Radio.
KTAR operates with 5,000 watts day and night. Due to its low position on the AM dial, 620 can be heard over much of Central Arizona. Its daytime signal is non-directional, although at night, the station uses a directional antenna. KTAR uses the same call letters as co-owned 92.3 KTAR-FM Glendale, Arizona. The FM station now carries the News/Talk format that had been heard on 620 KTAR until January 1, 2007 when KTAR (AM) switched to full-time sports.
1920s to 1979: Early historyEdit
KTAR began in June 1922 as KFAD, Arizona's first radio station. In 1929, the station was purchased by the owners of the major newspaper in Phoenix, The Arizona Republic, who changed the call letters to KREP (for REPublic). In 1930, the callsign changed to the present KTAR, due to issues among station staff with maintaining a correct pronunciation of the KREP calls.
In the early 1930s, KTAR collaborated with the Phoenix Union High School and the Phoenix Adult School to present the KTAR School of the Air. An article in Broadcasting magazine recognized the program's success after two years' operation, noting that in 1932 students "were scattered in 61 Arizona cities and towns and in California, New Mexico, Utah and other adjacent areas in the southwest ... [including] many of the disabled World War veterans quartered in the veterans' hospitals at Prescott and Tucson."
From 1939 to 1975, KTAR was the flagship of a statewide radio network called the Arizona Broadcasting Company. This network had affiliates in key Arizona towns and cities such as Tucson, Globe, Prescott and Yuma. The network became the Arizona Broadcasting System at the end of 1945 as the new American Broadcasting Company sought to claim the ABC acronym for itself.
In 1944, the Republic sold KTAR to Chicago, Illinois advertiser John J. Louis, Sr. In 1955, Louis bought two-year-old KTYL-TV (channel 12), Phoenix's second television station, from Harkins Theatres, and changed the call letters to KVAR. In 1959, after the FCC allowed stations in different cities of license to hold the same call letters, KVAR became KTAR-TV. The same year, the stations moved to a new studio on Central Avenue in Phoenix. The Louis family bought several other broadcasting interests in the 1960s. Eventually, the Louis broadcasting interests became known as Pacific & Southern Broadcasting, headquartered in Phoenix with KTAR-AM-FM-TV as the flagship stations.
In 1968, Pacific & Southern merged with a local billboard advertising business owned by Karl Eller and became known in 1973 as Combined Communications Corporation. John J. Louis Jr. was Chairman of the new Company and Karl Eller the CEO.
In 1979, after Louis and Eller merged their media empire with Gannett in what was then the largest media merger in U.S. history. The FCC barred Gannett from keeping both the radio stations and KTAR-TV (now KPNX). KTAR was acquired by Pulitzer Publishing Company, the then-owners of Tucson's major morning newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star. KPNX kept the Central Avenue studios and remained in them until 2011.
1980s, 1990s, and early 2000sEdit
The station was purchased by Hearst-Argyle in 1999, then Emmis Communications in 2001, and in 2004 by Bonneville as part of a multi-station swap with Emmis. Ironically, when it was sold to Bonneville, it began a news-sharing relationship with KPHO-TV: it was once sister to rival KPNX.
2006: Move to FMEdit
In 2006, Bonneville bought another Emmis property, Rhythmic CHR-formatted KKFR 92.3, licensed to Glendale, with intents to simulcast the AM property. KKFR would become KTAR-FM to match its new ownership. On September 18 of that year, KTAR started the simulcast. KKFR's intellectual property was sold to Riviera Broadcast Group. In turn, Riviera bought KKLD in Prescott Valley, which was moved to Mayer in order to put in a better signal to Phoenix. The result was a new KKFR on 98.3 FM. The simulcast continued until January 1, 2007, when 92.3 became the home of the news/talk format and the format of ESPN Radio-affiliated KMVP moved to 620. Both stations retained the KTAR call letters.
2007 onward: Sports 620 KTAREdit
The last sports event carried on News 620 KTAR was the Arizona Cardinals facing the San Diego Chargers on 31 December 2006. In contrast, the first event carried on Sports 620 KTAR was the Fiesta Bowl between the Boise State Broncos and the Oklahoma Sooners on 1 January 2007.
While KMVP aired an extensive lineup of shows from ESPN Radio, KTAR has decided to air mostly local shows. For example, only the first two hours of Mike and Mike in the Morning is aired on Sports 620. KTAR does air ESPN Radio play-by-play if the schedule allows.
On January 6, 2014, KPKX became an FM simulcast of KTAR, and 620 AM changed its name to Arizona Sports Now On 98.7. Due to there already being a KTAR-FM on 92.3, the callsign of 98.7 was changed to KMVP-FM about a week later. On July 10, 2014, owners Bonneville Broadcasting announced Arizona Sports would move exclusively to 98.7 effective September 15. KTAR AM then became a full affiliate of ESPN Radio as ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.
The station was one of ten stations awarded the 2007 Crystal Radio Award for public service awarded by the National Association of Broadcasters. Winners were honored at the Radio Luncheon on April 17, 2007, during the NAB Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
- "Radio Education That Has Succeeded" (PDF). wpbc. August 15, 1932. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Arthur, Diane (12 July 2006). "KTAR plans September launch of AM-FM simulcast".
- "NAB Announces Crystal Radio Awards Winners". National Association of Broadcasters. 2007-04-17.