Chicago Tribune reporter Robert Channick discusses WGN launching a new FM 87.7 sports talk station "The Game." (Posted on Feb.17, 2014)

The Chicago radio sports talk wars will have an FM player come Monday afternoon.

That’s when WGN Radio will launch “The Game” on 87.7 FM, a new all-sports station aimed at moving the conversation about the Bears, the Bulls and Da Coach to the FM band.

Taking on WSCR-AM 670 (The Score) and WMVP-AM 1000, “The Game” will begin at 1:02 p.m. Monday, when the station switches from alternative rock to sports talk.  The new station will be affiliated with the NBC Sports Radio network.

While the lineup card may change, Jonathon Brandmeier is set to run the morning show from 6 to 9 a.m. Longtime WGN-AM 720 sports talk host David Kaplan, who agreed to a multiyear deal in December, will shift to the FM station from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., co-hosting until noon with Chicago Tribune sports columnist David Haugh.

The rest of the day includes Howard Griffith and Alex Quigley from 1 to 3 p.m.; former ESPN 1000 teammates Harry Teinowitz and Spike Manton from 3 to 7 p.m.; Mark Carman from 7 to 10 p.m.; and NBC Sports Radio programming overnight.

Tribune Co.’s WGN-AM 720 announced plans Friday to operate WGWG-LP, technically a low-powered TV station that can be heard at 87.7 FM, through a lease with its owner, Los Angeles-based Venture Technologies Group.  It became available after Cumulus Media took over operations last month of WLUP-FM 97.9 and WIQI-FM 101.1 from Merlin Media. 

As part of the deal, the alternative rock format airing on 87.7 FM, which was being leased by Merlin, migrated back to its former home on 101.1 FM, along with the heritage WKQX call letters.

The agreement to lease 87.7 FM runs through Sept. 2015, coinciding with a Federal Communications Commission mandate ending all analog low power television service. WGN Radio should have more options by then.

Current FCC cross-ownership rules prohibit owning a newspaper and radio station in the same market. Tribune Co.’s co-ownership of WGN Radio and the Chicago Tribune predates that rule, and the planned spinoff of its newspaper business this year opens the door to future radio acquisitions in Chicago.

Sports talk is the 10th most popular radio format, with a 3.1 percent share of total listening in 2013, according to Nielsen. It also has the highest-educated and highest-income listeners of any format.

CBS Radio's WSCR, which pioneered the format in Chicago in 1992, is the market leader with a 2.4 share in the current Nielsen Audio ratings. ESPN Radio’s WMVP has a 1.6 share.

rchannick@tribune.com