The station was originally at 1500 (later 1490), and moved to 970 in November 1949, requiring an eight-tower directional array to use the frequency. This large array was one of the first of its kind in the United States.
For many years, this station was WWSW with a MOR music format aimed at older adults. In the early 1970s, General Manager Charles Warner instituted a news-heavy morning show to compete with market leader KDKA. In 1980, a disastrous and abrupt format change to country music (as "Double Country") eventually resulted in the abandonment of the historic call letters and a switch to talk as WTKN. Later, the WWSW calls were reclaimed.
In 1988 WWSW-AM and sister WWSW-FM simultaneously switched to separate oldies formats, with the FM concentrating more on hits of the 60s and 70s, while the AM focused on 50s and 60s music. Ultimately, the AM became a complete simulcast of the FM station, known as 3WS. In October 2000, 970 broke away from the simulcast to become a Fox Sports Radio affiliate, and at first was known as "970 The Burgh." Today, the station calls itself "970 ESPN" as it is now an affiliate of ESPN Radio.
The two stations had a common bond as, in addition to being co-owned, they were the flagship stations for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The FM outlet for Penguins switched to WXDX in the 2006-07 hockey season while University of Pittsburgh football and basketball switched to WWSW. In addition, WBGG-AM, along with sister station WDVE, is the flagship station for the Pittsburgh Steelers. While WDVE originates the broadcast, the contract with the Steelers specifies that the games also be aired on an AM radio station in the market.