|Broadcast area||Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
|Slogan||All you really wanna hear is sports!|
|First air date||May 1, 1964|
|Callsign meaning||WAUKesha (city of license for the 1510 frequency)|
|Former callsigns||WYLO, WZER, WRRD|
|Owner||Good Karma Brands
(Good Karma Brands)
|Sister stations||WRRD, WTLX|
WAUK (540 AM ESPN) is a radio station licensed to the Washington County community of Jackson, Wisconsin, serving the Milwaukee area. It is known on-air as 540 ESPN. WAUK airs a blend of ESPN Radio talk and sports play-by play, along with local sports talk and play-by-play programming. The station's studios are based in "The Blue @ 310 West" building on West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.
The station is owned by Beaver Dam-based Good Karma Brands (formerly Good Karma Broadcasting, LLC), and owned by Craig Karmazin, son of legendary radio executive and current Sirius XM Radio CEO Mel Karmazin. It is the local rival of Entercom's all-sports station WSSP (1250), and to a lesser extent WOKY (920), which simulcasts Madison's WTSO (1070). Programming from WAUK is shared with WTLX (100.5) in Madison, which is its sister station to west in the state capital city. The station is among the few independent affiliates of ESPN Radio whose webstream is carried on the network's mobile apps, and whose website is hosted on ESPN.com.
The station signed on in 1964 with the call sign WYLO, which stood for "Way Low" (the station's position on the AM dial). WYLO ran a country format for many years before switching to Christian programming. From 1995 to 2001, the WZER call sign was used, prior to briefly returning to WYLO and finally, WRRD.
Prior to the sale to current owner Good Karma Broadcasting, Salem Communications owned the property and programmed a Christian-oriented religious format, though as WRRD, it never carried any of the talk personalities usually associated with Salem-owned stations. The station's now-former WRRD calls come from Salem's branding of the station, "The Word".
GKB took over operation of the signal on February 7, 2008, moving the format of the former WAUK (1510) from that daytime-limited signal to the full-time 24/7 signal of WRRD. Formerly, ESPN Radio was heard on WAUK during the day, and WMCS (1290) from 6pm-6am since January 1, 2005 under the branding Milwaukee's ESPN Radio - 1510 Days/1290 Nights. On February 12, 2008, WAUK's call letters were switched to the 540 frequency, with the WRRD calls moving to 1510.
The new "540 ESPN" simulcasts continued with 1510 AM until May 5, 2008, when Good Karma converted the new WRRD to ESPN Deportes Radio, a Spanish language sports talk format. WMCS's time brokering arrangement with WAUK ended on June 30, 2008, when the station reclaimed their nighttime hours for the music and community talk format the station aired the rest of the day until a March 2013 format change to standards as WZTI.
Programming includes syndicated content from ESPN Radio, including Mike and Mike in the Morning, and "SVP & Russillo". WAUK also airs a good deal of locally-oriented programming from hosts Steve "The Homer" True, Jason Wilde, Bill Johnson, Drew Olson and Dan Needles. The station also features a weekly segment with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
WAUK is the flagship of Marquette University Golden Eagles. The station also airs play-by-play coverage of Major League Baseball, the College Football Playoff and the NBA from ESPN Radio, along with the NFL and the college basketball Final Four from Westwood One.
Until 2011, the station had also been the Milwaukee home of NASCAR radio coverage from all three NASCAR radio networks, as well as the LTN Hour radio show since its inception in 1985 and the Racing Roundup show. On the November 27 edition of the LTN Hour, it was announced that WAUK would be dropping all racing programming by the end of 2011, with racing play-by-play acquired days later by Clear Channel's classic country station, WOKY (920), which eventually would go to a mixed format in January 2013 of sports talk from WTSO and Fox Sports and NBC Sports Radio programming. Clear Channel, currently known as iHeartMedia, gained the rights to Wisconsin Badgers sports for the Milwaukee market in 2014 for WAUK and WRIT-FM, usurping WAUK's limited role of airing football and basketball games pre-empted by WTMJ (620) due to rights conflicts, the full-time home of the Badgers men's hockey team.
The station also has had a branding alliance since September 2008 with WISN-TV (Channel 12), including a co-marketed spotlight high school sports "game of the week" (in men's basketball or football, depending on season) under Hearst's "Operation Football" high school sports branding, which airs live Friday evenings on WAUK. As part of this, a Saturday evening program called The Big 12 Sports Show with 540 ESPN hosted by Olson and Needles airs on WISN-TV before ABC primetime on that evening, which analyzes the next day's Packer game and acts as a post-game or pre-game for that day's Badger football game, along with coverage of other sports.
Other local programming airs throughout the weekend, including an independent Wisconsin Badgers college football pregame show and a Packers-focused Sunday morning show hosted by Karmazin and former Green Bay Packers player Mark Chmura.
WAUK operates with only 400 watts, largely to protect the signal of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Saskatchewan station for CBC Radio One, and the former slot for their French station in Windsor, Ontario, both also carried on 540, though the signal does cover a relatively substantial area due to its low dial position. The Windsor station moved to 1550 on March 1, 2013, expanding WAUK's nighttime coverage in the area slightly in fringe areas.
- GKB's new name - Good Karma Brands.com
- JS Online: Pack prepares, just in case
- JS Online: Spanish-only on AM-1510
- JS Online: WMCS-AM radio ends ESPN feed, goes talk and music
- Station press release (9 August 2011). "WISN 12 To Launch Distinctive New Live Sports Show On Aug. 20 'Big 12 Sports Saturday With 540 ESPN' A Collaboration Between Stations". WISN.com. Retrieved 29 November 2011.
- ESPN Wisconsin (combined official site for WAUK, WRRD & WTLX)
- Milwaukee radio: a retrospective
- Query the FCC's AM station database for WAUK
- Radio-Locator Information on WAUK
- Query Nielsen Audio's AM station database for WAUK