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ESPN Milwaukee Logo.svg
CityMilwaukee, Wisconsin
Broadcast areaMilwaukee metropolitan area
Branding94.5 ESPN
Frequency94.5 MHz (also on HD Radio)
Translator(s)103.3 W277CV (Milwaukee, relays HD2)
First air dateJune 1, 1959 (as WTMJ-FM)
FormatFM/HD1: Sports
HD2: News/Talk (WTMJ simulcast)
ERP14,000 watts
HAAT291 meters (955 ft)
Facility ID74095
Transmitter coordinates43°05′28″N 87°54′07″W / 43.091°N 87.902°W / 43.091; -87.902Coordinates: 43°05′28″N 87°54′07″W / 43.091°N 87.902°W / 43.091; -87.902
Callsign meaningOriginally for sale's manager's wife KaTe, and I-94
Former callsignsWTMJ-FM (1959–1974)
WKTI-FM (1982–2008, 2015)
WLWK-FM (2008–2015)
OwnerGood Karma Brands
(Good Karma Brands Milwaukee LLC)
Sister stationsWAUK, WTMJ, WTLX
WebcastListen Live

WKTI ("94.5 ESPN") is a sports radio station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, broadcasting at 94.5 MHz. The station is owned by the Good Karma Brands. The company owns WTMJ radio and WAUK in Milwaukee, as well as 8 other stations in Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Most programing is shared with Madison based sister station WTLX identifying jointly as ESPN Wisconsin. WKTI maintains studio facilities located on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee. This Art Deco facility is known as "Radio City" in tribute to the New York complex of the same name. WKTI's transmitter, located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) north of downtown Milwaukee, broadcasts an HD radio signal, with the station airing a simulcast of its news/talk sister station, WTMJ, on its HD2 subchannel.[1]


1940s and 1950s[edit]

The owner of the Milwaukee Journal, in addition to publishing a daily newspaper, was a pioneer of broadcasting. It put WTMJ on the air in 1922, among the earliest AM radio stations in Wisconsin. In early 1940, an experimental station, W9XAO started broadcasting in the Apex radio band, which is roughly between 25 and 44 MHz. In 1942, the station was called W55M. It broadcast in the old FM band (42 to 50 MHz) from a 50 kW transmitter located in Richfield, Wisconsin.

It initially simulcast WTMJ and its NBC Red Network programming, but in the 1950s, it broadcast classical music for a while. One of its announcers was WTMJ's Jonathan Green, who utilized a more sophisticated voice and name as J. Bradley Green for his work with the FM side. For a short time in the mid 1940s, the station was known as WMFM.[2]

After World War II, the station was renamed WTMJ-FM and it moved to today's 88-108 MHz band. Initially, WTMJ-FM used the 102.1 FM frequency but few people had FM receivers at that time. The company began to focus on its new television station, WTMJ-TV, which signed on in 1947. In 1950, WTMJ-FM stopped broadcasting. It returned on June 1, 1959, at 94.5 FM, and ran automated music programming for many years.[3][4]

1970s and 1980s[edit]

In 1974, the station changed to a separately programmed automated Top 40 format, using the branding "I-94" (named after the main east-west interstate highway that runs through Milwaukee). To support the new brand, the owner wanted to change the station's call sign but could not decide on the two middle letters of a new name. The station manager, Jack Lee, proposed WWWI, but DJs were not comfortable about using the tongue-twisting call letters on-air. A sales manager suggested two letters from "Katie", his wife's name; the call sign was thus changed to WKTI.[5] I-94 was an automated station promoted as "Nonstop Stereo Rock."

In 1981, live DJs were employed. The next year, Bob Reitman began hosting WKTI's morning show. The program director, Dallas Cole, added Gene Mueller to the morning show in mid-1982. Lips LaBelle later became the afternoon DJ and promotions director. In late 1982, Danny Clayton became the night DJ and music director. These people worked as a team at WKTI for the next fifteen years. The station experienced steady ratings and growth.

1990s and 2000s[edit]

Between 1989 and 1991, WKTI gradually evolved to Hot AC, as the station decided to target a more adult audience. By around 1999, WXSS-FM began to compete for WKTI's predominantly female audience with music from younger artists. WKTI had a long-standing popular morning show, and the station did not make changes in response to the competition. However, slow adjustments were made to WKTI's playlist, changing to an Adult Top 40 format to attract new and younger listeners. The changes included contests and a Friday playlist called Flashback Friday, which featured music from the 1980s.

In September 2006, the station no longer voiced the "W" in its call sign, and the branding changed to 94-5 'KTI, Milwaukee's Hit Music Channel. In late 2006, Bob Reitman semi-retired, moving on to a weekly program on local public radio station WUWM. Gene Mueller continued the morning show with Amy Taylor and Gino Salamone as "Gene, Amy and Gino," until Taylor resigned in April 2007. On May 15, 2007, WKTI and its sister station WTMJ moved Gene Mueller to WTMJ's "Wisconsin Morning News." A new show, Mathew Blades in the Morning, with Blades, Erin Austin, and AJ was launched on WKTI. The station's evening lineup was also changing. Cindy Huber hosted the evening program for two years, but then left the station in a reshuffle and moved to WLDB. The station then chose to air syndicated programming after 7 p.m., carrying John Tesh's Intelligence for Your Life show, which had a WKTI-programmed playlist interspersed with Tesh's segments of information.

In September 2008, WKTI broadcast play-by-play coverage for teams normally on WTMJ, while the AM station was carrying a different sport. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers broadcasts moved to WKTI to allow Green Bay Packers radio play-by-play reports to air on WTMJ. On September 28, 2008, for the first time in Milwaukee FM radio history, the station aired a Green Bay Packers game (versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).[6] On July 22, 2010, WLWK aired a Brewers game to allow WTMJ's coverage of a sudden flash flood emergency.[7]

At 12:12 p.m. on November 6, 2008, after playing "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" by Sophie B. Hawkins and "Hello, Goodbye" by The Beatles, Journal Broadcast Group general manager Steve Wexler stepped in to introduce listeners to a complete makeover for 94.5 FM. The station launched a new adult hits format, branded as "The New 94.5 Lake FM" (in reference to Milwaukee's location on the western shoreline of Lake Michigan). Chicago's "Beginnings" was the first song to be broadcast. With the exception of Matthew Blades, the station's entire airstaff was released with the change.[8][9][10]

On November 13, 2008, WKTI officially changed call letters to WLWK-FM. Journal warehoused the WKTI call sign at its adult standards station in Powell, Tennessee (serving the Knoxville market) until Journal's sale of the station to local interests in December 2012. The WKTI calls then moved to the Sturgeon Bay/Door County channel 22 translator for WGBA-TV in Green Bay.

From July 8, 2009 to October 1, 2011, WTMJ-TV's third digital subchannel carried the music network TheCoolTV; the affiliation was co-branded with Lake FM.

The Lake, Scripps, return to country[edit]

In 2012, WLWK rebranded as "94-5 The Lake."

Journal Communications and the E. W. Scripps Company announced on July 30, 2014 that the two companies would merge to create a new broadcast company under the E.W. Scripps Company name. The two companies' broadcast properties would be combined, including WLWK-FM, WTMJ radio, and WTMJ-TV. The deal would separate WLWK from the Journal-Sentinel for the first time in its history, as the two companies' newspapers were to be spun off into a separate company under the Journal Media Group name. The transaction was completed on April 1, 2015.[11]

WKTI's logo as "94.5 KTI Country"

On May 29, 2015, at 9 a.m., after playing "Pinball Wizard" by The Who and going into a commercial break, WLWK began playing The Beatles' album "Abbey Road". An announcement followed the end of Side 1 from Scripps Milwaukee Radio's Vice President and General Manager Tom Langmyer thanking listeners of The Lake and notifying them about a forthcoming format change, followed by Side 2, and ending the "Lake" format with the final song on the album, "The End." At 10 a.m., WLWK flipped to Country, resurrecting the WKTI-FM call sign as "94.5 KTI Country." The Federal Communications Commission officially switched the call letters on June 8, 2015.[12] (The "FM" suffix was dropped a week later as the call letters became simply "WKTI.") The first song on the relaunched "KTI" was "Bartender" by Lady Antebellum. The station became the second Country outlet in Milwaukee with a full-power signal, taking on iHeartMedia's heritage country outlet WMIL-FM. It was WMIL's first head-to-head battle since 1987, when it pushed then-rival WBCS out of the format.[13][14] (WBCS flipped to Active Rock as WLZR and is now WHQG).[15][16][17] The call letters of WKTI and WLWK were effectively switched, and WLWK's call letters currently reside on the company-owned WGBA Green Bay's Sturgeon Bay TV translator (WLWK-CD).

In November 2017, after only two-and-a-half years, WKTI surpassed WMIL to become the radio market's top-rated country station with listeners 6+ according to Nielsen. In December 2017, WKTI also beat WMIL-FM with listeners ages 25-54, and became the #2 station with listeners 18-34 among all radio stations in Milwaukee.[18] Since then, WKTI often led in the country ratings, with WMIL pulling ahead at other times.[19] However, in the end, WKTI would eventually be overpowered by WMIL over the following year; in their last ratings book released before the end of the format, WKTI ranked thirteenth in the Milwaukee market with a 3.5 share, trailing WMIL’s 5.6 share.

Sale to GKB, ESPN Radio[edit]

On July 27, 2018, Scripps announced the sale of WKTI and WTMJ to Good Karma Brands as part of its exit from radio broadcasting. The stations would become part of a cluster with ESPN Radio affiliate WAUK.[20]

On October 26, 2018, Good Karma announced that, upon closure of the sale on November 1, WKTI would switch to ESPN Radio. Initially, WKTI will act as a simulcast of sister station WAUK, but there are plans for WKTI to shift towards a mostly-local schedule over time, and WAUK to shift towards carrying the national ESPN Radio schedule without deviation. Good Karma will move the operations of WAUK to Radio City, and continue to lease the existing WTMJ radio/WKTI portion of the building from Scripps.[21][22]

In anticipation of the flip, Racine-based WVTY flipped to country on October 30, 2018, imitating WKTI's previous logo and branding as 92.1 VTY Country. WVTY's owner Magnum Communications also purchased advertising time on WKTI through November 2 to promote WVTY and its other country station in the area, WMBZ in West Bend. WVTY had flipped from country to an adult hits format in May 2015 in response to 94.5's format change to country, and used WLWK's former Lake branding until a objection from WKTI management led to a rebranding as The Shore.[23]


  1. ^ https://hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?latitude=43.038898468018&longitude=-87.906471252441 HD Radio Guide for Milwaukee
  2. ^ Bellamy R. K. "Riding the Airwaves." Milwaukee Journal 7 September 1944. Accessed 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1960 page A-253
  4. ^ [1] Fybush.com 2006.
  5. ^ Broadcasting Yearbook 1975 page C-212
  6. ^ Local news Today's tmj4
  7. ^ [2] JS online blog.
  8. ^ "Newswatch" JS online.
  9. ^ "Blades will slip some chat into a sea of music on 'The Lake'" Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, December 5, 2008
  10. ^ [3] JS online blog.
  11. ^ "E.W. Scripps, Journal Merging Broadcast Ops". TVNewsCheck. July 30, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  12. ^ "WKTI-FM Call Sign History". Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  13. ^ http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-RandR/1980s/1987/RR-1987-02-06.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.americanradiohistory.com/Archive-RandR/1980s/1987/RR-1987-02-20.pdf
  15. ^ Foran, Chris (May 29, 2015). "WKTI is back on Milwaukee radio - this time, it's country". The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  16. ^ Scripps Launches KTI Country Milwaukee
  17. ^ 94.5 The Lake Becomes KTI Country
  18. ^ Foran, Chris (December 4, 2017). "WRIT No. 1 again among overall Milwaukee radio listeners, even without 'Jingle Bells'". The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  19. ^ https://ratings.radio-online.com/cgi-bin/rol.exe/arb043
  20. ^ "Good Karma Pays Off For Craig Karmazin". Radio & Television Business Report. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
  21. ^ "WKTI Milwaukee To Flip To Sports "94.5 ESPN"". RadioInsight. 2018-10-26. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  22. ^ "WKTI-FM to move from country music to sports under new owner, Good Karma". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2018-11-24.
  23. ^ Foran, Chris (October 31, 2018). "Radio station switches back to country after WKTI makes move to an all-sports format". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved November 1, 2018.

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