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South Florida Business Journal by Alexis Muellner
Date: Monday, October 20, 2003, 12:00am EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, October 16, 2003, 9:20am EDT

Sports talk radio in West Palm Beach was dead in the air until Steve and Craig came along.

As sports talk jocks, Steve Politziner and Craig Karmazin host "The Steve and Craig Show" every rush hour in West Palm Beach, and simulcast in Madison, Wis., and Rockford, Ill.

It might seem strange to have a talk show airing in two totally different markets at once, but the hosts say they pull it off. Callers comprise a small portion of the show, and contests, features, zany humor and lots of football talk keep the mostly male audience on board.

Karmazin and Politziner, both 28, have been lifelong pals since, at age 6, Karmazin's relentless winning streak in Parcheesi sent Politziner crying to his mom.

They shared a suburban New Jersey upbringing, and things like Hebrew school and tennis. Together, they landed college internships at WIP-AM in Philadelphia, where the sports radio bug bit them. At first, they wanted to be hosts.

"We found the more we were around sports radio, the more we began to like the second half of it, the radio [operations and ownership] part, just as much," Good Karma CEO Karmazin said.

Karmazin turned a finance and entrepreneurship course at Emory University into a business plan. When ESPN 760 hit the air in March, it became Good Karma Broadcasting's seventh station.

"It's the largest market in the country that didn't have a sports radio station," said Politziner, ESPN 760's GM.

In 1998, Karmazin worked with a broker to snap up three stations for less than $4 million, borrowing most of the money. He obtained good assets and successful operations with 40-year track records, he said.

The money came from banks, not Karmazin's famous dad.

Mel Karmazin is president and COO of Viacom (NYSE: VIA), home of the CBS and UPN networks and one of the world's largest media companies.

"My dad works for a separate company that is a competitor of ours in certain markets, including West Palm, and not financially involved at all."

He's got a pretty big job, he said.

"I can't worry him with my seven radio stations. He's got 125,000 people who are reporting under him."

Good Karma's getting there. It employs 80, including 15 in West Palm Beach.

It signed a five-year lease on the West Palm station and has an option to buy.

As an ESPN affiliate, the station gives the network hourly airtime for its advertisers. The network provides programming and feeds, and a degree of "instant credibility" with locals, Politziner said.

The station airs ESPN network feeds, games and shows hosted by former big leaguers Gary Carter, Mike Schmidt and Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael.

Karmazin declined to say if ESPN 760 is profitable and it's still too early to subscribe to a ratings service.

But Politziner and his staff deserve credit: ESPN Radio 760 has earned quick success for a station that only months ago had no brand, audience or ads, Karmazin said.

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