According to Rich “Big Vinny” Lieberman and the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci, right-wing talk show host and author Michael Savage will be returning to the Bay Area airwaves at KTRB. Savage, who was booted off KNEW last September, was famously left without station in his own market. KTRB’s bringing Savage back into the Bay Area belies the “Xtra Sports” tagline pitched by the station since it became the A’s flagship station last spring.
Whatever your take on Savage’s political views, the fact is that baseball games and “hot” talk aren’t the most compatible types of programming. Rush Limbaugh held the 9-noon spot at KNBR throughout the 90’s in part because his show generally didn’t interfere with Giants broadcasts. Savage’s show will be in the drive time slot (3-6 p.m.), which will make it automatically pre-empted when the A’s go on those weeklong road trips to the Central and Eastern time zones when accounting for pre and postgame shows. While Savage was not an awesome performer in the Bay Area, he was the #3 hot talker in the nation at the time of his demise at KNEW.
If anything, the move seems like a hail mary to grab listeners without properly going local. Currently, KTRB runs a delayed broadcast of Fox Sports Radio/KLAC’s Myers & Hartman show, a dreadfully boring show. The only constants in the station’s slate have been two Sports Byline USA properties, the flagship show run by veteran Ron Barr at 7-10 (live), and former KNBR morning guy Chris Townsend at 1-4 a.m. With Myers & Hartman on the way out, no more FSR shows will be on the slate. What’s left is an odd pastiche of syndicated programming, none of it locally focused. Even though both of the Sports Byline shows are out of Northern California, both are decidedly national and that’s unlikely to change. Besides, night and overnight programming doesn’t pay the bills, and Barr’s show is often pre-empted because of A’s West Coast games anyway.
For his part, Savage swears he will bury KNEW and KSFO, his first radio home. That seems rather unlikely unless KTRB starts going on an extremely heavy marketing blitz tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what KTRB does in terms of getting out the word. Savage is clearly being brought in because of name recognition, despite the inherent polarization he inspires. Other than the A’s, KTRB had little to hang their hats on when trying to court advertisers. The A’s on radio have often underperformed compared to regularly scheduled programming on previous flagship stations, so something had to help bolster the station’s image. Even then, with KTRB’s frequent schedule shuffling there’s no guarantee Savage will be around for long. Chances are good that a Pappas will bite the bullet and bring in real on-air talent. If not, well that mountain’s going to be that much harder to climb.