Shaking the radio tree
I know, I know. A lot of you aren’t happy. The relaunch of 95.7 as KGMZ or “The Game” hasn’t resulted in more A’s-focused programming. The shift to a sort of KNBR Jr. is more than a little upsetting. And I can even infer that from Lew Wolff’s response to my question about the radio situation, which he deemed “not perfect.” By all rights the A’s deserve a shot at full-time coverage, which in turn should grow the fan base. Sadly for the A’s and we A’s fans, life is pretty damned unfair. Just as the A’s haven’t been world-beaters at the gate, they also haven’t been killing it on the radio, at least historically. We can at least be thankful that they are on a sports station that provides some support, but that’s the bare minimum at least for the time being.
Looking at the big picture, the emergence of The Game is much more compelling in terms of how it affects the Bay Area sports radio landscape. When we first discussed the station, it made sense for it to settle into a nice place between the KNBR-680 and KNBR-1050. However, the station’s hiring of the Sacramento-based Rise Guys, NY loud guy Brandon Tierney paired up with 49ers radio color commentator Eric Davis, and several CSN Insiders, has shown that Entercom means serious business. Cumulus, which runs the twin KNBR stations, has already sacrificed 1050 and is in full retreat with its only local host, Damon Bruce, now pairing up with fading stalwart Gary Radnich on 680. Tony Bruno’s syndicated show is probably not long for 1050 after his racist remark during the Phillies-Giants brawl on Friday night. The loss of Bruce and Bruno leaves KNBR parent Cumulus with few real alternatives. Its only draws are Jim Rome and Warriors/49ers broadcasts when they conflict with the Giants. Already a terrible ratings performer, 1050′s impending demise may force Cumulus to reconsider how it carries its various sports properties. The 49ers re-signed with Cumulus through the 2014 season. The Warriors may jump ship as soon as they see an ready alternative, which may be The Game (perhaps depending on what happens with the Sharks).
Complicating matters for Cumulus is their impending merger with Citadel, which is supposed to be voted on in a week. If the merger is approved, it’s possible that due to FCC rules about ownership of radio stations in specific markets, 1050 or other stations will have to be placed in a trust for future divestiture. Putting 1050 in such a trust could lead to the end of 1050 as we know it, pushing The Game into the #2 sports talk spot in the Bay Area. That would change The Game from a threat to a real competitor. Even if 1050 were to survive, it would only be a shadow of itself. In any case, KNBR management has to be on its toes from here on out instead of coasting as it has for the last several years.
The sad part is that throughout all of this, the A’s are relegated to being bystanders. They don’t have enough clout to dictate anything, and having only two stations could amp up the competing-for-Giants-fans angle. We can only hope that coverage shifts back towards the A’s as the 2012 season starts. Until then, at least it’s “compatible” programming.