A’s might buy KTRB

Big Vinny reports that the A’s may, in fact, be one of the suitors looking into purchasing KTRB, which is currently in receivership. Lieberman guesses that the station’s asking price could be $12 million, though that’s without the debt previous owners Pappas Broadcasting had amassed.

Assuming that the A’s don’t get drawn into some terrible bidding war for the station and then come out winners, they’ll end up spending eight figures on the station, and millions more to get it the way they’d probably want it. For the time being, getting most of its programming from Sports Byline USA makes sense because it’s a sort of turnkey operation. Sports Byline has a national focus, but operates in San Francisco and can afford to give attention to local teams.

Both Lew Wolff and Ken Pries have shown great interest in operating a station should the opportunity arise. It’ll be interesting to see how involved they’d be with it. Would they do the current hands-off approach with some local programming, a la Sports Byline or Fox Sports Radio? Would they get in bed with ESPN, a network that generally demands a great deal of control for new affiliates? How many other teams besides the A’s and Stanford football would they bring in?

Over the years, the A’s have been a foster kid who has bounced around from home to home. KTRB may be the best chance for the A’s to maintain real stability. It’s funny, though, to see what’s happened to the A’s recent former radio homes.

  • KABL (AM 960) became the Bay Area’s progressive talk outlet, and an affiliate of now-defunct Air America Radio. Since that network’s folding, the station has been rebranded Green 960 and has changed its call letters to KKGN.
  • KIFR (FM 106.9) was known as KYouRadio and Free FM, after which parent company CBS decided to make the station simulcast KCBS to improve its North Bay signal. Apparently KCBS has been the focus for years, to make the all news station the dominant station in the region. That finally happened this year.
  • KYCY (AM 1550), also a CBS property, simulcast A’s games with KIFR for a spell. In 2008, it became the home of the reborn KFRC.
  • KNTS (AM 1220), a newstalk station out of Palo Alto, is now KDOW, a reference to its positioning as a “business” station.
  • KEAR (AM 610) continues to be a very religious station, though ironically its broadcast location may be one of the more irreligious places in the world: Berkeley. Interestingly, I haven’t seen a reference to KEAR in any recent Arbitron lists.

How did these stations end up? You’d think that these corporate radio interests, in their infinite wisdom, deigned to shun the A’s because it was bad for business. Then again, perhaps not. First, recent ratings for these and other stations in the SF/Oakland market.

Next, San Jose ratings.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that comes out of this is that KTRB is very competitive with KTCT (a.k.a. KNBR-1050), which when you really think about it, is just a more expensive (to run) version of KTRB. It has two teams that get shifted around thanks to the Giants, a bunch of syndicated shows, and a block of local programming. Is it possible that with a little care and feeding, KTRB could be eating KTCT’s lunch and then gain on the blowtorch? I think it is.

Unfortunately, what may hinder the A’s is the presence of another blowtorch. No, not KGO. KOA. Where’s that, you ask? KOA-850 AM in Denver. It’s a clear channel station, whose signal can be heard as far north as Canada and as far south as the California-Arizona border, as I experienced when I was driving to Phoenix earlier this summer. KTRB is too close to allow for nighttime interference, so it’s forced to have a directional signal. When Pappas owned KTRB, they were looking at several transmitter locations, in the hope that they’d be able to solve the reception problem locally without causing a ruckus. They ran up debt, ran out of money, and ended up losing the station. My biggest hope is that if the A’s do buy KTRB, they’ll renew this effort so that better East Bay and nighttime reception can be achieved. Otherwise, what’s the point of a baseball team owning a station when much of the audience can’t hear it?

Update 6:50 PM: On a side note, I have to say that I’m really sad that Robert Buan has been let go (along with Steve “Soupy” Sayles). Buan was a good producer, a not-so-good play-by-play guy, a company man, and a nice guy. He’s also Filipino, which basically makes him a cousin of mine. I’m a bit surprised at the move, considering he could’ve had a natural role in an A’s-owned KTRB. Here’s hoping he lands on his feet. Salamat, pare!

24 thoughts on “A’s might buy KTRB

  1. agreed i posted my thoughts in another thread.

    but 860 if the a’s buy it probably will need to add in a local sports call in show or two to go along with a tittle who imo they should keep no matter what as he’s the only one on that station that gets any kind of volume of callers be it a’s and raiders fans, which 860 has really been the only outlet “east bay” fans have had since the early 2000s when the ticket 1050 wasn’t some junior version of 680. with people looking to find jobs even in the sports talk community these days, it shouldn’t be that hard to find those who’d be willing to work in the bay area and i doubt it’s gonna cost a ton either for a major league team if the a’s do end up buying 860 to pay a handful of hosts their yearly salary.

    1050 def has the big national names yet 860 is right there with 1050 ratings wise here in the sf/oak market and has held their own too in the sj/south bay market. although the world cup in june/july and now the niners being on 1050 has helped their ratings in recent months. from rome, bruno, patrick being replayed at night 1050/knbr, they have a partnership with espn. been mentioned whether or not 860 could become an espn affiliate as it’s i think the ONLY major market in this country that doesn’t have an espn based station locally. nyc, los angeles, chicago, dallas, miami…heck even sacramento just 100 miles north of the bay area has an espn affiliate, why doesn’t the bay area have one? is knbr’s stranglehold of the bay area sports radio market a reason why? not to mention really both knbr stations do air espn shows thru out the week and maybe espn just doesn’t want to compete with knbr and have them as a quasi espn affiliate. wonder why espn doesn’t have a website like they do with espnnyc, espnchicago, espndallas, espnboston and etc? again does knbr with their partnership with csnba make it unlikely that espn has a local espnbayarea website?

    keep bringing up the name of krueger the former knbr hosts who i’ve read is now doing short commentaries for 860. he did a rip the niners commentary last week which i’m guessing was his first ever time this new segment is airing on 860. he’d definitely would bring in some name recognition with the bay area sports fans here locally and even if he doesn’t run a heavy based a’s homer radio show like we hear from some other bay area sports station that does not need to be named, i think having him just taking calls from all fans here in the bay area for a couple of hours every day would be a good show to listen to. wouldn’t mind yet again if they teamed him up with townsend for a 3-4 hour show as townsend has really made positive strides with a’s fans with the post game show he did this past season which was a huge breath of fresh air after listening to buan for almost a decade doing post game shows after he took over for herrera midway thru the 2000 season.

    reception/signal of 860, it’s a shame that where it’s located on the dial as it’s been pointed above that not only does it have to deal with the powerhouse of 810 here locally but now a station based in denver radio station 850? in recent weeks the station is just all static now once the sun goes down so what’s the point of even having barr’s and townsend’s show at night since NOBODY can hear it and this is coming from somebody who may have been in the minority here locally that never had huge problems with reception living here in oakland not only with 860 but with previous radio stations the a’s have been on up until recently. course that is gonna get fixed before next season starts and hopefully the a’s or whoever owns the station fixes the signal and at least makes “worst case scenario” functional before 860 owners went belly up and it at least you can actually hear it even with heavy static which i know a lot of a’s fans have experienced since the a’s moved to 860 in 09. at this time at night i don’t think anybody is going to “fuel” up the transmitter recently at night and that’s why 860 signal during the night is completely in the crapper in recent weeks.

    hopefully if the a’s do buy 860, it’s a clear sign that they’re staying here for the duration. why buy up a radio station and spend that much money, at least 12 million, if you don’t think you’re staying here in the market long term.

  2. could the a’s if they buy the station work with the guy who ran kgo before he was fired?

    with kgo going down the drain firing so many of their popular hosts, even if the a’s buy the station would they work with kgo’s former program director and bring in a couple of their hosts to broadcast local news talk shows along with having a handful of sports shows. kgo still is in the top of the ratings here locally. with kgo really changing their direction as a station, i doubt they’ll be getting the ratings they’ve gotten for a long time when the new format is officially cemented in especially in terms change in political views that the station will go to.

    it’s been mentioned before whether or not 860 could be rebooted as both a sports and news talk format. will 860 get as good as ratings even if the become sort of a kgo reboot with a few of their hosts on air? doubtful but anything is better than what 860 has done for much of the past two decades since the a’s moved to the station where they’ve yet to draw a 1 rating in either market although they’re getting pretty close in sj recently with 0.7 ratings in aug and sep, this after drawing about half of those ratings in previous months, still don’t understand the doubling of the ratings. i don’t think stanford football is that huge of a draw on radio and even they didn’t start airing games until sep right?

  3. as for other teams joining an 860 sports station? i don’t think there are many.

    niners are obviously gonna stay on knbr even if they are the #2 banana on the station since it’s them having to go to 1050 when aug/sep comes around. the majority of their fans listen to that station. warriors are probably 3rd on the totem pole but if they make the move to sf in the next decade, see no reason why they wouldn’t stay on knbr too.

    raiders? i wanted them to go to 860 after they left their last station this past offseason. don’t know if the two sides ever contacted each other but imo it would’ve been the perfect fit to have the two other major sports franchises in the east bay, for the time being, to be on the same station, something that has never happened before. may it happen in the future when their current contract runs out with 1550/105.3, maybe but who knows with davis. he like with the stadium situation may not want to be himself the second banana on the station where his team plays and that’s gonna be the case if the a’s own 860. sharks i don’t see moving off from their original fm station in sj which is one of the most highly rated stations in the sj market.

    kings could be a team if they move to sj themselves within the next decade. can’t see how they would stay on 1140 up in sac and would to need to find a bay area radio home and if they move to sj, why not?

    i do agree the a’s if they bought up 860 would like to form some sort of partnership with another pro team, sorry stanford.

    with all those former home of the a’s within the past 10-15 years, is 860’s signal the worst of the bunch?

  4. I’m sure the other owners, subsidizing the A’s to the tune of $30 mill a year, will love it that their money is being used to buy a radio station.

  5. Speaking of revenue sharing, is it possible the A’s interest in KTRB is related to the recent financial docs? Might the A’s be looking for some way to invest their $$ so as to avoid scrutiny over profits?

  6. I don’t know much about the radio station business but it would seem that owning a station would at the least boost franchise value. The ability to reach an audience through your own media outlet has to be desireable. Lets face it, what other options do the A’s have right now for radio? With the proper investments and programming, this could be a huge step toward making this a competitive two team market.

  7. @pjk

    I can’t tell if you were trying to be sarcastic (which never works on the web btw), but if you were, buying the station will increase the A’s income. I doubt any of the owners–except the Giants–will object to anything that helps the A’s get off revenue sharing, and makes that check smaller.

    Plus, if the A’s do get the OK for San Jose this winter, showing the willingness to buy and run their own station will be a big bargaining chip with Comcast. You’d have to think the A’s will start trying to forceably renegotiate their TV contract the second they break ground in SJ, and the threat of starting a local sports station to run your games always scares the the monopoly money out of Fox and Comcast (See Angels, Rangers, ect…)

    • /— regarding this:

      I doubt any of the owners–except the Giants–will object to anything that helps the A’s get off revenue sharing, and makes that check smaller.P>

  8. letsgoas – remember that the niners were on kgo for the longest of time until their more recent move to knbr. as for your other point on the sharks, if their owners work out a framework of cooperation with the a’s, i can see it happening, where (sj) quakes, (sj) sharks, (post-oakland) a’s, and (santa clara) niners are on one station. Now, if somehow the kings come down, it would only further promote such as station format across the year too. Of course, this is the best case business scenario and makes most sense, but that would be some big $$$ allocation to get this even remotely done.

    Does anyone know the contract status for broadcasting of those teams (other than the a’s)?

  9. Can anyone point me to any documentation on the nature and structure of revenue-sharing in MLB? From my current understanding of it:


    Revenue-sharing was enacted to narrow the financial gap between the high and low revenue teams. Therefore, even if all 30 teams were in the black each year, revsharing would continue based on a whatever formula they have in place.


    So, even if the A’s rise above the lower rung of teams, the percentage of revsharing they currently receive would continue to flow to whatever team replaces them in that lower rung.

    I see a lot of comments mentioning that the A’s a new ballpark would deminish their slice of revsharing but wouldn’t the amount/percentage certain teams contribute to revsharing stay the same regardless of who’s receiving it?

  10. If the A’s can become a moneymaker instead of a big-time money loser, that’s got to help.

  11. Briggs, here’s a simplified way to think about it. Let’s say we have a single 10-team league where five teams contribute $10 million to revenue sharing and the other five get $10 million each. One of the receiving teams gets a new stadium and now has revenue equal to the first five (the Yankees aren’t in this league!) Now we have six teams paying $6.66 million each so the other four can get their $10 million. Seven out of the ten teams are better off.

  12. Oops, I meant six of the 10 teams are better off.

  13. Somebody help me cope. If the Giants win the WS, that’s ultimately a good thing for the A’s. Right?

  14. @gojohn10

    Absolutely it’s a good thing. It might show the A’s that with the best pitching staff in your league, a scrappy starting 8, and a little luck, you can go all the way.

    Having a strong media presence and beloved broadcast crew to boot defintely helps it all seem a bit more special for the fans too. That’s not a jab at the A’s radio crew.

  15. Would Barry Zito get a ring to go with the buyout of his contract?

  16. GJ10,
    The Giants winning the WS (or just winning period) is the best way to keep your fans and sponsors coming to the park and to keep the positive revenue going;
    Not holding a city of 1 million+, over 40 miles away hostage for no good reason. Looks like the Giants, San Jose and the A’s could be big winners this November/December.
    Sorry RM, had to “squawk.”

  17. screw that go rangers. rooting for wash who i wanted the a’s to sign as manager after 06.

    how funny would it be if sfg lost the world series to three al west teams, excluding sea.

    st, yes i know the niners were on kgo for almost two decades but still doesn’t prove why they would leave the biggest sports radio station here locally where most of their fans listen to and why would knbr let them go even if they move down to a potential santa clara stadium or hell even an oakland based stadium? really if there is a pro team that 860 should go after eventually it should be the raiders and maybe the kings if they move down to the south bay eventually.

  18. buan was fired. guessing no matter what happens with 860 that townsend will be back doing post games which is good news.

    sucks for buan since you don’t want anybody to get fired in this day and age but the guy just didn’t do a good job when he actually had the position for nearly a decade.

  19. some poster at AN posted according to his knowledge that the two highest bidders for 860 are the a’s and some group from korea? korea? what would they want from the station?

  20. It is true that KOA 850 in Denver is very powerful. I am from Oakland and I currently live in Davis, CA. You can get KOA 850 on a hill near my house, facing east at night and in Davis, 850 comes in loud and clear after sundown.

  21. too bad the kgo wasn’t up for sale as the signal issue would NEVER be in doubt anytime during the day, week, or year.

    course kgo wouldn’t be as cheap to buy if they were for sale as 860 is for numerous reasons.

  22. The problem with selling stations these days is that most of the time they are sold as a package, not individually. KGO was the crown jewel in ABC’s Bay Area holdings, so there would be no way it would be stripped away when Citadel came calling. KNBR was part of Susquehanna’s portfolio, which was sold Cumulus. Occasionally, a company with several stations in a region will be forced to sell one or more stations when acquiring another company who has multiple stations, but that doesn’t happen too often.

    Chances are that the Korean interests, stuck in the same difficult entry position as the A’s, would buy the station and drop the transmitter power significantly, as is often the case with Asian stations in the region. They’d have to terminate the existing broadcast arrangements with the A’s and Stanford. There’s no telling what that might cost. A’s: orphaned again. Let’s hope this isn’t the case.

  23. i really hope 860 gets sold to the a’s. can’t imagine what the hell would happen yet again if they were “booted off” another station.

    860 is by far from perfect due to the signal/reception and other issues like some questionable programs that the station has put out there over the past couple of years but hopefully if the a’s win the bid they can put as much money as they can, certainly more than pappas ever did especially late in their tenure as the owner of the station and maximize 860 to it’s fullest which still probably won’t please everybody.

    like it’s been said at least 860 gives an outlet before and after a’s games for a’s fans to call in and talk legitimately about the franchise as a whole something we have never been given really since i can remember being an a’s fan.

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