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!