I travel a lot. I’ve been to 49 states, nearly all of them on business. I’ve rented cars in all of these markets, which has given me a chance to sample sports radio everywhere: California and the Northeast, the South and the Midwest. Thanks to the internet you can do the same now via streaming. Most people aren’t going to go out of their way to do that, except to follow distant team coverage. Having listened to so many different sports talk stations, I can give you one complete immutable fact about them.
THEY ALL SUCK.
The programming is disposable and predictable. The talent is largely marginal. It’s the low hanging fruit of media. There really isn’t much difference from one station to the next. Listeners may latch onto one or two hosts because of their style, or listen to a particular station mostly because it’s a team’s flagship. 95.7 The Game launched with the idea that it was the A’s flagship, but would give thorough coverage to all of the Bay Area’s teams.
Jason Barrett came in as the program director shortly after the station’s launch in 2011. Not surprisingly, the New Yorker brought in a New York host, Brandon Tierney. That didn’t go over so well – with A’s fans especially. Some worked well for a small but loyal audience, like The Rise Guys until they were unceremoniously canned, or Damon Bruce most recently. Chris Townsend has been the one constant on the station, taking numerous time slot changes like a pro that he is. If the maxim of radio is know your audience, Barrett didn’t. He brought an East Coast sensitivity to the Bay Area under orders from an East Coast corporate parent, and it showed.
I don’t think it’s possible to make truly good sports talk. It is possible to make sports talk that sucks less. One way to reach that not-so-lofty goal is to hire hosts that really know the local teams. When a guy doesn’t know much about a team’s history or players it’s glaring. It gives one more reason for a listener to change the station. For whatever reason Barrett wasn’t terribly concerned about that, figuring that outside talent had a natural learning curve and would adapt quickly. That brought at best mixed results. Even bringing in guys with a clear specialty and without broad sports knowledge can be dangerous, as we saw with Ric Bucher (basketball) and now John Middlekauff, whose discomfort level rises when venturing outside football.
Whether it was Barrett or the higher-ups at Entercom, the push to get Giants fans has proven highly divisive to A’s fans, though it has probably led to The Game’s firm 2nd place among the three Bay Area sports radio stations. A’s fans are willing to stomach some amount of Giants talk, but not the beyond-equal-time treatment frequently on display. Though I’ve heard a lot of things about what Barrett did to meter topic time, I don’t have any interest in doing any measurements or protesting loudly. Mostly because of the aforementioned reasons, I simply don’t care that much. Fans can choose to be inundated by coverage in many forms, from traditional beat writers and columnists to bloggers and fan sites to podcasts and live streams. I watch all four major pro sports, multiple college and individual sports, pretty much anything competitive. I don’t worry too much about how well-executed sports radio is, I’m only concerned that the A’s have a proper station. So if the station’s execution improves by having better hosts or a better program director, great. It probably won’t affect might listening much, it might affect yours.
If anything, my criticism is reserved for Entercom’s disinterest in boosting the station’s signal. As a Class B station with less than 7,000 watts of power, the coverage footprint was limited. East Bay coverage could be sparse at times, North Bay coverage a big fade. Maybe Entercom wanted to wait until the station stabilized. Whatever the reason, the signal has left many unsatisfied, though game broadcast availability through MLB apps has helped. There’s no way The Game will ever come close to challenging KNBR-680 without a boost to cover more of the Bay Area.
Then again, maybe second place is good enough. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is. They could go totally cheap by turning automatic and simulcasting ESPN Radio’s shows from Bristol, then supplementing games with pre/post-game coverage. They could boost the signal, get into a real bidding war with 680, and get into a real war with The Leader. Or they could go in generally the same manner as they’ve been going, but with a better PD and more hyperlocal focus. I don’t know that such a move will seriously improve ratings. It would at least reduce the bad PR associated with Barrett.
Barrett’s blog, citing his desire to spend time with family as his reason for leaving
Bay Area’s Sports Guy’s anecdote about meeting with Barrett
i don’t listen to the station all that much anymore, and i really don’t see a huge drastic move in the on air direction of them not trying to be a “bay area” sports station over what i think most had hoped it’d be was to concentrate more on the east bay side of things especially when they broadcast the games for the a’s and raiders, especially those first 2-3 years with the a’s where the tone with the team and most importantly the fans were inexcusable and this idiot program director did nothing to stop it too which lost me after i was really excited about the station being all sports in april of 2011.
i do think the addition of bruce in the afternoon and moving townsend back to night were the right moves. will there be any significant changes to the lineup? from what i’ve read since this news broke last night was possibly making a switch to the morning show. stability is what the station needs in terms of their weekday lineup. seems like almost every other shows as a “niche” other than the morning show slot which i guess hasn’t been the same since they released the rise guys and then you had the utter disaster of the t/b/h morning show. they could just expand the espn program extending mike and mike from 3am-7am locally and then cowherd from 7am-10am.
will 95.7 continue as a sports radio show. no doubt i think it will. it clearly is the #2 sports radio show surpassing 1050 which ratings right now are down and stagnant ever since bruce left.
95.7 i thought ever from the start would never seriously challenge 680 in terms of the ratings, not when they had the 3 most “popular” teams in the midgets, niners and warriors. but if they could get mid to high ratings in the 1s or peak in the low 2s i think that would’ve been good enough. obviously at this time overall their ratings are usually in the low to mid 1s and considering the demo factors with the 18-49 male range the station probably does better there than the overall #s indicate.
i don’t know how likely the station even comes close to acquiring either of the niners or w’s if they’re tired of being the #2 banana on knbr. there was some reports that 95.7 went hard after the w’s a couple of years ago with them hiring steinmetz and bucher to be in the weekday lineup but the w’s resigned with knbr but though contract runs out in 2016 so who knows. i do believe an improved signal would help the game’s cause in trying to acquire one of those teams, i don’t know how likely they could find an am station to simulcast games either.
if the raiders were to leave the bay area leaving the game with only the a’s i would think the station would try real hard to get one of those other teams from knbr. how likely will it happen, well i wouldn’t bet on it, but you never know.
Entercom should try to buy KGO810. With KGO and stronger singal, they could have the A’s, raiders, maybe SJ Sharks. Can the A’s get on KGO ?
buying 810 i’d expect will cost a lot. one of the most powerful radio signals on the west coast of the us.
@letsgoas: if Entercom is serious, they first have to improve the signal. Changing PD and talking heads won’t work. People are sick and tried of KNBR but Entercom has to give people a better listening option.
What is the A’s current contract situation with 95.7? I haven’t seen anything on a new deal being signed.They signed a 4 year deal on March 31, 2011. So have they come to a new agreement or will the A’s end up without a station a few days before opening day? That was the same situation A’s were in when they signed the 4 year pact.
95.7 was at fanfest but that may not signal a new deal yet since the contract should have another month on it.
I think the important question here is, what state haven’t you been to? I’ll guess Alaska. Can we make this a contest? haha
if 95.7 was at fan fest then it’s probably all but a sure thing the a’s will be back on air at least for 2015.
i would guess the a’s and the station may announce a multi year deal in the near future.
My Mom taught me two things, “Don’t speak ill of the dead” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
I listened to joe Starkey on KGo (6pm weeknights) as a yoot (Cousin Vinny ref.). He was knowledgable (still is) and he had class (still does) Ken Dito and Dave Newhouse were favorites of mine as well. But I’m an old fart now… The question is whether the yoots of today want to listen?
The Bay Area’s sports radio is particularly crappy. And good riddance, Jason Barrett! Wow, that guy has made an absolute MESS of the morning. He obviously couldn’t care any less about chemistry or local knowledge. The Rise Guys had excellent rapport with each other and their show was fluid, funny, and entertaining. So what does Jason Barrett do? He fires them all and replaces the trio with radio virgin Aubrey Huff (the definition of a dumb jock) and sideline reporter Ric Bucher (who knows absolutely nothing besides basketball). Then, after that show predictably falls apart, Barrett brings in another radio newbie, Brad Gilbert, to talk about his love of Bud Ice and Andy Roddick all morning. But, the current morning show, Flight 95.7 has to be the WORST morning show I’ve ever heard in the Bay Area. Chad, Joe, and Lo(renzo) Neal are simply ABOMINABLE radio, the antithesis of The Rise Guys. They have painfully poor chemistry, no knowledge of the Bay Area aside from the Raiders, and their show is dreadfully boring. So, I’m forced to listen to Murph & Mac again during my commute. I can only last a few minutes as they invariably talk about the Grateful Dead, Paul’s horrifically cheesy parodies, and the Giants bullpen for hours on end! I would be a very happy man if 95.7 rehired the Rise Guys (or streamed Colin Cowherd), kept Towney and Damon Bruce, played the A’s & Raiders games, gave us pre-game and post-game shows, and then broadcast other ESPN shows. That’s all! No more experiments with ex-jocks and radio show hosts who just moved here from Saskatchewan. Just give us fans a viable alternative to KNBR!
Gilbert’s not a newbie, he’s guest hosted and co-hosted on KNBR a few times. But he’s only got an on air shelf life of a day or two.
Seems like 95.7 just throws whatever leftovers they can out there hoping something catches on.
Anyone else catch Damon Bruce’s rant how the A’s gave up territorial rights to SCC so the Giants could get financing for (then) Pacific Bell Park last week?
Agree 100% regarding the morning show devolution…
“hire hosts that really know the local teams” nails it on the head with these new hosts. In addition to Lo Neal being illiterate.
I did like the Rise Guys as well. Still not sure why they were moved. Now the morning commute for me is all about NPR, Fresh Air, His and Hers podcast and Stern. I like Greg Papa, but he and John Lund’s show is especially bad, led with that horribly unfunny truth machine. Bad stuff all around