Monday, April 16, 2012

Not The Local Kings

An important and local sports "news" story is taking place, but the local sports radio station doesn't capture the audience you would expect. Granted, these are not based on scientific results, but I think it makes the point.

This past Thursday (4/12), the owners of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA were meeting with league officials regarding the status of the current ownership. Once again, rumors have heated up that the Kings might be relocating away from the Sacramento area. Such a relocation impacts local revenue, part-time jobs, and civic pride. Especially in this instance, considering the Kings are the only major professional team in town.

Coincidentally, the Sacramento Bee began a poll that day asking respondents "Which sports radio station do you listen to on the drive home?". The poll received a total of 780 responses. Again, not scientific, but compared to the number of diaries or PPM's used to determine the market's ratings, this is a reasonably representative sampling. Especially when you learn that only 13% of those responding said "none". That 87% of those responding actually do listen to a sports radio station during their afternoon commute adds significance.

During afternoon drive in Sacramento, only KHTK 1140 The Fan regularly airs a local sports show, hosted by Grant Napear. The Fan is also the flagship station of the Kings' broadcasts, as well as airing the Oakland Raiders games and some syndicated play-by-play such as Monday Night Football. ESPN 1320 airs ESPN programming during afternoon drive. The story about the meetings involving Kings ownership received comparably less national attention.

This is where the results of this informal poll hit hard. While ESPN 1320 and its national programming received only 16% of the vote, Napear and KHTK received 28% of the vote. Those desperate for a positive spin on this, of course, point out that the "local" show beat out the ESPN show by about 12%.

However, a sports station received 43% of the votes (including votes by those who do not listen to sports radio). KNBR 680 from nearby San Francisco was the "winner". As many of you know, KNBR has been showing excellent ratings in the Bay Area and its consistent 10 ten finishes make it one of the strongest sports radio stations in the country, especially on the west coast.

KNBR is in Warriors country, and right now, its focus is, understandably, on the Giants and their start to the 2012 baseball season. Their focus is and was not on the Sacramento Kings, especially when this is not an "on the court" matter in the news.

Although I have heard Napear several times and enjoy his work, I was not listening last week and was not aware of this Bee poll until after the fact. Granted, this poll is not at all a reflection of only April 12th listening. However, the story of the Kings possibly relocating has been ongoing for months. I can't say this is a reflection of his show, but it could be a reflection of the station.

MIAMI: One of the most significant weeks for Miami's sports radio stations in quite some time. A change in afternoon drive for WQAM results in Dan Sileo taking over as host of the 3 - 7 PM spot last week. This appointment comes just a few weeks after Sileo, who is a former University of Miami defensive lineman, was fired from his morning sports show in Tampa after referring to three black football players as "monkeys". Sileo replaces Sid Rosenberg, who was dismissed last week from the station. Not because of ratings, but because of his arrest for DUI while reportedly driving with a suspended license. Just a few weeks earlier, Rosenberg was reportedly under suspicion of having large gambling debts.

While this was going on, Jorge Sedano has left 790 The Ticket to move on to Sedano initially is hosting a fantasy sports show for the web site, although many insiders expect the show to soon begin airing on CBS Sports Network. But for reasons having nothing to do with ratings, area sports fans have lost out on two popular hosts.

SAN FRANCISCO: It's the radio version of "I Said - They Said" played out all over again. KNBR 680 fired Ralph Barbieri after 15 years as "the Razor" on the "Razor & Mr. T Show" and did not (as of press time) explain the move. Later, Barbieri issued a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming he "had no idea" that day and was actually escorted out of the building after gathering his belongings and turning in the key, ending his 28 years at the station.

HOUSTON: Within a month after being let go by KILT, former NFL linemen N.D. Kalu and Greg Koch have been teamed up for the beginnings of a new show on KBME 790. As of this week (Monday 4/16), the pair host "In the Trenches with Koch & Kalu" from 10 to 11 AM. The pair had only done one shift together as co-hosts prior to this, while working on separate shows on KILT. The next few weeks figure to be on-the-air training for the pair. Look for KBME to expand their role by July and the start of Texans training camp and the coming NFL season.

CHICAGO: Let the jokes about sports events becoming "made for TV" continue on this one. The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame will honor its 2012 "Sportsman of the Year" on Saturday (4/21), and it will be a television executive. Jim Corno, the President of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, will be honored for his years of service to Chicago based regional sports networks. Joey Votto of the Reds (who are in Chicago this weekend) will be honored as "Athlete of the Year", while former catcher Mike Piazza will be one of the emcees. Once the jokes are over, it is time to acknowledge the job that Corno has done over the years in keeping those regional networks successful.

BOSTON: While Patriots fans celebrate long time play-by-play voice Gil Santos' 72nd birthday on Monday (4/16), the possibility remains that Santos' health status could keep him from returning to the booth this summer. Santos is reportedly still at a rehabiliation center recovering from "a severe case" of pneumonia. 98.5 The Sports Hub is expected to give Santos plenty of time to recover before making determinations for the coming season's broadcasts. He has been teamed with Gino Cappelletti for the past 21 seasons, and here's hoping it's at least 22 before all is said and done.

LOS ANGELES: Score another peg on the maximum exposure meter for USC. The school has become only the second school (other than Notre Dame) to now have a national radio package, as the University of Southern California football games will air nationally on ESPN Radio starting with the upcoming season. It is a multi-year contract, which begins on Sept. 1st with a home game against Hawaii. Locally, 710 KSPN has been airing USC games since the 2006 season.

SOUTH BEND: WSBT, the flagship station for Notre Dame football and basketball is adding its FM signal and now offers a complete simulcast, including the play-by-play and the ESPN Radio programming it carries. In a wonderful coincidence, the signal from 960 AM now airs on (you guessed it) 96.1 FM. Sure makes it easier for the promotion staff!

And finally, being a "beat reporter" for a "major league" team is a big way to get noticed at the national level. NFL Media, which oversees NFL Network and has added four new reporters to its staff. They are Kim Jones, who has worked on WFAN New York and on YES Network as a Yankees reporter; Aditi Kinkhabwala, who covered the N.Y. Giants for Wall Street Journal and will become the Steelers correspondent based out of Pittsburgh; Ian Rappaport, who covered the Patriots for the Boston Herald and will now be based out of Dallas; and Gregg Rosenthal, who comes over from and Pro Football Talk to become a Senior Editor.

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