For the first time, two key San Diego FM music stations are giving up part of their Sundays for out-of-town NFL teams. Radio insiders say there’s a master plan behind why KGB/101.5 carries the L.A. Chargers and Rock 105.3 opted to pick up Oakland Raiders play-by-play.
San Diego is generally thought to not have the same passion for sports found in other major cities. Both local all-sports stations are currently tanking in the ratings: the Mighty 1090 and XTRA Sports (both AM stations) are in 24th and 25th place.
Why the new commitment to air other cities’ live football games on the FM band? The ratings for Rock 105.3 were enhanced by San Diego Chargers play-by-play. According to one person who would know, “The day after a Chargers game, Rock 105’s morning show would have massive ratings.… People who listened to the Chargers the day before would just keep the station where it was and stay tuned in the next day.”
When the Chargers left town, Rock 105.3 opted to switch to the Raiders, whose fans sometimes seem to equal or outnumber Chargers fans at the Q.
On his afternoon Scott & B.R. Show on Mighty 1090 August 10, Scott Kaplan admitted to a caller on air that it is a good idea to carry live Raiders games on San Diego airwaves. In fact, he said he lobbied to have his station carry Raiders games this season but that he was overruled by station management.
Why would Rock 105.3’s iHeartRadio sister station KGB carry the Chargers? There’s the obvious issue of Chargers’ perceived civic toxicity and its questionable ability to attract San Diego ad sponsors. But even assuming there are still plenty of Bolts fans in San Diego, Chargers radio broadcasts are now available on KFI AM 640, the 50,000-watt L.A. talk station also owned by iHeartRadio that blankets San Diego County.
Those who picked up Sunday’s Seahawks/Chargers game on KGB were reminded throughout the game that they were “listening to KFI AM 640 and the Chargers radio network.”
“Part of radio’s job is to stir the pot,” says a longtime radio professional who declined to be identified. “And, let’s face it, there are still enough Chargers fans out there who will tune in. But I must admit, KGB isn’t doing much to promote the fact that it’s now the radio home of the Chargers. It’s almost like they are doing it as a public service.”
Besides, he says, KGB rarely has live DJs on weekends and the station plays the same 400 classic rock songs over and over. “At this point, what do you have to lose?” he asks.
But there might be a bigger part to the equation, says the longtime insider: “I hear that Mighty 1090 has been laying off people and that it’s up for sale,” he says about the all-sports station that lost the Padres and SDSU sports play-by-play broadcast rights in the past year. “I heard they didn’t pick up the Raiders because they just couldn’t afford them.”
But did iHeartRadio have another motivation to add the Oakland and L.A. teams to their two San Diego rock stations? “I hear that Entercom [which owns FM-94/9] is going to be doing something different with FM-94/9,” he says of the alternative rock station. “They already carry the Padres. Maybe this is iHeart’s preemptive strike…a way to hurt FM-94/9 If they do go all-sports by signing up NFL teams they would want.”
Shauna Moran is the program director of both KGB and Rock 105.3. Requests for comment to her and to Mighty 1090 general manager Mike Glickenhaus were not returned.
Is it sacrilege for KGB, the station once known for its bigger-than-life promotions like the KGB Chicken, the KGB Skyshow, and the Homegrown albums to saddle up with a quasi-pariah like the L.A. Chargers when it never carried sports before?
Pioneering FM DJ Gabriel Wisdom, started his radio career in 1968 at underground KPRI before moving on to KGB in the ’70s and ’80s. He says it’s time to get over any romanticism about the way radio used to be.
“Radio stations compete on so many levels that didn’t used to exist,” says Wisdom. “Satellite [Sirius/XM] and Pandora are doing to traditional radio what Amazon did to retail. It’s time to do what Devo said in the song ‘Whip It’: ‘Move forward, look ahead.’”