A Shake Up in Local Sports Radio

June 30, 2014

The UW and KOMO recently announced that the station will begin carrying football and men’s basketball starting this Fall.  This marks a return to KOMO for the UW, who were there for many years before moving to KJR AM.  This is seemingly a blow to KJR, who are left without any significant, local teams to broadcast.  The station suffered a previous hit when the Sonics, long the station’s key programming,  moved to 770 AM a couple of years before leaving town.  Additionally, it marks a return to sports for KOMO, just a few years after ending the relationship with the Mariners.  KJR has a weaker signal than KOMO, and after a short trial, ended the FM simulcast it once promoted.  Perhaps this also hurt the station in negotiations, in addition to KOMO’s ability to cross promote UW athletics on their TV station.

What’s unknown is whether KOMO outbid KJR, or whether KJR never placed a competitive bid for the rights.  Potentially, this decision could have been driven from parent ClearChannel rather than locally at KJR.  KJR can still succeed with their “Live and local” mantra via their various local sports talk shows.  But they’ve been in a difficult ratings battle with 710 ESPN.  Another player locally, 1090 The Fan, a CBS Sports Radio affiliate, has not increased their local shows beyond afternoon drive time.  For the time being, more than a year after debuting, 1090 is still a minor player.

And next for KJR?  Maybe they continue with talk only.  Or, perhaps they bid for Sounders rights when they come up, which could be soon now that their business operations are separate from the Seahawks.  But such a bid seems unlikely given KJR’s perceived core demographics.  Even though the area has three, distinct sports radio stations, one gets the sense that all is not as it could be.  We might see more shakes ups in the not too distant future.