Sinclair/Tribune Deal Impact On Seattle Sports Fans

May 8, 2017

The proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media may have an impact for local sports fans.  Sinclair owns KOMO TV, an ABC affiliate, which shows some programming from its Disney sister channel, ESPN.  Locally, this means some Pac-12 football games and, well…the NBA.

Tribune owns KCPQ, also known as Q13 Fox, being a Fox affiliate.  Because of that relationship, Q13 Fox broadcasts most of the Seahawks’ games.  Additionally, they are the team’s preseason home.  The station also holds the local rights for the Sounders and Storm.  And similar to KOMO, Q13 Fox broadcasts Pac-12 football and basketball due to Fox Sports contract with the conference.

Sinclair is also trying to make a go of it with the American Sports Network.  It’s billed as a multi-platform network, albeit one with secondary conferences and games.  Perhaps the proposed merger is a way for Sinclair to boost distribution of ASN while also acquiring more sports rights to potentially feed its way.

So what changes for fans if the merger is approved?  Probably not much, at least initially, but it bears watching.  Sinclair would own stations that are affiliates of two of the four major broadcast networks, both of which show sports relevant to local fans.  And, Sinclair would be the rights holders for the Sounders, Storm and preseason Seahawks games.  Even mergers in far off places can work their way back to the local level.

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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.