The sports talk battle has started to look like election season. 95.7 FM (the young upstart), which recently changed its name to “The Game,” is attacking KNBR (the incumbent) with two ads. One refers to the AM station’s radio hosts as out-of-it Matlock fans (with a reference to not wearing pants, which one would assume is a reference to Gary Radnich’s “I’m dropping my pants” bit), and the other describes how an AM signal fades when it’s cloudy or there’s a stiff breeze. In the latter (which someone from 95.7 actually emailed to me yesterday, so you know the station’s promotions team is quite aggressive), the old guy representing AM calls his station a “blowtorch” that can be heard in 11 states, before lamenting that the term “blowtorch” sounded great in the ’70s and saying, “That’s the same type of jive you kids have been shucking since they started playing music on the FM. Tell me young man, how did that turn out?”
KNBR responded in a less aggressive way, with a commercial starting with promo guy Tony Rhein asking, “What’s your favorite team,” followed by a montage of people saying their favorite teams were the Giants, 49ers and Warriors. Then there’s another ad where some old highlights are played and the KNBR voiceover guy brags about the station being around for 30 years.
(Update: I’ve now heard KNBR was running these commercials last week, before 95.7 started running their ads targeting KNBR. I either didn’t hear them or didn’t pick up on what was going on while they played in the background, but I also didn’t listen to a lot of Bay Area radio last week because I was 300 miles away, at a wedding. Since the way I originally wrote this paints a picture of KNBR being reactionary in the wake of 95.7 commercials, I regret the implication that KNBR was responding specifically to a 95.7 ad campaign. However, I don’t think it’s going too far to state that each station is currently making hiring, scheduling and marketing decisions with the expressed goal of defeating the other station.)
Both ad campaigns have their obvious strengths. KNBR’s on AM, a signal that seems kind of antiquated in the days of iPods and satellite radio — points for 95.7. However, KNBR is home to the more popular MLB and NFL teams in the region, and the Bay Area’s only NBA team — that’s a clear edge for “The Sports Leader.” But there are questions about both marketing tactics:
— 95.7 “The Game” is boasting about signal clarity, but while they poke fun at KNBR bragging about their reach, 50,000 watts really does give the incumbent much better range. If you’re driving in Ukiah, Chico or Modesto, you’re going to have no problem most of the time picking up KNBR. I clicked over to 95.7 on Sunday evening in the East Bay (ironically while driving on HWY 680), and it was some rock song I’d never heard before. I don’t know how wide 95.7’s reach is, but if radio range was measured on Fangraphs, 95.7’s RngR would be negative.
— In terms of the teams they carry, KNBR is on slightly shaky ground. They’ve been riding the Giants to the bank for a while, and the World Series championship makes that a logical decision. But it’s not just non-Giants fans are experiencing major fatigue with the local media’s orange-and-black-centric coverage. There are whispers out there that the Warriors are thinking about switching over to 95.7 in response to being treated like second-class citizens on KNBR for years (particularly getting shoved over to 1050 not just when the Giants are playing, but when they’re playing road games in the eastern half of the country that start during the middle of The Razor and Mr. T).
Then there’s the 49ers, who recently extended their deal with KNBR. So everything’s roses, right? Maybe, but if KNBR was expecting exclusivity they’re probably disappointed. Eric Davis (who’s replacing Gary “Maybe I Shouldn’t Have Talked So Much About Oral Sex” Plummer as the 49ers’ color analyst) is doing a 4-hour drivetime show for 95.7 with
John Brandon Tierney; Jim Harbaugh is supplementing his weekly show with Murph and Mac with a monthly appearance on 95.7; Trent Baalke’s doing a weekly show with Davis and Tierney; there will be weekly player interviews with Davis and Tierney as well as John Lund; Matt Maiocco is now an exclusive guest on 95.7 — I’ve been told he’s no longer allowed to go on KNBR at all. (Update: what I meant wasn’t that KNBR banned Maiocco, but that Maiocco, for whatever reason, won’t go on KNBR anymore … it’s might be something you see from all the “Insiders” that 95.7 recently added.)