Bill Virgin's Radio Beat June 12, 2008

Includes archive of Bill Virgin's columns fromJ une 2006 - March 2009

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat June 12, 2008

Postby radiofan » Wed Jun 11, 2008 9:51 pm

On Radio: KOMO says it can survive a future without Mariners
Was team used to build audience?

By BILL VIRGIN
P-I REPORTER



Will the Seattle Mariners prove to be the biggest loss leader in the history of radio?

The term loss leader doesn't mean the number of on-the-field defeats the baseball team sustains, although at its current pace the team threatens to compile a remarkable number of those as well.

In retailing, a loss leader is an item that a store puts on sale at or below cost, hoping to pull in shoppers who will also buy higher-margin merchandise.

When Fisher Communications won a six-season contract for the Mariners starting in 2003, some wondered whether there wasn't a loss-leader strategy involved in using baseball, which even in bad years draws a considerable chunk of the Seattle-Tacoma radio market, to bring listeners to the new format on KOMO- AM/1000.

Just as that retailer can measure the loyalty of customers when the bargains disappear, we may learn what sort of audience KOMO and its news-traffic-weather format has built if the Mariners go away.

The Seattle P-I's John Hickey reported last week that the Mariners could wind up on another station starting next year; sources with both the team and the station indicated the two sides haven't been able to reach a deal to the liking of both. One candidate for the Mariners' new radio home: KIRO-AM/710, which was the longtime flagship station of the team until losing the contract to Fisher.

If Fisher does lose the Mariners on the grounds that it's too expensive, it wouldn't come as a shock. The company has in recent financial presentations presented charts that show margins for radio are higher without the M's than with those broadcasts. At the time of the contract's signing, it was believed to be one of the biggest radio-rights agreements in baseball.

Dennis Kelly, AM group program director for Fisher Radio Seattle, is reluctant to conjecture about KOMO post-Mariners when negotiations are still going on. "It could be they're going to be with us for years to come," he says "It's been a good partnership. ... Ideally we'd love for the Mariners to be part of KOMO."

But asked if KOMO can survive in its present format without baseball, he quickly answers, "Absolutely."

The Mariners were no afterthought to KOMO's strategy, he adds. "We wanted to redefine what great sports radio could be in this market," he says. KOMO hired a full-time Mariners reporter -- Shannon Drayer -- and added former Mariners players (originally Mike Blowers, more recently Dave Valle and Bill Hasselman) to the pre- and post-game broadcasts.

But KOMO also sought to build a clear identity as a news station; it hired retired veteran KIRO news anchor Bill Yeend and dropped talk programs from its schedule. In addition, the station played up, and made use of, the connection with fellow Fisher property KOMO/4.

What it got, Kelly says, are two large and loyal audiences, for baseball and for all-news. "The all-news format is a strong one; we have great confidence in that format with or without the Mariners," he says.

Whether Fisher achieved or missed its financial goals with the Mariners contract, it certainly raised the radio station's ratings and profile in the market. In Arbitron's winter-quarter 2003 rankings, just before KOMO's first Mariners season, the station was 19th in the market. In spring quarter of that year, the station shot up to seventh. In the winter quarter 2008 ratings (a period without baseball), KOMO ranked sixth among all commercial stations.

In other radio notes:

Listeners to "Morning Edition" on KUOW-FM/94.9 may have noticed a change in traffic reports. Program director Jeff Hansen says the station has "scaled back" on reports, using its own announcers when there's a major traffic problem. (It does still work with Metro Networks, the source of reports for most stations.)

"In our 'Morning Edition' clock, we can't do traffic reports long enough or often enough to get to all the major points," he says. Trying to do so eats into the time available for in-depth news and information, both local and from National Public Radio. "Traffic is not a tune-in factor for us," he says. "It's not our specialty."

"BirdNote," the two-minute feature produced by Seattle Audubon that airs on KPLU-FM/ 88.5, can now be heard seven days a week, at 8:58 a.m.

Jim Wilke's "Jazz Northwest" at 1 p.m. Sunday on KPLU-FM includes a recent performance by pianist Lynne Arriale's trio.

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or billvirgin@seattlepi.com.

Bill Virgin's Radio Beat, Thursdays in the Seattle P-I
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
User avatar
radiofan
Advanced Member
 
Posts: 11426
Joined: Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:24 pm
Location: Keremeos, BC

Return to Seattle / Washington State Radio News

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests