Kurtenbach: A’s radio move shows team’s larger issues
The A’s announced Tuesday that they are not broadcasting their games on terrestrial radio this season. And it’s not, as they’d have you believe, a move towards innovation or the cutting edge.
No, sadly, it’s a sign of how irrelevant the A’s have become in this market.
The A’s are wrong when they push that streaming is the future. It isn’t. It’s the present. We live in an era of over-the-top video content, podcast dominance, and soon, near-ubiquitous gig-speed cellular data connections.
But if the A’s were truly all-in on the streaming option — if they were actually trying to lead the way for the rest of baseball, as they alleged Tuesday — then they wouldn’t have any terrestrial radio affiliates next year.
Yet in Sacramento, Modesto, Redding, Fresno, and other towns in Northern California, you’ll be able to listen to A’s games on the AM band in 2020. The A’s are also keeping their Spanish language broadcasts on terrestrial radio this season.
Yes, you’ll be able to listen to A’s games on the radio in Eureka but not in Oakland.
That’s not the A’s deciding that they’re better than the radio, that’s radio stations in the Bay Area deciding that they’re better than the A’s. Or, to put it in the A’s terms, it’s the local radio market telling the A’s “it’s not us, it’s you.”
It’s not us, it’s you. pic.twitter.com/48LVzpqzpV
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) October 12, 2018
]And those stations have a point. We know about the A’s pitiful attendance – that’s an old story — but the other data on A’s interest in this market is just as damning, and I doubt the move away from terrestrial radio dial will help things.
Per Forbes, the A’s have the second-lowest television audience in Major League Baseball in both ratings and actual viewers. Only the Marlins have fewer people and a smaller percentage of their market watching games.
There’s no carrier issue, either — NBC Sports California is carried by everyone and everything.
No, it’s a general lack of interest, one that back-to-back 97 win seasons and I’d argue the most entertaining product in baseball the past two years haven’t helped. A’s television ratings dropped 18 percent year-over-year last season.
Knowing that, it isn’t at all that surprising that the A’s can’t find a viable local radio deal like baseball’s 29 other teams.
(Those Major League deals, in case you didn’t know, pay the team either in cash or revenue sharing. Lesser operations, like local colleges, sometimes pay the radio stations for airtime.)
What’s the issue? It’s simple: decades of ownership not spending money has led to generations of fans who won’t buy into the team. Why bother? There’s another baseball team in the marketplace, not to mention the Warriors (a ratings juggernaut, despite playing in Oakland for so long), and at one time two NFL teams (the Raiders had a similar issue to the A’s, though).
Pair that mismanagement with the decline in baseball’s general popularity and the ever-increasing likelihood that another generation of great talents will walk out the door in a few years and you have a franchise that I’m not sure can return to respectability, even if they have a new ballpark. As a resident of the East Bay and a lover of baseball and underdogs, I hope I’m wrong, but A’s owner John Fisher might have already totaled his own machine.
Not that you’ll hear any of that prospective from the A’s.
To be fair, their A’s Cast streams of games are free and super convenient.
Not as convenient as turning on a radio, but convenient.
The narrative being pushed — and boy was it being pushed — on the team’s now-necessary TuneIn channel on Tuesday would have made a North Korean propagandist blush.
The die-hards, I’m sure, will eat it up — in their minds, the A’s can do no wrong. But that’s all the A’s have anymore — diehards. Evidently, you need more than that to be a viable Major League team these days.
“We’re making history… We’re creating something bigger than a radio station… Every team wants this once they saw our success,” team employee and former 95.7 The Game host Chris Townsend said on the broadcast.
Yes, the A’s are making history, and maybe every other team in baseball will join them — but don’t get it twisted, it’s only but only because there will be no viable alternatives.