View Full Version : Cardinals thinking about dropping KMOX

06-26-2005, 02:39 PM
Not that I give a damn, but thought some of the Card fans on the board would be interested in this little tidbit:


Cards in Tigers-like radio predicament

St. Louis has chance to own its network but switch might tune out longtime listeners.

By Lynn Henning / The Detroit News

This just in:

The St. Louis Cardinals are pondering a change in radio networks. America's heartland team is thinking of moving from AM-radio giant KMOX (1120) in St. Louis and opting for a smaller outlet (KTRS, 550) that gives them ownership and in-house marketing opportunities.

Hmmm ... this isn't quite the same situation as the Tigers faced when they were shopping between WJR and WXYT five years ago. But it has its parallels.

KMOX and WJR are heavyweights of equal stature, each of them are clear-channel (no interference from like dial-place frequencies) broadcast furnaces capable of firing their signals over states and regions and vast continental parcels.

WJR and Tigers baseball were a fixture for decades until WXYT came at the Tigers with an adventuresome offer that wrested away broadcast rights for six years. Although WXYT is no WJR in terms of signal (you can say that again, eh, listeners?), there was the promise of a vast, multi-station network that would fill in the blanks and deliver baseball for everyone in Michigan who wanted to catch a Tigers game on radio.

The latter assurance has been a sore spot for lots of listeners in the years since. The grief has hardly abated since WXYT moved to a 50,000-watt transmitter two years ago that seems for many frustrated people to throw a lovely signal straight over Lake Erie and not many places otherwise.

The Cardinals are king throughout much of Missouri and the surrounding states.

So, it is with great indignation that many Cardinals loyalists are receiving word about a potential KMOX-to-KTRS shuffle.

The Cardinals are deciding between two pots of gold, at least in their estimation. KMOX pays a handsome rights fee for the privilege of broadcasting Cardinals baseball. Advertising revenue subsidizes the rights fee and, presumably, brings about a handsome bottom-line return for KMOX.

What's different for the Cardinals is they sniff a chance to bring greater loads of gold into their coffers. They can sell their own advertising. They can also pump in-house marketing programs over the airwaves, which is how modern-day marketing thought works.

The catch is this, as Tigers listeners might attest: KMOX is free and it is wide in its broadcast arc. There is a terrific existing audience.

There are a lot of stations presently on the Cardinals network -- where KMOX might not be as powerful or dependable -- but as people in this state would testify, there can be holes in the signal's coverage. A problem if KMOX goes away is that so many of those people who depend on Cardinals radio baseball, particularly those out-of-state, will be out of luck.

They will either have to pay for the Cardinals on a cable provider, or listen to the games via Internet. Those are monthly statements a lot of folks can't handle .

The Cardinals are nonetheless listening, even as KMOX (it also owns WXYT) works mightily to boost its offer and hang onto its venerable baseball team.

Cardinals president Mark Lamping, who huddled with KTRS last week, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "This is a very important decision and we consider all factors relating to it. Financial considerations are certainly prominent. But it goes beyond that. Our flagship radio station serves purposes beyond just the financial aspect of it. You've got a lot of things to consider."

Rich Homberg, the WXYT general manager who negotiated four years ago to pull the Tigers away from WJR, last week said he thinks the Cardinals should be careful.

"When you own the team, and you own the media, that's a tough little business to be in," Homberg said. "Good luck. It's hard to be great in radio, and hard to be great in baseball, and trying to be good in radio and in radio about baseball, that's an even tougher one."

Tigers listeners would probably offer a sarcastic "amen" there. Speaking of which, how does Homberg react to all those complaints about the Tigers' broadcast signal? It strikes a lot of people in Metro Detroit and out-state as being, well, in need of infusions of vitamin-B.

"The signal's better than ever," Homberg insisted. "We're working hard to build the affiliate list. The station (WXYT) just had record numbers at night, and my prediction is, in two years, you'll be able to get the games on your wristwatch."

Most fans would settle for catching a game on radio and using their wristwatches for other purposes.

It's something, perhaps, for the Cardinals to think about as they mull business decisions. Baseball is still, refreshingly, baseball. For some of us business and money aren't quite as inspiring.

You can reach Lynn Henning at 313-222-2472 or lhenning@detnews.com.