KNBR takes over broadcast rights

May 9, 2011, 3:04 a.m.

Cardinal sports switch to 1050 AM; effect on KZSU unclear

Stanford sports are getting a new home — at least on the airwaves.

Beginning this August, KNBR 1050 AM will have exclusive rights to broadcast Cardinal football and men’s basketball games, a change from current provider XTRA Sports 860 (KTRB), which has carried the University’s games for the past three years. Cardinal Sports LLC, the multimedia rights holder for Stanford Athletics and a business unit of Learfield Sports, announced the agreement last Tuesday in a press release.

According to Keith Kowalski, an affiliate manager at Learfield Sports, the switch has been in the works since last September when XTRA Sports 860 went into receivership and was taken over by Comerica Bank. The station’s financial troubles were a primary motivation behind the Cardinal’s search for a new broadcasting partner, he said.

“At that point, we decided to look for another station, because the future of KTRB was still in doubt,” Kowalski said.

“In September, we really canvassed the market,” he added. “We were basically searching all major players in the market, and we were trying to determine who would be a good fit for us…we also wanted a station that thought we were a good fit for them.”

This search for a new station intensified in January, Kowalski said, following the Cardinal’s victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

“I think the interest obviously grew,” he said. “The nice thing about Stanford is that it’s always been a winning program, but I think with that Orange Bowl appearance, it certainly took the program to an even higher level than what it was before.”

When Cardinal Sports LLC’s contract with XTRA Sports 860 expired in April, it decided to ink a deal with KNBR, which won out over other Bay Area radio stations like SportsRadio 95.7 (KBWF). SportsRadio 95.7—formerly “The Wolf,” an FM country music station—made the switch to an all sports format last month after obtaining the rights to broadcast San Jose Sharks and Oakland A’s games.

Dwight Walker, the vice president and marketing manager at Entercom, the owner of KBWF, said the company had been in negotiations to broadcast Stanford football games until late last month when Cardinal Sports LLC cut off talks, citing that it was close to a deal with another station.

Kowalski said Cardinal Sports LLC decided to go with KNBR, because it was “a proven radio station,” and because they were looking to have the University’s football, men’s basketball and coaches’ shows to all be housed under the same station.

“Everyone in the Bay Area knows KNBR,” Kowalski said. “They know where to find the Giants and the 49ers and the Warriors. It’s just a great station to be on.”

“We have had games on there in the past, and I think it just being the sports leader in the market will allow us to really attach ourselves with that,” he added. “Hopefully, the success of the program will continue, and we’ll be able to stay with this station for several years to come.”

The only major change between the new contract with KNBR and the old one with XTRA Sports 860 is a reduction in the amount of coaches’ shows, Kowalski said. KNBR will air 10 coaches’ shows, called “Inside Stanford Sports,” throughout the year—or approximately one show per month.

It is still unclear how the change will affect KZSU, the University’s student-run radio station, which currently broadcasts the Cardinal’s football and men’s basketball games. Kowalski said, “There will not be another station in the Bay Area that will broadcast Stanford athletics,” but also said he was unfamiliar with KZSU’s contract. He did not know if the deal would impact the station’s previous agreement.

KZSU programming director Mark Mollineaux ‘13 said the station’s current contract gives it the right to broadcast all Cardinal football games, including bowl games. This agreement allowed the station to air the Orange Bowl this year, he said.

While KZSU hopes to continue carrying men’s basketball and football games, the loss of these sports would not hinder the main thrust of its sports department, which is women’s basketball and baseball, Mollineaux said. KZSU is currently the only radio station that broadcasts these sports.

“We hope to continue to broadcast as we do,” Mollineaux said. “The thing we are most proud of is our exclusives with women’s basketball and baseball, but obviously we are trying to find everything we can do to keep doing what we’re doing.”

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