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New Cardinal Radio? New Cardinal Ownership???

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New Cardinal Radio? New Cardinal Ownership???

Postby StlSluggers » Mon Jul 11, 2005 2:04 pm

This has been the subject of discussion for a few days now: wrote:By all accounts, the last offers have been made and it's now time for the Cardinals to make a decision about where to place their radio broadcasts for the coming seasons. KMOX or KTRS.

Some sources say the call already has been made, that the Cardinals will leave the "Mighty Mox" after 52 consecutive seasons and buy into KTRS. It would be part of a marketing plan in which they could structure most of the programming around the team, with the game broadcasts being the centerpiece.

But Cardinals President Mark Lamping flatly said Thursday on KMOX that "we're certainly not there now" about having made a decision. A different source said this week that "there's a lot of momentum" toward KTRS.

But the huge drawback, as noted often, is that KTRS' nighttime coverage area - when most games are played - is a tiny fraction of KMOX's. KTRS (550 AM) can't even be heard throughout the entire St. Louis area at night. KMOX (1120 AM) often is picked up in much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation and into Canada. Advertisement

On the surface, such a decision would appear to be boneheaded. Even if stations were added in the local areas that don't get KTRS, tens of thousands of listeners living beyond the network's reach would be shut out of free access to the broadcasts.

A team that prides itself on being fan-friendly would be perceived by many of those listeners to be just the opposite. One need only look at the parade of letters that have come into this newspaper in recent weeks from those outside the reach of KTRS and the radio network who worry that they'll be tossed aside.

But there's a school of thought floating around that there might be an underlying motive to switch stations. The theory goes that acquiring a radio station would give chairman William DeWitt Jr. and the team's other owners another lucrative entry into the portfolio when they sell the club.

"I can really see them buying KTRS, moving into the new stadium next season, then selling out in a few years at a big profit," is the theme being trumpeted.

In other words, the addition of the station merely could enhance the ledger sheet en route to a relatively quick sale of the team. The owners would be the big winners, and fans outside the reach of KTRS or a Cardinals network station would be the big losers.

But if this truly is a short-term ownership group now, here's a really jarring thought for Cards fans: Ownership could be using the station as a tangible asset - something that can be sold after being built up from its current status as the 14th-ranked station in the market. KMOX, by contrast, is much more intangible. In the short term, it's good only for the money it pays in rights fees. Under this theory, the fact that KMOX can cultivate fans who will be following the team 20 years from now is irrelevant - the current owners will have cashed out long before then.

It's true that times are changing, that radio broadcasts are widely available (for a fee) on satellite and Internet services, that broadcasts are heading to devices such as cellphones and even wristwatches.

There also is the point that there probably aren't a lot of kids hanging around a radio anymore simply to listen to ballgames, what with the vast amount of entertainment options now existing that weren't available to previous generations.

All are valid points. But still, how many kids in Louisiana, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Nebraska become interested in the Cards because dad has the game on KMOX while driving around? How many kids outside the reach of the team's radio network are exposed to the Redbirds because mom or grandma listens on KMOX?

Anyone looking at license plates on vehicles near the ballpark on summer game nights realizes that Cards fans come from much farther away than the most distant outposts on the radio network - places such as Atlantic, Iowa; Tupelo, Miss.; and Norman, Okla.

Such exposure can't be measured on the bottom line - the long-term bottom line, that is.

Lamping could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But in a speech Thursday before the Downtown Rotary Club, he said the health of the franchise is of utmost importance:

"I can say with 100 percent certainty, whatever happens with radio, that decision will be made because we believe it was in the best interest of our fans and the franchise," he said.

Market size

In his speech, Lamping talked about the huge difference in broadcast rights fees paid to big-market teams and smaller ones, such as the Cardinals.

He addressed how important it is for the club to add other revenue sources to try to keep pace financially in order to keep the team competitive.

"We have to be smarter and we have to work really hard to try to compensate for the fact we're in a smaller marketplace," he said. "... We have to work as hard as we possibly can to try to create revenue to try to offset some of that. ... It's even more important for us now than it ever has been before. So you see us getting into other businesses."

He mentioned the new stadium and the fact the team bought and moved its Class AA affiliate to Springfield, Mo., and that profits from it aid the big-league club.

"Times are different today than they were in 1965," he said, discussing the media revolution that has made the broadcasts available through many sources. "Now we're here in 2005 and technology is totally different, and we think to the benefit of our fans. ... We take seriously what we believe is our obligation to our fans."

Although some of his comments would seem to foreshadow a change of the flagship radio station, Lamping said, "Nobody should read anything into that one way or the other."

And in a new development, KMOX general manager Dave Ervin said Friday night that he is talking with Lamping about a package that would expand KMOX's "final" offer by significantly increasing the station's amount of Cardinals coverage.

That would include broadcasting the majority of the team's spring training contests (currently just weekend and a few night games are carried), and airing lengthier pregame and postgame programming all season.
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