Is KJR Rapidly Losing The Sports Radio Battle?

** KJR makes up less than 10% of my sports radio listening time, and there’s a reason for it.  The station is tired. **

Originally published January 6th, 2012

KJR picked the right time to have a shakeup at the station.  When no one was listening. 

As of this week, Steve Sandmeyer and Scott Soden are no longer affiliated with KJR.  The station announced a number of moves this week, moving Elise Woodward to Gas’ show and using the 7-10pm slot for a national show w/Rob Dibble and a voice from the past, the T-Man.  I don’t think you can look at this week’s moves as anything other than a money saving move — I think it’s a clear indication that KJR’s ratings are taking a steady hit and this is Clear Channel’s way of slowly trimming their local programming to save money.  But was it time for a change anyway?

I’ve been a sports radio listener for 20yrs.  I remember listening to KJR in the afternoon when Mitch was in the mid-day.  I remember listening to the T-Man at night.  I remember Ferrell on the Bench (if you’ve ever listened to him, you know you just heard his grating voice in your head).  I remember the Sports Babe.  I can listen to sports talk for hours — and have for years.  It was time for a change at KJR, but I would argue they made the wrong changes.  Hear me out, well, read me out, as I break down what’s going so wrong w/KJR and why this could be the first move they make to turning to almost exclusively national radio.

This week’s changes breakdown:

– Let me start by saying I really disliked Steve Sandmeyer.  I’ve never been a fan of his, but I never root for a guy to lose his job either.  I’m not going to hammer on why I didn’t like the guy, he’s had a bad enough few weeks.  Replacing him w/Dick Fain is a tough call, because Dick is pretty vanilla, he’s not going to bring a lot to the show.

– I liked “Hot Shot” Scott.  That guy is getting the short end.  Gas has been virtually unlistenable for years.  The last years of Groz and Gas were agony as both hosts battled to be less relevant than the other.  Gas needed a new sidekick, someone that could help manage the flow and add some fun to the show.  Hot Shot was definitely the guy.  If they were looking for a new co-host for Mitch, they should have gone w/Scott.  Even Mitch tweeted that Scott got a raw end, where was that for Sandmeyer?  I’m not a big Elise fan, but she’s listenable and has a take.  I don’t have an issue w/her moving to Gas’ show, anyone w/Gas is better than no one w/Gas… Resist the urge to joke there, readers. 

What KJR should have done:

KJR has gotten stale.  How long has Mitch been in the morning?  How long has Softy been in the afternoon and Gas after 3pm?  A loooonggg time.  Part of what’s made KJR so stale is the lack of change at the station.  They made a move a few years back when they shoe-horned Ian Furness’ show, and they added sidekicks to almost every show to keep the banter alive (and to take fewer phone calls).  If they really wanted to change it up, they needed to move slots.  I understand that timeslots are a status thing.  I’m the morning guy, I’m the afternoon-drive guy.  I get it, but when you’ve been in the same slot for 10+ years, you’re talking to the same audience every day!  When ESPN Seattle is joining the market and adding hosts, you don’t stay status quo, which is exactly what KJR has done, and why it’s losing.  How would I have changed it up?

– 6-10am (Gas/Elise) — I assume I’m forced to keep Gas…

-10-3pm (Ian/Softy) — Shudder, but it would be entertaining especially during College Football season.  Combine the Honk show and a Cougar Roundtable.  Softy, ugh.  He has fans though.

– Eliminate bridge show

– 3pm-7pm (Mitch/Hot Shot Scott) — This would have been a fun drive show.  I’ve gotten bored w/Mitch in the mornings, do you know why?  Because Mitch has gotten bored.  He sounds like he’s punching a clock in the morning.  My favorite Mitch shows were the old Seahawk postgames and the shows he’s done this year w/Gas.  It just seems like he hates being on Gas’ show, so he’s finding ways to just stir up trouble and/or antagonize Gas.  The shows were good.  Well, Mitch was good.

– 7pm-10pm (Sandmeyer/Abker) — Abker is a funny guy, he brings some personality that would balance out Sandmeyer.  Like I mentioned above, I’m not a Sandmeyer guy.  I think he thinks he knows more than he knows… but it’s hard to argue that he has passion for baseball.  Putting him in the 7-10pm slot would have given him prime baseball commentary hours during the season and post-game.

Why ESPN Seattle “gets it”, but could be so much better:

710 ESPN Seattle has made moves since they came on the air.  Not all good moves, but moves.

– Brock and Salk are a consistently entertaining show.  It’s my favorite local sports show on the air.  There’s a terrific dynamic between those two guys that wasn’t there when they started.  Brock is so straight that it took him some time to adjust to Salk’s opinions and ranting.  As a Coug I have a hard time liking anything Husky, but I have to say, Brock is great.  His analysis is so much better than Hugh Millen’s on KJR.  There’s a reason Brock is on ESPN’s football broadcasting team, he has great analysis and is able to say it in a way that makes sense to regular people.  Salk is hilarious and is willing to put his opinion out there regardless — he’s unapologetic and will take a stand, which can sometimes be completely ludicrious, but I like it!

– Groz is a total retread.  I feel the same way about Groz that I do about Gas on KJR.  Groz needs a cohost to keep things light, to keep him focussed, and to keep him interesting.  I thought Chris Cashman was a great choice, I was sorry to see him go, but Rockstar Bob Stelton is a good fit.  I like knowing that when Groz calls in sick… again… that we’ll have someone interesting to listen to.  One thing is apparent though, Groz has been re-energized at ESPN.  Still not a fan, but he’s putting more effort than he has in over 10yrs.  That’s what a change of scenary and/or a shakeup can do — re-energize!  (Take a note of it KJR.)

– There isn’t a worse sports show in Seattle than Kevin Calabro and Jim Moore.  If you want a sure-fire way to get me to listen to Gas, there you go.  (Although it was easier when Gas had Hot Shot, but I’ll give Elise a chance.)  Calabro has never been comfortable as a sports host.  You can hear it in his interviews and transitions.  He just doesn’t get it.  He’s awful, well, bad, awful is Jim Moore.  There isn’t a sports host out there that sounds less prepared or interested in a show than Jim Moore.  Moore sounds like someone woke him up from a nap on the station couch, then threw him on the air.  Jim, I could care less about your dog, plus you’re a bad Coug.  I don’t see why people look at Jim Moore as a voice for the Cougs, there isn’t a more pessimistic fair-weather Coug than Jim Moore.  The only reason Calabro has this show is because he was the voice of the Sonics — There wasn’t a more exciting broadcaster in the NBA, but that doesn’t make you a radio host.  I would trade for Scott Soden and Steve Sandmeyer in a heartbeat.

– John Clayton is a package sale.  He “came with the house”.  John is always a good listen.

ESPN Seattle is making KJR a secondary home for sports.  They dominate the coverage for the Hawks and Mariners.  The pre and postgame Hawks broadcasts are terrific — why go anywhere else?  Mariners pre and postgame is solid too, it takes listeners away from KJR and plants them right in the middle of the competition.  I’ll be interested to see how ESPN Seattle treats the Cougs next year.  Will we see Washington State Football get the same coverage on ESPN Seattle that UW gets on KJR? 

This next year will be a make or break year for KJR.  KJR feels like it’s going in the wrong direction.  It was time for a shakeup, but I think they did it all wrong.  What do you think of KJRs roster and schedule shifts this week?  Which station is on your Preset #1?  Do you think KJR is doomed to go national?  How do you feel about ESPN Seattle?  It should be an interesting year for the Seattle sports scene.

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