It hasn’t been a very smooth ride so far for San Diego radio station 97.3 The Fan and, according to recent numbers, it doesn’t seem to be getting much better.
The station, which is owned by Entercom Communications, was rebranded as KWFN, “97.3 The Machine,” in March. Expectations were likely high given that it was the new flagship station of the San Diego Padres, the only major pro franchise in town, and a favorite spot for people looking for things to do in San Diego. Despite the fact that there were two competitors already vying for the limited audience available in the region, The Mighty 1090 (XPRS) and XTRA Sports 1360 (KLSD), it was likely assumed that KWFN would be able to rise above.
That mission appeared to have derailed before it even began. Towards the end of March, with baseball season quickly approaching, Kevin Klein, a radio host set to host the morning show on 97.3 FM. tweeted a photo of San Diego’s Coronado Bridge along with big letters reading “JUMP*” and then smaller ones specifying, “*to a new morning show.”
How a local San Diego DJ is advertising his new show: with a pic of Coronado Bridge and an allusion to the tragic deaths that occur there. pic.twitter.com/mr8VfRGlB6
— Carrie O'Connell (@CarrieOh_77) March 27, 2018
Considering Coronado Bridge has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, plenty of people were not happy with someone making light of that in order to promote a sports talk program. Even the San Diego Padres themselves blasted Klein and the radio station for the insensitive tweet. At first, Klein tried to tweet through it but that just made things worse. Though he eventually apologized, Klein never made it onto the air and was subsequently fired. Not a great start.
Statement from Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler and General Partner Peter Seidler: pic.twitter.com/KQMRhi09aH
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) March 27, 2018
So bad was the press and reaction that “97.3 The Machine” was scrapped and the station rebranded once more as “97.3 The Fan,” as so many sports talk radio stations are named. The generic title would hopefully assuage concerns and allow audiences to feel at home before and after Padres games.
According to the San Diego Reader, that has not been the case at all.
Klein’s morning drive replacement is Dan Sileo, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive tackle who you might know better as that Tampa radio host who has been fired multiple times for making racist, misogynistic, and other inappropriate comments. Turns out, the people of San Diego aren’t exactly excited about that kind of schtick and it was recently revealed that Sileo’s morning show has a 0.0 rating in the coveted male 25-54 demographic.
The Nielsen ratings people estimates there are 719,400 men aged 25-54 in the San Diego market. Their May survey says that at any given time during the morning hours, The Fan has an average listenership of 200 men 25-54, which they say averages down to 0.0. In contrast, the English-speaking station with the largest audience in that demographic is KFMB-FM’s Dave Shelley and Chainsaw ensemble who show an average listenership of 6,100 among men 25-54.
What really drives home how badly those numbers are is when you consider that the two rival radio stations are both on the AM dial and don’t carry Padres broadcasts. By all accounts, the flagship station usually gets a bump the morning after a game, but Padres fans and other San Diegans are opting out in droves. In fact, per the Reader, The Fan is in third place pretty much all day except for when the Padres are playing. But even then, The Fan is in 24th place among men 25-54, which may say as much about local interest in the San Diego Padres as it does about The Fan’s ability to attract an audience.
Certainly, the Padres have to be concerned about the current deal with The Fan, which runs through 2021 and was signed by former team president Mike Dee, who was fired rather quickly and without much fanfare last year. For the record, Dee immediately went to work for Entercom following his stint with the Padres to run the radio company’s newly-created sports business division.