The San Jose Sharks announced this week that were ending their relationship with radio broadcasting partner 98.5 KFOX-FM and will now move all of their audio broadcasts to their team website and mobile app, per the Mercury-News.
The “Sharks Audio Network” will debut on Tuesday, January 12 at 8:00 .a.m. on sjsharks.com and Sharks+SAP Center App. The network will feature programming related to both the Sharks and San Jose Barracuda, the team’s AHL affiliate, which includes game audio broadcasts as well as “exclusive programming with Sharks Head Coach Bob Boughner, Sharks GM Doug Wilson, player profiles, game highlights and replays, catch-ups with Sharks alumni, classic Sharks games, as well as an opportunity for fans to interact with Sharks and Barracuda hosts and personalities.”
— Dan Rusanowsky (@DanRusanowsky) January 7, 2021
Long-time team play-by-play announcer Dan Rusanowsky will continue in that role for his 30th season, along with analysts Scott Hannan and Mark Smith. Randy Hahn, Bret Hedican, and Ted Ramey will also continue to be contributors to the network.
San Jose had partnered with KFOX as their flagship radio partner since the 2000-2001 NHL season. The station, which lacks the signal strength to reach certain parts of the Bay Area, wasn’t meeting the needs of the franchise as it tries to expand its reach.
“This certainly was not a situation where we were dissatisfied with KFOX. They’ve been a great partner to us,” said Scott Emmert, the Sharks’ vice president of communications. “But the reality is even the strongest signals have their limitations. There are only so many 50,000-watt flame throwers out there. With a lot of the competition that we have in the market with other professional teams, the reality is that some of those options are limited.”
Emmert added that it is possible the team will have some future broadcasts on terrestrial radio but, for the time being, they want to keep all of their audio broadcasting in one spot.
“We fully understand that there are lots of people out there who are attached to terrestrial radio and that this is going to take a little bit of time, it’s going to take a little bit of education on our part,” said Emmert.
Per a statement by Brian A. Figula, director of programming operations at KFOX, “All of us at 98.5 KFOX and Bonneville are big fans and supporters of the Sharks and value our history together. We are presently working with them in ways that continue what is a long term partnership and that are responsive to the significant changes in the market.”
While the team did experiment with some digital-only audio broadcasts, the initial reaction from some fans regarding the change has been less than universally appreciated.
This sucks. Stop changing things that don’t need to be changed. We already had access to this on the app for a while now. And trying to find where to listen on the app has been torturous as it’s now in an easily found spot. This was not a good move.
— Denielle (@dbonasera) January 8, 2021
Many fans noted that the Oakland A’s also rolled out a similar web-only audio broadcast format last year and blowback from fans led them to return to AM radio during the season.
Like a couple others said, the Oakland A's tried this and it did not go well with their fanbase. Older listeners and those who commute a lot will want KFOX to remain an option for sure.
— Wes Hofmann (@wesjoke) January 7, 2021
But there were also some positive reactions to the news from fans who are excited for the ability to listen to Sharks games beyond the reach of the radio stations.
I could never get a game on the radio anyway, in the bay area or in Sacramento area. They were always on low quality stations that I was unable to receive. And I could sometimes get it on satellite radio, if I was fortunate. Now I will be able to listen anytime. Thank you.
— Michael Snyder (@dragonshark13) January 8, 2021
“It’s going to take some time, and we fully understand that there’s probably going to be some growing pains and maybe even a few hiccups along the way,” Emmert told the Mercury-News. “But we were very encouraged by what we saw last year, both from a technical perspective and from the ability to do things a little bit different and interact with fans. We really think we have something to build off there and are looking forward to not only retaining the audience that we have but continuing to grow it as we produce more and more content.”