Kansas City Royals baseball games won't be carried on Omaha radio this season, the consequence of new programming decisions by the city's major sports stations.
KXSP (590 AM) and KOZN (1620 AM) swapped their affiliations with Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio in February. The competitors have been tweaking their approaches ever since.
KXSP, now Omaha's ESPN Radio and owned by Journal Broadcast Group Omaha, plans to broadcast ESPN coverage of major league baseball games on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
NRG Media owns KOZN and KOIL (1180 AM), stations that share coverage of Creighton and Chicago Cubs baseball. KOIL also will carry the Class AAA Omaha Storm Chaser baseball games.
The lineups for the stations on the ownership groups didn't leave any room for the Royals.
“We kind of felt that it was important to remain as consistent with the ESPN brand as much as we could with our programming, at least to establish the idea that ESPN is on (KXSP),” said Mark Todd, director of operations at Journal. “ESPN offers a wide range of baseball, and we decided we can establish the ESPN programming and we can still get baseball.”
Todd said sagging revenue and ratings in association with Kansas City games also factored into the decision.
Neil Nelkin, program director for KOZN, KOIL and other stations in the NRG group, said KOZN hasn't had the Royals on consistently for more than a decade, although there was some recent interest in renewing the relationship. But talks fizzled.
“I guess we could not give (the Royals) enough games to make it worthwhile for them,” Nelkin said.
Many Omahans still will be able to pick up Royals broadcasts this season on Shenandoah, Iowa, station KMA (960 AM).
For 2012, Todd and Nelkin said they plan to revisit the idea of carrying Royals games.
That's good news to Fred White, the Royals' director of broadcast services. He said he took three trips to Omaha this winter to try to find a radio station for a seasonlong deal.
“I'd be back up there this evening if someone would say, ‘We want to talk to you,'” White said. “I'm disappointed, because I know we have a lot of fans up there. But at this stage, it's up to the fans to let the radio stations know they want to hear the Royals.”
White, a Royals announcer for 25 years before taking his current position, said he can't remember the last time Kansas City didn't have a broadcast partner in Omaha (it was in the mid-1990s). The team has agreements with 92 radio stations in eight states.
“I'm disappointed that nobody stepped forward in Omaha, but they have to do what they think is in their best interest,” White said. “I'm obviously a little prejudiced, but I think the Royals would be in their best interest. We stand ready to work with any radio station that's interested.”
Contact the writer: