In a (maybe) shocking move, the San Diego Padres have changed their flagship radio station from The Mighty 1090 to FM 94.9.
This isn’t anything new for the Padres, having bounced around the radio dial in San Diego numerous times over the decades I’ve followed the team on the radio. (By my count, they’ve been on 760, 600, and 690, but I could be mistaken). It’s also not new for the Padres because the move is likely going to restrict their fan base.
Now, I don’t have the terms of the contract. Maybe FM 94.9 offered a substantively higher contract for the Padres, which could translate into a higher team payroll (or more minor league assets). I’ve seen people on social media, including our own Padres Jagoff, state that carrying the Padres is genuinely unprofitable. I’ve also heard from several sources now that the asking price to carry the broadcast rights were “absurd”. In other words, the Mighty 1090 chose to walk away from the Padres. Same with 1360 and (I’m assuming) others. Perhaps their brand really sucks that bad. Truthfully, we won’t know until we see the dollar figure.
(On a “conspiracy theory” note, FM 94.9 is owned by a Boston media group which may or may not be familiar with or connected to Mike Dee, given his time there. I doubt the Padres signed a friendly deal with FM 94.9, but most Padres conspiracy theories in recent memory have turned out true: Moorad’s collapse, the up-front television money, Ron Fowler only controlling through 2017, and so on. I can’t help but think that maybe – just maybe! – the Padres, led by Mike Dee, signed a softer-ish deal with FM 94.9 so that Mike Dee himself could have a nice comfy parachute for when he’s inevitably kicked to the curb after 2016. We’ll have to follow the Mike Dee bread crumbs after he’s shit-canned to be certain. Super unlikely this conspiracy is true, but I’m just throwing this out there to be complete.)
What I’m certain of, however, is that the Padres just drastically reduced the sheer volume of people that could listen to their product.
The Mighty 1090 is stationed in Rosarito, Mexico. By having their tower on the other side of the border, they’re able to broadcast a much larger signal, due to more favorable broadcast laws. These signals carry over the border into the United States. Far into the United States.
The Mighty 1090 broadcasts 50,000 Watts. FM 94.9 broadcasts less than 25,000 Watts. As someone who got a degree in physics, I can tell you that as a radio signal spreads from its origin, the signal’s power dissipates at a rate proportional to the square of the distance. I.e. when you go twice as far away, the signal is not 1/2 as strong, but 1/4 as strong. This makes the broadcast power of a station critically important to reaching a broad audience.
Below is the estimated broadcast range for both The Mighty 1090 and FM 94.9. As you can see, there’s truly no comparison between the two signals. One doesn’t even appear to traverse Camp Pendleton while the other … makes its well past Santa Barbara.
In a way, the Padres exploited a broadcasting glitch by using a radio station in Mexico. You didn’t know because San Diego’s border status makes it appear as if the signal is in San Diego itself. (That’s assuming you couldn’t tell what all the PRI and Green Party commercials or the Mexican National Anthem at midnight were for.) I thought this was good for the team, long-term.
On a personal note … I went to UC Santa Barbara and spent many a night listening to the Padres game while pre-gaming, or forcing Dodgers fans to listen to the Padres game as I drove them to pick up beer at Costco. Gauchos will no longer be able to do that over a standard radio and that makes me a little sad. I bet the Padres will lose fans in their formidable UCSB days as a result, and that’s just one location across a vast region where the Padres are currently broadcasting their games.
Are you a Padres fan in Lake Elsinore, where the Padres advanced A-ball team plays? Sorry, you can’t listen to the team on a standard radio anymore. Are you a Padres fan who commutes from Murrieta to San Diego because real estate is cheaper? Sorry, you can’t listen to the team on a standard radio anymore. Are you a Padres fan who commutes up to Irvine from North County? Sorry, you can’t listen to the team on a standard radio as you drive home anymore.
Yes, technology has changed drastically over the years. For the most part, you can stream the audio on your phone and use bluetooth in a modern automobile to listen. For those actually seeking the Padres, nothing will probably change.
But that’s only a portion of people who listen to games. The elderly, those without great phones, those with no knowledge of how to access the game, those with restrictive data plans, and those without a bluetooth-enabled car … will probably have significantly less access to the team through traditional channels. Let alone the casual listeners who stumble upon the product or listen because the Angels or Dodgers are on an off-night, or because they love baseball.
It’s hard to quantify that impact without real data, but I’m sure it’s not nothing. And it certainly limits product growth.
More immediately, it’ll translate into less Padres talk on The Mighty 1090 (and probably no more Padres Wednesdays) after this season, and the shift towards state-sponsored baseball media will grow. As will the Gwynntelligence Podcast, The Kept Faith Podcast, Pads Pod, and other independent-ish “free media” outlets that talk about the Padres.