St. Louis Cardinals, KTRS Rejig Radio Agreement

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The Cardinals and "The Big 550" KTRS-AM spent the month of October hammering out a new operating agreement that changes the way Cardinals broadcasts get promoted.

Under the new terms, the Cardinals sales staff is now selling all the advertising inventory for game broadcasts, including pre- and post-game shows. In exchange, KTRS, which is half-owned by the Cardinals, is no longer paying the team a rights fee for the broadcasts.

"It's a model that has worked for many sports teams," says Dan Farrell, the Cards' senior vice president of sales and marketing. Farrell cites the St. Louis Blues (on KMOX), Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros as examples. "For us," he adds, "we see it as a shift designed to build better relationships with the advertisers."

Farrell says that KTRS' ad sales staff "exceeded [the team's] expectations right out of the gate," when the Cards made the jump from KMOX "The Voice of St. Louis" to KTRS in 2006 (see my colleague Chad Garrison’s April 2006 feature story, "Foul Frequency"), but that broadcast ad sales had fallen off some since.

Tim Dorsey, KTRS' general manager, says he thinks the move will help the station, which has felt a slump in advertising like many media outlets. As far as revenues go, Dorsey calls the shift "a wash."

Given some recent changes in programming at KTRS -- John Brown replaced Mark Christopher in the afternoons; the news staff has been reduced, with more news coming via an arrangement with KTVI-TV/Fox 2 -- some in the radio business wonder if the deal signals a loss of confidence in the station.

But Cardinals' president Bill DeWitt III says that would be a misinterpretation. "We're committed," he says.

The imminent switch on Movin’ 101.1 from pop radio to sports-talk also has some folks chattering about an already-saturated market and wondering whether KTRS and its Cards owners would sell to an FM station with a stronger signal, taking the game broadcasts with them.

"I'd be surprised if all four [KSLG "Team 1380,” KFNS "590 The Fan," Movin 101.1 and "The Big 550"] could thrive in the market,” says DeWitt, adding: "We're happy with KTRS and we’re restructuring this year to make it even better."

-Kristen Hinman

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