The 810 frequency on the AM radio dial — where, for decades, regional residents tuned in to KGO to talk about the news of the day — on Monday began a new era: coverage of gambling on sports.
After station owner Cumulus Media on Thursday abruptly shut down KGO’s programming and hinted at a future involving betting and money with on-air promos, it unveiled the new station Monday, with 810 AM now called “The Spread” in reference to a common gambling term .
“The new station brings sports and sports betting news, information, and insights to the burgeoning and underserved sports betting audience in San Francisco,” Cumulus said in a news release Monday. The station is the Bay Area’s first dedicated to sports gambling, according to Cumulus.
Kevin Graham, program director for The Spread, said weekday programming would “feature a lineup of expert personalities that deliver unique sports talk and sports betting insights that entertain, inform, and engage.”
According to Graham, weekday mornings will start at 6 am with three hours of hosts Joe Ostrowski, Joe Giglio, and Erin Hawksworth, followed by three hours of “aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, and plenty of sports smack” from Jim Rome, a commentator best known for getting manhandled in 1994 by a former NFL quarterback he’d repeatedly taunted his face.
After Rome, listeners will hear hosts Nick Kostos and Ken Barkley from noon to 4 pm, then four hours of “live sports betting updates” and scores and statistics from Quinton Mayo, Trysta Krick, and Ryan Horvat, Cumulus said. The station will broadcast CBS Sports content from 8 pm to midnight.
“I think it’s a desperation move, and also is a gamble, so to speak, that may make them some money,” said Ed Baxter, a former KGO 810 anchor from 1976 to 2011. “What they’re targeting is a niche audience .”
The programming switch comes as Californians prepare to vote next month on two sports-betting bills, propositions 26 and 27, on the mid-term ballot. A poll earlier this month found fewer than a third of state residents surveyed supported either bill.
The station will continue broadcasting UC Berkeley California Golden Bears football games, the school’s athletic department said Monday. “We have a partnership with Cumulus Media and our games will continue to air on 810 AM,” the department said in a statement. An advertising link on the radio’s website linked directly to the Cal Bears ticketing website.
The UC Berkeley athletic department declined to answer questions about whether the broadcasts would continue past an existing contract, or whether the department or team had concerns about a close association with a sports-gambling radio station. UC Berkeley did not immediately answer questions about ties between its football team and betting.
Mark Thompson, a self-described “degenerate sports gambler” and the KGO host who was on air Thursday when Cumulus stopped KGO programming, questioned whether sports betting content was a good fit for the Bay Area. Cumulus may have been betting on legalization, at some point, of sports gambling in California, even if the two propositions fail, or it could be pinning profitability hopes replacing KGO staff with syndicated sports-betting hosts as a “cost-effective way to put something on the air,” Thompson said.
Radio giant Cumulus “made a brutal business decision, which is their right to do,” Thompson said, noting that news radio, newspapers and TV news have been hammered by the shift to online advertising and changes in US media consumption.
“Lost behind (Cumulus’s) logic is the real human cost to listeners who counted on KGO for everything from companionship to breaking events, to helping to digest major sometimes grim information, local crises from fires to shootings, and all the challenges that we face in California and the Bay Area,” Thompson said.
Last week’s sudden shutdown of KGO’s programming led former staff to describe a long decline that started soon after Cumulus bought the station in 2011 and accelerated as the radio giant made staffing and programming changes as it attempted to cut costs.