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KGO Flips Format as Sports Betting Talk Arrives in San Fran

50 kW outlet dumps news format and bets on sports gambling programming

Logo for the new format on KGO, "The Spread 810 AM"Cumulus Media’s decision to bail on news programming on an iconic AM station in San Francisco and replace it with a sports betting format is generating a buzz, not all of it is favorable, at least from longtime listeners.

Cumulus confirmed the arrival of 810 The Spread with an official announcement on Monday: “The new station brings sports and sports betting news, information and insights to the burgeoning and underserved sports betting audience in San Francisco.”

The KGO format swap is notable given that the 50 kW station on 810 kHz has a rich history of newsgathering in the Bay area. News and talk programming on the station goes back many decades.

The station began playing a continuous loop last Thursday teasing of a new format coming Monday morning. It posted the following on its website on Thursday Oct. 6: “Today we say goodbye to the legendary KGO. Over the last 80 years, KGO has been here for Bay area listeners covering and discussing all the news that has impacted our world and local communities. We thank you for your source for information. We also want to sincerely thank all the talented men and women that worked so hard over the years to produce award-winning programming on KGO.”

Reaction from some former KGO listeners was swift and immediate. It’s been the hot topic on the Radio Discussion board, which covers Bay area media developments, with many pages of discussion. Comments range from “what a waste it will be of the 810 stick” to “this is just plain insulting to any intelligent listener.”

But while the changes sparked outrage from some, others took a more realistic view: “My personal opinion here is that OTA radio usage in San Francisco is low compared to the rest of the country. Usage of AM specifically is even lower, so there’s really very little they can put on AM right now that will ever have the impact that it once had,” Michael Hegerty wrote on the forum.

The station had tough competition for news and talk in the market. KGO pulled in a 1.7 AQH Share from Nielsen Audio in September (for Persons 6+, Mon-Sun 6AM-Mid). Far ahead of it was all-news KCBS(AM) with a 6.4, which in turn was second to news and information station KQED(FM)’s 7.8.

Jerry Del Colliano, often an outspoken critic of large radio groups including Cumulus, took exception to the format swap in his online newsletter. He wrote that the move is intended to save money and cut expenses and salaries “with very little chance of significant profits” going forward. “More conversion from talk to sports betting are likely because virtually very few people need to be on hand to run the station saving the financially troubled Cumulus and Audacy money,” Del Colliano wrote.

Audacy, another large U.S. radio company, has also been using some of its AM frequencies for sports betting programming. At last count its gambling-oriented programming – called the BetQL Network – was heard on about a dozen radio stations.

This will be Cumulus Media’s second foray into sports betting talk radio. The broadcaster already operates WPRV(AM) in Providence, R.I., which adopted a sports gambling format several months ago. Cumulus also has an agreement with WynnBET, a mobile sports betting app, that includes digital exposure on the broadcaster’s social media, streaming and podcasting.

The company is gambling that Californians will approve at least one of two sports betting referendums on the November ballot to legalize it in the state. So far 31 U.S. states allow some form of sports betting or online sports gambling, according to the website American Gaming.

California voters are considering Prop 26 and Prop 27 initiatives on sports betting in November. Neither is a sure bet to pass, according to some observers. In fact, recent polls show both are lagging in voter support.

The L.A. Times reported recently that the two competing measures were both losing in polling. Prop 26 if passed would legalize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and horse racing tracks. It earned 31% support from likely voters compared to 42% against. The poll was conducted by the UC Berkely Institute of Governmental Studies of nearly 7,000 voters.

Meanwhile, Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting. That initiative, funded by sports gaming companies like FanDuel and DraftKings, is also failing to win over voters, according to recent polling data, 27% of likely voters in support with 53% opposed.

It was not immediately clear how many staffers at KGO might be displaced by the format change from news and talk to sports betting. Cumulus in San Francisco still operates a news/talk format on KFSO(AM), which carries mostly nationally syndicated programming.

The old KGO website is offline. The new website is

In the official announcement, Cumulus quoted Vice President/Market Manager Larry Blumhagen, saying, “This is a bittersweet day for us, as it’s hard to say goodbye to the legendary KGO, which has been a part of listeners’ lives for so many years. We want to thank all the people who have been a part of KGO’s historic run these many years — and the listeners who loyally tuned in to the station. Times change, and we must change with them.”