Oakland, San Jose sports teams move radio broadcasts to the web

The Oakland Athletics baseball team announced this week it would ditch its traditional radio broadcast deals in favor of partnering with an Internet service, becoming one of the first professional baseball teams to move its radio play-by-play exclusively online.

The move came after an agreement with local broadcast partner KTRB (860 AM) expired and following an ugly split between the team and sports radio station KGMZ (95.7 FM) early last year.

Now games will stream exclusively on TuneIn, an aggregator of thousands of radio stations. TuneIn has free apps for smartphones, tablets and smart TVs along with an option to stream via a traditional web browser on PCs and Macs.

But unlike with analog radio, there’s likely to be a sizable delay between what happens on the field and the calls heard by listeners since streaming audio has to be encoded by a computer, transmitted over the Internet and then de-coded by a user’s device.

Vince Cotroneo, a play-by-play announcer for the Athletics who will make the jump to TuneIn along with the team, didn’t address the delay in a newspaper interview on Tuesday but acknowledged there would be a learning curve between the broadcast outlet and fans who still yearn for calls on the radio.

“There’s going to be some frustration because it’s something new,” Cotroneo told the Mercury News. “It involves an education, downloading and an additional step in what they are accustomed to basically their entire lives.”

The move has been plotted within the offices of the team since before they signed a deal with KTRB, and broadcasts have been available through TuneIn for some time as part of a premium service that includes play-by-play for other professional sports teams and leagues.

Going forward, Athletics broadcasts will be streamed on TuneIn for all customers, even if they don’t pay for the company’s premium offering. The games will also be available to customers via the MLB Audio app.

In a similar move, the San Jose Sharks hockey team announced this week it would move its play-by-play broadcasts to its own app instead of airing the games on broadcast partner KUFX (98.5 FM, “KFOX”). The switch will impact games played between February 20 and 25, the team said. All of the games played will be on the road.

Unlike their baseball peers, executives with the Sharks said the online-only broadcasts is an experiment in reaching new listeners. Currently, games carried on KUFX can’t be heard on traditional radio by a large portion of the San Francisco Bay Area because the station’s signal is limited to the San Jose metropolitan area. (KUFX tried to draw a San Francisco following with repeater station KUZX [102.1 FM] in 2011; the station stopped simulcasting its signal on KUZX, now KRBQ, three years later.)

That city-grade signal is good enough for the Sharks’ hometown, but the team has a wide following throughout Northern and Central California, and the team is hoping to make its audio play-by-play available to those fans, too. The four away games streamed by the Sharks will be available to fans for free via the Sharks Plus SAP Center apps for Apple and Android devices.