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Even though baseball is still an old-timey, traditional game, the rest of the world sure has changed since WBCK went on the air with a Tiger Broadcast in July of 1948.   Think of it.  Americans didn’t really own TVs, or even FM radios then.   Each town had one or two AM radio stations and one or two newspapers.   No cable.  No internet.  Listening to the game on the radio was one of very few entertainment choices of 1948.   Fast forward to 2019.   There are a lot of entertainment options, and a lot of different ways to take in a Tiger game if that happens to be one of your entertainment choices.

That’s the biggest reason that WBCK won’t be carrying all the Tiger games this season.   95.3 WBCK will skip the weekday day games, the late night West Coast games, and some that conflict with football in the fall.  Even so, you’ll be able to tune in for about 130 games out of the 162 game schedule.

“In the old days, our listeners didn’t mind having their favorite regular programs interrupted with the game,” said WBCK’s Operations Manager and Morning Show Host Tim Collins.  “But in the past few years there’s been a dramatic shift.  Talk radio listeners want to hear talk radio.  Baseball fans want to hear baseball.   It’s impossible to please everybody.”

In the past, 95.3 WBCK had AM sister stations where some of the games could still be moved. That’s no longer an option.   “It costs a lot to keep the old AM stations on the air,” said Collins.   “The maintenance is costly, the electricity is costly, FCC compliance is costly, and not too many people ever listen to AM anymore.”    Radio stations are contractually not allowed to stream sports, with the exception of local games.  “The pro and college teams hold the internet streaming rights, and they typically charge fans to access the broadcasts on line.”

Smartphone owners can pay $20 per year for the MLB At Bat app, which will let them hear the games on line.   Sirius/XM paid subscribers can hear the games.  Fox Sports Detroit carries 160 games on Cable and Satellite TV and offer a smartphone streaming service.

“Radio stations pay a lot of money for the rights to run baseball games, and we don’t even get exclusivity….not even close to it,” said Collins.  “And let’s face it, the team is rebuilding.”

The Detroit Tigers are in the early stages of a complete re-build, and there are some fine young prospects to watch.   How far away is another contender for Detroit fans?   It’s hard to say.  Some teams, like the A’s, Marlins, and Astros have shown it can happen in a couple of years.   Other teams, like the White Sox, have been trying to turn it around for years.

Another factor in limiting the day games are the contracts that talk radio stations have with programs like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.  “If we pre-empt those shows for a ballgame, we have to obtain copies of every commercial we miss, and schedule them to play at another time.  They’re called “make-goods”, and it’s very difficult for us to do.   And if there’s a rain delay, it makes a real mess of things.”

“I think this schedule is a win-win,” said Collins.  “As a lifelong Tiger fan, the idea of dropping them from the radio completely was going to be a hard pill to swallow.  But we were able to work things out with the Tiger’s network to keep 80% of the games on WBCK.”

WBCK will broadcast the home opener on April 6th, but that will likely be the final weekday day-game of the season on WBCK.  You’ll be able to check our sports calendar on our website to find out which games will be broadcast live.