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Channel 4, XX Radio to Broadcast Games Till 2011

At the start of the 2004 season, when the Padres moved into Petco Park, their take-me-out-to-the-ballgame retro home, Cox Channel 4 announcer Matt Vasgersian told the San Diego Business Journal that his biggest challenge with calling the action would be trying to temper his enthusiasm.

Conversely, when it became apparent that the team didn’t have a prayer of making it to the playoffs the previous season, Vasgersian said he had a hard time convincing the TV audience that the games still mattered.

“The World Series is more of a possibility this year than last year,” he then opined.

Back to the future: Considering the team’s winning 2004 season and back-to-back National League Western Division titles that followed in 2005 and ’06, the Padres obviously have played better since moving into their $450 million digs. So, most would likely agree that their chance of winning the Series are, well, better this year than last.

No matter how the season wraps up, Channel 4, which now has a 3,000-square-foot studio in Cox’s new 62,000-square-foot offices on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the DiamondView Tower , it’s the station’s first studio , will be able to offer an analysis of events with its expanded post-game show this season, which starts at Petco Park on April 6.

Joining Vasgersian, who does the play-by-play, are Mark Grant, a former major league pitcher, and one-time Padres great Tony Gwynn, who return as color analysts.

“We saw this as a business opportunity to extend the Padres’ brand into a half-hour after the game and give (advertising) clients an opportunity to attach their names to this,” said Dennis Morgigno, station manager.

Without a studio, Channel 4 had no place for a set, and without that, it couldn’t do live shows, such as a post-game analysis. The station formerly worked on location out of a van and edited at its India Street offices.

Channel 4 broadcasts in high definition and entered into an exclusive 11-year agreement with the Padres in 2001. But before now, it “was a station without a country,” Morgigno said.

“There was no opportunity to expand based on the model we were using,” he added. “It was imperative to the health of the channel and our relationship with the Padres that we keep moving forward and provide new programming opportunities for viewers and potential clients.”


Heavy-Hitting Investment

Bill Geppert, vice president and general manager of Atlanta-based Cox Communications Inc. in San Diego, declined to say specifically what the company spent on the state-of-the-art studio. Nor would he provide details on the other new shows to come.

“The studio was a multimillion-dollar investment,” he said. “We are going to be able to do more local programming with guests on an interview-type format.

“We have a lot on the drawing board, but we are not at a point to share that.”

He wouldn’t give revenue figures or projections, but said one of the goals is to increase Cox’s subscriptions for bundled services, including cable TV, high-speed Internet, telephone and wireless phone service. The company counts 1.5 million local customers.

The half-hour post-game show is expected to air soon. However, it depends on the new studio being fully operational.

“The gear is all so new and so cutting edge, it takes time to learn it,” Morgigno said. “So the important thing is not simply to get the new technology on the air. The most important thing is to deliver a quality product.”

Channel 4 launched in 1997 and, according to the station’s management, it has continually seen its ratings for Padres games increase.


On The Radio

The other part of the Padres’ broadcasting equation is XX Sports Radio, which recently agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that will keep broadcasts on 1090 AM and 105.7 FM through the 2011 season.

The original four-year contract that began with the 2004 season was signed when XX was known as the Mighty 1090.

“We have an enormous audience for the Padres, with about 700,000 listeners,” said John Lynch, the president and chief executive officer of Broadcast Company of the Americas, which owns the two stations, as well as CASH 1700 AM, a financial news station. The Lynch family owns 50 percent of the radio company, and the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians owns 50 percent. Advertising sales also are strong, he added.

He projected sales this year would range between $15 million and $20 million.

While broadcasting the Padres games was a money loser to start with, Lynch said he expects the endeavor will move into the black this season.

“We budgeted for a small loss, and I think we’ll be in the profit zone this year,” he added. “Inherently, the reason we have the Padres is to drive ratings and if ratings continue to grow, we’ll do just fine.

“We’ll make a small profit with the Padres and make the radio station a leader in the market. We’re going through a milestone period of time.”

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