KNBR, The Sports Leader, is the on-air branding used by two AM radio stations in the San Francisco, California, area broadcasting a sports radio format, owned by Cumulus Media.
The main station, KNBR (680 kHz.), licensed to San Francisco, broadcasts on a clear channel from transmitting facilities in Redwood City, California. KNBR's non-directional 50 kilowatt (or 50,000 watt) signal can be heard throughout much of the western United States and as far west as the Hawaiian Islands at night. Because of its extensive range, it is sometimes called by the nicknames "The 50,000 Watt Flamethrower," "The Blowtorch," and "The Mighty 680." Prior to adopting a sports format, KNBR enjoyed a long history as the flagship of NBC's West Coast radio operations.
The second station is KTCT (1050 kHz.), licensed to San Mateo, California, with a transmitter located in Hayward, California. KTCT had been carrying a separate sports format as "The Ticket" before adopting the KNBR branding (as "KNBR 1050") in 2003.
Between the two stations, games of the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, San Jose SaberCats, and San Francisco 49ers are broadcast to the San Francisco Bay Area.
KNBR began life on April 17
, owned by the Hale Brothers department store and the San Francisco Chronicle
newspaper. Originally located in the Hale store at Market and 5th (now site of Marshall's and other stores), its horizontal wire antenna on the roof was so efficient it immediately attracted the attention of audiences all over the Pacific Coast.
In 1927, KPO became an affiliate of the new NBC
radio network. Eventually, KPO was sold to NBC, where its operation was consolidated into that of its co-owned KGO
at 111 Sutter Street. From there, NBC operated its West Coast network, feeding dozens of stations and operating a news bureau
to serve NBC. As NBC's flagship station
on the West Coast, it had a fulltime orchestra, five studios, and produced many live shows. During the rise of Hollywood
, NBC's radio operation was moved to Los Angeles.
In 1941, just before World War II, NBC constructed Radio City
at 420 Taylor Street, considered one of the best radio facilities built during radio's golden age. However, with the network control having been moved to Los Angeles, the San Francisco NBC building was never fully utilized. (Later, the building housed KBHK-TV
, and now houses the headquarters of a janitorial service.)
During World War II, KPO's news bureau was the major source for NBC of news about the war in the Pacific, and operated shortwave radio stations (transmitters located in Dixon) serving the world. It was at the KPO (RCA) shortwave facility that the message was received that Japanese emperor Hirohito had surrendered, ending World War II.
In 1946, to shore up its reputation as an NBC station (and the only radio station NBC ever owned on the West Coast), the callsign was changed from KPO to KNBC. This change lasted until 1960, when the callsign was applied to NBC's television station in Los Angeles and the radio station was renamed KNBR.
In November 1949, former NBC television affiliate KRON-TV went on the air. Only before the TV station's first airdate did NBC fight for the license to own the TV station until it lost the bid to the de Young family, then the owners of the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the 1950s when NBC scrapped its comedy, drama, variety shows, and serials, the Los Angeles facility was sold and demolished, and KNBC/KNBR once again became the West Coast NBC network control center and West Coast NBC Radio news operation.
KNBR evolved into a Middle of the road
music format mixing in Adult Standards
with Soft Rock
cuts by the early 1960s. The station continued to be a news intensive format with personalities in the foreground and music in the background. The station averaged about 12 songs an hour outside of drive times and about 8 songs an hour in afternoon drive and four an hour in morning drive. By the mid 1970s, KNBR evolved musically into a straight ahead adult contemporary
The station continued with a full service adult contemporary music format with news into the 1980s. In 1987, when NBC got out of the radio business, KNBR was sold to Susquehanna Corporation
, a longtime radio station operator. The station added some sports talk in evenings. The station began to cut back on music more. The station took a full-time sports format in the early 1990s.
"The Ticket 1050"
KNBR has long been linked with 680 AM. Several years after KNBR's parent company acquired the 1050 AM signal and converted it into KTCT, "The Ticket 1050," the company opted to re-brand that other station as another version of KNBR.
Both stations feature game broadcasts and sports talk, including shows hosted by Bay Area staples Ralph Barbieri, Tom Tolbert, and KRON-TV's Gary Radnich. Some shows are simulcast on both 680 and 1050.
KNBR 1050 is the local home of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, as well as the Sabercats. Some Warriors games and most of the 49ers preseason games are on 1050 AM, as the Giants have priority on 680 AM.
KNBR is the longtime radio home of the San Francisco Giants
. Giants broadcasters and former Giants Duane Kuiper
and Mike Krukow
, affectionately known as "Kruk and Kuip
," are considered to be broadcasting elite in baseball, as is San Francisco native and ESPN
broadcaster Jon Miller
, who is also a major part on the Giants' on-air team. Recent additions Dave Flemming
and Greg Papa
round out the Giants' broadcast team.
This close allegiance with the Giants (including some ownership interest) leads to much criticism of the station as biased in the Giants' favor. This perceived bias also regularly prompts criticism from fans of Oakland-based sports teams including Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics and the NFL Oakland Raiders.
Tim Roye is the radio play-by-play announcer for the Golden State Warriors, and is joined by Jim Barnett on non-televised games as Barnett serves as an analyst for TV broadcasts.
A vast array of announcers participate in San Jose SaberCats broadcasts, including Tim Roye, Bob Fitzgerald, Ray Woodson, Dan Dibley, Keena Turner, George Atkinson, and Troy Clardy.
In 2005, KNBR became the official radio home of the San Francisco 49ers. Currently, 49ers games are broadcast by Joe Starkey and Gary Plummer. All games are also heard on sister station KSAN-FM "107.7 The Bone"; some AM broadcasts may be moved to KTCT due to conflicts with Giants games.
KNBR is also an affiliate of ESPN Radio, and carries selected content and games from the national network. KNBR 1050 is an affiliate of Fox Sports Radio.
KNBR is owned by Cumulus Media Partners, LLC, a private partnership of Cumulus Media
, Bain Capital, The Blackstone Group, and Thomas H. Lee Partners. It was purchased from Susquehanna-Pfaltzgraff Media in 2005 along with other Susquehanna Radio Corporation
- "Murph & Mac, The KNBR Morning Show"
- "The Gary Radnich Show"
- "Fitz and Brooks" (returned to air after Rick Barry resigned from "Rick and Rod")
- "The Razor and Mr. T"
An afternoon show, begun in 1996. The premise of "The Razor and Mr. T" was the pairing of Ralph Barbieri (promoted from evenings to afternoons) with former NBA (and Golden State Warriors) player Tom Tolbert.
Sportsphone 680 was formerly hosted by Larry Krueger, who was fired after a personal rant against the Giants on the show. During his rant, he criticized the Giants for "brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly." Krueger was first suspended for 10 days, then, on August 10, 2005, KNBR announced that it had ceased professional relations with Krueger.
- Untitled (Public Affairs)
Originating as part of the station's statutory requirement of public affairs programming, the station continues to air an hourlong interview show Sunday mornings at 5 a.m..
During the 1990s, the program typically began and ended with the phrase "This is Gimmy Park Li, Your Host". No program title was given. Interviews for this program often consisted of local individuals in volunteer, charitable, or minor governmental capacities.
Due to its time slot, the program is the quintessential example of the "Sunday-morning public affairs ghetto". (Related article: Public affairs) The program has, apparently, never been promoted outside of its timeslot. "Gimmy Park Li" was the station's Public Affairs Director. Her "signature" was her sign off: "This is Gimmy Park Li... Your host. Thank you for spending your time... with us."
- "Frank And Mike in the Morning"
- "C.J. Bronson"
- "Carter B. Smith"
- "The Steve Jamison Couch"
- "The Leo Laporte Show"
- "Joel A. Spivak, Speaking"
- "The Peter B. Collins Show"
- "Sportsphone 68"
- "California Weekend"
- "Hollywood Calling"
- "Costas Coast to Coast" (syndicated)
- "Instant Replay" (syndicated); later "Pat Summerall's Sports in America"
- "The Rush Limbaugh Show"
- "The Morning Show"
- "The Pete Franklin Show"
- "Rick and Rod"