Tom Lafferty sits in the broadcast booth at KRKO 1380 AM on July 12 in Everett. KRKO is replacing its daytime sports-talk programming with music after 16 years, though the station will continue to broadcast local sports events. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Tom Lafferty sits in the broadcast booth at KRKO 1380 AM on July 12 in Everett. KRKO is replacing its daytime sports-talk programming with music after 16 years, though the station will continue to broadcast local sports events. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

KRKO stops talking sports but will still broadcast games

The Everett station now plays music but will still cover Silvertips, AquaSox and high school games.

EVERETT — For the better part of two decades KRKO 1380 AM was where an individual in Snohomish County tuned his or her radio dial — day or night — if he or she wanted to listen to sports with a local flavor.

Dan Patrick’s syndicated national sports-talk program was the morning staple. The afternoons were reserved for Jeff “The Fish” Aaron and his outspoken take on the Seattle and local sports scenes. And the evenings were dedicated to live broadcasting of the county’s biggest sporting events, whether it involved the Everett Silvertips junior hockey team, Everett AquaSox minor-league baseball team, or high school football and basketball.

But while the broadcasting of live events will continue, the sports-talk portion of KRKO’s lineup is no more.

The Everett-based radio station underwent a format change last week, switching away from sports talk to music, meaning the county no longer has its own dedicated sports talk outlet.

The change officially took place at 12 a.m. on Monday, July 9. The station’s new slogan is, “Greatest hits, sports and more.” The music being played on the station, which can also be heard on 95.3 FM and is streamed online at KRKO.com, consists of classic rock combined with more contemporary songs.

KRKO will continue to broadcast Silvertips, AquaSox and high school games.

This is the first time KRKO, which is owned by the Skotdal family, has been a music station since the early 1990s, when it had an adult-contemporary format. At that point the station switched to a talk format, which gradually transitioned to sports talk throughout the 90s. By 2000 it was a full-time sports-talk station, affiliated nationally with the FOX Sports Radio Network.

KRKO had regional exclusive rights to FOX Sports Radio Network’s programming, but that changed after 1090 KJR in Seattle also acquired the rights earlier this year. Faced with having to share programming with a Seattle-based station, Chuck Maylin, the general manager of KRKO and sister station KKXA 1520 AM, decided KRKO had to change format.

“We lost the Fox Sports exclusivity, and that put us on the path of researching the market and looking for programming opportunities where we’d satisfy the most people,” said Maylin whose been general manager for five years. “We identified music as an opportunity, as there’s a lot of appetite for music playing, mostly with adults over the age of 30 or 35. But we’re still totally dedicated to staying with all our local sports. The national sports-talk format never talked about Everett, but we’ll still carry AquaSox games and Silvertips games because they’re local.

“There’s also going to be an increase in the amount of hyper-local information we serve up,” Maylin added. “Now we can talk about Everett every hour of the day, our hands aren’t tied any longer. It won’t be news, but more of a lifestyle and entertainment station for people in the North Sound.”

However, KRKO’s format change also means the loss of “The Fish.” Aaron, who spent 16 years as KRKO’s primary sports-talk host, had become synonymous with the station. He was known for his ability to get call-in guests from throughout the country, as well as his willingness to devote time to local teams like the Silvertips and AquaSox, which don’t receive attention from the Seattle-based sports-talk stations.

“Sports-talk ratings have dwindled a lot,” Aaron said. “I don’t blame KRKO for the format change, I think them trying something new is warranted and I don’t fault them for that at all.

“I had an extremely loyal fan base of people who were overwhelmingly supportive and interactive with the show, and I really enjoyed that,” Aaron added. “I made a lot of friends and got to know a lot of people, and I always felt like Everett’s sports-talk guy. I wanted the north end to have a sports voice and I definitely championed the north end.”

Aaron, whose last show was broadcast June 27, was originally offered a morning show on the station’s new format. However, after weighing the offer while on vacation, he decided not to accept it.

“It was just a difference in philosophy on the direction of the station,” Aaron said. “They’ll focus more on music, and I was focused more on the entertainment and personality aspect.”

Aaron, who remains the CEO and owner of Fame Trivia USA, said he hopes a local opportunity presents itself soon in sports-talk radio, but that he’s prepared to try other markets.

While Aaron is gone, the live sports broadcasts aren’t. KRKO will maintain its broadcasting of Silvertips, AquaSox and high school games the same way it has in the past. The change in format, however, is not necessarily considered ideal by the teams broadcast by the station.

“I was disappointed in the change, but I know it’s a business decision on their part,” AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff said. “I’m not in the radio business, they did what they thought was best for them. But obviously I prefer the sports format, it’s a natural tie-in for our games.”

“I have mixed emotions, I guess,” said Zoran Rajcic, the chief operating officer of CSH International, Inc., which operates the Silvertips. “I think what we’re concerned about is that people have access to our games, so the format isn’t as important because they can get the signal out to people. There are teams that are on different formats across the WHL, there’s teams on country stations and rock stations. It’s more important knowing we still have a spot where we can broadcast via radio signal.”

No, the format change won’t affect local fans’ ability to hear their favorite teams on KRKO. It’s just there’s now a little less opportunity to talk about them.

If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

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