Major KNBR shakeup ends nightly sports call-in show after 51 years

FILE: KNBR’s nightly call-in sports talk show appears to be ending after a 51-year run. 

Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

LATEST Nov. 29, 6:50 p.m.: KNBR program director Adam Copeland confirmed that the station would no longer have a nightly call-in show after a 51-year run as part of some major shakeups at the sports talk station.

Speaking about the “dark day” at the end of the “Tolbert and Copes” afternoon show, Copeland confirmed that F.P. Santangelo had been let go by the station, as was morning show host Paul McCaffrey.

McCaffrey had been a co-host of the “Murph and Mac” morning show for the past 18 years alongside Brian Murphy. Murphy appears to still be at KNBR, though Copeland indicated that KNBR will have fill-in hosts for KNBR’s morning show on Thursday after what turned out to be the final “Murph and Mac” show aired Wednesday morning.

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Other let go include longtime KNBR executive Lee Hammer, who had been a program director in the past, and was working as a liaison between the station and the two teams they broadcast (the Giants and 49ers), and “some digital people,” according to Copeland.

Copeland announced the news at the top of the 6 p.m. hour alongside afternoon co-host Tom Tolbert, who both addressed the news as part of a larger trend within the sports radio industry.

“It’s been a really difficult day,” said Copeland, who only became KNBR’s program director three weeks ago on Nov. 7. “I love this building, I love this station, I love working with you, Tom, and I’ve listened to you for years. I love a lot of people. I love the guys we let go of today. I’m looking forward to the future, but I really think we need to tip our cap and applaud the work that those guys have done.”

Tolbert added, “It’s awful. I’ve been through a few of these and it never gets any easier, because a lot of good people don’t have their jobs. It’s a business; it’s the way that radio is going. It just is what it is. You do the best job you can and move on, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect a lot of people and their families.

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“For the people that I’ve worked with, the people that I know, the people that were let go today, it’s not because of your performance. It’s just the way this business is going. A tip of the cap and a salute to all of you.”

After signing off the air about 10 minutes into the 6 p.m. hour, the station abruptly joined CBS Sports Radio’s national syndicate show, which was talking about Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets.

Nov. 29, 5:20 p.m.: After a run that spans more than half a century, KNBR’s nightly sports call-in show appears to be no more.

KNBR will no longer have a 6-10 p.m. show, according to the timeslot’s current host, F.P. Santangelo. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Santangelo announced the move, saying it was “due to budget cuts.”

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“I want to thank everyone @KNBR for the amazing opportunity to be a part of their station for a second time around!” Santangelo posted. “I was informed today that due to budget cuts there will no longer be a 6-10pm show. That said I’m super grateful for the time spent bonding with all the amazing Bay Area Sports Fans.”

The 6-10 p.m. show that was airing on 680-AM and 104.5-FM was operating under the name “KNBR Tonight.” When KNBR operated only on 680-AM up until 2019, the late show was known as “Sportsphone 68” and “Sportsphone 680.” During the summer, when the station is the home of San Francisco Giants games, the nightly call-in show serves as the effective Giants postgame show and airs from the end of the game’s radio broadcast until midnight. It was this show that Santangelo first hosted in 2010 and returned to in 2022.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the page on KNBR’s website for the “KNBR Tonight” show was not working, but the show was still listed in the weekly schedule through the end of the week. Santangelo hosted the show as usual on Tuesday night, but it was unclear whether the show would air Wednesday, or what KNBR would be airing in its place. It’s also unclear what plans KNBR has for Giants postgame shows going forward.

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KNBR did not respond to multiple requests for comment from SFGATE by the time of publication. When reached by phone, Santangelo declined to comment to SFGATE, indicating that he wanted to let his social media post be his only comment at this time.

The news comes as KNBR has experienced a precipitous drop in listeners, particularly compared to its main competitor, 95.7 The Game. Ratings for most KNBR shows were lagging behind shows in the same time slot from 95.7 The Game during the past four quarters, according to Barrett Sports Media.

BSM’s report on the summer sports book showed the third quarter was KNBR’s best quarter in a year, but also was alarming in its own right. Typically, KNBR is boosted by Giants games in the summer, but KNBR lost to The Game in the weekday prime (6 a.m.-7 p.m.) ratings. KNBR barely snuck ahead of The Game in the full week ratings that include the audience listening to Giants games.

For several years, 95.7 The Game was viewed as the little brother to KNBR, with ratings that reflected that. Steve Berman covered the “radio wars” for years at his now defunct blog, Bay Area Sports Guy. Now at the Athletic, Berman has reported that 95.7 The Game has been beating KNBR for more than a year in the ratings books — which is reflected in the reporting by BSM.

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KNBR’s nightly call-in show has been a launching pad for several of the Bay Area’s most famous sports media personalities. Among the many hosts over the years include Scottie Sterling, Ken Dito, Ralph Barbieri, Pete Franklin, Damon Bruce, Larry Kreuger, F.P. Santangelo, Eric Byrnes and Ray Woodson.

Santangelo came back to KNBR in 2022 after spending 11 years as the television color commentator for the Washington Nationals. Santangelo left Washington after a tumultuous 2021 season, which saw him removed from the airwaves for more than two months after he was accused of sexual misconduct in an anonymous Instagram post. A joint investigation from the Nationals’ television broadcaster MASN and MLB “found no evidence that Mr. Santangelo violated the terms of his contractor agreement, league, or network regulations, nor is there more evidence currently availably to us to collect.” Santangelo returned to the air in mid-July for the rest of 2021, but he left the team after the season.

Santangelo hosted only the nightly show in 2022, but became a part of the Giants broadcast team during the 2023 baseball season, filling in on some road trips on the radio alongside Joe Ritzo. His status for that role in 2024 remains uncertain, though his second post on Wednesday indicated he’ll still be around Oracle Park.

“I’ll miss talking with you on a nightly basis the most,” Santangelo posted. “Hopefully now though, it will be in person after Giants game. Thank you for all your love and support. You guys are the best!”

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