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Will Damon Bruce moving to 95.7 be a game changer?

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In the third year since becoming the Bay Area's FM sports radio station in April 2011, 95.7 The Game has tried different lineups of talk-show hosts to wrestle away some of the monopoly enjoyed by rival KNBR 680 AM.

The latest move on Tuesday is hiring KNBR 1050 midday host Damon Bruce to its roster. The sometimes bombastic mouthpiece will occupy the 3-7 p.m. time slot.

Bruce is the fourth former KNBR employee to make the move to the FM dial. The hiring of Bruce and putting him in drive time [moves] the pair of Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend to 6-10 a.m. morning drive.

The shift of Bucher and Tonsend to the morning means the Rise Guys, the trio of Mark Kriedler, Whitey Gleason and former KNBR personality Dan Dibley, are out as of March 31.

The Game has touted itself as, "the Bay Area's new sound for sports," but they're not making much noise. In the radio Arbitron rankings, for the last three ratings periods, they had a 0.9 rating for December, 1.1 for the Holiday season and a 1.2 for January. Those numbers are very low and haven't shown much improvement in their nearly three years on the air.

The reasons for the poor ratings: a weak signal, uninteresting programming and an inability to attract a fan base.

Ironic they were able to woo Bruce since he went out of his way to publicly criticize 95.7 for being an FM station with a poor signal and mediocre talent. Now he's their newest cheerleader.

95.7 is owned by Entercom and does carry both the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders. Sister station 98.5 and 102.1 KFOX carries the San Jose Sharks. The problem is the station doesn't embrace the two teams for which they're the flagship station. They spend much of the time engaging in conversations involving the Giants, 49ers, and Warriors.

The Giants have won the World Series twice in the last four years, the 49ers have been to one Super Bowl and the NFC Championship game three years in a row, and the Warriors resurgence in the NBA are the stories that draw the most interest from fans in the Bay Area. Unfortunately for 95.7, those three teams are carried by KNBR. It seems the Game desperately wishes it had the broadcast rights so these teams could be a lead-in for the various talk-shows.

So in comes Bruce. He's been the center of controversy for his rant against women, which resulted in Bruce losing his co-hosting duties on the 49ers pre and post game shows. He also had a falling out on the Giants post game show and a failed two-week stint when he was paired with Gary Radnich.

Bruce hosted his own show on KNBR 1050 for the past four years. He was also a Saturday host on CBS Sports Radio. Since The Game is an ESPN Radio affiliate, his status with CBS Sports Radio is uncertain.

The intent of course is for The Game to boost their non-existent ratings, but they've already made so many changes.

Initially, program director Jason Barrett hired New Yorker Brandon Tierney and paired him with former 49ers cornerback Eric Davis to work the 3-7 p.m. slot. Davis then left to become a morning show host on the NFL Network. Tierney then teamed up with long time sports columnist Bucher before leaving to New York to join CBS Sports Radio's morning show.

Bucher is now co-hosting with Townsend and the two are moving to the mornings at the end of the month.

Their 10 a.m. to noon slot was previously occupied by former MMA fighter Sean O'Connell and basketball writer Matt Steinmetz. But low ratings saw both get their pink slips and the hosts now are Guy Haberman and John Middlekauff. Haberman hosted nightly from 7-10 p.m. and Middlekauff is a former NFL scout.

Here is the full press release from 95.7 promotions director Tony Cafarelli:

San Francisco, CA — 95.7 The GAME (KGMZ-FM), The Bay Area’s New Sound for Sports, today announced a series of moves to its weekday lineup. Starting on Monday, March 31, KNBR veteran Damon Bruce will anchor The GAME’s afternoon drive from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Afternoon anchors Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend will shift to mornings as part of this move.

“This is a great day for 95.7 The GAME and Bay Area sports fans. For years, Damon Bruce has been one of the strongest, most opinionated and passionate personalities in Bay Area sports. He understands what it takes to compete and win in this market,” said Steve DiNardo, Entercom San Francisco’s Vice-President and Market Manager. “Just as exciting is moving Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend to morning drive. In just 14 months, they have developed strong chemistry and a loyal following. We feel like we have the perfect team in the perfect time slot to grow The GAME.”

Damon Bruce is a San Francisco radio veteran. A staple with KNBR between 1998 and 2000, Bruce returned to KNBR in 2005 as a host of “The Damon Bruce Show” on KNBR 1050. He first gained national exposure hosting Sports Overnight America before leaving to become a SportsCenter anchor on ESPN Radio. Bruce has also filled in on the Jim Rome show and has hosted SportsCenter for ESPN International. He later was a fill-in host on Fox Sports Radio and Sporting News Radio, as well as the CBS Sports Network, before rejoining KNBR. Additionally Damon has hosted Pre and Post-Game shows for the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers.”

“I'm truly excited to join 95.7 The GAME and Entercom Communications. The Bay Area has a one-of-a-kind sports scene, one of the hottest and most exciting in the country today. Bay Area fans are some of the most passionate fans in the country, and I can’t wait to start and kick off a new drive-time experience for Bay Area sports fans,” said Bruce.

Bucher, a 20-year Bay Area native, joined 95.7 The GAME for afternoons in 2012, having previously served as a Bay Area-based NBA reporter for ESPN’s SportsCenter and NBA studio shows, as well as a senior writer covering professional basketball for ESPN The Magazine. In addition to his hosting duties, Bucher is currently the Golden State Warriors Sideline Reporter and NBA Insider for Comcast SportsNet, and also writes for the NBA beat on Bleacher Report. Townsend, a 14-year Bay Area native, previously hosted The Pulse and The Chris Townsend Show, as well as the pre-game Dugout Show & post-game A’ Talk shows on 95.7 The GAME.

“I'm excited about the chance to give the day's first take on sports, as well as expand on the lighter side of our current show. I like the idea of helping our listeners get their day off on the right foot — not only with sports knowledge to exchange with friends and workers but a laugh or two as well,” said Bucher.

95.7 The GAME is the largest radio market FM Sports Station in California and the flagship radio station for the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders. Effective March 31, 95.7 The GAME’s new lineup will be:

§ 6:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Bucher and Towny with Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend

§ 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Haberman & Middlekauff

§ 12:00-3:00 p.m. The Wheelhouse with John Lund & Greg Papa

§ 3:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. The Damon Bruce Show

The Game is heavy on personality driven radio, lots of sounders, and sports debates. However, because of its poor signal and inability to draw an audience, these changes appear to be nothing more than a lateral move. Of course, only time will tell if the new lineup has any traction.

Follow me on Twitter @RyanLeong

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