Ravens pick TV, radio carriers WLIF, WJFK to have all games for 5 years

Chs. 54, 45 get preseason

July 04, 1996|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

The Ravens yesterday tapped WNUV (Channel 54) and WBFF (Channel 45) as their carriers for preseason football telecasts and Infinity Broadcasting as their radio home.

The team signed a one-year contract with an option for a second year with Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns Channel 45 and programs Channel 54, for three exhibition games, as well as a coach's show and players' shows during the regular season.

Infinity's deal with the Ravens will run for five years, and all of the team's exhibition and regular-season contests will air on WLIF (101.9 FM) and WJFK (1300 AM). Regular-season TV is determined by the NFL contract.

No financial terms were disclosed by Ravens officials, but industry sources indicate that the radio deal will cost Infinity almost $16 million over the length of the contract, with the average yearly payout the last three seasons approaching $3.8 million.

The radio contract is in line with other deals around the NFL, and is more than 10 times the $306,000 that WCBM (680 AM) paid for the Colts rights in 1983, their final season in Baltimore.

"It was a very good deal. It was a deal we couldn't refuse," said David Modell, the team's executive vice president.

Officials from both Infinity and Sinclair could not be reached for comment. However, in a prepared statement, Infinity vice president and general manager Ken Stevens pledged to "cover the field with state-of-the-art equipment that will deliver every sound of the game in high-quality digital sound."

The radio contract had been hotly contested, with WBAL (1090 AM), the Orioles' carrier, and WQSR (105.7 FM) the most serious suitors besides Infinity.

The negotiations had continued into this week, with each station tweaking its offer and the team balancing the value of accepting a straight rights fee against buying the air time for the games and selling the advertising itself.

Ultimately, the Ravens opted for Infinity, which holds the radio-broadcasting rights to 10 other NFL clubs, including the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles and both the New York Giants and Jets.

Infinity, one of the country's largest radio broadcasters, will pay the Cowboys in excess of $5 million for the rights to this year's games, and the Redskins and Eagles about $3.5 million each in 1996.

The company, which produces the shows of controversial radio personalities Howard Stern and Don Imus, recently acquired WXYV (102.7 FM) and WCAO (600 AM), and has announced a merger with Westinghouse.

Modell said he had a two-hour meeting met with Infinity chairman Mel Karmazin a month ago in New York, and though WBAL and WQSR battled hard, Infinity's offer was too attractive.

"Nobody could match what Infinity was going to pay," said an industry observer familiar with the negotiations.

On the television side, the team will buy air time from Sinclair and produce its own telecasts. Modell said the deal could be extended within the next few weeks beyond its current structure.

The television bidding was competitive, with WJZ (Channel 13), WBAL (Channel 11) and WMAR (Channel 2) all participating, but not as fierce as the radio competition because the television outlets were hamstrung by tightly drawn agreements reached between the stations and their networks in last year's network swap.

The home preseason games on Aug. 3 against Philadelphia and Aug. 17 against Green Bay will air live on Channel 54, provided the local blackout rule is waived, and will re-air the next day at noon on Channel 45. The final preseason game on Aug. 23 in Buffalo will air live on Channel 54, and be replayed on Channel 45 the next day.

In addition, the Ted Marchibroda coach's show and a player-oriented program will appear first on Channel 54 each Saturday in a one-hour block, starting at 6 p.m. on Aug. 31, with a rebroadcast of the coach's show each Sunday at 11: 30 a.m. on Channel 45.

Perhaps the most interested observers of the Ravens' broadcasting negotiations have been the Orioles, whose television and radio contracts expire at the end of the season.

The Orioles, 42-year residents of the city, certainly would be expected to demand at least as much as the newcomer Ravens in their radio contract, which has been held by WBAL since 1988.

The station is believed to pay the Orioles approximately $2.5 million per season, but baseball radio rights are traditionally more valuable than football broadcasts because of the far larger number of baseball games.

An escalation in the Orioles' TV rights, which currently go for more than $5 million a year to Westinghouse, owner of Home Team Sports and Channel 13, may not be as probable as that of the radio price, because there will be fewer outlets to bid on them, given the restrictions of affiliation agreements.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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