The Orioles and WBAL have reached agreement on a three-year radio contract in which the station will pay the club more than $4 million a year, according to industry sources.
WBAL (1090 AM), the Orioles' longtime radio home, beat back an apparently spirited bid from CBS Radio, which planned to place the games on WQSR (105.7 FM).
"It took a long time, but that's not always a bad thing," said Jeff Beauchamp, WBAL's vice president and station manager. "We're really happy that this is done and we're looking forward to three more years with the Orioles."
WBAL has been the Orioles' flagship station for all but 10 years since the team moved to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954.
"Obviously, WBAL has had a long-standing relationship with the Orioles, and putting baseball on FM is an unusual road to go down," said Bob Phillips, general manager of WQSR, one of CBS Radio's local properties. "It was a good negotiation and we thought we had a real chance."
Beauchamp said the on-air team of Jim Hunter, Fred Manfra and Hall of Fame announcer Chuck Thompson will return.
Negotiations between the Orioles and WBAL presumably had been going on throughout most of last season, and the relatively late awarding of the contract will leave the station with little time to sell advertising before the first exhibition game March 3 against Cincinnati or before Opening Day.
Beauchamp would not disclose terms of the deal, which runs through the 2002 season. He also said he wasn't concerned about the short selling season, saying the station expects to make a profit.
"That's our goal. Talk to me in a few months and we'll see, but we're satisfied with the deal and I think the Orioles are, too. We're going to forge ahead," said Beauchamp, who credited station general manager Ed Kiernan for helping move the deal forward.
Beauchamp said the station will increase its marketing efforts with the Orioles and will more closely involve WIYY (97.9 FM), which, like WBAL, is owned by Hearst Broadcasting.
WIYY, more commonly known as "98 Rock," appeals to a younger demographic than WBAL, a notion that Beauchamp said was of particular interest to the Orioles.
"That was a significant thing for us, to make the partnership bigger than just WBAL," said Michael T. Lehr, the Orioles' vice president of marketing and broadcasting.
The $4 million fee is about $1 million a year more than the Orioles received from WBAL in the last three-year contract, which expired after last season. It places the team roughly in the middle of the pack among baseball franchises based on what they receive for radio rights.
That figure may provide an interesting jumping-off point when rights for the Ravens go up for bid after next season. CBS Radio is in the fourth year of a five-year contract with the Ravens that reportedly pays $16 million over the life of the deal.