Ravens close to station switch

Team on verge of deal with WBAL radio after 10 seasons on Infinity

Media

December 03, 2005|By CHILDS WALKER | CHILDS WALKER,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens are on the verge of moving to a new radio home.

After 10 seasons on Infinity-owned WJFK (1300 AM), the team is in final negotiations to have WBAL (1090 AM) and 98 Rock (WIYY-FM) broadcast games and related content next season.

Though Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said a deal might not be announced for several weeks, he said the team and WBAL are "trying to finalize an agreement right now."

FOR THE RECORD - An article Saturday on the Ravens' likely new radio deal incorrectly stated that 98 Rock (WIYY-FM) has the strongest FM signal in the Baltimore area. Four stations have stronger signals, all at 50,000 watts: WHFS (105.7), WBJC (91.5), WQSR (102.7) and WRBS (95.1).
The Sun regrets the errors.

WBAL Radio station manager Jeff Beauchamp had no comment.

Robert Phillips, market manager for Infinity's Baltimore-area stations - 102.7 FM also broadcasts Ravens games - said WJFK decided not to match WBAL's offer for the broadcast rights.

"We were not interested in doing a deal where it would not be profitable," he said, though he declined to give the sum.

"We've had them for 10 years, it's been a great relationship, we've really enjoyed broadcasting them, and we wish them the best," Phillips said.

Former Colts star Tom Matte, who has broadcast games on WJFK as an analyst with play-by-play man Scott Garceau for the duration, said he will not continue next year, and it's possible Garceau won't return, either.

"It's a sad day for me, because the Ravens are a great organization, and I've been through the highs and lows," he said. "And I think the fans enjoyed us, because we were honest and forthright."

Matte said WBAL has "its own agenda" in picking announcers but said he expects to be commenting on football in some capacity next season.

"Scott and I have our agent out looking for us," he said.

Garceau said he won't consider the deal done until it's announced but said, "I'll miss it, and I'll have to find other things to do for those 20 weekends."

Garceau and Matte have also called games for the Colts, the Baltimore Stars of the USFL and the Baltimore Stallions of the Canadian Football League. "If this is the end, it's been a great run," Garceau said of the 25-year stint.

Phillips said Infinity officials had discussed a new deal with the team for months but could not come to terms.

"We knew what we were willing to do, and that obviously did not match what they were looking for," Phillips said.

"It's difficult, because Infinity has been a good partner," Byrne said. "We had both [stations] pursue us pretty aggressively, and that's flattering. But in the end, you have to make a decision."

WBAL has broadcast the Orioles for decades (negotiations to renew that deal are pending) and made a strong pitch to broadcast the Ravens when the team arrived from Cleveland in 1996.

WBAL and its sister station, 98 Rock, feature extensive Ravens coverage, including pre-game shows. Games would be broadcast on both the AM and FM stations, though on days when the Ravens and Orioles play at the same time, one team might appear on 98 Rock and the other on WBAL.

The stations offer the strongest radio signals, 50,000 watts, of any in the Baltimore area.

Phillips said that WJFK, meanwhile, will stick with a sports format, broadcasting University of Maryland sports content, covering Ravens and Orioles news and carrying content from ESPN Radio.

Infinity lured Terrapins football and basketball away from WBAL earlier this year.

He declined to say how much profit the station has earned on Ravens broadcasts. But he said that with the advent of other broadcast sources such as Internet streaming and satellite radio, deals with sports teams are not the exclusive gems they once were.

Infinity CEO Joel Hollander has criticized Major League Baseball for striking a $650 million deal with XM Satellite Radio that gives local radio feeds, produced by stations such as WJFK and WBAL, to satellite.

"It's another slap in the face of local rights-holders," Hollander told the New York Daily News in April. "It's a further dilution of our rights."

childs.walker@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Nick Madigan contributed to this article.

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