Monday, February 14, 2011

With Yankees radio deal with WCBS-AM e ntering final year, ESPN-1050 & others could enter the bidding

With Yankees radio
deal with WCBS-AM e
ntering final year,
ESPN-1050 & others
could enter the bidding

The offseason didn't produce major changes for the
Yankees, but as spring training approaches,
Bombers brass is contemplating an off-field switch.

The Yankees are entering the final year of their radio
contract with WCBS-AM. John Sterling and Suzyn
Waldman will open things up on Feb. 26 calling the
Phillies-Yankees exhibition game. The radio
industry is struggling. That doesn't mean the
Bombers' won't have options if they are seeking a
new radio partner.

WCBS-AM, the radio home of the Yankees since
2002, currently pays $13 million per year for the
Bombers radio rights. That's big moolah for a
baseball radio deal, but not tops in Major League
Baseball. That distinction belongs to the Red Sox
who are pulling down $18 million per for their
radio rights.

The Yankees probably are looking for Red Sox-like
money. Considering the state of the economy in
general, and the radio business in particular, they
will be lucky to get a slight increase from WCBS-AM
unless, of course, there's a "desperate" radio outlet

Like most rights-fee negotiations, the incumbent
station has an "exclusive" bargaining period. If an
agreement is not reached on a new contract with
WCBS-AM before that "exclusive" window closes,
other outlets can bid.

ESPN-1050 will be a player for Yankees rights. It
could play the role of the "desperate" outlet.
Acquiring Yankee baseball would instantly fill a
huge void for a station hustling for ratings, 
bringing it higher visibility from a vast audience
that has no idea ESPN-1050 even exists. A 1050
partnership with the Yankees would instantly turn
up the competitive heat on WFAN, home of the Mets,
by increasing - probably significantly - 1050's

There's a major stumbling block for ESPN-1050 - its
weak signal. Two Dixie Cups attached by a string is
a powerhouse by comparison. Seriously though,
Yankees brass probably doesn't want its games
airing on a station with - literally - no juice.

ESPN can alleviate the problem by purchasing a
station with a strong signal. Industry sources say
ESPN has shown interest in buying RXP 101.9, an
FM station owned by Emmis Communications. Emmis
was asking $125 million for the station, but the
price has apparently dropped to $100 million.

If ESPN does not acquire a station with a big-time
signal, but comes in with the highest bid, would the
Yankees decide to glom the money at the expense of
being stuck on 1050?

That would be risky business, potentially
disastrous. In 2005, St. Louis Cardinals suits
decided to buy 50% of KTRS-AM and move their
games off powerhouse KMOX-AM. The Cardinals
wound up having to place games on five other
stations in a failed attempt to reach maximum
listeners in the market. This season, the Cards are
returning to KMOX.

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