This news is now a week old, but circumstances got in the way of me speaking with the important parties before now. So here are some nuggets about the Ravens’ new radio deal with classic rock station WBIG, also known as BIG 100.3. Let’s do it in Q&A format.
Why is this a big deal for the Ravens?
After years of bouncing between D.C. radio stations, they now have a three-year deal with a major FM station that boasts a large built-in audience. WBIG was a top-ten D.C. market in both overall audience size and 18-and-over audience size, according to December Nielson Audio ratings. The Ravens’ former Washington home, WFED (1500 AM) wasn’t in the top 40. That month, WBIG’s average adult weekly audience was something like 18 times bigger than WFED’s. So we’re talking about a massive boost in the regular audience that will hear Ravens promotional content, and that might stumble into a Ravens broadcast.
“We were looking for a strong station to carry our games, and they were interested,” Ravens President Dick Cass told me. “I think it’s the best commitment we’ve had from a radio station in the D.C. market. It’s a three-year deal, and they seem very, very interested in having the Ravens. It wasn’t a situation where we were asking someone to do it; there was a real mutual interest in doing it.”
Why did Clear Channel want the Ravens?
“We treat the market as one market, Washington D.C. and Baltimore,” Dennis Lamme, Clear Channel’s market president for Washington/Baltimore told me. “And when you really look at it, the Ravens have a huge following in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, which is what my radio station covers. So I think it’s a great fit.”
Is Clear Channel worried about a backlash from Redskins fans?
Not really. Lamme said in the first four days after making the announcement, he had received one piece of negative feedback from a Redskins fan. A few others have expressed dissatisfaction on social media sites. Will others eventually complain?
“Maybe they will, but I look at it this way: there’s two teams, one’s AFC, one’s NFC. It’s a totally different ballgame,” said Lamme, who initiated talks with the Ravens. “I’ve worked with Major League Baseball, the NFL. I’ve worked with all the major sports leagues throughout my career. I wanted to have the opportunity to work with a professional sports team [with WBIG].”
Why do the Ravens even want to have a Washington broadcast partner?
“We have a lot of fans who live in the D.C. area, and we want to make sure we serve them by being with a radio station that will reach them,” Cass said on WBIG while making the announcement. “And we’re delighted to be with BIG. You guys are a top radio station in the D.C. market, and that’s where we wanted to be.”
“It’s awesome,” said Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who has many family members in Virginia. “They’ll have the games all the time. They’ll be able to listen all the time on BIG. I’m looking forward to it. It’s oftentimes my mother doesn’t come up to the game, she listens in, whether she’s at work or whatever. It’s amazing.”
Do the Redskins have an affiliate in Baltimore?
They do not, although many people in Baltimore can listen to Redskins games on the Redskins Radio Network’s Washington stations. The Redskins Radio Network has 36 broadcast partners in eight states and the District, also including Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Nebraska.
“We have been very close to adding an affiliate in Baltimore; we just haven’t been able to get the financials to work,” wrote Chuck Sapienza, executive producer for the Redskins Radio Network. “I see us adding a Baltimore affiliate within the next two to three years.”
With WBIG and ESPN 980 housed in the same Rockville office building, will there be some elevator tension?
No. That was a joke. I mean, they’re really in the same building, but seriously, it’s not like they’re exactly competitors.
“It really doesn’t do anything to us,” Sapienza noted. “It doesn’t harm us. [The Ravens] have been on in the D.C. market for years.”
How else will this help the Ravens?
“They have a very large audience share. They’ll cross promote on all their [Clear Channel] stations. I think that’s helpful,” Cass said of WBIG. “They’ll also help promote other non-Ravens events at our stadium. When we have Navy-Ohio State football, they can help us promote that in the D.C. market….
“We have a lot of season-ticket holders in the Washington market, and we have a lot of fans who are interested in the Ravens in that market, and so to serve them you really want a strong station that has an interest in promoting the Baltimore Ravens, that sees a value in it to them,” he later told me. “To me, there’s a keen interest [at WBIG], and I wasn’t always sure that other radio stations in the D.C. market had a great interest in the Baltimore Ravens. Sunday afternoon programming is not a big market, I gather, so having someone who really wanted us on their air on Sunday afternoon is great.”
Does WBIG have a history with NFL broadcasts?
Indeed, the station simulcast Redskins broadcasts in 2007 — before Dan Snyder gained control of 980 AM — and also briefly broadcast Redskins games in the ’90s, when the games were also heard on WTEM.
Will some Redskins fans post angry responses in the comment section?