The Washington Nationals' inaugural season will be broadcast by a pair of local stations -- WWZZ 104.1 FM and WFED 1050 AM -- in a deal reached yesterday that concludes more than a month of sometimes contentious negotiations with various radio outlets in the market.
The two stations are owned by Bonneville International Corp., which also owns WTOP, a regional power. WWZZ, a modern rock station known as Z104 with a strong FM signal, will carry 122 games -- including those on Opening Day, all the night games and afternoon games on such holidays as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. WFED, with a relatively weak AM signal, will broadcast all 162 games, and exclusively carry the 40 games not on WWZZ.
"We have to build a network, and that's what we intend to do," Nationals President Tony Tavares said. "We need to get affiliates extending to the west, south to Richmond and to the east and north."
The Nationals are paying "several hundred thousand dollars," a source said, to buy the air time, but could turn a small profit by selling advertising, which they will do in conjunction with Bonneville.
"We're coming into a soft market," Tavares said. "It's soft, in part, because we got going so late on this thing."
The deal comes after an apparent deal with Clear Channel Communications, which would have put games on all-sports WTEM, collapsed late last month. Infinity Broadcasting, which would likely have put games on WJFK -- the Washington Redskins' flagship station -- also appeared close to a deal last week until Bonneville re-established contact.
"We started to think an FM-AM combination might work," said Joel Oxley, senior vice president for Bonneville in Washington. "And they did, too. We're excited about it."
The Atlanta Braves are the only other major league team whose primary affiliate is an FM station.