The Redskins have a new game plan for local TV and radio stations. It's called pay for play.
In a move that has riled broadcasters, the team has begun demanding that stations pay to use the Redskins name and logo on those chat-and-clip highlight shows. The going rate: as much as $200,000 per station.
The stations' managers, frankly, are a little surprised. For years, they've piggy-backed, gratis, on the franchise's popularity with a variety of half-hour (and longer) programs named after the team. WUSA, Channel 9, for example, has carried two shows, "Redskins Blitz" and "Redskins Final." Cable's NewsChannel 8 has run "Redskins Wrap" since 1992.
Not anymore, they don't.
Rather than pay up, a few stations have ceased and desisted. Channel 9's shows have been retitled "Football Blitz" and "Football Final." Over on NewsChannel 8, "Redskins Wrap" is now "Pro Football Wrap."
"Organizations that are not under a licensing agreement with us will not be permitted to use our [trademarks]," Redskins President Steve Baldacci said yesterday. "It's simple. It's a policy of consistency and fairness."
Some of the stations affected by the new policy surmise that owner Daniel Snyder is playing hardball as a result of his record $800 million purchase of the team. They point out that Jack Kent Cooke, who owned the team for decades, never sought similar fees. Nor did his son, John, who briefly ran the club after his father's death in 1997.
"This is kind of indicative of a new tone," said one broadcaster, who asked not to be identified, hoping to maintain a relationship with the new owner. "They figure they've got to get their money back somehow. What are they going to do next? Sell [advertiser] logos on the team's jerseys?"
One broadcaster said he considered suing the team, but he figured legal costs would overwhelm whatever his station might save in licensing fees.
Others, however, defended the new policy. "A team's name has market value just like anything else," said Laureen Ong, vice president and general manager of WTTG, Channel 5, the Fox station that carries most of the Redskins' regular-season games. "As teams have gotten more marketing savvy, they realized they're giving away something of value."
Channels 5 and 4 are exempt from the new policy because they already have deals in place that allow them to use the team's name. WRC, Channel 4, for example, became the official preseason station over the summer and is thus entitled to continue with its "Redskins Report."
Channel 5 has a multifaceted arrangement; it carries the infomercial-style "Redskins All Access," which is hosted by WTTG sportscaster Brett Haber but produced by the team itself. It also does a local pregame and postgame show, plus a Sunday night sports show called "Redskins Extra."
The new Redskins policy doesn't affect mentioning the team in newscasts or other news accounts. But it does extend to other media; the club has told all-news radio station WTOP-AM that it no longer can use the team's logo on its Web site, because those rights belong to WJFK-FM, the team's "official" radio station. The logo, however, appears on the Web site for sports talk WTEM-AM, whose executives declined to discuss their arrangements.
It's unclear how many other National Football League teams have similar pay-for-play deals. NFL spokesman Chris Widmaier said all NFL teams sign up local stations as their "official" broadcasters, but he was unsure whether teams charged license fees to those that don't have this status.
One station official said Snyder will realize a real payoff from the new policy next year. By giving the Redskins' trademarks a greater halo of exclusivity, he predicted, the team will be able to command far higher broadcast rights fees next season.
Staff writers Len Shapiro and Frank Ahrens contributed to this report.