The Nationals struck a new radio deal this winter that made WJFK (106.7 FM) their flagship station, enhancing the range of the signal for their local radio broadcasts but also creating early-season confusion among fans. Existing radio contracts and scheduling conflicts with other local teams have forced several Nationals’ broadcast to jump around the dial.
“We knew going into the deal there were already contractual obligations with the teams in place,” Nationals COO Andy Feffer said. “The benefits we would bring with a new flagship partner superceded those minimal conflict games.”
Every Nationals game is broadcast locally on at least one station. But on the nights when both the Wizards and Capitals are also playing, the only station that carries the Nationals is WHFS (1580 AM), which does not have a strong enough signal for many fans in the area to listen to the Nationals game, especially at night.
All three teams play at the same time only once more this spring, on Saturday night.
WJFK had previous radio contracts with the Wizards and Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, WFED (1500 AM), which simulcasts Nationals games, has a pre-existing contract with the Capitals. When the Nationals play at the same time as those teams, Nationals games get bumped to different stations, one of which is the weak-signalled WHFS .
For now, this is how the Nationals’ radio broadcasts are determined:
If neither the Wizards nor the Capitals are playing: 106.7 FM and 1500 AM
If the Wizards are playing and the Capitals aren’t: 1580 AM and 1500 AM
If the Wizards aren’t playing and the Capitals are: 106.7 FM
If both the Wizards and Capitals are playing: 1580 AM
Also, weekday non-holiday matinees will not be by broadcast on 106.7 FM. They will be broadcast on both 1580 AM and 1500 AM.
WJFK has taken steps to let listeners know the Nationals’ broadcast schedule. Every hour on the hour, and in several other promotions throughout the day, Feffer said, the station announces that day’s schedule. WJKF also updates the Nationals’ broadcast schedule on its twitter feed (@1067thefandc) and Facebook page.
One of conflicts will not last much longer, since the Wizards have only four more games this year, one of them coming on a Nationals off day. The Capitals create a difficulty for the Nationals’ radio broadcast schedule because their playoff schedule will determine whether the Nationals’ game will be simulcast.
The Nationals understood they would have priority behind other local teams when they made the deal with WJFK. They believed the sacrifice was worth strengthening the reach of the majority of their broadcasts. Once the broadcast contracts for other teams expire, the Nationals will attempt to renegotiate their standing.
“WJFK has already expressed a desire when those contracts come up, they will look at that as a possibility,” Feffer said.
When the Nationals sought a new flagship station this offseason, Feffer said, they considered three issues most: They wanted to expand their coverage area, target D.C. sports fans and “create a partnership outside of just broadcasting,” Feffer said, that would include ticket deals, promotions and features with players, coaches and other team officials.
“I think it’s exceptional for our fans,” Feffer said.