After shedding his smaller radio stations over the past 13 months, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is getting out of the radio business entirely. Snyder announced Monday he has sold his flagship property, WTEM-AM, to media conglomerate Urban One.
WTEM, which was recently rebranded The Team 980, will continue to broadcast Redskins games and the pregame and postgame shows after the sale to Urban One is complete, according to Terry Bateman, chairman of Snyder-owned Red Zebra Broadcasting.
“They’ve done very well with sports talk in Richmond and are interested in doing sports talk in Washington,” Bateman said in a telephone interview.
Urban One, which is based in Silver Spring, is the country’s largest African American-owned broadcast media company.
Jeffrey Wilson, senior regional vice president for Urban One, said the company wasn’t prepared to discuss plans for specific personalities or shows. But Wilson affirmed a commitment to sports programming.
“We love the idea of a sport radio format, where the fans are so passionately engaged — much more than with other formats,” Wilson said in a telephone interview. “This marriage is made in heaven. It brings premium value. It brings the perfect synergy. We see sports and urban [radio] as a natural marriage.”
Alfred Liggins, president and CEO of Urban One, stressed continuity, noting that the station would still be locally owned and alluding to a mission of future sports programming. “Red Zebra has a track record of producing great programming that engages our hometown sports fans,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Washington Redskins organization to continue this tradition.”
It’s unclear whether the station’s popular drive-time sports-talk program, co-hosted by former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley and broadcaster Kevin Sheehan, will continue under the new ownership. The program airs Monday through Friday from 7 to 11 a.m.
The station’s current lineup also includes former Redskins Rick “Doc” Walker and Brian Mitchell, in addition to Cooley, Bram Weinstein, Al Galdi, Steve Czaban and Scott Jackson.
In addition to Redskins games, WTEM carries Baltimore Orioles games, University of Maryland and University of Virginia sports events and high-profile national games, including the World Series and NBA Finals.
WTEM’s tradition in sports-talk radio dates from 1992. The station has given voice to such noted broadcasters as James Brown, the late Ken Beatrice, Tony Kornheiser and former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson. With Red Zebra’s purchase of WTEM in 2008, Redskins football returned to the network, and the station relocated to Rockville.
The station was the final holding in Snyder’s Red Zebra company, which will be liquidated after the sale is finalized. With it, Snyder’s brief and apparently costly foray into radio broadcasting will come to an end.
According to one person with knowledge of Snyder’s thinking, two factors drove his decision to dismantle his radio network:
One, a desire to focus more attention on the Redskins, who have posted just six winning seasons in his 19 years as owner — particularly as Snyder seeks to drum up fan and civic support for construction of a new stadium after the lease on FedEx Field expires in 2027.
Two, an inability to turn the stations into a profit center, despite aggressive changes in WTEM’s format in recent years.
Radio isn’t the only business Snyder has waded into over the past 13 years. In 2005 he bought a stake in the Six Flags amusement-park operator and, after taking control, saw it declare bankruptcy in 2009. In 2007, he bought Dick Clark Productions and the Johnny Rockets fast-food chain, only to sell them in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
The sale of WTEM isn’t the first deal Snyder has done with Urban One. In April 2017, he sold two of his four radio stations — Washington’s WWXT (92.7 FM) and Richmond’s WXGI (950 AM) — to Radio One, Inc., which is now known as Urban One.
In May 2017, he sold WSPZ (570 AM). Also last summer, Red Zebra announced a deal with WMAL, the FM station that has a far broader reach than WTEM, to air Redskins games on 105.9 FM and 630 AM.
“I think Urban One will do a great job of developing this format,” Bateman said. “I think it’s a win for everybody involved — for the Redskins, for Urban One and the fans.”