Thursday, June 05, 2008

Snyder to keep WWRC format - for now

Confirming last week's rumors, Dan Snyder has made it official. Yesterday, Red Zebra, his broadcast holding company, announced via press release (pdf) that it would be acquiring Clear Channel's three AM radio stations in the Washington, DC area, including progressive talker WWRC (1260AM).

Also part of the deal are sports talker WTEM (980AM) and conservative talker WTNT (570AM). It would appear that the strong-signalled, established sports format of WTEM is the crown jewel in this bunch, as WWRC and WTNT both have signal limitations and weak identities and ratings.

The move was made to give Snyder more viable broadcast outlets for the NFL team he owns, the Washington Redskins. Snyder has long desired a stronger sports radio presence in the market. Currently, the team's radio broadcasts air on three rimshot FM stations in the greater Washington area (as 'Triple X ESPN Radio'). Since all three stations have problems penetrating the city proper, they also contract with a Clear Channel FM station. This move will eliminate the need for that and keep the games in-house. All of Red Zebra's stations, including WWRC, will carry broadcasts of Redskins games this fall.

As for the fate of WWRC and WTNT, the company says it will keep the formats "in the near term" after they take over operation of the station on July 1.

Red Zebra’s Bruce Gilbert says “during the coming months we’ll evaluate all program lineups to determine the best mix of programming to serve the many diverse fans of sports and news/talk. Some things will change, some will remain the same.”

See DCRTV for more info.

7 comments:

tmode93 said...

Actually "Triple X ESPN Radio" is 2 rimshot FM's (southern MD and Northern VA) and a in-city strong daytime AM with flea power after dark(useless for night games). Snyder is slowly working to getting the Redskins on every available DC frequency :D

Already sources tell DCRTV conservo-talker WTNT is out; shows on WTNT are shopping around for other DC outlets (here's hoping none replace progressive talk on "3WT"). Hopefully you're right that WWRC will remain safe despite their horrible signal and no real ratings.

ltr said...

I gotta admit, I haven't been in DC in eons, so my knowledge of the market is rather limited. I do know that there are an insane amount of suburban rimshots in the area (on both bands). Bonneville has two such situations, with WTOP and 3WT.

I did err on the FM situation. In my previous entry, I did mention that there were only two FMs and a small AM. The AM, located south of the city, has a strong day signal but it's mere 25 watts barely hits DC.

I kinda figured that the first new acquisition to switch would likely be WTNT. The signal is decent enough to cover the market, and would probably work well as a Triple X station. WWRC has a weak signal, as far as I know, so it doesn't really fit into the picture here. I've always assumed that the station kept progressive talk because they ran out of formats to do. Perhaps WXTR (730AM) will come into play as a talk station or something.

Here's what Red Zebra has to work with in the DC area:

AM:

WTNT (570AM) - conservative talk, decent metro signal

WXTR (730AM) - good day signal, not so good night. Currently Triple X radio.

WTEM (980AM) - The sports station they wanted.

WWRC (1260) - Progressive talk, mediocre signal.

FM:

WWXT (92.7FM) - Rimshot signal, Triple X radio

WWXX (94.3FM) - Rimshot signal, Triple X radio

Snyder did attempt to buy 103.9FM and 104.1FM, but that deal fell through.

If Triple X moves to 570, then that leaves 730 open for something else. Snyder will probably put in a third sports station somewhere in this mix. Since his current station is an ESPN affiliate, and WTEM is FOX Sports, that leaves Sporting News Radio, the third and weakest all-sports network (though they do have some decent shows, IMO). Having the rights to all three major sports networks (plus indies like Jim Rome and Dan Patrick and various local hosts) will give them an unbreakable monopoly on sports radio in the DC market. This would, however, leave WWRC as the odd one out - the only non-sports station. I can't seen them continuing progressive talk in this situation unless they leased it or brought in a manager to solely concentrate on that. WWRC has never done well with the format, but talk radio in general does lousy in DC. They could possibly sell it off.

There have also been rumors that they'll flip the affiliations of Triple X and WTEM, with ESPN going to 980 and FOX Sports to the trimulcast. My personal opinion is that FOX has the stronger on-air product, but that's just me speaking as a casual sports talk listener.

JHThree said...

Given Snyder's Republican leanings, I can't imagine him leaving 1260 am in its current format for long. And while I don't want to lose the station, it's so poorly run - I am often left with the impression that the people who run 1260 are ashamed to be a progressive talk station - that I'll have a hard time mourning it.

What I'm hoping is 3WT will see an opening after Snyder casts off his progressive programming and will become a full-time progressive station, along with carrying the Washington Capitals and Nationals.

ltr said...

I've always maintained that political allegiances mean only so much when it comes to programming radio stations. Look at Entercom, for example, which donates heavily to Democrats, yet programs a ton of conservative talk on their stations while only having two (previously five) airing progressive talk. Owners usually program formats that they either know how to do or know how to make money with. Of course, WWRC ain't doing so hot. Then again, neither are most talk stations in DC. And the more I think about it, I can't see Snyder actually be willing to do any kind of political talk format.

And, yes, for the record, Snyder is a big time Republican donor.

I'm almost guessing WWRC will eventually be made available to whatever buyer comes along with the right price. After all his sports shuffling (and we all know that all of his stations will be all-sports), he'll have no use for the station, and may consider it an expendable asset.

tmode93 said...

It's anyones guess how Mr. Snyder divides his multitude of weak stations. Both WWRC and WTNT have mediocre signals; especially at night. When I was still in college in eastern DC listening to AM 570 was a contest with Cuba's "Radio Reloj" time ticks (I preferred the ticks over Savage's rantings). Good theory about Snyder getting all sports radio networks, but he would have to pull SNR from WJFK-FM overnights which is possible. So a potential station lineup prediction:

WTEM 980 and WWXX 94.3 : ESPN Radio where the AM covers most of the metro with the FM boosting VA suburbs.

WWXT 92.7, WXTR 730 and WTNT 570 : Fox Sports with FM covering southern burbs, WXTR covering metro daytime and WTNT attempting to cover metro and VA burbs at night.

WWRC 1260 : Guess if progressive talk isn't his flavor this can be the throwaway station. Slap SNR on here, try other syndicated programming (non-liberal) or lease to whoever will pay. 1260 hasn't had ratings since it dropped MOYL years ago anyways.

WTOP doesn't have the rimshot situation Redskins Radio does (but sister operation 3WT does). WTOP 103.5 is a solid metro-area signal with Frederick's WTLP 103.9 merely acting as a booster to Frederick commuters. Not needed but nice to have :)

FSL said...

3WT, like the WTOP "Network," is owned by the Mormon Church, and it's hard for me to imagine them going with progressive talk beyond a token presence.

I don't see Snyder going with any kind of political talk. He's in the sports business. That's what he knows. That's what he's selling. He has the precedent of WTOP's multi-station local "network" to go by. He can fill any holes in signal coverage for the 'Skins broadcasts. In addition to ESPN, he's got Fox Sports and Sporting News to draw from (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised in Clear Channel made some carriage of Fox Sports part of the deal). Bottom line: Even without big audience numbers, even without a good signal, sports talk can make money. Sports talk is the only format that can pull in the money demos on AM.

Dermot said...

I live in DC, the signal sucks. It is ok in some parts of the city, but total unintelligible in other parts.


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