Monday, 9:58 AM
Red Sox radio rights stay with Entercom, though likely to move to WRKO
Entercom Communications Corp., owner of AM radio stations WEEI and WRKO, has won the months-long bidding war for the right to broadcast Red Sox games. Greater Media Inc., the owner of several FM radio stations in the Boston market, including WBOS, said today it is withdrawing from the bidding process.
The announcement ends long period of negotiations for the right to broadcast Red Sox games. The games now are likely to be broadcast on WRKO, the sister station to WEEI.
In an internal memo, Phil Redo, a Greater Media executive, said, "There are times when the best deal is no deal. This morning, Greater Media has decided to end our negotiations with the Red Sox. After many months of discussion, in the final analysis it was simply not in the best interest of the company and the effort and mission we have as a cluster."
Greater Media's chief executive, Peter Smyth, issued a public statement that said, "This was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day, the deal didn't make economic sense for the company."
The Red Sox' existing radio deal with all-sports station WEEI expires after the 2006 season, and the team has been taking bids from radio stations for a new deal. Several weeks ago, the Globe reported that the Red Sox were negotiating with WBOS to take an ownership stake in the station. Though WBOS appeared to be the favorite this week, the deal apparently fell through at the last minute.
Meanwhile, rival Entercom has all along offered the Sox two options for their radio deal: Extend with WEEI, or switch to WRKO. As of right now, the Sox appear likely to go to WRKO. The games would give a boost to the station, which has trailed WEEI in the ratings, and allow the team to separate itself from the sometimes acerbic commentary on WEEI.
The battle between the owners of WEEI and WBOS once again demonstrates the enormous marketing power of the team. WEEI's contract with the team expires this year, and the Sox have taken bids from radio stations for several months.
Though no specific prices have been mentioned, the Sox are likely to earn at least $12 million a year, nearly as much as the $13 million paid annually to the Atlanta Braves, and more than the New York Yankees' current $10 million deal, though that is expiring this year.
Around the country, radio stations are balking at pricey deals for sports play-by-play. The Chicago White Sox, despite winning the World Series last year, recently moved to a radio station that will pay the team $1 million less per year than its former deal, according to the Chicago Tribune. The St. Louis Cardinals, which lost to the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series, left the team's radio partner of more than 50 years after the station wanted to lower the price. The Cardinals fled to another station, where they took an ownership stake.
(By Sasha Talcott, Globe Staff)