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Celtics may be making waves around the dial

The Celtics' decisions aren't all on-court for the coming season.

On the media front, they've got to sort out their radio situation, preferably sooner rather than later, to allow sales departments to get to work.

Meanwhile, it's a great time to speculate on what might happen.

Rich Gotham, the Celtics' executive vice president of sales and corporate development, said after the season:

''We're going to explore all options."

''We're looking for a platform to promote the team."

''We want to have widespread coverage with a good radio network."

Clearly, the team doesn't stand to realize a windfall such as the $2 million per year that WWZN (1510 AM) reportedly was paying the team for each of the past four years.

What's more realistic is a partnership deal such as the Bruins have had with WBZ for a decade, calling for a smaller rights fee and sharing of profits.

The city's rumor mill has had the team headed anywhere from WRKO (680 AM) to WBCN (104.1 FM).

So what about WRKO, a former Celtics home?

WEEI GM Julie Kahn confirmed Wednesday via e-mail that ''we're [Entercom/Celtics] talking, but nothing solid yet."

And Jason Wolfe, Entercom director of programming and operations, said, ''We've always maintained that if the Celtics wanted to talk, we'd be happy to listen. We know that they have already committed to acquiring a new radio partner for next season. Having said that, we'll see what happens."

A Celtics-Entercom deal makes sense, especially with WRKO poised to carry more Boston College sports programming in the coming season. It also would give WEEI-WRKO a major property in the seemingly unlikely event the Red Sox' rights go elsewhere after next season.

From WEEI's perspective, adding the Celtics would consolidate more of the local sports rights under the Entercom umbrella, especially with WWZN not going away and ESPN Radio scheduled to come to town, likely in July. It also gives the Celtics more of a connection with the city's No. 1 sports radio outlet and a better start for a New England-wide network.

WWZN, meanwhile, would love to explore a new deal, one that would benefit both parties instead of bleeding the station to the tune of several million per year.

''They've been a good partner," said Gotham.

But the station's signal is weak, especially at night. And owner Wyc Grousbeck disparaged the station doing a guest spot with WEEI's ''Dale & Holley."

Looking at possible Plans C, D, and E.

Greater Boston Media's Don Kelley, vice president of Magic (106.7 FM) and director of programming for Greater Media Group/Boston, said, ''Of our five stations, the most logical one would be WTKK [96.9 FM]. ''The thing is, we're No. 8 at night with Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. The Celtics come in tied for 45th at night."

WBCN, which is home to the Patriots. With the departure of syndicated morning host Howard Stern to Sirius satellite radio in January, would the Celtics be a fit? Karen Mateo, speaking for Infinity from its New York headquarters, said, ''It's not our policy to discuss business plans until or unless there's something to announce."

3. Keeping the rights in house and buying air time. A possibility, but it likely wouldn't bring the cross-promotional motivation the Celtics want in a partnership.

Gotham said, ''We'd like to have something to announce, hopefully within 60 days."

It would seem the team has gone to the up-tempo pace in this instance.

A pick-me-up
Fox Sports Network's Celtics' ratings were up 23 percent for the season, getting a boost from the team's late-season run. The numbers bumped from a 1.3 average last year to a 1.6 this year. Would a better radio signal help TV? You'd have to think people listening to the game on the radio would turn to FSN when they got home, and vice versa. One media observer wondered if the team and FSN would simulcast announcers Mike Gorman and Tom Heinsohn on TV and radio should the Celtics go to a straight-time buy situation. However, Gotham said the team was pleased with announcers Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell. FSN wants viewers to become ''registered Sports Nuts." They're instituting an interactive arrangement to reward viewers of FSN's local programming, ''New England Sports Tonight," and ''Patriots Tailgate." Participants can register at www.FSNnewengland.com and earn points in a system that includes a daily password, polls, trivia, a bonus code, and points for clicking on advertising partner links.

Blacked out
Anyone in the Boston market hoping to view the TBS Xtra presentation of tonight's Braves-Sox series opener (Channel 38, 7:05) is out of luck. The TBS telecast, with Chip Caray, Ron Gant, and Joe Simpson in the booth, is blacked out here. However, XM satellite radio subscribers can hear the Braves' Caray-Pete Van Wieren broadcast . . . The 2004 Red Sox were one of nine winners of Laureus World Sports Awards earlier this week in Estoril, Portugal. Sox vice chairman Phil Morse, COO Mike Dee, and ex-Sox star Jim Rice represented the team in accepting the ''Spirit of Sport Award." NBC airs the ceremony tomorrow (Channel 7, 2-3:30 p.m.) . . . If you thought the Kentucky Derby was tough to handicap, Bob Neumeier, who'll recap that race at the top of NBC's Preakness coverage tomorrow (Ch. 7, 5 p.m.), agrees. He says to expect more of the same in the Preakness. He's vacillating between Afleet Alex and Closing Argument while asking ''Does anyone have a dartboard?" WWZN's Eddie Andelman picked High Limit when Edgar Prado was given the ride . . . Fox begins its national TV package tomorrow. Boston will get Yankees-Mets (Channel 25, 1 p.m.) with broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. The Sox-Yankees are on Fox game next Saturday, the first of three straight Saturday Sox games on the network. Fox Sports president Ed Goren says the network is happy with regular-season ratings in a world of ratings erosion, and calls this year's schedule, ''Our best in 10 years of doing baseball." Several 3 p.m. Saturday starts should help the numbers.

Ready for some football?
Subscribers to DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package had to have mixed feelings when the satellite TV provider committed $3.5 billion to extend its exclusive rights to the out-of-town games through 2010. The basic price remains $219 (plus taxes, fees etc.), but the high-definition and interactive ''Superfan" package is another $99. Last year, the available HD telecasts were included as part of the basic package. Also part of the Superfan package is the ''Red Zone Channel" that shows all scoring and big plays around the league as they happen, the ''Shortcuts" (replays of each game in 30 minutes), and, for those who have an interactive receiver box, a screen that can show up to eight games in different windows . . . Kori Goulet, a 23-year-old from Bartlett, N.H., gives New Englanders a rooting interest in tomorrow's second round of CBS's golf reality show ''PGA Tour 18 -- Golf's Ultimate Road Trip" (Channel 4, , 2-3 p.m.). Goulet, the lone woman among the eight contestants who spent 13 days traveling the country to play 18 of the PGA Tour's famous holes, loved the experience. ''I didn't have any ties and would have loved the tour to go on for a couple of months," she said. Goulet, who played at Boston College, spent the winter working at the Daytona Beach Club and honing her game. Her dual dreams: Having her game peak at home this summer and finding a Qualifying School sponsor . . . Bruins coach Mike Sullivan puts a face on the NHL lockout experience tonight when he joins host Tom Caron and the Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont and Jackie MacMullan on ''Sportsplus" (NESN, 5:30 and 11:30) There's also a kids soccer segment and a one-on-one with Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo.


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