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ESPN, WEEI join forces

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / October 8, 2009

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ESPN Radio and WEEI joined their considerable forces yesterday, announcing an affiliation agreement that will result in ESPN’s national programming airing on the long-established local sports radio station’s AM signal.

The announcement confirmed a Sept. 12 report in the Globe that the sides were in serious discussions to air ESPN Radio programming on nights and weekends.

The deal makes sense for both sides. ESPN, which made its intentions to become a significant player in the Boston market clear with its launch of ESPNBoston.com in September, has lacked a local radio outlet since ESPN-AM 890 went dark Sept. 14.

And WEEI, which finds itself trying to fend off upstart The Sports Hub 98.5, will gain content and well-known contributors.

ESPN baseball writer Peter Gammons will be a weekly guest on WEEI’s “The Big Show,’’ while NFL reporter Adam Schefter will join the “Dennis and Callahan’’ morning show on Mondays.

WEEI, which previously carried syndicated Fox Sports programming overnight, will now air ESPN’s “AllNight With Jason Smith’’ from 1-5 a.m. Monday through Friday. The station will also feature ESPN Radio weekend programming in the gaps when it does not have local programming or live game coverage.

WEEI will carry ESPN’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, the BCS national championship game, and, beginning immediately, baseball postseason games.

This is the first step in WEEI’s plan to move to an FM signal, perhaps as soon as the end of the Red Sox’ postseason run. Entercom Communications, WEEI’s owner, possesses a pair of FM stations in the market: WAAF 97.7/107.3, and Mike 93.7.

ESPNRadio would then take over the 850 spot on the AM dial, giving the ESPNBoston website a true ESPN Radio affiliate with an established, strong signal.

The timing of the announcement may be more than a coincidence. Ratings for September will be revealed today, the first full period in which The Sports Hub will be measured.