- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

The Baltimore Orioles have struck a deal with Clear Channel Communications to air games on WTEM (AM-980), WTNT (AM-570) and WWRC (AM-1260) for a fifth consecutive season.

The agreement comes less than six weeks after Clear Channel walked away from an apparent deal with the Washington Nationals to carry that team’s games. Nearly all Orioles games will air on WTEM, with a handful going to the other stations to alleviate scheduling conflicts.

“Orioles baseball has been on the air in Washington for many years, and there are still a number of Orioles fans in the Washington area,” said Tod Castleberry, WTEM director of operations. “It’s obviously a brand-new time now for everybody with the arrival of the Nationals, but we think there is a great opportunity for both teams.”

Orioles games were carried for 22 years on WTOP-AM/FM before shifting to Clear Channel’s stations

Terms of the pact were not disclosed, but industry sources said it closely resembles prior ones in which the parties simply split advertising revenues after production costs were paid to Clear Channel. Financially, the deal has not been a windfall for the Orioles, netting at best a low six-figure sum per year, but it does broaden their exposure in the Washington area.

The deal was held up not only by Clear Channel’s aborted negotiations with the Nationals but a delay while waiting for the Orioles’ flagship station, Baltimore’s WBAL (AM-1090), to renew its contract with the club.

Also, the Orioles were awaiting final clearance from Major League Baseball to again pursue the Washington radio market. As a result, the Clear Channel-Orioles deal creates a curious situation in which the Orioles retain a strong Washington-area signal while the Nationals do not claim the same in Baltimore.

The Nationals’ flagship radio stations, Bonneville International Corp.-owned Z104-FM and WFED (AM-1050), do not have signals that extend well into central and north Baltimore — a factor that aided their landing their bid for the team.

However, the Nationals are within days of announcing a package of deals to expand their radio network and perhaps make themselves more available to some Baltimore-area listeners. Markets under consideration include Annapolis, Richmond, Norfolk, Frederick, Hagerstown, the West Virginia panhandle and the Delaware coast.

“There is no question we will be expanding our presence in the Northeast corridor,” said Nationals president Tony Tavares. “It will be a comprehensive package. Right now we’re looking at about seven deals, and we should ultimately get to about 12 stations [this season].”

Tavares also said he still has not been given approval by MLB executives to solidify the Nationals’ local TV distribution. A TV package has been held up for months by unresolved negotiations between MLB and Orioles Peter Angelos on a deal to protect him financially from the arrival of the Nationals. Central to those talks is the creation of a new regional sports network carrying both teams and predominantly owned by the Orioles.

MLB President Bob DuPuy said last week he hoped the Angelos deal would “come to closure within a few days.” Since then, no agreement has been announced, and DuPuy has declined requests for further comment.

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