- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Washington Commanders will have a new radio broadcast partner in 2022 after the team failed to reach an agreement with WTEM The Team 980, their longtime flagship station.

The Commanders said in a statement Wednesday that they have struck a deal with a new station, but did not disclose the details. The team’s announcement came hours after The Team 980’s Kevin Sheehan said on air that the station would not broadcast the Commanders’ games next season.

On air, Sheehan said the Commanders and the station disagreed on the value of a new deal, while also adding “it was important for us to continue to be able to provide honest, objective information and analysis about the [Commanders] on our talk shows.”

The Commanders appeared to take issue with the latter sentiment — noting in their statement that Audacy, the station’s parent company, was an “active and aggressive participant” in negotiations. A Washington spokesperson said the team opened a “Request for Proposal” process last fall and that it concluded last week.

“Multiple companies submitted bids as part of this process, including Audacy who was an active and aggressive participant and submitted multiple partnership proposals for the next three years of increased value over our previous deal,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Based on the evaluation process, we selected a new partner who will bring a significantly larger deal, as well as new creativity and broader reach and scale, to programming. We shared with Audacy last week that we would not be moving forward as partners.

“We’re very excited about our new radio broadcast partner, who we will be announcing soon, and anticipate this being the largest radio deal in the team’s history.”

Audacy also owns the higher-rated sports station 106.7 The Fan, which eliminates them as a possibility to air the games in the District.

The new deal with another radio station comes as the team recently lost Anheuser-Busch as a sponsor. Last week, the brewing company cut ties with the Commanders, who said they are in the process of searching for a new beer sponsor. Anheuser-Busch said in a statement it chose not to renew the deal, though did not specify a reason. The Commanders have also lost sponsors in Inova and Medliminal over the past year.

NBC Sports Washington reported Wednesday that Anheuser-Busch was the team’s fourth-largest sponsor — accounting for at least $4 million per year. Only Pepsi, FedEx and Bank of America have deals equal to or larger than what Anheuser-Busch had.

Sheehan said on the air that The Team 980 will debut new Commanders-related content in place of the airing of live games on gameday, including “ “including at least four hours of pregame coverage, a new in-game talk show focusing on analysis and fan-reaction and in-game betting angles.”

Formerly known as ESPN 980, The Team 980 was once a part of Washington owner Dan Snyder’s media properties. Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting sold the station in 2018 to media conglomerate Urban One, which then sold the station again to Audacy (formerly Entercom) two years later.

In that span, the team’s gameday broadcasts have continued to be aired on the station. The Commanders remade their broadcasting booth almost two years ago when former play-by-play man Larry Michael left the team in wake of sexual misconduct allegations in the summer of 2020.  Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson, broadcaster Bram Weinstein and former cornerback DeAngelo Hall have called the Commanders’ games on the radio for the past two seasons.

The Team 980 began airing Washington games in 2008 after Snyder originally purchased the station from Clear Channel Communications. The station also had the rights for several years in the 1990s.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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