Feb
14

Bidding war could damper Yanks’ radio signal

By

Ma & Pa Pinstripe could find their radio tenures soon coming to an end. (Murawinski/Daily News)

With the Yanks’ radio deal with WCBS AM 880 expiring after the end of the 2011 season, rumors of a potential switch to another station along the dial are swirling. As Bob Raissman reported in the Daily News this weekend, the Yankee brass would like to cash in on the value of their radio rights, and other prominent media companies — including ESPN — are prepared to enter the bidding.

This isn’t the first time this winter that Raissman has broached the topic of the Yanks’ radio machinations. In November, he questioned the futures of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. If the Yankees switch frequencies, the new station managers may opt to bring in their own on-air talent. Sterling and Waldman, after all, elicit strong reactions — few positive — from Yankee fans, and fresh blood could drive up the ratings.

But before the personnel decisions are to be made, the Yanks must secure a good deal for themselves. They currently earn $13 million a year from WCBS, but as Raissman notes, the club would rather get Red Sox money — $18 million a year. In a bad market for radio, could the team cash in? If the right outlet enters a bidding war, they certainly could, but the fans might lose out.

Raissman notes that ESPN-1050 with its weak and confined signal could be a likely landing space. He writes:

ESPN-1050 will be a player for Yankees rights. It could play the role of the “desperate” outlet. Acquiring Yankee baseball would instantly fill a huge void for a station hustling for ratings, bringing it higher visibility from a vast audience that has no idea ESPN-1050 even exists. A 1050 partnership with the Yankees would instantly turn up the competitive heat on WFAN, home of the Mets, by increasing – probably significantly – 1050′s ratings.

There’s a major stumbling block for ESPN-1050 – its weak signal. Two Dixie Cups attached by a string is a powerhouse by comparison. Seriously though, Yankees brass probably doesn’t want its games airing on a station with – literally – no juice.

ESPN can alleviate the problem by purchasing a station with a strong signal. Industry sources say ESPN has shown interest in buying RXP 101.9, an FM station owned by Emmis Communications. Emmis was asking $125 million for the station, but the price has apparently dropped to $100 million. If ESPN does not acquire a station with a big-time signal, but comes in with the highest bid, would the Yankees decide to glom the money at the expense of being stuck on 1050?

The Cardinals tried a similar move in 2005, but it backfired. Fan complaints pushed them back to the KMOX powerhouse this year, and the Yanks were certainly watching that saga unfold. Meanwhile, Raissman notes that the Yanks could try to push the Mets off of WFAN or they could buy their own radio station spots by purchasing time on another network.

No matter how this ends, two off-field storylines here are worth watching. The first concerns Sterling and Waldman. Older fans seem to enjoy Sterling’s histrionics while younger fans would prefer a better broadcaster. Will the next radio broadcaster opt for traditional or change? Second, will the Yanks flip to a weaker signal? Fans in Connecticut and New Jersey simply cannot get ESPN 1050 over the air, and the Yanks would alienate a significant portion of the fan base if they do. Such a change could have far-reaching ramifications for the club looking to cash in on valuable broadcast rights.

Categories : NYC Sports Media

102 Comments»

  1. Monteroisdinero says:

    Replace Sterling/Waldman with the 3 RABbis. They can educate us on the true meaning of WAR and many other things.

  2. Thomas says:

    The Yankees should remove Sterling and replace him with a better broadcaster, but they should record him (i.e. his HR calls and “THEEEEEE YANKEES WIN”) and play them as appropriate during the game with a sound board. That will please everyone.

    I don’t care what they do with Waldman as long as I don’t have to see or hear her.

  3. JCK says:

    WCBS is great because it reaches many part of New England. Thank god for MLB.TV and the MLB AtBat iPhone app, though, which makes radio signal strength mostly moot for an out-of-market fan like me.

    (Also, I always liked Sterling. Mildly annoying, but he has a great radio voice.)

    • That’s what slays me. Sterling has a fantastic voice for radio, but his ability to call games is just so poor.

      • AndrewYF says:

        I just try to ignore what he’s actually saying, and just get a gist of what’s going on in the game. He has such a great bass.

      • Beamish says:

        I love to hear Sterling call balls and strikes – his tone and pacing is excellent.

        If he would simply stop talking after the phrase “It is gone!” he would silence the vast majority of his critics. I never want to hear about another “ABomb from ARod”, or that “Jorgie Juiced One” and I could die happy never knowing of that a pair of homers were “back-to-back and belly-to-belly”.

    • Kiersten says:

      The AtBat app changed my life.

      • ND Mike says:

        My wife has become a baseball widow thanks to MLB and their media campaign. MLB AtBat on my android, MLB.tv on my computer, PS3, networked TV or PC and XM in my truck.

        I actually think I might get more access to NYY baseball in North Dakota than a good percentage in NY. Viva la Internet!

    • MannyGee says:

      yeah… worth mentioning that on clear nights I can get 850 WCBS (and Yankees Games) in my car… in Manchester New Hampshire.

      That doesn’t suck. 205 Miles as the crow flies. and apparantly you can’t get ESPN 1050 in Greenwich?

    • Gooch says:

      New england? At night I can pick it up in DC!

  4. limonene says:

    Ugh. I hope this doesn’t happen. I’m in central Jersey, and ESPN 1050 is little more than static at night, when I’d be most likely to be listening to the games.

    I also know that this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I actually like Suzyn Waldman, and wish Sterling would let her have more airtime (I could do without him completely). She’s a pioneer in sports broadcasting.

  5. I hope this doesn’t happen. I have no problem picking up 880 in the areas of New Jersey that I frequent, but I can only pick up 1050 in the middle of the night. It’s a sea of static in the evening when the Yankees would normally be playing.

  6. ericdotcomm says:

    I do hate the Sterling/Waldman combo, but the 1050 signal is even worse. I’d rather suffer through a WCBS broadcast than no broadcast at all.

  7. Dude says:

    Espn 1050 sucks on Long Island too.

  8. MikeD says:

    Replacing Sterling and Waldman will not cause the Yankees ratings to increase.

  9. Regis says:

    I end up listening to a lot of games on the radio and I really hope the Yankees do not end up on 1050 – it’s just static where I live on Eastern Long Island. 880′s signal is strong enough where I can still pick it up in Boston.

  10. gc says:

    I like Sterling fine. I find the criticism of him to be amusing to say the least, as is most criticism of sports broadcasters in general. I actually think most Yankee fans kind of like Sterling. I know most here on RAB don’t, but whatever. I’ve found over the years that even those who claim to hate the guy and the way he broadcasts games are some of the first people to scream out his catch phrase at the end of every game. Or use it to rub it in the faces of friends of their’s who happen to root for other teams. Raissman has always despised Sterling, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s bringing all this up. But I cannot imagine a switch will be made. Waldman, maybe. But not Sterling. Like him or not, he’s the Voice of the Yankees to an entire generation of fans.

  11. Listening to Sterling on the radio is comforting, in a way. I generally get to watch most of the games on TV, but when I’m stuck on the road or I’m in in the office during a game day, you know what you’re gonna get from him, and it’s been him for so long that it’s like listening to a friend. If I had to follow every game by listening to him, sure, I might go crazy. But that would have more to do with not being able to watch the games than his descriptive powers.

    • Regis says:

      I like Sterling actually. It’s Waldman that I usually can’t stand.

    • Mike M says:

      I grew to appreciate him most a couple years ago when we missed the playoffs. When times were tough it was great to have good ol Johnny…ever the optimist. For as much as I get annoyed by his fake homerun calls, I also eagerly await for a new Yankee to hit a homerun to hear what stupid corny phrase he uses. A lot of times he sounds like an idiot…but he;s our idiot

  12. Ori M says:

    1050 works fine in North Jersey

  13. CountryClub says:

    I live in PA and my brother lives not far from Boston and we both can pull in 880. It would be a shame if they made a switch that cut out a huge chunk of their fan base. It’s not an issue for me because I have XM in my car. But most people dont have that luxury.

    • Couldn't Care Less says:

      Not for nothing…880 isn’t the only station broadcasting the duo…there is a far reaching radio network. There may be a stronger signal in your area. In upstate NY it is on the FM dial….

      • CountryClub says:

        yeah but I get 880 fine and like I said I can get them on satelite too. I was just saying that it would seem silly to move off a channel that currently reaches as far as PA and Mass

  14. Esteban says:

    The Knicks and Jets are broadcast on 1050. How does that work out for them? As a resident on NYC, the poor signal for 1050 wouldn’t affect me, though if they hired new commentators, I would probably listen to more games because if I’m not at home, right now I just get updates n my phone rather than listen to Sterling and Waldman.

  15. Couldn't Care Less says:

    Let them go to whatever station. I use the at bat app and just plug it into my car radio or where-ever I may be out of market or out of range. It works fine. Signal strength is not a concern because of internet radio availability and MLB’s awesome social media and radio/tv availability. As well, ESPN 1050 can be listened to anywhere using a smart phone as they have an ESPN Radio App for all Mobile OS’… This isn’t 1985.

  16. Pasqua says:

    It’s been beaten to death, but Sterling became complacent a long time ago; content to work his schtick vs. contributing details. It’s not even the homerun calls, but rather the checklist of dull, mundane talking points that he goes through every single day, that have driven me to the brink of insanity. If he and Waldman were to be replaced, it would breathe new life into the team itself.

  17. yankthemike says:

    I know a die-hard fan who lives in the lehigh valley PA. can’t get YES on his cable package…doesn’t have a lot of money and depends on WCBS for his Yankee experience. There have to be a lot of people in the same situation that would be left out in the cold if they took it to a station with a weak signal. Maybe this is all part of a ploy to get more money out of WCBS.

    • YankeeDave says:

      I live in Bucks County PA, just south of Lehigh Valley. I get the YES network on FIOS, but only the hi-def (read: expensive) version. This does not include the actual game braodcast though, for that I have to purchase MLB Extra ($$) Innings, where half the time I get the other team’s braodcast crew, which can really suck (NESN anyone?). Nonetheless, I find it worth every penny (my wife disagrees).

      Maybe your friend can get in on this as well, but like I said, not cheaply.

      As far as radio goes, if 880 goes away, I might as well stand outside with a Dixie cup to my ear, it would sound the same as 1050. The neighbors may talk, though.

  18. Jensen says:

    the inference that most Yankees fans don’t like John Sterling. . . it was always my assumption that he’s a huge part of the Yanks organization and loved by many. I’ve been listening to him for a decade (and by the way, in my 20s, not an “older fan”) and I really hope he keeps broadcasting. I could go either way with Suzyn Waldman, but this is a vote for John Sterling here, he really brings some great emotion to the games in my opinion.

    • Esteban says:

      No one ever claimed he wasn’t emotional. It’s his poor analysis and inaccurate game calls that bother people (It is high, it is far, it is gone, no it’s been caught). I can’t think of anything positive about Suzyn Waldman. Her voice is awful and her commentary is less than useless.

  19. tommydee2000 says:

    They should hire whoever the top broadcasting pair is in AAA, and have an ex-Yankee do features and some interviews. Then I won’t have to always look for the other team’s feed on XM.

  20. Bob Stone says:

    I hope the Yankees push for the WFAN option.

  21. joe lefko says:

    When YES first debuted and they split up Kay and Sterling, oh how different being a Yankee fan would be if they had sent Sterling to TV and left Kay on the radio.

    Sterling has some redeeming qualities (nice voice, fun antics) but describing the plays of a game isn’t one of them, which is pretty crucial for radio and less important for television.

  22. John says:

    What is the definition of “older” fans? I am over 50 and cannot
    listen to those 2 buffoons….

  23. Hughesus Christo says:

    Sterling needs to effing go.

  24. SomeGuy32 says:

    Simulcasts of 1050:
    Central NJ – 1040 WNJE
    Eastern LI – 107.1 WLIR

  25. Esteban says:

    I’ve actually been able to pick up 880 in Miami.

  26. Nefertum blue-lotus blossom says:

    I listen to a lot of the other teams broadcasters. I don’t mind Sterling/Waldman, it could be worst.

  27. Neil says:

    CT actually has a number of affiliates that would probably continue to carry the Yankees unless ESPN gets stupid about fees.

  28. Poopy Pants says:

    If the Yanks do this, then are they essentially saying ‘screw you’ to the fans?

  29. Nefertum blue-lotus blossom says:

    If the yanks are going to replace Sterling/Waldman they need to bring the fellow who does their Low Class A Charleston RiverDogs game his name is Danny Reed.
    You can listen to him online he does a good job.His does the entire game by himself, wonderful storyteller and great energy.

  30. U Thant says:

    OH MY GOOD- OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS!!! OF ALL THE DRAMATIC THINGS!!!!

    As a Yankee fan since 1983 I’ve grown to love Sterling’s blatant disregard for objectivity, but I still long for the days of White, Messer, and even Rizzuto (that ball took a bad hop in the air. I think it’s time for a change on the radio. In my perfect world Gary Thorn would be calling games.

  31. bebop says:

    In Manhattan I get a much better signal on 1050 then cbs am.

  32. Slu says:

    I’m 34 and I don’t really remember a time when Sterling wasn’t on the radio. I know his shortcomings, but I’ll miss him when he is gone. I do miss the old WPIX team of Whitey, Scooter, and Mercer. I think this is a nostalgia, but hey, it is what I grew up with. As for Susan, if you don’t have anything nice to say…

  33. Jerome S. says:

    I’m ok with Sterling. I think of him as above replacement-level – meaning, if they get rid of him, they’ll probably throw some egotistical, dim-witted person with a less pleasing voice in his place.

    Waldman – eh.

  34. Mike says:

    The Yankees on the FM station is not great either beacuse it does not have the distance 50k watts of CBS has. WCBS-AM can be heard in at least 13 states at night. I’ve picked it up in Labrador.

    Maybe the Steinbrenners/YES could look into buying WABC, also 50k watts. Then rescue MadMut Russo from Sirius to go up against his buddy Franceser and keep the Limbaugh show to compete with the Mets/Jets boys on FAN.

    Like him or hate him, Rush makes a ton of cash for WABC.

    Imus, Rush, Russo, Yankees.

    Win.

  35. Matt :: Sec110 says:

    Keep Sterling and relplaze Suzie with Kim Jones.

  36. Matt :: Sec110 says:

    Keep Sterling and relplaze Suzie with Kim Jones. She knows what she’s talking about baseball wise, and a younger voice would do great.

    • Wil Nieves #1 Fan says:

      I want to see if Mike responds to this one too…

      • Mike says:

        Let me say this…

        Being military, I have traveled all over this great country and have listened to plenty of baseball from all over. I have heard the good, the bad and the horrible.

        I’m not saying that Ma & Pa are the best, but there are plenty worse out there.

        It like one of those “becareful of what you wish for” situations.

        • MannyGee says:

          yes indeed… be careful what you wish for before you end up with Hawk Harrleson on your dial..

          you can putitonthebooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooarddd..

          YEAS… YEEEEAS!!!!!

          ugh, just shitty.

  37. Wil Nieves #1 Fan says:

    This would be the perfect opportunity to swoop in and steal Hawk Harrelson. YES! YOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BOOOAAAARRRDDDD! SHE GONE! AND THIS GAME IS OVVVAAAA.

    /Hawk’d

  38. JM says:

    It would be so great if the Yankees stole WFAN from the Mets. It would be so funny to hear them freak out over how the Yankees get everything they want.

  39. Big Apple says:

    i like sterling and i don’t mind walman that much. i enjoy listening to the games through MLB.com radio and when i hear their voices i know i’m listening to yankee baseball!

    all I can say is be careful what you wish for…there are a lot of people who may know more about the game but have terrible voices that are hard to listen to.

    John gets a lot of criticism for going off on tangents, but i know a lot about baseball so it doesn’t bother me. Rizzuto used to do that also…i don’t see the big deal.

    • Doug says:

      I don’t mind a little flamboyance, they are calling the games of the New York Yankees, but knowing the likes of Joe Morgan are looking for work makes John and Suzyn a bit easier to take.

  40. Adam says:

    wow, I pretty much hate every option they mention here, waldman and sterling are atrocious, but 1050′s clarity, especially at night is even more atrocious, and then to top it off they’re talking about buying 101.9, the only rock station in town, for the yankees? Ugh, I hate to say it I think the first option is the slightly lesser of the evils.

  41. Jamie G. says:

    I dont listen to many games on the radio but Ive always liked Sterling, even though some of his HR calls are a little cringe-worthy. Waldman serves no purpose, she must have put in lots of time under Big Stein’s desk to get that gig.

  42. BUDDY B says:

    I don’t know how or why, but I can listen to the Yankees here in Bangor, Me on WCBS 880. Don’t care who the announcers are as long as I can here a Yankee broadcast. 50 Year Yankee fan. Love the radio!!!

  43. dc1874 says:

    Sterling was good when he was first teamed with Jay Johnston early 90′s..

  44. hogsmog says:

    I’m pretty sure that the “juice” is still figurative…

    /grammarnazi’d

  45. Donna L says:

    Oddly enough, I’ve always had trouble getting WCBS in Manhattan or North Jersey in the daytime. 1050? No problem.

  46. John Cerra says:

    I can remember being in Charlotte, NC for an extended period of time in 2004. As soon as it got dark, it was very easy to get the Yanks on my car radio. I live in NJ, close enough to commute to Manhattan, and 1050 is a weak signal. I listen a lot at the gym, and I would lose that signal there.

  47. bkight13 says:

    I get 880 on a cheap hand-held radio here in Ocean City, MD. Nothing is better than a Saturday day game on the beach. I do like Sterling, but Waldman is tough to take for 3 hours. I can sometimes get 660 on the portable, but it comes in clear in the truck during the day.

  48. Kiko Jones says:

    Sterling is a homer but he’s our homer. (Also, the devil you know and all that.) Like many here, Waldman I could do without. But while I make fun of Sterling’s HR calls, I actually enjoy them. Then again, if I had to listen to him everyday…

  49. MannyGee says:

    so if the Yankees go to ESPN Radio, would they go to ‘other’ ESPN radio stations? across the Eastern Sea board?

  50. Joel says:

    Sterling & Kay were the guys in the 90′s and because they were there when I weathered the tough, early part of that decade and then celebrated the glory years with them in the latter half, I’ll always have a certain fondness for them. They broke up the same year I moved out of the NYC area. I listened to games online as soon as I was able to, when Charley Steiner was Sterling’s partner (I’ve always liked Charley). Once they brought Suzyn on board, I tried to deal with it, but I was done. Not done listening to games, mind you. I would just listen to the away team broadcasts, which says a lot.

    I enjoyed Sterling’s act for years, but it has just gotten old. And I can completely understand where newer fans would find it annoying right off the bat. Regardless of where the broadcasts end up, it’s definitely time for a change in broadcasters

  51. frank says:

    i hope not. i live in windsor ont, canada(across the river from detroit) i could listen very clear night games.

  52. Greg says:

    It works well down by Seaside Heights because I was listening to a Giants Dodgers Game on the radio while I was on vacation

  53. Tom says:

    I can deal with Sterling but Susan is aweful!!!! Why she is even doing games is beyond me.

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