A Class B AM covering much of the Baltimore-Washington corridor that has a long, rich history in D.C. is being acquired by a leading broadcasting company with a rich history of its own in the Nation’s Capital.
The transaction also marks the end of radio station ownership for an entity controlled by the man who controls the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
Ahead of a Form 314 filing with the FCC expected before the Memorial Day holiday, Red Zebra Broadcasting — the company created by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder as part of an effort to control the team’s radio broadcast coverage — has sold its last station: WTEM-AM 980 in Washington, D.C.
The buyer is Urban One.
A purchase price was not disclosed; it is expected to be revealed when the Asset Purchase Agreement is filed with the Commission. Greg Guy of Patrick Communications served as the broker on this deal, repeating his role as a transactional representative for Red Zebra.
WTEM uses a tower array just over the District line in Silver Spring, Md., and boasts a 50kw daytime signal from 2 towers and a 5kw signal at night from 3 towers. This gives the station city-grade coverage at all hours; like many D.C.-based AMs the station’s signal gets weaker as one travels further west into the Northern Virginia suburbs, and toward Dulles International Airport. During daylight hours, WTEM is a blowtorch and can be easily heard in Winchester, Va.; Hagerstown and Frederick, Md.; much of Baltimore’s metropolitan area and out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Speculation has already risen in terms of what Urban One’s plans might be for the WTEM facility. Could a format swap with an FM be in the future? Is a potential third party on the horizon?
That speculation can be quashed — at least at this time. The sale of WTEM comes concurrent to an agreement forged between the Redskins and Urban One that ensures that all Redskins games, as well as pre-game and post-game programming, will remain on the station that is known today as “The Team 980.”
In fact, the acquisition — says Urban One — is “the first step in a collaborative effort between the Redskins and Urban One to keep The Team 980 as the fans’ premier source for radio coverage of the Washington Redskins.”
Terry Bateman, Chairman of Red Zebra Broadcasting, said, “We believe the future of The Team 980 is in great hands with Urban One. We view this as an opportunity for Urban One and the Redskins to build a close partnership to continue to provide the Redskins’ fans with unparalleled access and content, keeping The Team 980 as the fans’ destination for the best Redskins coverage.”
In addition to WTEM, Redskins game-day broadcasts – including pregame, in-game and postgame programming – will continue air on Cumulus Media News/Talk simulcast WMAL-AM 630 and FM 105.9 in Washington “as a valued part of the Redskins Radio Network.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Urban One and we are especially pleased that through our acquisition, The Team 980 will continue to be locally owned, said Urban One President/CEO Alfred Liggins III. “The acquisition of The Team 980 is very much in line with our strategy of super-serving our community of listeners. We have deep roots in the greater Washington, DC area and are well aware that The Team 980 has always been a fan favorite.”
Liggins added, “Red Zebra has a track record of producing great programming that engages our hometown sports fans. We look forward to working with the Washington Redskins organization to continue this tradition.”
“The Team 980” is the latest incarnation for WTEM’s long-running sports programming, and adopted the moniker in January. It had been “ESPN Radio 980” — leading to early speculation that The Walt Disney Co. could be in talks to take on some sort of deeper role in D.C.
WTEM has been at 980 kHz for 20 years. However, longtime Washingtonians will recall the WTEM calls on the 570 kHz signal — launched in May 1992 as “The Team.”
The 980 kHz signal was WWRC, under then-owner Greater Media, and prior to 1984 WRC-AM — as a radio sibling to NBC O&O WRC-4 in Washington. For the latter half of the 1970s, WRC-AM aired a news and information service format; from 1972-1975 it competed against WPGC-AM & FM and WEAM-AM with a Top 40 format that include such air personalities as Greaseman Doug Tracht.
The 980 kHz signal dates to August 1, 1923.
The sale of WTEM officially ends Red Zebra’s radio ownership. In May 2017, the company concluded planned spin-offs announced earlier in the year with the sale of the 570 kHz facility — now carrying the WSPZ-AM calls — to Salem Media Group subsidiary AM 570 LLC.