The Orioles announced their radio partnership for the 2015 season on Monday. They are headed back to the FM band, with games set to be aired on 105.7 The Fan. The on-again, off-again relationship with WBAL Radio is off again.
Fans of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra need not fear. The tandem will be returning to broadcast O's games even on a new station. No matter where the team's flagship jumps, they bring Joe and Fred with them.
A few years ago, the O's briefly jumped ship from WBAL to The Fan but they returned to 1090AM. Now it's back to The Fan. Here is Greg Bader, the team's Vice President of Communications and Marketing, in a statement provided in the team's press release:
"With a dedicated FM presence, a strong network of local CBS RADIO stations, and an around-the-clock lineup of sports programming, 105.7 The Fan is the ideal flagship home for the Orioles Radio Network. Partnering with the region's premiere radio destination for sports fans and CBS RADIO's powerful cluster of stations allows us to effectively reach our diverse fan base on a daily basis and to develop valuable multiplatform marketing opportunities for our sponsors."
All of the stuff in that first sentence might be true, but you can probably guess this really comes down to just one thing: Money. Maybe it means that The Fan was offering more for the radio rights, though it is possible that the sponsorship opportunities to which Bader alludes in his statement are more significant as well.
Not being in the business of radio, I couldn't really tell you what you get out of a partnership with the owner of 105.7, 101.9, 106.5, and 1300 AM in the Baltimore market compared to 1090 AM and 97.9 FM. Maybe the team would like to be on a dedicated sports radio station.
A station like 105.7 The Fan provides an opportunity to have an entire afternoon drive-time show that is essentially a platform to warm up for an O's game. This assumes that the station will bother to have hosts with either interest in or knowledge about the Orioles or baseball in such a time slot. On 1090, you basically get 30 minutes or less of pre-game show. They have to share with the news and syndicated talk shows.
If you're anywhere near my age, the sounds of baseball on 1090 are probably part of the sounds of your childhood. The crackling of the AM band is part of the charm. You've heard the "Feel the thrill of baseball on WBAL!" jingle thousands of times. Maybe in another couple of years it will be back to AM again. For now, the flagship station in Baltimore heads to FM.
The complete list of stations on the Orioles Radio Network - seven states and 34 stations, the team would like you to know - can be found here.