In an expected move, 92.9/The Game will become the official flagship station for the Atlanta Falcons.
The station was already an affiliate for the Falcons this past season.
While program director Terry Foxx declined to comment on the terms, a reliable source told me it was a three-year deal that will run through early 2018. Foxx said the team plans to keep Wes Durham and Dave Archer as play-by-play broadcasters for the Falcons.
“We’re just happy to be able to have this great partnership,” Foxx said.
Back in 2011, Lincoln Financial had signed the Falcons to a four-year deal that engaged both its sports/talk station 790/The Zone and sister FM pop station Star 94.
But last year, after the Zone dumped all its local programming, Lincoln decided to make the Game an affiliate.
The move was essentially mutually beneficial for all parties.
For the Falcons, they need radio hosts pumping up the team and the Zone was no longer able to do that. This also gave Lincoln the ability to stop airing football games on Star 94, which chases after suburban moms, not male football fans. And the Game needed the team to bolster its credibility given its relatively new status and modest ratings.
The gambit worked for the Game. Ratings have improved significantly since the fall despite the fact the team failed to make the playoffs and finished 6-10. The Game has been beating the Fan for four consecutive months.
As a result, it came as no surprise the Game chose to stick with the Falcons. The only other logical option for the Falcons was 680/The Fan, which has a modest FM stick 93.7 that simulcasts the Fan. But 92.9/The Game has a more powerful FM signal that covers the entire metro Atlanta area.
My source said the Game paid significantly more than Lincoln had in its previous deal and wonders how the station could possibly make enough money from sponsors and advertising to cover costs. Presumably, CBS Radio, which owns the Game, decided the Falcons were a valuable enough “loss leader” to help draw people to the Game, even when the Falcons aren’t on air, using the “halo effect.” It also gives people who otherwise might not listen to the Game an excuse to check it out and hopefully stick around for its daily programming.
“From a revenue standpoint, it’s a challenge but there’s intrinsic value you can’t measure,” said Dave Mezsaros, a former general manager at Z93 and market manager at Cox Atlanta. He also worked at 790/The Zone for a few years before left radio a year ago. “When we were at WSB, we had the Braves for 10 years. We were willing to pay premiums to broadcast games because of the overall prestige. It opens up advertising opportunities that you otherwise might never get.”
David Dickey, who runs 680/the Fan, texted me this: “As I’ve said in the past… we do NOT do bad business deals.”
The Game has also been the Atlanta Hawks radio partner since August, 2013 and thanks in part to the rising fortunes of NBA’s hottest team had its best ratings book since its debut in October, 2012. And this month, the Hawks have been even better, riding a 17-game winning streak. Expect the Game’s monthly ratings to go up even more in January, once the numbers come out in two weeks.
When 92.9 was a rock station, it aired Falcons football games from 2004 through 2011. The Falcons at the time needed an FM stick and worked with the Zone as well to provide content while games weren’t going on. But now 92.9 can promote and talk Falcons as much as it wants since it’s a 24/7 sports talk station.
Among the other valuable franchises in town, the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Tech football and basketball work with the Fan and UGA basketball and football is heard on News 95.5 and AM 750.
Credit to the AJC who originally published this article