As MLB loosens its grip, WIP will stream Phillies games this year
By Jeff Blumenthal – Reporter, Philadelphia Business Journal
Apr 1, 2021
For the first time, Phillies fans can stream radio broadcasts of every game in addition to listening to them on SportsRadio 94 WIP.
The sports talker, owned by Audacy (the new name for the former Entercom Communications Corp.), made the announcement Thursday on Twitter just hours before the first pitch of the Phillies season opener against the Atlanta Braves.
Games previously could only be heard by tuning into WIP via radio. Those listening to the station on the Audacy app or the WIP website would be redirected to syndicated sports talk programming when the games started.
Audacy said it executed the partnership with Phillies following Major League Baseball reaching a one-year agreement that allowed local radio broadcast partners for each team to stream games. MLB is loosening its tight grip on audio streaming of play-by-play, which benefits local stations like WIP and their fans, whose listening habits have moved from radio tuners to computers, tablets, smart phones and smart speakers.
MLB offered audio streaming as part of a subscription to its MLB (formerly At Bat) mobile app. TuneIn licensed MLB audio streams in 2005, sheltering them in the for-pay TuneIn Premium service. The feature disappeared in the 2020 season.
Now local radio broadcast rights holders like WIP can stream the games at no charge, though they are restricted to in-market, which does not help fans who are traveling outside the area. WIP Brand Manager Spike Eskin responded to questions on Twitter by saying that the stream would be good for a 90 miles radius and out-of-market fans would still have access to the MLB subscription service.
Audacy Philadelphia Market President David Yadgaroff said the timing of this decision is fortuitous in that the company just changed its name from Entercom to Audacy to rebrand from a radio broadcaster to a multi-pronged audio content provider. The addition of streaming games is a nod to the consumer becoming device agnostic, something that has expanded during Covid-19 as employees have worked remotely. Yadgaroff said fans had clamored for the streaming option.
“It was definitely a popular question we received,” Yadgaroff said.
Yadgaroff said the streaming coverage will include the same advertising as the broadcast feed. While Audacy will not sell extra spots due to the streaming option, advertisers will be pleased to hear their messages reach a broader audience.
Audacy President of Sports Mike Dee recently told Inside Radio that the importance of local audio streaming as an essential component in local play-by-play agreements has increased significantly in recent years.
“There is no question that this trend will continue as the evolution toward increased digital consumption expands,” Dee said. “It is no longer just ‘a nice thing to have’ if the notion of having local audio play-by-play flagship rights is to remain appealing. In order for teams to continue to depend on these local partnerships as an extension of their own marketing efforts, the local broadcast partners have to also be granted the digital streaming rights as well.”
Audacy reached a new deal last month to retain radio broadcast rights to Phillies games on WIP, representing the first multi-year pact between the two.
The Phillies are in the middle of a 25-year, $2.5 billion television broadcast agreement with NBC Sports Philadelphia, which included the Phillies acquiring a 25% stake in the network and a portion of advertising revenue. NBCSP has video streamed games on its website and app for several years.
The new streaming option will benefit Audacy and its advertising partners significantly, as the company holds the broadcast rights to 14 of 30 teams. Aside from the Phillies, they include: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.