Thoughts on the Nationals' Radio Deal in Central Pennsylvania

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

If you've followed the the Wire Taps articles earlier this week, you've seen that a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania radio station has dropped Phillies broadcasts in favor of Nationals broadcasts for the 2015 season.

Phillies fandom is confused by the move. The Good Phight mocks the move and Harrisburg's residents. (To be fair, their line about Confederate flags is absolutely true. I went to college in Richmond and lived in Raleigh, and culturally where I live near York, Pennsylvania is the most southern place I've ever lived.) Crossingbroad admits the Phillies suck, but they also note Harrisburg is "straight-up Phillies territory." If you delve down into the comment threads, you see people are confused, and even a bit angry, about this. And they're insistent that there will be few, if any, listeners, like this:

Let me state that I will gladly be one of those hypothetical 35 listeners. When I lived in Baltimore, I listened to Charlie and Dave on 1500 AM all the time. (106.7 The Fan can't be heard in Baltimore; there's a modern rock station on 106.5 that bleeds over.) When I moved to York County, Pennsylvania, I didn't realize quite how much I would miss Charlie and Dave. Bob and FP on MASN are nice enough, and moving pictures certainly are a benefit, but I just don't enjoy them as much as announcers. Charlie and Dave for me.

How did this happen? How is it that a Harrisburg radio station decided to drop the Phillies in favor of the Nationals? This quote from the Penn Live article gives a reason:

"Our agreement was up and we made the decision last week to part ways with the Phillies and flip to the Nationals," Giovanniello said. "Nothing against the Phillies, but clearly the Nationals are a team on the rise. They won the NL East last year and are picked to win it again this year.

"Obviously [a winning team] helps in all ways, and they certainly will be a postseason contender that makes a deeper run in the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, I don't see that in the Phillies' immediate future."

I don't think that's all of the reason.

Let's not forget that Harrisburg is Washington's AA outpost. Players that Harrisburg fans see on City Island have moved on to the banks of the Anacostia many times over the years. There's interest in the Nationals among Senators fans; I often see Nationals gear around Metro Bank Park in the summer, including players, like Jayson Werth, who never went through City Island.

But I think there's another factor.

The Crossingbroad link I posted above shows the Facebook fandom map by ZIP code for the Harrisburg area. Harrisburg is solidly Phillies territory. The potential listening audience for Washington Nationals games in and around Harrisburg isn't going to be very large. Larger, I'm sure, than TheAmishTerp suggested on Twitter, but surely not as large as the Nationals would get in Frederick County, Maryland or Loudoun County, Virginia. Yet, there's a potential untapped audience in and around Harrisburg, one that the Nationals could capture.

To capture that audience in a largely hostile market, the Nationals would have to price their radio broadcasts accordingly. They couldn't charge as much as they would to stations closer to Washington, because the Harrisburg station won't have the ratings to support it. However, if the Nationals priced their broadcast rights low — or even give them away for a pittance — they could undercut what the Phillies were charging the same radio station for Phillies broadcasts. And, in so doing, they would plant their flag in a new territory and begin to build an audience.

In short, to eliminate a rival in the local market, the Nationals could have — and, I suspect, probably did — made the radio station a deal they couldn't refuse.

And now I get to listen to Charlie and Dave in Pennsylvania. I've checked the frequency, and I can get it where I live in York. (They have an AM frequency in York at 1440, but I don't seem to get that. I tried it last night, and it was mostly static.)

I'm excited. Nationals baseball on the radio in Pennsylvania!

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