Will Miami get to hear LeBron James games on radio?Mon Oct 11, 2010 @ 11:32AM PST
By Eriq Gardner
On Oct. 31 at 1 p.m., both the Miami Heat and the Miami Dolphins are scheduled to play games. Both teams have deals with Clear Channel Broadcasting for radio broadcast of those games. The Dolphins have a contract that ensures that their game is broadcast on the "extremely powerful FM station" of WBGG-FM, owned by Clear Channel. One problem: the Heat have a "most favored nation" clause with Clear Channel that gives the team a "priority broadcast position."
Which would Miami sports fans rather hear -- a Brandon Marshall catch in the end zone or a LeBron James dunk?
The question has spilled into litigation, as the Heat have just filed legal action against Clear Channel. The team is coming off a high-profile off-season, recruiting James and Chris Bosh, but now the team is claiming that Clear Channel is breaching its contract by favoring the Dolphins.
According to the complaint, the team's two-year-old broadcast rights agreement with Clear Channel specifies that if another Florida sports team was granted a rights agreement, the Heat would be entitled to an equivalent package.
After Clear Channel locked up the Dolphins to a contract earlier this year, the Heat allegedly asked to see the deal. Clear Channel allegedly refused to hand over a copy, citing confidentiality concerns. During the summer, the parties continued to argue, and eventually in July, Clear Channel is said to have handed over its agreement with the Dolphins.
Heat execs didn't like what they saw.
According to the lawsuit, Clear Channel's agreement with the Dolphins granted the team broadcast rights on WBGG-FM as well as WINZ-AM, plus the right to sell advertising. The broadcaster allegedly also gave the Dolphins two hours of pre and post-game time whereas the Heat only got a half hour. The Heat claim Clear Channel also gave the Dolphins rights to create other shows such as twice weekly specials devoted to interviews with coaches and players, as well as an HD channel centered on the Dolphins. Other considerations were allegedly made, including outdoor promotions, public service announcements, charitable events and rights fees that were more favorable to the Dolphins.
The Heat immediately let Clear Channel know it was in breach of contract. The lawsuit says that the broadcaster then waited for some time, on the eve of the NBA season, to "maximize its leverage" before telling the Heat that it was "not willing to provide the Heat with any of the more beneficial material terms granted to the Dolphins." The station allegedly only agreed not to preempt Heat games.
The Heat are now suing for breach of contract, good faith and fair dealing and are demanding unspecified compensatory damages.
A Clear Channel spokesperson declined the comment on the litigation.