Monday, July 17, 2006

The Zebra Gets Its Stripes Tuesday

Jim Williams: Red Zebra sounds like 800-pound gorilla
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Jim Williams, The Examiner
Jul 17, 2006 5:00 AM (5 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 1 of 5,531 articles

WASHINGTON - Red Zebra Radio hits the air tomorrow at 6 a.m. and Washington-area radio will forever be changed.

Professional sports team owners and those who follow broadcasting trends will review the launch as a possible future template for teams wishing to maintain their own radio stations.

Never before in a market of Washington’s size have three stations broadcast the same programming simultaneously with such a strong program lineup.

You’ll hear Red Zebra on 730 AM; in the western suburbs tune to 94.3 FM; east of the city it will be 92.7 FM. At home or at work, you can access its audio streaming service via or

Now the details.

Contrary to speculation, the only place to hear Redskins broadcasts — beginning with the Aug. 13 preseason game in Cincinnati — will be on Red Zebra or its network of affiliates throughout the Mid-Atlantic area.

In speaking to Bennett Zeir, Red Zebra’s co-founder and CEO, you could feel his enthusiasm to finally get this operation on the air.

Jim Williams: Does the perception the Red Zebra stations have a weak signal concern you?

Bennett Zeir: I think that the coverage matter has been exaggerated. We know that our fans will be well served by our three local stations. We will have a better coverage area than WJFK-FM or WTEM-AM. I have no doubt that area listeners will be able to find our stations no matter where they are in the greater Washington area. We will also continue to improve our signal as all stations do as we grow.

JW: What was your biggest challenge?

BZ: Getting the right team in place. We have hired the best people available from a number of different broadcast companies. I am pleased to say we have some the best and most talented people in all broadcasting on our staff. They all have a wealth of knowledge and talent that will serve Red Zebra from day one and for years to come.

JW: What do you see as Red Zebra’s strengths?

BZ: We have the No. 1 sports franchise in the Washington area in the Redskins, with access that no other broadcast outlet has ever had or could possibly offer. Then we have the total cooperation of ESPN, the top brand name in sports broadcasting, as a partner, giving our listeners the best local and national mix of sports possible from day one. We have studios in Silver Spring, Redskins Park, FedEx Field and Redskins stores throughout the area, allowing us to not only broadcast from where things are happening but also to connect with our listeners in a very unique and special way.

JW: The Nationals, Caps and some major area colleges are looking for new radio homes. How aggressive will Red Zebra be in getting other professional and college product on your air?

BZ: It is all about relationships and I have been very fortunate to work with all the area owners at one time or another over my 14 years in the market. I think that we have plenty to offer other sports teams that want to be part of Red Zebra and we will be very aggressive about securing rights. We are an all-sports radio station and we have some of the best on-air talent in the country. The key point is that we are all about serving and entertaining our audience. Our hosts can and will talk about all sports and yes, adding more teams and talking sports other than football is a big part of our plans starting Tuesday.

JW: What do you want the listeners to know about Red Zebra?

BZ: We are a company that owns and operates radio stations that will broadcast programming that will be fun, entertaining and interactive. We will introduce access to the Redskins that has never before been heard anywhere in this market. This is a Washington-area station and we want to serve our fans and earn their trust. Also, Red Zebra will continue build up our reach and acquire area radio properties when the time is right just like any other major broadcaster would do.

Red Zebra’s launch will be a big plus for the Washington sports fans because it will force WTEM, WMAL and WTWP to work extra hard to please listeners.

The company may boast a Zebra for a logo. But it will be an 800-pound gorilla in this market and a force to be reckoned with in broadcasting.

Zebra sounds

The final details of Red Zebra’s program schedule will become official late this afternoon but here is the likely lineup:

6-10 a.m.: Mike and Mike in the Morning

10 a.m.-noon: The Herd with Colin Cowherd

Noon-1 p.m.: Larry Michael live from Redskins Park

1-4 p.m.: The Dan Patrick Show

4-7 p.m.: The John Riggins Show with Bram Weinstein

7-11 p.m.: ESPN Game Night

11 p.m.-6 a.m.: ESPN Up All Night with Jason Smith

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer.

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