Bangor-area college football television viewers have been tackled for a loss this season.
After a seven-year run on low-power Bangor TV station WBGR (Ch. 33), CBS college football broadcasts of late Saturday afternoon games have not aired on WBGR, or primary CBS affiliate WABI, this year.
That meant if local Southeastern Conference football fans wanted to watch the Georgia Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers, or Alabama Crimson Tide play, they’d have to do it at a local sports pub or the living room of a friend with satellite TV.
“We were completely surprised by that,” said Steve Hiltz, program director at WABI. “We were caught a bit unaware and assumed it would be on WBGR again this year.”
Due to WABI’s inability and/or unwillingness to air CBS’ 3:30 p.m. college football broadcasts, CBS entered into a unique arrangement with WBGR in 2001 to air the games not cleared by WABI on WBGR.
“We would love to have them, but they never called us,” said Beth McLeod, who runs WBGR along with husband and WBGR CEO James McLeod. “Typically we get an e-mail from them with a contract and we just sign it and send it back, but we haven’t heard from anyone at CBS.
“It’s kind of odd. I don’t know if there was some kind of miscommunication or what.”
Both Hiltz and McLeod confirmed their stations have received many calls from viewers complaining about not being able to see the games.
“I’d say it’s about the same, but it seems a little more heated in terms of callers being unhappy about it,” said Hiltz.
A CBS affiliate relations representative was unable to directly comment on the situation, but said there has been no change in network policy and suggested McLeod’s hunch about there being some miscommunication may be valid.
Hiltz said his station’s unwillingness to air the games was due partly to conflicts with an extensive schedule of University of Maine sports broadcasts, high school sports telecasts, and a desire not to pre-empt WABI’s 6 p.m. local newscasts, especially during the November TV ratings period.
“We took four of the 12 3:30 regular-season games this season, primarily due to UMaine conflicts and the fact that in November, we don’t take them for November sweeps reasons,” said Hiltz. “As far as the noon games, they’ve only had three and we’ve aired all of them.”
Hiltz, who said WABI will air Saturday’s SEC championship game between Alabama and Florida, is hopeful the games WABI can’t take will again be on WBGR next season.
“We know they [WBGR] want to do it and we certainly have no objection, but even if it isn’t possible for whatever reason, we’ll probably investigate other alternatives, like using a digital subchannel like we do to air CW network programming, or we could just play the games on the CW channel.”
And the winner is…
Bangor radio station WZON (620 AM) came away from last month’s Maine Association of Broadcasters annual awards ceremony with two first-place plaques.
The Sports Zone won four of the six awards presented in the two sports categories: best play-by-play and best sports feature.
Clem LaBree and Dan Chadbourne won a first in play-by-play for their call of a Bangor High School football game and afternoon show host Jeff Solari was second for a Husson University men’s basketball broadcast from Castine.
In the sports feature category, WZON afternoon show host Jeff Solari was first for a profile of Husson University scholar-athletes Brock Bradford and wife Shelby (Pickering) Bradford. Fellow afternoon host Pat Spekhardt was second for a feature on Bangor High soccer player Eric Milles.
The MAB awards are open to all radio stations in Maine and are judged by out-of-state broadcasting professionals.
Third place in play-by-play was won by Gardiner station WFAU (1280 AM) and third in sports feature was claimed by Howland-licensed WVOM (103.9 FM) for a piece on the University of Maine hockey team.