This week’s cutbacks at Bangor television station WABI have extended beyond personnel as Channel 5 has also dropped live coverage of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race on April 18.
WABI, which has broadcast live Kenduskeag race coverage every year except one since 1996, also will evaluate its University of Maine sports coverage, which will enter the third year of a three-year contract this fall.
“We evaluate it every year, but the thing with UMaine is we want to take a look at the schedule anyway because we’ve been over-delivering [UM sportscasts] the last few years,” said WABI program director Steve Hiltz. “We always have a minimum contractual obligation, but we’ve been well over that in recent years.
“We like to clear as many as we can. Given the current economic state, we’ll at least do our contractual minimum, probably more, but not as many as we’ve done in recent years.”
Hiltz said WABI’s annual braodcasts of all three state championship high school football games would not change.
When it came to the Kenduskeag, station officials decided to drop coverage Feb. 23.
“This is part of the overall consideration of our advertising revenue,” Hiltz explained. “It’s not just the race itself, it’s the overall marketplace. This has been a revenue producer in the past, but with the economy, it wouldn’t necessarily replace any other lost advertising.
“Even if this was a break-even event, it wouldn’t necessarily be financially feasible to do with all the equipment, hours, manpower and expense it takes.”
Hiltz said even a two-hour broadcast costs at least “a few thousand dollars.” With ad revenue down, it made it difficult to justify airing the race.
“We might be selling ad revenue at the expense of spots we already own or would have,” Hiltz said. “We’d rob Peter to pay Paul in some respects.
“We may have been able to sell all the broadcast spots, but sales were slow and we weren’t willing to gamble on that.”
That’s not to say the race won’t be back on TV next year.
“Of course we’d be interested in doing it again if things improve,” said Hiltz. “We want to do it, but it’s just one of those extra things we can’t really financially justify this year.”
For the 13th straight year, Bangor all-sports radio station WZON (620 AM) will provide live coverage of the race on radio. It will also stream live coverage on the internet (www.zoneradio.com). Coverage will start at 8 a.m.
Comcast, Time Warner tipoff
If you’ve seen the info crawl at the bottom of the screen during Boston Celtics game broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet New England, you may wonder what’s going on with Time Warner cable and Comcast.
The crawl refers to the possibility of cable subscribers losing Comcast as early as today.
“What I can say regarding the status is we’re at the end of our contract renewal period and we are in active and ongoing negotiations with Time Warner,” said Skip Perham, CSNE marketing and communications manager.
The network’s contract with the cable giant expired at the end of 2008, but Perham couldn’t say how quickly things might be wrapped up.
“Negotiations have been ongoing for awhile and we hope to come up with a fair agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
Although Perham wouldn’t get into any contract specifics, the snags in talks may lie with the amount of money CSNE wants from Time Warner.
“We’ve added a lot to the network with HD broadcasting, new programs, pre- and postgame features and shows, and other programming,” he said.
Time Warner customers calling the cable company to find out about the current impasse received the following audio message through Thursday:
“We at Time Warner cable want you to know that Comcast SportsNet may pull its signal from your channel lineup Friday, April 3. We are negotiating earnestly, honestly and fairly with [CSNE]. We successfully negotiated hundreds of programming agreements with other providers, many within the last few months. We are working hard with [CSNE] to come to an agreement that is fair to our customers… We have registered your concern and appreciate your call.