WKSQ (94.5 FM) of Ellsworth will join WAEI (AM 910) of Bangor as the new flagship partner for University of Maine sports broadcasts under the Blueberry Broadcasting umbrella.
WKSQ (KISS 94.5) will replace WAEI (97.1 FM) of Bangor.
WKSQ-FM and WAEI-AM will broadcast all University of Maine football and hockey games and WAEI-AM will broadcast men’s and women’s basketball and baseball games.
WKSQ 94.5 FM plays adult contemporary music while WAEI-FM 97.1 has been running all-sports talk format.
Black Bear Sports Properties, which is a division of Learfield Sports, has a multimedia partnership with the university to manage its broadcast rights.
The new contract is a two-year deal according to Bruce BIette, the vice president and chief operating officer for Blueberry Broadcasting.
“We wanted to come up with a plan the university was happy with, that Learfield was happy about and we’re happy with,” said Biette. “KISS (WKSQ’s nickname) has a great following, they’ve been around a long time and they have a great signal.
“It seemed like a good match,” added Biette.
Biette explained the decision to put football and men’s hockey on FM and have the two basketball teams and baseball team move to AM was predicated by his desire to balance the coverage.
“We aired over 140 games this past year, excluding the playoffs, and that’s a lot of games,” explained Biette.
Signals on FM stations are stronger and those signals extend much farther at night than AM stations, which are often crowded out by other AM stations.
However, Biette did say if one of the basketball teams or the baseball team has an outstanding season, “we always have the ability to move their games to FM on a case-by-case basis.”
Biette also said the WAEI-AM signal at night is “very usable” and if someone is driving and it fades out, they might be able to pick up the game on another affiliate.
Both WKSQ and WAEI-AM will air daily Black Bear sports updates but the coaches’ shows, featuring football coach Jack Cosgrove and men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead, will switch over from FM to WAEI-AM.
Biette said if there is a scheduling conflict between the two basketball teams, one will be aired on WSKQ-FM and the other will be on WAEI-AM, which was formerly known as WABI.
Three other Blueberry stations — WFAU 1280 AM (Augusta), WIGY 97.5 (Skowhegan) and WEKD 1450 (Rockland) — will carry football, men’s hockey and some men’s and women’s basketball games along with the coaches’ shows and the daily Black Bear sports updates.
There are nine radio stations on the Black Bear radio network.
Biette said he is looking forward to the future of Maine athletics.
“I think there are some exciting things happening with University of Maine sports and we’re happy to be involved with them,” said Biette.
Justin Barnes, general manager for Black Bears Sports Properties, was equally pleased with the arrangement.
“It’s a way for us to reach Black Bear sports fans throughout the whole state,” said Barnes.
As for the future of 97.1 FM (WAEI), Biette said he had “no comment” on whether it would retain its current format as a national sports talk station or switch to another format.
University of Maine games were broadcast on local sports talk station WZON (AM 620) from 1993-2006 before the university opted to sign a six-year partnership with Learfield Sports and Clear Channel.
Learfield created Black Bear Sports Properties, and Blueberry Broadcasting bought the Maine affiliates of Clear Channel in August, 2008.
EDITOR’S NOTE: BDN sportswriter Larry Mahoney is a paid color analyst for Maine hockey games broadcast by WAEI-FM.