Bangor, Portland TV stations to broadcast Maine’s NCAA regional hockey game

Posted March 19, 2012, at 8:41 p.m.

Lots of people who follow the University of Maine men’s hockey team had feared they might have to travel to Worcester, Mass., to watch Saturday night’s NCAA regional game.

As it turns out, those who can’t make the trip will have the option of watching it on TV.

Steve Hiltz, program director for WABI-TV5 and The CW in Bangor, announced Monday that the stations have bought the rights to broadcast the 7:30 p.m. contest against Minnesota-Duluth.

“It was great. We were very happy when we heard about it,” Hiltz said of discovering the broadcast was available through ESPN Syndication. “I was, at first, surprised.”

The game will air on The CW (WABI-DT2), Channel 5’s secondary affiliation. It can be seen in Greater Bangor on Time Warner Cable (Ch. 10), DirecTV (Ch. 14) and Dish Network (Ch. 19) or over the air on UHF Ch. 13.2 or PSIP virtual channel 5.2.

The UMaine vs. Minnesota-Duluth contest also will be shown in the Portland area on WPME-TV, which includes Comcast Cable channels 4 and 505 (high-definition), Time Warner Cable channels 7 and 517 (high-def), and DirecTV (Ch. 35). It is available over the air on UHF Ch. 35.

WABI did not have the option of using its own announcers and instead will rebroadcast the ESPN feed with its commentators.

Hiltz and the folks at WABI originally had assumed there would be no chance to carry the hockey game. That stemmed from last fall’s experience with UMaine’s two appearances in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The game at Appalachian State aired exclusively on ESPN3, an Internet-only feed that is not available via satellite and some cable systems, while the Georgia Southern contest was broadcast on ESPN3 and as part of ESPN GamePlan, which is a pay-per-view service.

“We didn’t even talk about doing these games [initially] because we figured they’d go the same way as football,” Hiltz said.

WABI is airing Saturday’s game on The CW because the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments will be in full swing on Channel 5.

“We’re not going to pre-empt the NCAA basketball tournament,” Hiltz said. “We did that many years ago, and it was a tough thing to do, but now we don’t have to [because the hockey game can be shown on The CW].”

Hiltz said Saturday’s game was not scheduled to air live on any of ESPN’s TV networks and would not have been available had WABI not acquired the rights. He said he did not know the cost to the station, but believes it is a good move for WABI.

“It’s certainly expensive, but I think this is going to go well,” Hiltz said. “I think the advertisers will be there to support us.”

He added there are fewer advertising spots to sell during the broadcast because ESPN has blocked out many for their own ads.

WPME and WABI have negotiated a deal that allows WPME to sell its own advertising for the southern Maine broadcast.

“They have been carrying the University of Maine sports with us all season long,” Hiltz said.

Hiltz said that if Maine beats UMD and advances to Sunday’s regional title game, it will be shown exclusively on ESPNU.

UMaine sports continue to be an important part of WABI’s fall and winter programming.

“The football’s been great, too, and I‘m not going to say anything [negative] about the basketball,” Hiltz said. “For a Saturday afternoon, we do pretty good numbers.”

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