WABI-TV Channel 5 in Bangor offered to televise the University of Maine’s Hockey East first-round game against Merrimack College on Saturday night at their own expense but university officials passed on it because they wanted to honor their agreement with their current broadcast partner, which couldn’t televise the game.
Last July, Bangor’s WVII ABC 7 and WFVX Fox 22 reached two-year agreements with the university and multimedia rights partner Learfield Sports to televise seven hockey games and three football games this season as well as next season.
But WVII ABC 7 and Fox 22 General Manager Mike Palmer said the stations were unable to televise Saturday’s game because “there were too many variables, too many opened-ended issues involving the networks and the production.
“It was too short-notice to pull it together. You have to give the networks ample notice [in order to pre-empt their regular programming],” said Palmer.
So that left the door open for Channel 5, which had a pair of three-year deals with Learfield Sports to televise Maine games only to have negotiations on a third three-year deal fall apart in January 2013.
“We kept an eye on it and when we found out it was a possibility, we contacted Hockey East [to get permission] and they told us to check with the school. We were very excited about doing it,” said WABI-TV program director Steve Hiltz. “The hockey team has built a lot of interest this year and we knew the viewers who weren’t going to be able to attend the game would want to see it.”
Hiltz said they had the staff and equipment ready to produce the telecast.
He also said officials at WMTW Channel 8 in Portland expressed interest in taking WABI’s feed and carrying the game, too.
University of Maine athletic director Karlton Creech said “unfortunately, our partner [WVII-Fox] wasn’t able to produce the game for several reasons and we didn’t want to go outside of that [agreement].
“The good news is there are plenty of tickets available so people can watch it in person instead of on TV,” added Creech.
Palmer said they are already talking about televising Maine’s Hockey East playoff game next season.
“We’d love to do it next year,” he said.
Palmer explained that when they reached the agreement, they budgeted the time from the networks to televise the 10 games.
“So this would have been a surprise element [to the networks],” he said.
Palmer also said in addition to televising 10 more games live again next season they will also rebroadcast them the following week.
“I’d rather show a Maine football or hockey game on a Monday afternoon than another talk show or court show,” said Palmer. “I wish I had thought of that for this year.”
Correction: A previous version of this story had the wrong spelling for Steve Hiltz.