May 25, 2018
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UMaine sports to be broadcast on more FM stations under Learfield’s new five-year deal

By Pete Warner, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — University of Maine sports fans should enjoy more opportunities to listen to Black Bear athletic events on the radio starting in September.

Black Bear Sports Properties, a division of Learfield Sports and the exclusive multimedia rights holder for UMaine athletics, announced Monday it has entered into agreements with two Maine media companies to air UMaine athletic events.

Blueberry Broadcasting of Bangor/Augusta and Waterfront Communications of Bangor have entered into respective, five-year agreements to serve as radio affiliates of the Black Bear Sports Network.

The deals will put all UMaine football and men’s hockey games on three stations owned by Blueberry Broadcasting. All Black Bear men’s and women’s basketball and baseball contests, and select softball games, will air on two stations owned by Waterfront Communications.

“We’re on very strong stations with strong signals, so it’s going to be easy for people to find us,” said UMaine athletics director Steve Abbott.

None of the parties involved would discuss the financial terms of the deals between Black Bear Sports Properties and the broadcast entities.

UMaine hockey and football games and their respective coaches’ shows will air live on 100,000-watt WVOM (103.9 FM) in Bangor, 50,000-watt WVQM (101.3 FM in Augusta) and WVOM (1450 AM) in Rockland.

“The move to WVOM is huge,” said Andrew Stuebner, general manager for Black Bear Sports Properties. “That’s added exposure for football, hockey, the coaches’ shows and our daily reports.”

Recently, Black Bears contests were broadcast in Greater Bangor on Blueberry stations WKSQ (94.5 FM), WAIE (97.1 FM) and WAIE (910 AM), in addition to a handful of other AM affiliates.

The WVOM-FM signal reaches fans living in the Penobscot, Waldo, Washington, Hancock and Piscataquis counties, and WVOM-AM extends UMaine programming to the capital, Lewiston and the coastal region.

“When you look at the logistics of WVOM with the Bangor signal, the Augusta signal and the Rockland [AM] signal, it was attractive to the university and Learfield from a coverage standpoint,” said Bruce Biette, vice president and CEO of Blueburry Broadcasting.

He explained those stations all feature a news/talk format.

“College sports is very popular and one of the reasons we have really enjoyed the relationship we’ve had with Learfield and the university is, it’s such a big part of the community up here,” Biette said.

Stuebner said UMaine has retained its Portland affiliates in WJJB (96.3 FM), WLOB (1310 AM) and WRED (1440 AM) for football and hockey games the weekly coaches’ shows.

All UMaine basketball games, the coaches’ shows and a minimum of 40 baseball games will air live on WGUY 1230 AM and WGUY 94.1 FM in Bangor, which are owned by Waterfront Communications. Select softball games also will be broadcast through the 2017-18 season.

WSYY (1240 AM) in Millinocket also will air UMaine sports.

“To have our other sports broadcast on stations that have the FM capability is fantastic and to have that nearly statewide reach is important,” Abbott said.

Stuebner said the Portland stations also have agreed to air 10 UMaine basketball games next winter.

“The mix of men’s and women’s, and what games specifically, has yet to be determined,” Stuebner said.

Biette said juggling many of UMaine’s major sports on Blueberry stations was challenging, especially when games in different sports were played simultaneously. Stuebner said there now should be fewer conflicts, as the games will be spread across more stations.

“It’s a huge commitment. We did over 150 broadcasts last year,” Biette said.

“It made sense for us. It made sense for Learfield and for everybody involved,” he added. “We’re quite pleased with the way it turned out.”

Stuebner said Black Bear Sports Properties will pay Blueberry Broadcasting and Waterfront Communications a fee for the right to broadcast the UMaine events on their stations. In return, BBSP generates revenue from selling advertising during the broadcasts.

“The financial part of it has got to work for the radio station, it’s got to work for us and, ultimately, it’s got to work in developing a network of stations that is good for the athletic department,” Stuebner said.

BBSP manages multimedia rights and sponsorship for UMaine. In doing so, it pays an annual fee to the university. In return, it determines which TV and radio stations are awarded broadcast rights for UMaine sports.

Black Bear Sports Properties also handles UMaine athletics’ corporate sponsorship sales, advertising in athletics publications, signage throughout UMaine athletic facilities, game sponsorships and other aspects.

Recently, UMaine’s long-term relationship with WABI TV5 in Bangor ended when BBSP and the station were unable to reach an agreement to continue televising Black Bear sports.

Learfield and UMaine first joined forces in 2006 and signed a six-year contract Huebner said remains in force. Under the terms of the original agreement, Learfield was scheduled to be giving UMaine $575,000 — plus potential revenue sharing — during 2011-12.

“They [UMaine] had an option to extend and we were extended for four or five more years,” Huebner said. “It’s certainly a long-term partnership and all the relationships we try to develop are for the growth of the athletic department and the university in general.”

University of Maine games were broadcast on Bangor sports talk station WZON (AM 620) from 1993-2006 before the university opted to sign the six-year partnership with Learfield and Clear Channel. Blueberry Broadcasting bought the Maine affiliates of Clear Channel in August 2008 .

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