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RADIO STATIONS MAKE THREE-WAY TRANSACTION FOR FOOTBALL PROGRAMMING

Tucson radio sports outlets KCUB AM 1290, KFFN AM 1490/FM 104.9 and KEVT AM 1210 have undergone significant changes to their football lineups. As part of the arrangement, Cumulus-owned KCUB has dropped its long-standing affiliation with the Arizona Cardinals in favor of a deal to carry Westwood One NFL broadcasts.

The natural assumption was KFFN, the local ESPN affiliate, would supplement losing the Westwood One package by picking up the state's only NFL team, but that didn't happen. Instead, KFFN, which is already the Tucson affiliate for pro sports franchises the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns, will have no football broadcasts as part of its current lineup.

Fortunately for Cardinals fans, the team isn't homeless in Tucson. KEVT 1210 AM, a Fox Sports affiliate when it isn't broadcasting local political/current events talk during the week, has landed radio rights to carry games and other programming, most notably Red Rage, an hour-long show that airs once a week and sort of acts as the team's propaganda piece in anticipation of the upcoming game.

Gameday coverage will span about nine hours, which includes a pregame segment three hours before kickoff, the game itself and an hour postgame all broadcast from flagship station KTAR in Phoenix.

"I love sports talk, but really enjoy the ability to listen to games when I'm driving around," said KEVT Operations Manager Jim Parisi.

This is KEVT's second football play-by-play arrangement. Last month, Parisi signed on as an ASU affiliate, also broadcast through KTAR, but landing the Cardinals is an important sports coup for a station already making noise in Tucson news/talk circles as a result of its local talk lineup.

Naturally, the UA is Tucson's big sports plum, and KCUB has paid handsomely for the rights to carry Wildcat games for the last decade as part of an agreement that has been extended to at least 2019. Every other radio package is a distant second, and none of them cost nearly as much as the Wildcats, or generate the same kind of advertising revenue.

And while it's certainly not a bad get—the more play-by-play available on local affiliates the better, as far as I'm concerned—agreeing to carry ASU football and men's basketball isn't going to dramatically move the listenership needle for the fledgling part-time sports station.

Landing the Cardinals is a different story. While Tucson has a certain disdain for Phoenix sports teams, the Cardinals have improved their fan base significantly in recent years, and are well represented in the Old Pueblo along with familiar standbys like Dallas, Denver, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. While most people obviously watch the games, there are always those out and about or who prefer just listening to the broadcast crew of Dave Pasch and Ron Wolfley. Getting that access will be of benefit to listeners, and certainly helpful to KEVT as it continues to try to make headway in a crowded local talk and sports market.

While there's no official word from KFFN on why it didn't sign on with the Cardinals, it's not a stretch to suggest other contractual issues likely played a role. Most notably, the ESPN affiliate's deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks frowns upon any game pre-emptions, and in the early portion of the football season, even though the D-Backs are a debacle just playing out the string during the final month of a forgettable regular season, they take precedent.

As a result, KEVT could offer the Cardinals what other Tucson stations couldn't: total access to every game and other peripheral programming.

The affiliate switch began as a result of issues pertaining to Cumulus Broadcasting and its acquisition of Westwood One. As such, KCUB, owned by Cumulus, had access to the Westwood One package, which had been part of KFFN play-by-play programming for many years. Westwood One also has a reputation of being particular and demanding with its broadcast requirements, which often include numerous college football and men's basketball games, but once Westwood One was convinced the UA is top dog, and therefore the NFL portion of the package is much more preferable to nothing at all, KCUB could then finalize the deal, which allows for a much greater NFL presence than just Cardinals games.

"We are doing Thursday, Sunday and Monday games beginning September 4, with the Packers going back to Seattle," said KCUB Program Director Kevin Woodman. "There are 56 total regular season games and every playoff game and the Super Bowl. This is a great opportunity for (KCUB) 1290 to partner with the NFL and offer our listeners a broader range of NFL games."

KLPX LAUNCHES ONLINE STATION

Remember that point in time, on the heels of fears of the satellite radio revolution, when terrestrial radio stations hoped the advent of HD Radio would act as a counterprogramming venue, giving listeners who were flirting with satellite radio more formats to try to keep them listening local?

Yeah, nobody else does either. HD basically became the laser disc of the industry, a short-lived option that didn't catch on largely because the number of car radios with access to HD signals never became a priority.

That doesn't mean some stations still aren't trying to figure out how to add format options. Take classic rocker KLPX, for example, which has launched a second format, an Internet-only station it calls KLPX 2.

"It's our deep cuts station," said new Lotus Tucson GM Ken Kwilosz. "It's really neat. We test our music through professional companies. We make sure we test high, play what's popular and what people want to hear, but the problem with that is there's so much good, quality music that doesn't necessarily test well, but it's great stuff. Nobody ever hears it anymore. Deep Cuts lets us play stuff that might be a 20-minute long song that you'd never play normally."

KLPX2 is accessible by clicking on the Music link at klpx.com.

More by John Schuster

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