Posted In: Connecticut
Joseph_Gallant OnFebruary 17, 2018 at 1:54 pm #181357
For many years, University of Connecticut football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and for the past couple of years, selected men’s hockey games have been broadcast on the state’s most powerful radio station, Hartford’s WTIC-1080.
The rights have actually been held by sports packager IMG College, and they also have affiliates in other areas of the state.
But beginning with football next September, U/Conn sports will move to the aptly-named WUCS-97.9 (their call letters spell-out “U Conn Sports”; I suspect that when iHeart flipped the station to sports, they got the WUCS call letters hoping that their station would someday carry University of Connecticut games).
It’s a long-term deal, details can be found on the U/Conn athletics website at:
WUCS has a much smaller signal area than does WTIC. Despite WTIC’s being the most powerful radio station in Connecticut, there are (as far as I know) U/Conn afiliates in Willimantic, New Haven, and Fairfield County. IMG will need new affiliates in northwestern Connecticut and in the New London/Groton area, which I believe don’t have U/Conn sports affiliates at the moment and for which WTIC was the defacto affiliates for those regions.
This is huge, especially since the “crown jewel” of the deal was the university’s extremely successful women’s basketball team (it’s my understanding that during the Winter months, it’s the most popular spectator sport in the Nutmeg State). This contract could by itself make WUCS a factor in Hartford radio, especially during hoops season.
As for WTIC?? I suspect they will be become an affiliate of the Boston Bruins (hockey) and Boston Celtics (basketball) radio networks next Fall. ‘TIC could carry all the home games of both teams and about 30 away games of each club. There would be some times in the Fall of 2018 where pre-season games of the Bruins and Celtics would conflict with late-season Boston Red Sox baseball games (and postseason Sox games could conflict with early-season Bruins and Celtics games). But Entercom Hartford could put the B’s and Celts on WTIC-FM-96.5 while airing late-season and postseason Sox games on WTIC-AM (since they’re more “newsworthy”). Conversely in the Spring of 2019, when the Bruins and Celtics will both likely be making deep playoff runs, the hockey and basketball playoff games could air on WTIC-AM (again, since they’re more “newsworthy”) while early-season Sox games get moved to WTIC-FM.
I suspect WUCS will, once the current college sports year ends, start branding themselves with their call letters (as in “U/Conn Sports”, WUCS, 97.9 FM”) instead of “97.9 FM, ESPN Radio Hartford”) which can be used to promote their newest acquisition.Joseph_Gallant OnFebruary 20, 2018 at 3:50 pm #181385
I just thought of something else:
Could iHeart move WUCS’s programming and call letters to one of the company’s more powerful FM stations in Hartford??
This way, when U/Conn sports begin there this Fall, the broadcasts would have a much better signal.
If such a move takes place, it might be by the end of March, since WUCS is also the Hartford affiliate for New York Yankees baseball, and the regular-season opener is March 29 at Toronto. Were WUCS to move to one of iHeart Hartford’s more powerful FM stations, I suspect it might happen on or prior to March 29th.
I just thought of something else: Could iHeart move WUCS’s programming and call letters to one of the company’s more powerful FM stations in Hartford??
Theoretically, it’d be possible; however, I don’t see an obvious candidate for the swap. Perhaps more likely would be iHeart having games for some of the stronger sports on one of the music FMs; even though it’s not a perfect analogue, the company does something fairly similar with the Badgers in both Milwaukee and Madison.
That said, if iHeart and/or IMG had already planned such a move, it likely would’ve been included in last week’s announcement; instead, it just mentions that games will be carried elsewhere when there’s a conflict. Also, the station is referred to as “97.9 ESPN” throughout the announcement; if a swap were being planned, I doubt that the station’s (current) branding would’ve appeared that regularly.Joseph_Gallant OnFebruary 21, 2018 at 5:16 pm #181406
Maybe any move to move WUCS from 97.9 to a stronger signal hasn’t yet been decided upon, but might be at some future point.
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