The University of Michigan today announced a landmark 5-year agreement with CBS Radio in Detroit for carriage of Michigan's football, men's basketball, and men's hockey teams in metro Detroit. The deal also includes coverage for some women's sports. Michigan fans will find expanded coverage in the Detroit market with live coverage of more events annually than in years past. The new deal runs through the 2010-11 sports seasons.
The most visible part of the deal makes Classic Top 40 WOMC-FM (104.3) the new flagship station for Michigan football, and will keep together the broadcast team of Frank Beckmann (play-by-play) and Jim Brandstatter (color commentary) and allow fans in Detroit the ability to hear the games for the first time on the higher-quality FM band. Beckmann has called Michigan play-by-play since 1981 and has become an integral part of the broadcasts, so much so that the negotiation of this deal was greatly complicated by the working of a deal between WJR, where Beckmann hosts a midday talk program, and Michigan who strongly desired the continuity of the Beckmann/Brandstatter pairing.
WOMC (Where Only Michigan Counts?) will be the home of an expanded network two-hour pregame show before each Michigan contest and distribute the games to a network of over 30 stations across Michigan and southwest Ontario. "It will be a great listening experience for all Wolverine fans and WOMC listeners," said station vice president and general manager Kevin Murphy. "You'll be able to feel the power of Michigan Stadium on your radio like never before, especially since WOMC reaches such a huge audience and we are the only FM radio station in Michigan to broadcast at 190,000 watts."
A key part of the football package is the addition of CHUM Radio Group's CKLW-AM (800) which will simulcast WOMC's broadcast and provide a coverage footprint that includes parts of Michigan, Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New York. Michigan football games were heard on CKLW for a number of years when WJR was also the flagship for Detroit Tigers baseball and used CKLW as an affiliate to provide full availability to Michigan football whenever the Tigers were on WJR.
Michigan's entire men's basketball schedule will be heard on CBS' news WWJ-AM (950), which becomes the flagship for those broadcasts. CBS Radio vice president Rich Homberg commented, "The Wolverines and WWJ had a 70-year tradition through 1997 and we are very happy to have games back on AM 950. This agreement will greatly enhance WWJ's coverage of the University of Michigan and its role in the future development of southeastern Michigan." In addition to men's hoops, WWJ will also carry a number of women's basketball games; the exact number of those contests is still being determined. Also still under discussion is the determination of who will be behind the microphone for basketball. Matt Shepard (play-by-play) and former Michigan player Dugan Fife (color) handled those duties last season.
Radio One talker WCHB-AM (1200) will simulcast the basketball coverage of WWJ. WCHB general manager Carol Lawrence-Dobrusin said, "Coverage of the Wolverines promises to be the most diverse ever with the addition of our loyal WCHB audience."
For men's hockey, Clear Channel sports WTKA-AM (1050) Ann Arbor will continue its role as the flagship station with CBS' sports WXYT-AM (1270) and CHUM's gold CKWW-AM (580) each picking up 15 different broadcasts for the Detroit/Windsor market. AM 580 Program Director Charlie O'Brien said, “We are excited to have the opportunity to follow the Wolverines all season on their way to the NCAA Frozen Four.”
WXYT will also carry 40 weekly call-in shows focused on University of Michigan sports. These Michigan Athletic Department radio shows highlighting football, men's and women's basketball, and ice hockey will air statewide throughout the sports season. "We could not be more excited about this new package," commented Bill Martin, University of Michigan athletics director. "We've expanded our coverage, added new stations and given our programs more exposure and better coverage than at any time in our history."
Today's announcement is the result of 12 months of planning by the University and its multimedia partner, Host Communications, Inc. Tom Stultz, Host CEO, said "We've worked very hard to make this the best of all worlds for Michigan fans. We are very excited about the commitments made by our radio partners at WOMC, WWJ, WXYT, CKLW and WCHB and happy that Mike Fezzey, the president and general manager of WJR, has worked with us to allow Frank Beckmann to continue as the play-by-play voice of the Wolverines." Host will pay Michigan $1.85 million for the 2006-07 school year and $1.95 million the next and is the producer of all the broadcasts and also handles the distribution of the games to affiliates it lines up for the Michigan Sports Network, and sells most of the advertising.
Each of the five Detroit-area stations brings a distinct, loyal and diverse audience. In addition to game broadcasts, each has committed to promoting the Wolverines during their highly rated weekday daytime hours, increasing substantially the number of people in Detroit market who will hear about the Wolverines on a daily basis. CBS's stations will cross-promote their Michigan broadcast coverage.
With a combined weekly rating of 13, the promotional power of the new radio package will increase by 271 percent the previous audience available to promote the Wolverines. In turn, each station's rating is expected to benefit from the already large and loyal Michigan audience. Detroit is the ninth largest U.S. radio market measured by Arbitron with a population of 3.9 million.
Michigan associate athletic director Bruce Madej comments that the Michigan Athletic department will be working closely with CBS Radio to improve Michigan fans accessibility to electronic coverage of Michigan sports. The University plans to develop podcasts and more video coverage as part of its subscription package along with a number of events and highlights available free to the public. For the first time, listeners around the world will have free access to audio streams to all University of Michigan sports from the official Michigan Athletic department website, www.mgoblue.com. Michigan also has a broadcast deal with Sirius satellite radio.
"We know a fee is necessary as we provide more and more coverage on the Internet, but we want to make sure our fans are able to listen to our athletic programming without a subscription fee," said Martin. "We are among a few leaders in college sports who are turning the tide and are able to find sponsorship of these Internet offerings and make it as easy to hear Michigan in San Francisco or Tokyo as it is in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor. We also recognize that a large number of future fans will use the Internet as their medium of choice and we intend to make following the Wolverines easy for new fans and longtime fans alike."
Michigan sports broadcasts have been without a home since the end of this spring's NIT basketball tournament when the University's agreement with news-talk WJR-AM (760) expired. Last October, WJR announced it would be returning to its long-time allegiance with Michigan State University and become the flagship station for MSU sports starting with this fall's football season. WJR and MSU were partners for years up until 1976 when WJR began its association with the Wolverines.
Many Michigan fans were concerned about the future of their teams' new broadcast location, but this deal should alleviate that concern with a deal that breaks new ground in terms of the depth of coverage across different stations and medium.
That this deal was completed speaks volumes about the ability and desire of the people involved to work out something that benefits everyone concerned. It's unusual to see this number of broadcast companies set aside their usual desires to have exclusivity on both programming and personalities and allow this kind of cooperation. It's refreshing to report on a story that respects the desire of the listeners/fans.
WOMC has archived this morning's annoucement that was made during Dick Purtan's program just past 7:30 AM. To listen in, visit the station's web site at www.womc.com.