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TUNEIN STREAMING DEAL SIDESTEPS 1290 FLAGSHIP STATUS

The UA has been bragging quite a bit at football and men's basketball games about the opportunity fans have to stream Wildcat broadcasts through a deal inked in early September.

The arrangement is between streaming radio app TuneIn and IMG, the sports network that handles Wildcat broadcasts and has radio deals with universities across the country. TuneIn reached an agreement with all of IMG's Pac-12 partners.

The process is pretty simple for listeners.

"All content, which currently includes football and men's basketball games and coaches shows produced by IMG, is available to fans at no charge," said IMG Tucson's Joe Moeller via email. "Fans can listen to the Arizona IMG broadcasts through ArizonaWildcats.com or the TuneIn mobile app—a free download on iOS or Android."

In addition to being another financial stream for IMG, it allows fans living outside the market better access to the games. It also scraps the bulky, fan-unfriendly subscription model the UA implemented on its website for out-of-market listeners.

In the past, Wildcat fans who didn't feel like dropping 3 to 5 bucks to listen online would raid message boards and online chat rooms in an effort to find a radio signal from a small-town affiliate that perhaps forgot to turn off its Internet broadcast feed.  Through TuneIn, the new setup allows listeners to access a UA icon, from which they can hear the aforementioned live events.

"This collaborative effort among our partner schools and TuneIn is a great complement to our terrestrial radio affiliates in bringing fans free audio broadcasts on a variety of platforms," Chad Cleveland, assistant vice president, digital content and strategic partnerships for IMG College, said in a press release. "Fans can enjoy their favorite team's home radio call from anywhere in the world—on their computer, in the car, or on their smartphone."

But how complementary is that arrangement for the radio affiliate? It's exactly the same broadcast that airs on Wildcat flagship station KCUB 1290 AM. However, 1290 is still required to block its Internet feed during IMG broadcasts. So the UA icon on TuneIn radio bypasses the radio flagship, which is paying upward of $300,000 a year for broadcast rights.

Why does that matter? Well, it's a potential advertising opportunity for a radio station that pays IMG directly to broadcast the games. If someone is listening from out of the market but has plans to visit Tucson, KCUB could theoretically tap some advertisers in the travel/tourism business that might be interested in getting their name out.

It also acts as an opportunity to get out-of-market or streaming consumers aware of the product. If someone doesn't get the 1290 signal all that well and prefers the streaming feed, that becomes a viable option. Listeners in other markets might want to stay in touch with other programming on 1290 such as In The House, the weekday afternoon talk show that has adopted a heavily Wildcat-centric approach since the UA approved its contract renewal with the station over the summer. Having the ability to be the official streaming location for UA broadcasts, as opposed to being forced to block those games online, might guide a larger listener base interested in maintaining contact with what's going on with the alma mater.

Clearly, terrestrial radio has been aware of the importance of Internet streaming to try to maintain or build listenership for some time. This is the reason Clear Channel relentlessly hypes its iheartradio app, and why TuneIn is trying to keep pace through arrangements like the IMG deal.

Many radio stations, including KCUB, are available on both platforms. However, by edict of radio cluster Cumulus, which operates 1290, it pushes the relationship with iheartradio. Cumulus reached an arrangement with Clear Channel to market their stations for the iheartradio app.

Tweaking the interface to include a UA icon and the 1290 icon would be an easy adjustment. Perhaps in the future the model can be revisited to better "complement" radio flagship stations as part of the arrangement.

Cumulus Tucson management did not return requests for comment.

EAFON, WILLIAMS PART OF PRE-, POSTGAME SHOWS

Former UA athletes Kelvin Eafon and Corey Williams have been pegged to handle co-host duties for the local (non-stream-blocked) portion of 1290's men's basketball pre- and postgame shows.

However, Williams will be available sporadically, and only during the brief nonconference season. He continues to land increased television broadcast opportunities, and his roles with ESPN and FoxSports1 have led to an impressive increase in workload.

This is the first foray into broadcasting for Eafon, who played football and basketball for the UA in the late '90s.

Fortunately for Eafon and Williams, the pregame show's three-hour format will not be as daunting thanks to the groundbreaking sports-talk radio decision to record the first hour live, and then play back that hour in its entirety—minus a sports update—in hour two, and then again in hour three.

AIA SHUTS THOMAE OUT OF HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFF BROADCASTS

When Eric Thomae launched mybroadcastbox.com earlier this year, it began as a platform for Tucson-area high school football games. The effort has received some positive feedback, but it hit a snag last week when the Arizona Interscholastic Association demanded that the online platform pay for broadcasting rights for playoff games.

"A national network bought the rights to the postseason," Thomae said via email. "I can only assume that I will run into the same thing with other sports although I don't know."

Thomae has plans to add high school basketball and baseball, and other sports-related broadcasts.

"I'm disappointed that we can't follow the area qualifiers on our website," Thomae said. "Next year we will hopefully add sponsorships/advertising and generate enough revenue to pay the rights fee. We will see."

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