Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Creighton's Move to 1620 Leaves Little Room for UNO Coverage

After a day of teasing, KOZN (1620 AM) Radio announced on Friday that the station was taking over the broadcasts of Creighton Basketball from KXSP (590 AM). It's big news for 1620, but I'm not so sure it's a good move for local sports fans.  NRG Media, the operators of 1620, signed a five year contract to carry UNO sports on 1620 and KZOT (1180 AM) last fall. So now, NRG has the rights to Creighton mens and women's basketball, volleyball, and baseball, along with UNO basketball and hockey.

Add in Omaha Lancers hockey, and NRG controls every local sporting event in Omaha...on three AM radio stations.  I understand why NRG pursued this deal.  I'm not sure why this is a good move for fans, especially UNO fans.

The big prize for 1620 is obviously Creighton basketball, now that the Jays will be playing in the new Big East.  But 1620's signal is far inferior to 590's.  590's signal reaches into Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, and Kansas.

1620's signal struggles to reach Valley at night.

Why do I care about Creighton fans?  I don't really.  My concern is that with Creighton game coverage now on 1620, UNO coverage will get bumped even further down the priority list. I've been very disappointed by UNO's agreement through Nelligan Sports to place hockey games on 1180 AM ("Zone Two").  Prior to 1180 AM, UNO broadcasts were on the FM dial, with coverage booming all the way west to Columbus and beyond.

On 1180, the signal breaks up badly by the time you reach 156th Street.  I'm sure the main selling point in the NRG deal was to trade off hockey coverage for increased coverage of UNO basketball and to get the team mentioned on 1620's talk shows.  That was a bad tradeoff.  Yes, the Dean Blais show is back on the radio, but that's not worth the cost.  Unsportsmanlike Conduct never talks UNO hockey, and "Sharp & Benning" seemed to limit themselves to one 5-10 minute weekly segment with Blais.

And with Creighton basketball joining the NRG stable, that means even less coverage for UNO sports.  Some of those UNO basketball games that were on 1620 will get bumped to 1180, which has the signal strength of one of those old "Mister Microphones".

Can UNO get out of their Nelligan/NRG deal?  I doubt it, but it's something UNO needs to investigate. UNO shouldn't accept playing second fiddle on their radio home, and with Creighton now on 1620 AM, that's what UNO is. It's simply a statement of fact.  Creighton is going to get the coverage; they play in the Big East in front of 17,000 fans.

Meanwhile, one has to shake their heads and wonder at what the Journal Broadcast Group is planning to do with their powerful signal on 590, other than hook the transmitter up to ESPN's satellite and forget about it.  They've dropped the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs.  Now they've lost Creighton.  Michael Grey left for Seattle, and the studio has been dark ever since.  It's simply a squandered resource, and Journal doesn't even seem to care anymore.

Maybe this is the wakeup call for Journal, now that they don't have anything left other than ESPN.  I doubt it, because it seems that Journal has thrown in the towel on sports radio, even though 590's ratings had recovered and, in fact, were starting to approach 1620's.

But this should be a wakeup call for UNO.  Hopefully UNO finds a way to get their Nelligan/NRG deal modified in light of the new Creighton deal.

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