|USC Legends News|
Time to fight for USC broadcast rights
"We'll send them out in July or August," Hyman said this week. "We'll wait for the responses and then review the bids and go from there."
The group that can offer a combination of the most money and best exposure for the USC program will be the winner.
Hyman said he expects a number of companies to show interest in the Gamecocks, including Learfield and ISP as well as the former rights holder, Host Communications. The new contract will begin with the 2008-09 season. The current five-year pact with Learfield/ISP started with the 2003-04 season.
After an agreement is in place, the new rights holder will shop for a flagship station in the Columbia market. That's when fans in the Midlands usually take notice of changes.
Five years ago, after a 48-year association with WVOC-AM 560, the USC sports radio network moved to Citadel Broadcasting. One of the big reasons for the change was Clear Channel, which owns WVOC, would not agree to put USC sports on one of its strong-signal FM stations.
The switch caused fans some confusion because Gamecocks football was heard on WTCB-FM 106.7 while basketball and baseball were placed on WOMG-FM 103.1. Adding to the confusion at the outset was that most afternoon baseball broadcasts were carried on WISW-AM 1320. That has since changed, with all baseball games airing on both WOMG and WISW.
Citadel Broadcasting's initial five-year agreement was extended by one year so it would coincide with the Learfield/ISP contract. Hyman said even if Learfield/ISP retains the rights, that wouldn't mean Citadel Broadcasting automatically would continue to be the home of USC sports.
"They would want to shop the package around again," Hyman said.
Bill McElveen, Citadel Broadcast vice president for the Southeast region, said his company is "very interested in continuing our relationship with South Carolina."
"It (USC sports) has always been a hot commodity around here no matter who the coach or what the record," McElveen said. "Now that the football program is on the upswing, it will be even more so."
McElveen believes confusion caused by Citadel's decision to put football on one station and basketball and baseball on another has subsided.
"I don't think fans have had any trouble finding the games," McElveen said.
Clear Channel's L.J. Smith said he's not sure what his company will do. "I know it's going to be a bidding war," he said.
It's difficult to believe Clear Channel, which owns four FM stations in the area, won't go after USC sports, especially since it likes to boast of having "the best Gamecocks coverage" in the Midlands. Such Clear Channel stations as WVOC and WCOS-AM 1400 have offered extensive pregame and postgame coverage during the past several football seasons. But not having the game broadcasts themselves would make "the best Gamecocks coverage" claim sound hollow.
While Citadel Broadcasting and Clear Channel seem poised to battle for the rights, they shouldn't forget that another company could slip in walk off with the prize.
McElveen said it could be a while before it is known who the new rights holders will be.
"When we got the rights in 2002, we didn't find out until June," McElveen said. "That didn't give us much turnaround time to prepare for the football season."
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