By Darnell Mayberry
Clay Bennett, the chairman of Oklahoma City’s NBA franchise, will be a guest on WWLS-FM 98.1 at 5 p.m. today to announce the team has agreed to a radio rights deal with the Citadel Broadcasting station.
Team officials and Citadel executives declined comment on the agreement until after Bennett’s announcement.
Citadel, however, is expected to broadcast all 82 regular season games this season. It’s unclear whether the games will be broadcast exclusively on WWLS or Citadel’s sister stations, WKY-AM 930, will share in the regular-season schedule. WWLS-AM 640 also is part of the Sports Animal Radio Network.
NBA teams generally favor radio deals with stations that share ownership with other stations to allow flexibility in scheduling to circumvent conflicts.
The team has not announced a broadcasting team, but Matt Pinto is expected to continue in his second season as the play-by-play announcer.
The team also expressed interest in area stations owned by Clear Channel and Renda Broadcasting, but local executives from those companies declined comment on the team’s interest citing confidentiality agreements.
Renda-owned KOKC-AM 1520 and KRXO-FM 107.7 carry OU football broadcasts, and KOKC also airs OU basketball and baseball games. Renda’s other FM stations, KOMA, and KMGL, are music-only channels.
Clear Channel stations KTOK-AM 1000 and KHBZ-FM 94.7 also were approached. The temporarily-displaced New Orleans Hornets aired their games on KTOK during their first season in Oklahoma City and on KHBZ during the second year, hosting pre- and post-game shows for the team during both seasons.
In addition to a standard rights fee, the team is believed to have sought the entire block of commercial space during the broadcasts, a compromise several local stations find a hard time making because of the loss of advertising revenue.
WWLS is believed to have become a more attractive option for the NBA team because of its national appeal as an FM station and it’s strong wattage, which allows it to reach more people. Earlier this month, WWLS moved from 97.9 and upgraded its signal to 31,000 watts.
By Darnell Mayberry