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Bronco Broadcast 

Radio stations vie for Boise State contract

Boiseans are not afraid to show their support for Boise State.

If it's not through license plate brackets, magnets, decals, bumper stickers or little flags attached to car windows, it's T-shirts, jerseys, blankets, seat cushions and baby onesies.

Each year, fans plop down some serious cash just to show their support in blazing blue and orange, so it should come as no surprise that a contract to broadcast Bronco sports would be a valuable commodity.

It's the prospect of just such a contract that has the valley's radio broadcasters salivating.

Citadel Broadcasting has held the contract for Boise State football and men's basketball since 1970, but the group's latest contract expires at the end of this year's basketball season.

With the increasing popularity of the teams, due in large part to the football program's winning record and strong reputation, Boise State has become a desirable brand to be associated with.

"We've obviously gotten more interest than in past [opportunities to bid]," said Curt Apsey, senior associate athletic director at Boise State. "It comes with the success.

"Hopefully, BSU can take advantage of a better bid than in the past," he said.

The call for bids went out last fall, dangling a tantalizing four-year contract in front of broadcasters. Since then, IdahoRadioNews.com, a Web site dedicated to the Boise radio broadcasting business, has been buzzing with theories about tactical bidding plans of the area's heavyweight companies.

Topping the list of contenders is the long-standing champ, Citadel Broadcasting. over the decades, it has created a name brand out of longtime announcer Paul J. Schneider, who has served as the voice of Bronco radio on KBOI for 35 seasons.

"He is probably the most recognizable person associated with the Broncos," said Sandy Gamblin, general manger of Citadel Broadcasting. "It creates a lot of name equity."

Gamblin said Citadel has rebid for the contract, but declined releasing any details of the offer. He did admit that Boise State is an important asset.

"Certainly, it's very important to maintain the rights," he said.

Gamblin said while the Boise State contract has become more valuable over the years, with advertisers eager to buy time during a can't-miss game, he doesn't think the Treasure Valley radio market is any more competitive than in the past.

Kevin Godwin, senior vice president and general manager of Peak Broadcasting, which bought out Clear Channel last year, said that like any market, radio has become more competitive as the area has grown, but he doesn't perceive a bidding war.

"In the past, everyone has had a chance," Godwin said. "We just think that this new company—Peak—is in a better position to take on the product and make it profitable.

"We're in a position as a company now to make Boise State a good business decision for us."

It's also become more attractive as the community has rallied around the school.

"We're certainly more interested in it," he said. "It always helps when you have a good football team.

"We would be interested in it at any time," Godwin said. "Any time you have a community like Boise that supports a university like ours."

Peak operates six radio stations in the Treasure Valley, but Godwin did not want to identify which one would carry the Boise State games if Peak is awarded the contract.

Peak isn't the only relatively new broadcasting group to jump into the bidding pool.

David Tester, CEO of Tester Broadcasting Group, has been involved with broadcasting Boise State athletics in one way or another since the 1980s but only started his company a year ago.

For him, it makes sense that the local team is broadcast on a locally owned station.

"We're the only locally based [radio] ownership in the state of Idaho, and it makes sense for us to be involved in the biggest locally based event in the city and in the state," he said.

Tester owns five stations in the local market, including three FM stations and two AM stations. If he were to win the bid, Tester said games would most likely be aired on 99.1-FM, the region's only talk-based FM station.

"[KBOI] has done a great job with it," he said. "[But] as time changes, so do people's needs and wants."

The community's interest in the team has proved one of the biggest draws for Tester.

"People are as passionate about Boise State whether they're one and 10 or 10 and zero," he said. "The more popular the team is, the more interested the general population is. People will take an interest if [the team is] winning. It brings more listeners to the table."

That's true for sports in general. "Sports is a microcosm of life, and people generally like to root for the home team," Tester said. "Boise doesn't have an NFL team, so Boise State is our NFL team."

Bob Rosenthal, general manager of Journal Broadcast Group, which owns six radio stations, as well as Channel 6 TV, doesn't doubt the popularity of Boise State football, he just doesn't see it fitting into his business model.

Journal Broadcast Group is the only major company that decided not to bid for the Boise State contract.

Rosenthal, who serves as the public address announcer at Boise State football home games, said it is Journal policy not to go into the reasons the company chose not to bid.

"No doubt, being associated with Boise State is a good thing," he said. "But it has to be part of an overall plan."

Rosenthal has lived in Boise for 29 years and spent 25 of those in radio. Over that time, he said he has seen Boise State's popularity grow beyond expectations. "No one who's been around would have projected this growth," he said.

"It's become more desirable than in the past," Rosenthal said. "It's a nice benefit for the station [with the contract]."

Of course, all three of the bids may be moot. Boise State is considering asking interested parties to resubmit their plans.

Frank Zang, Boise State spokesman, said the university is not forced to accept just any bid. The selection criteria will take into consideration things like the company's history in the area, experience in sports broadcasting, creativity of proposal and opportunities for promotions, as well as financial terms and benefits.

There is currently no timeline for a final decision, although the new contract will go into effect in the 2008-2009 season.

The university is also not dismissing the idea of broadcasting the games itself. When asked if this was a possibility, Apsey was coy.

"We're considering everything and, at the end of the day, going a direction that's best for all involved," he said.

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