Blount Today Sports Radio is forming a partnership with ESPN Radio to be the Voice of the Tornadoes as well as broadcast football games from William Blount, Heritage and Maryville high schools.
Blount Today advertising director Marty Millsaps and ESPN Radio AM 1180 and 1120 owner Jason Bailey announced the move on Tuesday, April 19.
“We’re real excited because you’ve got a fabulous team that has won 12 state championships with a great program, great coach and great school,” Jason Bailey said. “We’re happy to be involved with Alcoa sports and all Blount County sports.”
“Obviously we’re excited not only that they’re going to do all our games but also just to have the ESPN brand tied to our name,” said Josh Stephens, Alcoa High School athletic director. “We’re doing whatever we can to get our kids out there and get them recognized, so the best promotion we can get for our kids is what we’re after. We’re also excited about ESPN and about the continued partnership with Blount Today.”
Blount Today Sports Radio is not new to football broadcasts, having been on the air through a Community Programming partnership for four years with East Maryville Baptist Church radio station WLHR FM 97.9. Millsaps thanked the staff and volunteers with East Maryville.
“We really appreciate Norm Wheeler and the folks at East Maryville Baptist Church for the privilege of being able to work with them as we began Blount Today Sports Radio.”
Millsaps said the decision to partner with another station came about during conversations with East Maryville Baptist where they indicated a need to go another direction. The partnership with ESPN Radio will mean the opportunity to cover more Blount County high school football games each Friday night during the fall.
“The timing was right for the church and for us, although we are going to miss our partnership with the church,” said Blount Today publisher Sherri Gardner Howell. “They have a heart for using community programming to pull more listeners to their excellent radio station so they can ultimately get their spiritual message to a broader base of people.
“With this partnership with ESPN, we can continue to be of service to Alcoa High School, as well as cover William Blount, Heritage and Maryville games,” said Gardner Howell. Gardner Howell explained that while Maryville has an exclusive contract with another station, games where the Rebels play other county schools and away games are open for another station to also broadcast. The partnership with ESPN fits perfectly, said Gardner Howell, with Blount Today’s mission of community service.
“It is a perfect partnership with our print product, Monday Morning Quarterback, where we cover every county high school football game for the entire season.”
Millsaps said the opportunities with the ESPN partnership will give listeners more options. “Jason and the team at ESPN Radio are very innovative and will take things we have only talked about wanting to offer our listeners and make them happen. It is going to be incredible.”
With more announcements to be made later, some of the new offerings will include Smart Phone broadcasts, stadium-casts and Internet streaming.
“The partnership with the church was outstanding, and we made that broadcast better each year as we all learned together,” said Millsaps. “Now, with the help of ESPN, we’ll really surprise folks with broadcasts we’ll be able to provide,” he said. “This is the best of both worlds for us and for Blount County because no local high school will be left out. People have come to know Blount Today Sports Radio as the voice of Blount County sports. With the partnership with ESPN Radio, we’ll be even more so.”
The schedule of games to be broadcast on ESPN Radio’s two stations is being finalized but Millsaps and Bailey said all of Alcoa’s games will be broadcast on AM 1180, with William Blount, Heritage and some Maryville games on AM1120.
Bailey said Alcoa High School’s games will be heard on AM 1180, and people will be able to listen in via radio or by using an application for their smart phone. “They’ll be able to listen pretty much any way they want to listen to the game. We will also do stadium casts,” he said. “A stadium cast is where we have a small transmitter that covers the stadium so you can tune in on an FM radio if you don’t have a Smart Phone,” said Bailey.
Millsaps said he and Joe Lambert will serve as the voice for the Alcoa football broadcasts and all other games on AM 1180. “We’ll be accompanied by Lauren Curbow, and she’ll do Tweets, statistics and pregame and halftime reports,” Millsaps said. “On the AM 1120, the play-by-play will be handled by Heath Dunkel and color will be Dave Bennett. Their names are already familiar to Blount Today Sports Radio fans because they have worked with us the past four seasons.”
Bailey said fans should also tune in for special broadcasts during football season. “We will do our High School Game Day show where we’ll originate from Alcoa’s Goddard Field with Friday night festivities,” he said. “We’re going to do all kinds of activities. Alcoa football games will always be a special event.”
Millsaps said he’s excited about the opportunity to do live streaming football games via fan’s Smart phones. This allows listeners to catch the live broadcasts, even if they are out of range of the radio transmitter. “If you want to hear live broadcasts of Alcoa, William Blount and Heritage high school football, it is all at your fingertips,” Millsaps said.
Bailey said he has owned ESPN Radio in Knoxville and Blount County for a year. “It is our goal to serve community by using sports as an outreach,” he said.
Bailey said this year will bring even more positive changes for the listeners. “This partnership reaches beyond Friday night. We want to get students involved and also have coaches shows and Monday Morning Quarterback shows throughout the season as well,” Bailey said.
Andrew Carroll, director of New Media with ESPN Radio, said “apps” for Smart Phones will allow listeners to hear the broadcasts on their phones, even if they are in the stadium. He recommends ShoutCast. “There are so many apps that get you any stream you want. All major radio stations are streaming without using terrestrial radio,” he said.
“If you want to pick up our station anywhere in the world, you can do it on your phone, computer, your iPad or iTunes,” Bailey said.
“We have a guy who tunes in everyday from Australia,” Carroll said.
Bailey said the Internet streaming is the future of radio. “By 2015, there are going to be 43 million vehicles that can stream radio,” he said. “Who needs a transmitter? That is nothing but an electric bill,” he said.
The radio market is changing, said Bailey, and ESPN 1120 and 1180 are already embracing those changes. “Soon, it won’t be about how many watts you have, but how well you market and what kind of product you produce,” he said. “That is another reason why this partnership is such a good match.”