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IMG College signs first affiliates for network

IMG College on Friday announced the first affiliates to sign on to the new Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG, which will carry West Virginia University sports events for the coming athletic year.

The company also announced it is adding four more hours to WVU football game day radio programming.

IMG, which recently signed a 12-year deal with WVU to manage the school's multimedia broadcast rights, currently is working to build a statewide network of radio affiliates to carry WVU sporting events this year.

Broadcasts are being produced by IMG Audio and will be distributed as the Mountaineer Sports Network by IMG, and also as MSN Radio by IMG.

For decades, Mountaineer Sports Network game day radio broadcasts were distributed by West Virginia Radio Corp., owned by Morgantown businessman John Raese, who is challenging WVU's decision to award its multimedia rights to IMG in a lawsuit in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

On Friday morning, the company announced it signed WMTD-FM in Hinton, also known as ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket, as the first affiliate to join the network.

"IMG College is thrilled to bring to fans Mountaineers football on our network and want to welcome ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket to the IMG family," said Joe Potter, senior vice president of operations at IMG.

"We're very excited about building our affiliate base and expanding Mountaineers programming for one of the most passionate and loyal fan bases in college sports," Potter said.

ESPN Radio 102.3 began carrying WVU broadcasts in 2011. IMG said the station has agreed to carry game broadcasts for both WVU football and men's basketball, along with their respective coaches' shows and a daily report - all of which will be produced by IMG Audio

"ESPN Radio 102.3 The Ticket is pleased to present another year of Mountaineer sports to southern West Virginia in association with IMG," WMTD owner Shane Southern said. "Mountaineers fans are raring to go and so are we as kickoff approaches."

IMG also announced it signed WRLF-FM and WTCS-AM, both based in Fairmont, as affiliates. The stations, owned by Nick Fantasia's Fantasia Broadcasting, have been airing WVU games since the 1950s.

"It's great to welcome Fantasia Broadcasting, which has such deep roots in Mountaineers football, to our network and the IMG family," said Chris Ferris, vice president of the IMG's audio division for IMG College.

"WVU is an important part of our business, and our history," Fantasia said. "WTCS was part of the original group of WVU network stations connected by phone line in the early 1950s, and we have aired WVU sports ever since."

The new affiliates will also receive a new, expanded slate of game-day programming for the coming football season.

In recent years, West Virginia Radio Corp. had produced a one-hour pre-game and 30-minute post-game show to accompany the actual game broadcast.

IMG Audio said Friday it now plans to expand the pre-game show to three-and-a-half hours and produce a two-hour post-game show. That would result in an additional four hours of WVU game-day programming for radio listeners.

IMG currently operates the nation's largest independent radio network - producing nearly 31,000 hours of programming across the country - and plans to use its full resources to back WVU's game-day programming.

"WVU deserves a game day broadcast commensurate to the school's tradition, success, conference standing, and fan base," company spokesman Andrew Giangola said.

Fantasia said he has aired other IMG-produced broadcasts and has been satisfied with the results.

"Having worked with IMG for Marshall and Notre Dame broadcasts, I am confident that the broadcast quality and talent level we expect for the WVU game broadcasts will continue," Fantasia said. "While people and technology may change, the passion for WVU Sports remains the constant. That's why the listeners and the advertisers return each season."

Though the program slate has been set, the company still has not announced on-air talent for the broadcasts.

Sources have said the company has made an "aggressive" offer to incumbent play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi, who is currently employed by West Virginia Radio's Pikewood Creative advertising arm, but Caridi had yet to respond to the offer as of earlier this week.

IMG said Friday it would announce details about its play-by-play and color commentary team in the future.

Additional affiliate announcements are expected over the coming days. However, it remains unclear if West Virginia Radio will participate in the affiliate network.

There were rumors circulating in media circles earlier this week that talks had broken down between IMG and West Virginia Radio earlier this week, but representatives from both companies declined to comment.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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