Satellite Radio: When Will Arkansas Jump On

The University of Arkansas is one of only two SEC schools to not have a deal with satellite radio. When might they come on board?

Kathy Beaumont is one of the biggest Arkansas Razorbacks fans around.

The former teacher and board member of the Alabama chapter of the Arkansas Alumni Association can't always listen to the Razorbacks when she can't make it to games.

Driving back to her Birmingham home after watching the Razorbacks upset No. 2 Auburn on Saturday, Beaumont listened to parts of three games on Sirius satellite radio. Her dial bounced from the Florida-LSU game, to South Carolina-Kentucky to Tennessee-Georgia.

"Living out of state, I am mad as a hornet that our games are not on Sirius," Beaumont said. "I think it's a disservice to the fans and I just think it's ridiculous in this age of technology.

"I understand where they're coming from, but I think they're being very short-sighted."

Every other Southeastern Conference school with the exception of Georgia already has a satellite radio deal in place, all with Sirius.

It might be awhile before Beaumont and other out-of-area Arkansas fans can listen to the Razorbacks on satellite radio.

Several holdups have kept the Razorbacks off of the service, the biggest being how satellite radio would affect local affiliates. The Arkansas Razorback Sports Network controls the radio rights for UA athletics.

"We have some radio affiliates on our network, including some of our bigger markets from a network standpoint, (that) have said, ‘If you go satellite radio, then we're either out or we want our rights fee reduced,'" said Matt Shanklin, associate athletic director for marketing/licensing. "The pieces don't match up for Arkansas."

It might not be long, though, before the benefits outweigh that negative impact.

"Terrestrial radio stations realize that these are the last days of them having an ability to have a say," Shanklin said. "Satellite radio is in its infancy."

Shanklin wouldn't put a percentage on the chances the Razorbacks would be on one of the services in 2007.

"I have no idea," Shanklin said. "To be honest, I would say it's probably a 50-50 flip of the coin as to whether or not XM or Sirius will even be around next year."

Both services have seen rapid growth in subscriber numbers lately, with Howard Stern on Sirius and Major League Baseball on XM fueling growth. However, the companies continue to lose money because of huge rights fees paid for those entities.

Doug Voss, a Sirius subscriber and Hogs fan in Michigan, said he understands some of the reasoning given by Arkansas and ARSN but still hopes to be able to listen to the Razorbacks soon.

"It seems to me like they're behind the curve," Voss said. "If you view it from a strategic standpoint, what they're trying to do is trying to make money off the RazorZone thing.

"I'd like to see them jump on board with (satellite radio)."

Voss does not subscribe to RazorZone, Arkansas' subscriber-only broadcast and video service on its Web site, saying he could get more overall value for his dollar by subscribing to Sirius.

Matt Dunce, who lives in Little Rock, chose XM over Sirius for its baseball and financial offerings. But those might not be enough to keep Duncan if his beloved Hogs signed with Sirius.

"If they went with Sirius, I would seriously consider switching," Duncan said. "It's a big deal for me. I love the Hogs more than I do Major League Baseball."

Georgia officials have made it clear the Bulldogs will have a satellite radio presence in 2007, whether through an individual deal or one with the conference.

"We have all intentions of being on satellite radio next year," said Alan Thomas, Georgia's associate athletic director for external affairs. "It's still being explored."

Georgia did not jump on board with most other SEC schools two years ago when 10 conference schools signed deals because its radio deal at the time prevented it. That is no longer a holdup.

"(Satellite radio) will be written into any of our future deals," Thomas said.

At Arkansas, though, it's not quite that simple.

The SEC has been in talks with both Sirius and XM about broadcasting the conference's games. XM has, so far, signed deals with conferences, while Sirius signs individual schools.

One possible sticking point to the league's negotiations with either service is the league's insistence that all games be broadcast with each team's announcers. That way, an Arkansas fan in California could listen to Mike Nail and Keith Jackson call the game while a Georgia fan could listen to the same game broadcast by Larry Munson and Scott Howard.

While Sirius sometimes will have two channels for a single game, XM normally has just one channel per game.

"Part of the tradition and the lore of SEC football is listening to your play-by-play voice and having that camaraderie there that you know when you're turning onto a station to listen to your team that you're listening to one of your own," SEC associate commissioner for media relations Charles Bloom.

Bloom hoped the league would get a deal done soon.

"We can't do anything until after the academic year," Bloom said. "But we'd want to have something in advance so we're not leading fans to the store to buy a satellite radio for the wrong company."

Shanklin said his department has received inquiries from fans about satellite radio, but not many.

"Satellite radio is very intriguing," Shanklin said. "And wherever we can offer more services out to our fans, we'd love to. But the expense of doing that to our statewide network is a little bit more than what the return would be."

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