Published Friday, April 21, 2000

TV/radio sports: Vikings Internet broadcast rankles WCCO
Judd Zulgad / Star Tribune

The Vikings plan to offer fans the opportunity to listen to their games on the Internet next season. Fans, however, won't hear WCCO Radio's broadcast when they go to the team's Web site ( and that could cause friction between the team and its flagship station.

CBS president Mel Karmazin, whose company owns WCCO (830 AM), hasn't given network affiliates the go-ahead to provide audio streaming on the Internet unless it is in contracts. That is why Twins and Gophers football and men's basketball are available on the Internet but the rest of WCCO's programming is not.

WCCO vice president and general manager Brian Whittemore said his station drew up a proposal and went to Karmazin three times last season to try to make Vikings broadcasts available via the Internet. Each time the request was denied.

As a result, the Vikings began looking into providing Internet-only broadcasts. They had Paul Allen and Gregg Swedberg of KFAN Radio (1130 AM) do the Vikings-Dallas game as a dry run.

Whittemore said it would be beneficial for the Vikings to be patient; he is expecting to hear information about CBS/Infinity's plans for developing a Web strategy at the company's meetings next month in Las Vegas.

''They are probably a few months away from having an announcement on their strategy about streaming,'' Whittemore said. ''If the Vikings waited a little bit, we would be able to provide them with streaming of broadcasts at no cost.''

But Terri Huml, Vikings vice president of sales and marketing, has been told Karmazin has no intention of allowing games on the Internet this season.

Asked if the Vikings would pick up WCCO's broadcast online if Karmazin reverses fields, Huml said, ''We are past the point of no return for this project.''

Allen, co-host of KFAN's midday show with Jeff Dubay, and Swedberg, operations manager for KFAN, are expected to get the assignments.

''Terri has asked me if I'd be interested and I said absolutely,'' said Allen, who would do play-by-play. ''If it happens, it would be a dream come true.''

Swedberg, who is the favorite to get the analyst role because he is computer-savvy, said KFAN would take an active role in promoting the Internet broadcasts.

Huml said no decision has been made about whether the Vikings will produce the broadcasts or work with a station such as KFAN. She would not comment on whether the Vikings would charge a rights fee.

The situation raises the question: Will the Vikings be violating terms of their contract with WCCO?

''I'm not a lawyer, but we certainly have lawyers at CBS in New York who would thoroughly check that out,'' Whittemore said.

''My feeling is that WCCO is the Vikings radio broadcast partner though terms of the contract, and therefore my hope would be the contract precludes the Vikings from doing business with any station in this market other than WCCO during terms of the contact. We would pursue that aggressively.''

Unhappy executive

Whittemore was unhappy WCCO wasn't asked by the Vikings to participate in their draft coverage. Instead, the team aligned itself with KFAN.

"We would have loved to have done something with the Vikings and the draft coverage," he said. "Historically, the station has been involved and would have wanted to be involved and could have been but were never given the opportunity by the Vikings marketing department."

Web improvements

The plan to put Vikings games on the Internet is just one upgrade the team is planning for its Web site now that NFL owners have approved a two-year trial framework to link the league's Internet operations with those of all 32 franchises.

Huml said team officials will spend the next few weeks mapping out plans for Phase 2 of the project.

Other upgrades are expected to include access to video clips, fantasy games and the opportunity to watch coach Dennis Green's news conference the day after games.

Huml said the team would like to have the second phase finished by the time training camp opens. The Vikings will then begin Phase 3 of the process, which will include setting up chats with coaches and players.


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