In an announcement released on Tuesday, FC Cincinnati revealed a partnership with iHeartMedia that marks the foundation of a media network for the upstart USL franchise. ESPN 1530, one of several radio stations owned by iHeartMedia, will air live broadcasts of FC Cincinnati matches and a coach’s show with Head Coach John Harkes. The games and the Coach John Harkes Show will be able to be consumed via the iHeartRadio app in addition to the radio broadcast.
During the club’s inaugural season, ESPN 1530 will limit broadcasts of games to FC Cincinnati home matches. According FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding, the productions will not include extensive pre-game and post-game coverage.
Berding did not cite production and travel costs as reasons for excluding away games from the slate of scheduled broadcasts.
“We are building a broadcast network from the ground up and made the decision to focus on producing 15 high quality broadcasts in the first year,” Berding explained.
The Coach John Harkes Show will air on biweekly on Tuesdays from Morlein Lager House. The format of the show is still being planned, and it is yet to be determined whether or not the show will feature a question-and-answer segment with fans.
All USL matches are streamed live and at no cost to the viewer. FC Cincinnati, however, still felt it was important to move forward with over-the-air broadcasts.
“We are a professional sports team, and having broadcasts available to fans to listen and watch our games is critical to our efforts in building our brand,” Berding said. “We want our fans to be able to tune in at all times.”
The partnership with iHeartMedia also has the potential to directly increase revenue for FC Cincinnati. Berding was reticent with regard to the details involved, but this is not a situation in which the team sold the broadcast rights while ESPN 1530 retains all of the advertising dollars. FC Cincinnati does have the ability to sell its own advertising during broadcasts.
When asked if on-air personalities had been identified for the radio broadcasts, Berding indicated the identities would be revealed in an upcoming announcement regarding television. He did not expound upon that comment, but it appears that a deal with a television partner is also in the works.