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On the Ice, on the Air

Pittsburgh Penguins, Clear Channel Launch Multicast Channel

This is one in a series of case studies in a special section of the Oct. 7 issue of Radio World called “Radio 2010: Traditional Solutions Blend With the New,” in which radio managers discuss how they are preparing for the next decade of the millenium by improving their businesses in traditional and nontraditional ways.

Pittsburgh has always been crazy for its Penguins — but never more than now, after the National Hockey League team won the 2009 Stanley Cup under star captain Sidney Crosby.

So it makes sound marketing sense for the team to launch its own HD Radio station in the Steel City. Created in conjunction with Clear Channel’s WXDX(FM), which carries Penguins games on its analog and HD1 channels, Pittsburgh Penguins Radio is heard this fall on WXDX’s HD2 channel, 24 hours a day.

“We’re going to have six hours of live programming a day, which will be replayed three times during the 24-hour time slot,” says Mark Turley, the Penguins’ corporate sales media director.

“We’ll do shows with our players and coaching staff, with the ability for fans to interact with them.”

Pittsburgh Penguins Radio will also carry NHL Radio’s “NHL Live” daily two-hour program and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s “NHL Hour” weekly talk show. In addition, the club hopes to air live Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins games and “classic” Pittsburgh Penguins games from its archives. The content will be produced in the Penguins’ own facilities and sent by ISDN to WXDX for broadcast.

“This is truly a joint venture,” says Tim McAleer, Clear Channel director of sales. “We retain the license, approve the programming and do the transmitting, while the Penguins handle content. It’s really an expanded form of block programming. We’re starting the venture using baby steps, by only producing a six-hour block to begin with. But as the station gains traction, I expect that more live content will be added.”

The multicast will be a logical complement to the station’s Pen’s Page online. For the Penguins, launching their own HD Radio station is good business.

“With so many newspapers and broadcasters going through consolidations, it is not always easy to get as much exposure as we want to get,” Turley said. “Pittsburgh Penguins Radio gives us a way to get our message across to the fans directly, ensuring that we do so at the time and the level of detail that is best for the club.”

Fans aren’t the only ones who will benefit: Pittsburgh Penguins Radio will be selling spots to advertisers hungry to associate themselves with this cup-winning team.

“Pittsburgh Penguins Radio is going to be good for them and Clear Channel, and for HD Radio too,” says McAleer. “In fact, I think this HD station will help HD Radio sales in Pittsburgh; something that will benefit all broadcasters here. It’s a model that is really compelling. That’s probably why I am hearing rumors about other professional teams launching their own HD Radio stations elsewhere.”