FARGO — The local radio group that will broadcast North Dakota State athletics for the next several years will be announced Friday, May 7.

Josh Hartman, general manager of Learfield IMG's Bison Sports Properties, said the Fargo radio groups that made proposals were Radio FM Media, which currently carries NDSU athletics on Bison 1660; Midwest Communications Co., which owns KFGO-AM and currently is the local affiliate for University of North Dakota athletics; and Flag Family Media, which owns The Flag and recently entered into an operating agreement with Forum Communications Co. to run WDAY-AM.

Hartman said no decision has been made yet on who will be given the television rights, although those discussions are in the late stages and he expects a decision to be made in the next week or so.

KVLY-TV, the local NBC affiliate owned by Gray Media Inc. of Atlanta, held the rights until NDSU's last regular-season game of the spring season. Gray made a proposal to retain the rights. WDAY-TV, owned by Forum Communications Co. (which also owns The Forum and InForum.com), and Midco Sports Network of Sioux Falls, S.D., also made proposals.

Who do you hope gets the radio rights to broadcast NDSU football and basketball games?

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  • Bison 1660

    50%

  • KFGO

    36%

  • The Flag

    14%

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It seems a longshot anybody besides Bison 1660 would win the radio rights, given it is an NDSU-branded station and dedicates chunks of airtime to NDSU athletics-specific broadcasting. The station also has the open airtime to broadcast games outside the traditional footprint of football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Bison 1660 regularly carries NDSU baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer games.

Bison 1660, which has had the rights since 2016, serves as the flagship station for the 26-station Bison Radio Network that carries NDSU football across North Dakota and Minnesota.

TV might be a more interesting proposition.

KVLY has held the rights since 2007. They were most recently re-upped in 2016, when KVLY got a four-year deal with a one-year option that was exercised. KVLY has a statewide network that includes KVLY in Fargo and Grand Forks, KFYR in Bismarck, KMOT in Minot, KQCD in Dickinson and KUMV in Williston.

But WDAY and Midco offer tantalizing options because they could allow NDSU to broadcast other sports besides football, men's basketball and women's basketball. Midco is an all-sports channel and WDAY has the digital sub-channel WDAY Xtra, which is available on some Fargo-Moorhead cable providers and over the air in Fargo-Moorhead (6.3), Grand Forks (8.3), Bismarck (17.3) and Minot (14.3).

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Xtra currently carries a variety of locally produced sports programming, including North Dakota and Minnesota high school sports games of the week, the early rounds of the North Dakota high school state tournaments, Minnesota State Moorhead athletics and the Fargo Marathon.

WDAY also has the rights to broadcast the North Dakota State High School Activities Association state tournaments in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys hockey and girls hockey.

In a January interview, Hartman said money and the ability to carry games statewide were the two top factors for the television contract, while acknowledging many fans watch games on various streaming services.

"We want to make it as easy as possible for Bison fans to watch games. That's the main thing," Hartman said.

That would seem to favor KVLY and WDAY, which are part of statewide networks (Forum Communications also owns KBMY-TV in Bismarck and KMCY-TV in Minot). Midco is available through cable, dish and streaming. Midco currently carries NDSU men's and women's basketball, as it does with other Dakotas-based Summit League teams.

These will be the first Bison media contracts since the athletic department signed with Learfield IMG College. NDSU previously negotiated its own broadcast deals. NDSU in 2020 signed a 10-year, $21.9 million deal with Learfield. The Bison athletic department will receive $1.85 million in the first year of the deal ending this summer and the annual figure escalates over the duration of the contract.

Learfield pays universities a flat rights fee and makes its profit by selling broadcast rights, sponsorships and advertising above that fee.