Now that we had promised MU some $201,000 in cash and much more in non-cash promotion, new demands were made of our affiliate radio stations including higher rights fees and increased network commercial inventory. We asked stations for more pre and post game programming and required clearance of basketball broadcasts.
Disgruntlement among some radio managers led to a private meeting during the 1981 Missouri Broadcaster’s Association convention in Branson. Member, Jerrell Shepherd, owner of KWIX, Moberly, told me he was going to ask the Association to ask the University to offer all the games free to each and every Missouri radio station. Shepherd based his argument on a belief that electronic media should be allowed the same free access to the games as printed media. Also, he noted, the University was a public, taxpayer-supported, institution and thus should offer the broadcasts free to all.
I was excluded from this special closed meeting until the very end when several friendly broadcasters persuaded the others to allow me to make my case. I explained how my company had taken the risk; how it was up to us to sell sufficient advertising to pay the increased rights fee. I told them the financial burden wasn’t being transferred to them and that all we wanted was an equal number of commercial availabilities. And, I explained, we could get “a lot more inventory in each of these broadcasts” which benefited all of us.
The moment of truth came when Shepherd finished making an impassioned appeal to his fellow broadcasters. He told them that he and his managers (Shepherd owned four or five Missouri stations at the time) were going to stand and walk out and as a show of support he’d like the rest of the broadcasters to follow them. I held my breath. None moved. Shepherd and his managers were alone on the sidewalk outside. That was a huge turning point in MU broadcast history, because if Shepherd had prevailed and the MBA had held out, there might not be a Mizzou Sports Network as we know it.
As an aside, Shepherd and I remained friends and all of his stations became affiliates that year. Today our contract arrangement with our affiliates takes into account a number of factors–market size for example–but we’ve tried our best not to gouge our loyal affiliates.