Kentucky broadcaster Wazoo Sports files for bankruptcy

ssloan@herald-leader.comJanuary 10, 2012 

Wazoo Sports, a London-based company that broadcasts and Webcasts high school sports, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and anticipates being sold.

In its court filings, the company said it had been unable to raise new financing. The move came about the same time the company lost its major television outlets: NBC affiliate WLEX (Channel 18) in Lexington and ABC affiliate WHAS (Channel 11) in Louisville dropped Wazoo's programming.

Wazoo Sports filed for bankruptcy protection in London on Dec. 29, listing debts of more than $3.12 million to its top 20 creditors.

In its filing, the company noted it has been approached by "several" potential buyers, and the bankruptcy filing is being done to sell the company as a whole or reorganize it with one of the interested buyers. It's anticipated that could "be quickly accomplished during the first quarter of 2012," according to the filings.

Executives with Wazoo Sports could not be reached for comment Monday.

In recent years, the company had grown beyond its roots of Webcasting high school sports and was broadcasting and Webcasting some NCAA, NAIA and other youth sports. Since starting TV broadcasting in December 2008, it has aired programming in five markets, according to its bankruptcy filings.

Beyond its current sporting events, the company has the rights to air some past University of Kentucky basketball games, according to the filing. It also has contracted with the Lexington Legends and Louisville Bats minor-league baseball teams to air past home games "and anticipates continuing this arrangement for the 2012 season."

The Herald-Leader and its Web site, Kentucky.com, had partnered with Wazoo to Web cast high school sports, but that relationship ended.

Wazoo Sports' revenue comes primarily from selling advertising and also from license fees paid by companies that carry its programming. But the business model for Wazoo Sports, which has two salaried employees and one hourly worker, has caused some of its woes.

"Because the majority of Wazoo's programming consists of basketball and football games, which are played in the fall and winter, Wazoo's revenue stream is highly seasonal," the filing stated.

In July, the company closed on a $995,000 loan that was intended to be the first part of $2 million raised, but the company "has been unable to secure the additional funding" and wound up with cash flow issues.

In December, the company's programming was dropped by WLEX, which two years earlier had begun airing it on its digital subchannel 18.2. The programming also had been picked up and then dropped by cable operator Insight Communications.

"We didn't feel like it was doing what we had wanted it to do," said WLEX general manager Pat Dalbey. The NBC affiliate instead opted to pick up the Me-TV Network, which airs classic series such as MASH and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

"While they tried to round it out with other types of programming and other sports events, we didn't feel like it was strong enough to make a second commitment to it," added Dalbey, whose station is owed $71,250 by Wazoo Sports, according to the bankruptcy filing.

In Louisville, WHAS general manager Mark Pimentel said Wazoo Sports "seems to have run its course for us" and added that the station has not decided on a programming replacement for that subchannel.

"We thought it was a great idea, but their business plan seemed to have some problems," he said. "We wish them well and hope they find a way to make it all work."

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