Sunday, March 16, 2003

March Madness would change channels



The games will go on - but on another channel - if America goes to war during the NCAA basketball tournament.

CBS, which announces the March Madness tournament pairings today (6-7 p.m., Channels 12, 7), plans to move the games to a sister Viacom network if CBS goes to around-the-clock war coverage. Games begin at noon Thursday.

"We are in constant communication with the news division, and if the situation warrants, we will have a contingency plan for NCAA tournament coverage on one of the Viacom networks," says LeslieAnne Wade, CBS Sports publicist.

Viacom owns the UPN network (carried by low-power Channel 25 here), plus TNN, Nickelodeon, TV Land, MTV, MTV2, VH1 and Country Music Television cable channels. She would not be more specific as to where viewers may find the three-week basketball championship, although CBS Sports President Sean McManus told the New York Times that MTV and VH1 have been ruled out.

However, the Viacom cable channels can't provide regional feeds of simultaneous first-round games Thursday and Friday, as CBS has done for years, he said.

The women's NCAA basketball tournament games are carried on ESPN and won't be affected by war coverage.

WLW-AM (700), which begins weekday Cincinnati Reds broadcasts Monday, also is prepared to provide 24/7 war coverage. The Reds would move to a sister Clear Channel station, likely 50,000-watt WSAI-AM (1530) or sports talk WCKY-AM (1360). The final Reds game of the 2001 season was shifted to WCKY-AM hours after the invasion of Afghanistan.

Broadcasts of UC and Xavier games also would be bumped to other stations if there's war.

"All of our sports franchises have been notified," says Darryl Parks, operations director for Clear Channel's four AM stations here.

WLW-AM "plans to give full coverage of the war with Iraq, including long-form coverage from ABC News supplemented with local coverage and reaction from the 700 WLW newsroom," Parks says.

John Kiesewetter




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