Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Move to WB64 means more TV for XU basketball

UK to look for new TV home

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Buffy and Felicity, you've got company: The Xavier basketball program.

        The Musketeers are moving to WB64 (WSTR-TV) after 12 years with WCPO-TV Channel 9.

        “It looked like the move for us to make,” Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski said Monday. “Their offer was the most aggressive, the most comprehensive and gave us the biggest upside in terms of potential exposure.”

        The three-year deal means Channel 64 will not broadcast University of Kentucky games, as it did last year, both live and delayed.

        “With Xavier, it's our product; we format it; we sell it all; we can do a lot of our own promotions both within the arena and sales promotions with our clients,” WSTR-TV general manager Bill Pulliam said.

        The rights to Kentucky games are held by Host Communications and Jefferson-Pilot.

        The final year of Xavier's most recent three-year contact with WCPO expired at the end of the season, and Xavier entertained proposals from other networks. The three interested stations were WSTR, WCPO and Fox Sports Net.

        The Fox proposal offered a state-wide audience but wouldhave made XU games available only by viewers with cable — like the Reds this season. That wasn't appealing to Xavier officials.

        It came down to Channels 9 and 64.

        “I think the main reason we went after them was to gain more of a local presence for the station,” Pulliam said. “We don't have news. We don't have any locally produced products. We looked at it as something that would identify us as a true local station rather than a programming service. ... We're just thrilled to death.”

        “They wanted more money, and I wasn't in a position to pay higher rights fees,” said Bill Fee, WCPO vice president and general manager. “In today's environment, our business has more to do with finances than it used to.

        “We bid. We increased our rates, but we didn't increase them as much as they wanted us to. It just was not a profit able enterprise. I wish them (Channel 64 and Xavier) well.”

        Sources said WCPO was paying $2,000 per game for the rights to televise XU games, and WSTR will pay roughly $7,000 a game.

        With Channel 64 dropping Kentucky, Fee said he'd consider picking up the Wildcats games, “But it would have to be a good financial decision for us, not just a program decision,” he said.

        Xavier was looking for a partner to promote the university and other programs at the school.

        “We've got a couple things we've talked to them about doing,” Pulliam said. “We can't be specific yet. ... We'll do some individual specials, preseason-type specials, postseason, whatever.”

        What exactly is new?

        • Channel 64 will televise at least eight games (Channel 9 showed six). If more games are available, after national network and Atlantic 10 Conference games are taken, the station is willing to broadcast more.

        • The next two Xavier-Cincinnati women's games at XU will be televised live: This season's game at Schmidt Fieldhouse and the 2001-2002 game at the Cintas Center. That's a first for a Xavier women's home game.

        • The broadcast team will change.

        WCPO sports director John Popovich, who has done the play-by-play for Channel 9 broadcasts, is out. “I don't mind telling you, I'm awfully disappointed,” he said Monday.

        Channel 64, which does not have a news department, will be looking for someone new — with Xavier's approval. Nobody from the local stations will fill that role, but someone from a radio station could. “We haven't even talked to one person yet,” Pulliam said.

        The analyst position will likely go to a former Musketeer. Gary Massa, who worked the broadcasts for WCPO, could stay in that position. Ralph Lee, Steve Wolf and Byron Larkin are other possibilities. Larkin did the color commentary on radio broadcasts last season and is expected back next season. Joe Sunderman, who has done play-by-play and color on the radio broadcasts, is another possibility.


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