USA Today has an article today discussing something I’ve been worrying about for weeks now, and especially for the last few days: what if news coverage of the Iraq war pre-empts CBS’s coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?
The timing increasingly appears to be setting up perfectly for a direct conflict between March Madness and Middle East Mayhem. With the U.S. and our allies preparing to set Monday, March 17 — that’s a week from Monday — as Saddam Hussein’s final deadline, and the NCAA first round scheduled to begin Thursday, March 20, it now looks very likely that a war against Iraq will, at the very least, complicate CBS’s four-day blitz of NCAA first- and second-round coverage.
Here is what USA Today is reporting:
If war news pre-empts any CBS coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the network’s obvious alternative is to move games to cable channel TNN â€” both are owned by Viacom. But that might raise an odd issue. Broadcast networks such as CBS often use regionalized, rather than national, sports coverage. Affiliate stations are used to switching back and forth between simultaneous games.
But regionalization rarely happens in cable TV, which goes through thousands of local cable operators. Although ESPN will test regionalization on its NCAA women’s tournament, it’s relatively unexplored terrain â€” and potentially complex.
Of course, if events are so dire that CBS pre-empts its NCAA games, everybody likely will have bigger things to worry about than whether their teams will be available in their home TV markets.
CBS Sports president Sean McManus is anticipating contingencies. He notes TNN already has an East and West Coast feed, allowing some regionalization.
“And we’re talking to (Viacom channels) Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite and TV Land,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how we could do four separate feeds. It’s a lot more complicated.”
There is also the possibility, according to various reports, that some games could end up on, of all places, MTV.
Meanwhile, the Grand Forks Herald reported Sunday on the NCAA’s own contingency plans.
Perhaps I should replace my annual Living Room Times NCAA pool with a contest predicting possible outcomes of the war…