Some same as networks hit switch

ON THE AIR

January 02, 1995|By MILTON KENT

And you thought remembering to write 1995 on your checks was going to be the toughest adjustment for the New Year, right?

Well, dear sports fan, starting today you'll also have to cope with the most significant change in Baltimore television history as the Great Network Switch of '95 takes hold.

Before we spread mass confusion across the land by laying out what will be where this year, let's start by telling you the four things that will not change with the move of ABC programming to Channel 2, NBC to Channel 11 and CBS to Channel 13.

* Local sportscasters: Channel 2's Scott Garceau and Keith Mills, Gerry Sandusky and Mark Viviano of Channel 11 and Channel 13's John Buren and Chris Ely will stay where they are.

* Cable positions: Though network programming will move, each station, including Channel 45, will stay wherever it is on your cable lineup.

* Local Orioles broadcasts: Whenever baseball returns, the Orioles will stay on channels 13 and 54 and on Home Team Sports.

* NFC games: National Football Conference contests, which shifted to Channel 45 this season from Channel 11, will stay there through this year's playoffs and the next three seasons.

Oddly enough, it was Fox's successful takeover of NFL broadcasts from CBS last year that indirectly led to the upheaval that has dropped on Baltimore, but it will not affect Channel 45, which will remain a Fox affiliate.

After Fox grabbed football for four years with a $1.58 billion offer, Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, having strengthened his fledgling network, went one step farther.

In May, Murdoch strengthened his hand by purchasing a 20 percent interest in New World Communications, whose 12 VHF stations -- eight of them CBS affiliates -- shifted to Fox.

The Fox moves left many corporations fearful that their stations would be left without programming sources, making them less attractive, especially with the burgeoning cable market.

So, Scripps-Howard, Channel 2's parent company, struck a deal with ABC in May to keep its stations in Cleveland and Detroit with ABC, as well as bringing Baltimore's WMAR into the ABC fold.

That required ABC to break a 46-year arrangement with Channel 13, whose corporate parent, Group W, made a deal with CBS to bring its stations in Philadelphia, Boston and, yes, Baltimore along.

Finally, Channel 11 and its parent company, Hearst, struck a deal to go to NBC, where WBAL had been affiliated until 1981, when it went to CBS.

With all that out of the way, here's a look at where things will be:

Channel 2, which got to show last night's Orange Bowl on the last day of its NBC affiliation, will have ABC's bowl lineup of the Citrus (1 p.m.), Rose (4:50 p.m.) and Sugar (8 p.m.) today, not to mention the biggest prize in sports television, the Super Bowl, on Jan. 29.

Channel 11 inherits the AFC playoffs, with the divisional games next weekend and the conference title contest on Jan. 15, as well as today's Cotton (1 p.m.) and Fiesta bowls (4:30 p.m.)

Channel 13 will pick up CBS's lineup, which today includes the Carquest Bowl at 1:30, and NCAA basketball this weekend.

Down the road, Channel 2 will get ABC's lineup of the Triple Crown races, including the Preakness in May, the Indianapolis 500, baseball, "Monday Night Football," college football and basketball and the British Open and Skins Game golf events.

In Channel 13's sporting future lies the NCAA basketball tournament, U.S. Open tennis, the Masters and PGA golf tournaments, as well as CBS's coverage of the PGA Tour, along with next January's Orange and Fiesta bowls in the new bowl dTC alliance and the 1998 Winter Olympic Games from Nagano, Japan.

Channel 11, however, seems to be the long-term winner, with NBC's full package of sports, including the 1995 World Series (if it is played), the NBA regular season and playoffs, the NFL and next year's Super Bowl, the men's and women's U.S. Open golf tournaments and the 1996 Summer Olympics from Atlanta.

Confused? Breathe deeply, take a couple of aspirin and relax.

After all, it's only television.

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