Forget the complaints, CBS' coverage on target

ON THE AIR

March 22, 1995|By MILTON KENT

It has come to our attention that some of you are unhappy with what CBS has done so far with its coverage of the NCAA tournament. We hear that you want to be switched to other games quickly and that you want more scores and fewer commercials.

Well, we here at "On the Air" have heard your complaints and concerns and to you, we offer this simple suggestion:

Chill out.

Please.

On the whole, CBS has done a pretty good job with the most difficult job in televised sports, sending pictures and words of an event spread over eight different locations into more than 220 markets around the country over the four days of the first and second rounds.

It's a thankless job, fraught with the possibility of failure, and if anyone out there can come up with a better system than what CBS has developed, you're cordially invited to write to David Kenin, president of the network's sports division.

The chief complaints seem to revolve around the tip-off times of games, particularly Maryland games, and why viewers can't be shifted more easily out of one game (read Kentucky-Mount St. Mary's) and into another.

The determining factor around both tip-off times and shifts is the market in question. NCAA rules require CBS to make available games of local interest back to a market, so the network had to show both Maryland and Mount St. Mary's to Baltimore (a wise choice as the ratings will indicate below).

That means that the two games couldn't start at the same time. Sure, either Maryland or the Mount could have played during the afternoon, but remember that CBS is in this, above all, to make money, and placing too many glamour teams on television on a weekday afternoon, when audience levels are lower, tends to diminish that opportunity.

As for the shifts, CBS was bound by rules to show the Mount game for pretty near its entirety, save for a few occasional peeks at other contests. You could run from the Wildcats' punishment of the Mountaineers, but you couldn't hide.

For the most part, CBS' announcer crews were above par, though Dick Stockton, who paired with Billy Packer here, was a constant font of missteps and errors, for instance, placing seven Big Ten teams in the tournament field (there were six), mixing up Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and generally sounding unsure of himself.

George Raveling, who worked the Villanova-Old Dominion triple-overtime classic Friday, was a good find by CBS, though it would be nice if someone sat down with the former Southern California coach and told him that not every thought has to be expressed.

The sad part of this weekend's regionals is that the network couldn't find work for Dan Bonner, who was his usually exceptional self through his sessions at Austin, Texas. CBS simply must find a regular slot for him next year.

Ratings recap

All in all, the NCAA tournament did well in the ratings for Channel 13, the new CBS affiliate, said Andre "Dr. Dre" DeVerneil, this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings supplier.

The Thursday and Friday afternoon doubleheaders delivered about half the usual audience of the soap operas they replaced, but CBS' daytime schedule is tops by a wide margin, and the drop-off was expected.

Where WJZ made out was during the evening sessions and on the weekends. For instance, Thursday's Maryland-Gonzaga first-round game did an 11.2 rating and 20 share, and the Terps' Saturday second-round game with Texas did a whopping 13.9/24. The other big producer was Sunday afternoon's UCLA-Missouri contest, which did an 11.0/20, meaning the station probably made the right call in switching from the Syracuse-Arkansas game.

One last note: Sunday's Chicago-Indiana NBA game, which featured the return of Michael Jordan, posted a 9.8/27 for Channel 11, more than doubling the audience for the Georgetown-Weber State contest on Channel 13, which did a 4.1/11.

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