WIS TV Chooses Not To Broadcast Early Games

<b>Final Update Included - Good News!</b> - WIS TV Channel 10 in Columbia, South Carolina has chosen to not broadcast any of the early SEC Tournament basketball games being played Thursday and Friday. "We made a decision based upon what we think is best for our viewers," said Barry Ahrendt Thursday morning by phone ...

Ahrendt, the 'Director' of Progamming and Marketing for WIS TV continued, "We made this decision months and months ago. We had to decide what was best for our viewers and we feel we made the right choice for our viewers ... it's not the right choice for Gamecock fans."

A check with Jefferson-Pilot's offices indicates that WIS could have secured rights to the feeds as late as yesterday. We will bring you more on the JP end of this deal once our man in Atlanta is able to track down a JP exec attending the games.

The issue, according to WIS's Ahrendt, is the conflict - particularly on Thursdays and Thursday nights - with some of NBC's more popular programming. Soap operas 'Days of Our Lives,' 'Passions,' talk shows 'Dr. Phil' (Family Freeloaders) and 'Oprah Winfrey' (Inside The Lives Of Little People) will be shown today in place of the USC Vs. Arkansas tournament game, along with a WIS 10 Five O'clock News report and possibly Inside Edition were the game to run late.

The SEC allows for local stations to take news breaks between games before beginning the prime time match-ups.

"Thursday night is a very big night for us with our NBC Prime Time lineup," Ahrendt stressed. "We've got Friends and ER on Thursday nights and based upon past history that is what our viewers want to see."

Checking the NBC programming guide shows both are reruns, Friends being a 'best of' show tonight.

Ahrendt stressed, "We have an obligation to our advertisers, our employees and our stock holders to do what is best for them ... as well as our viewers."

When pressed as to whether or not WIS TV considers supporters and fans of The University of South Carolina a part of its viewership, Barry Ahrendt replied, "We had to do what we think is best and we are comfortable with this. Gamecocks fans along with other SEC fans in the area should be able to pick the game up through one of the (ESPN or Fox Sports) cable channels. We will carry the semifinal game on Saturday."

Note: As of right now GamecockInsider.com is unable to confirm which cable or satellite station might be carrying the game for free. Obviously WIS does not care - all other SEC markets we have checked with this morning do have local stations carrying all of the games for their SEC viewership. Please check our message boards for further updates.

Update: GamecockInsider.com has learned that because of market rights held by WIS TV in Columbia, cable channels such as Fox Sports South and The Sunshine Network are being forced to black-out the game in the state of South Carolina. For Gamecock fans this means that their only option is to purchase ESPN's Full Court Package ($69.95) if they wish to see the Thursday and Friday games. However, check with your provider first and make sure ESPN FC is not being forced to black-out the SC games as well.

Update Two (2:15): Time Warner in Columbia is telling customers that they will broadcast the game at 3:00 p.m. on Fox Sports channel 31. However, both DirecTV and Dish Network are showing Stanford Vs Washington State as the 3:00 p.m. game on Fox Sports South. Both are also showing the South Carolina Vs Arkansas game as the 3:00 game on the Sunshine Network, but that network is being blacked out for the SC Vs. Ark game.

Update Three: DirecTV is carrying the game on channel 627 which is a RSN Alternate Channel in certain regions of the country. Dish Network continues to block free access and they, according to many of our registered members, are attempting to force their subscribers to purchase an ESPN Full Court ticket in order to see the game. The cost of that package is $69.95.

GamecockInsider.com spoke with Chad Ward, a Resolution Specialist in the Dish Network Executive Offices this afternoon during the game at 4:00 p.m. eastern time.

After a long wait and hold time, the Dish Network representative responded. "I cannot give you an answer at this time as to why we are blacking-out the broadcasts and others (network providers) are not," Ward told our reporter from his Littleton, Colorado office. "I will have to have someone get back to you later this afternoon. I do not have an answer that I can give you at this time."

Note: WOLO 25 in Columbia will broadcast the ACC Tournament action involving Duke Vs. Clemson or Virginia Friday at noon. And the UNC verses Georgia Tech game will also be broadcast live on WOLO 25 Friday at 2:00. They will also broadcast the FSU verses NC State game Friday night at 7:00. (Fan's Note: "Is there any wonder why players such as Ray Felton and Buck Frederick, local prospects, go to schools such as Georgia Tech and UNC?")

Final Update: Dish Network has released the blackout on the SEC Tournament games and agreed to broadcast all of the games on channel 445, "ALT1," for the remainder of the tournament until CBS picks up the games.

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