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You can bet on BET for black college coverage
BET's programming has given black college athletics the kind of constant national media exposure that they never received from the three major networks. ^
When the Supreme Court ruled that
the NCAA didn't have the right to control
the television contracts of colleges
appearing on the tube, black colleges lost
what little national media exposure they
had. After that ruling in 1983, black col
leges received no television coverage
from CBS, NBC, or ABC.
But that has changed thanks to Black
Entertainment Television and their week
ly coverage of black college football and
basketball games. BET started their cov
erage in 1980 with games aired on a
delayed basis, usually shown the week
after the games were played. But this past
fall, the network broadcasted football
games live and is doing the same for this
basketball season (first game will air on
Jan. 7, see schedule).
"BET has been a Godsend for a lot
of black alumni^Uover the country,"
says Charlie NeaCtne anchor who calls
the play-by-play for the games. Neal is
also the network's sports director who
schedules all of the sporting events that
BET airs. "The response has been over
whelming. There are blacks living in all
regions of the country," he says, "from
Hawaii to the Midwest, from Florida to
the Virgin Islands.
"Before the Supreme Court ruling,
black college games were only shown
once or twice a year by the major net--,
works. And even then, it was only on a
regional basis. So the schools never got
any total national exposure."
With BETs coverage, black college
sports followers have been able to keep
abreast of the whole scope of black col
lege athletics. NFL teams find that BET
is a scouting aid for black college talent
The New York Jets, for example, contact
the network each week to find out what
game is being shown. For them, it's a
very inexpensive way to scout. All they
need is a VCR to get a good look at the
different players under game conditions.
Viewer response, Neal adds, has
been very positive and the network
expects viewership to expand as more
people subscribe to cable systems around
the U.S. BET reportedly reaches 20 mil
The network is the only broadcast
media outlet that covers black college
sports on a regular basis.
Like any other endeavor, BET's
black college sports programming has
had its share of complaints. Most of those
gripes revolve around the halftime shows
for football, and the selection of the
teams that appear on the telecasts.
"We've found that the halftime shows
are a big part of the games," Neal says.
^ "It was a surprise to find out that there are
just as many people who watch the half
time activities as there are people who
watch the games. It's good to not only
showcase the teams, but the top bands as
well. The bands continue to be a big part
of black college football."
Wheiv the network broadcasted
games on a tape delay basis, they had to
adhere to a strict, three hours time frame.
The games were taped from start to fin
ish. However, the time constraints limited
them to showing game action only. In
many cases, the half time shows with the
bands were completely deleted to meet
the time deadlines.
But now that's no longer a problem.
With the live broadcasts, they're on the
air until the entire game is completed -/
halftime shows and all. Live program
ming also sits well with network advertis
ers who feel they get more of their mon
ey's worth. Going live, Neal points outs,
provides the network's sales staff with
more solid proof to induce potential
advertisers to spend their dollars on
BETs sports programming. More ad dol
lars will enable the network to better